Yes, it's true. Hitting new levels of tackiness, some employers use e-mail to layoff and fire workers, according to a new survey conducted by Harris Interactive for Marlin Company, a workplace communications firm.
Of the 752 American workers surveyed, 10% said their companies have used E-mail to fire or layoff employees.
E-mail is also a tool favored by some employers to deal with other uncomfortable work situations, as well. Seventeen percent of the survey respondents said their bosses have used e-mail to avoid other difficult face-to-face situations.
So, who's using e-mail to swing the hatchet? It tends to be larger employers with 1,000 or more workers, rather than smaller companies, although they too are occasionally guilty of using electronic copouts.
In fact, last summer RadioShack sent e-mail messages to 400 workers informing them that their positions had been eliminated as part of a workforce reduction.
People in professional management roles were the most likely survey respondents to say their companies have used e-mail for firing and layoffs, followed by clerical and services workers.
Companies that do use e-mail to notify employees that they've been laid off or fired "do it because it's easy," said Frank Kenna, president and CEO of Marlin. "It's not the right way to handle it," he said, especially for situations where a worker is being fired.
As a boss firing via e-mail, "you don't get the feedback you should be getting" from the axed worker, Kenna said. With a face-to-face firing, "you might hear things you don't want to hear, but should" as a boss, he said. Also, employees who see their co-workers being fired by e-mail are also getting a bad message, he said.
Kenna said he expects that more companies will set policies against using e-mail for layoffs and firings.
It's not only bosses that are prone to e-mail faux pas. Indeed, the survey found that one-in-five respondents admitted to sending an e-mail to the wrong person, while nearly 40% said they've forgotten to e-mail intended attachments.
Also, 15% said they've been the recipients of e-mail sent in anger, while 23% have received e-mail they consider politically incorrect. Thirteen percent said they've gotten flirtatious e-mail and 5% said they've received humiliating messages that were copied to others.