Email Etiquette Guidelines in Communities

Please share your community’s email etiquette guidelines if you have any.

At my community (est. 1974, 160 members, 344 acres), we are looking at creating email guidelines in response to some unsavory correspondences among board, committee, and group members. We are interested in what others are doing (other than mediation) to prevent “drama” and unsavory communication. Thank you.

That’s a tough one, because humans should have the right to communicate as they wish in their correspondences with each other. However the way you could limit this is if they’re emailing with community email addresses, like when people email each other on their work email it is considered okay to do some censoring and have some rules about apropriate and inapropriate conversation. But if humans are emailing on their personal email addresses, which aren’t connected to the community website, then I don’t know how well such sensorship and rules would go over. I mean I suppose it could be done if everyone is willing to agree to it, but I don’t know many people who would agree to such. But maybe your community is unique in that regard.

Curious to know what "unsavory correspondence’ would consist of. I believe that everyone should be free to speak as they please especially on the internet. If something is not liked or something is objected to, then bring it up. Free speech is about calling out for accountability too! It is a slippery slope to censor anything because who decides? There is a way though for the group to decide. Someone simply makes a proposal and opens a discussion period, then makes a revised proposal (after hearing all sides in the discussion period) and if a vast majority agrees to the proposal, then it gets carried out. I would be interested to hear what anyone thinks about this procedure.

Extend existing protocols to email correspondence. Whatever guidelines are already in place for spoken communication applies also to written and digital.

If two people are chatting in person and one says something to the other, in confidence, is that other really going to squeal to others in the community about it? I mean maybe sometimes if its dangerous, or if it involves things which must be manditory reported. But other than that I would see the squealer as being a gossip, and I’d be more likely to side with the person who was squealed on. But that’s just me, so I’d feel the same way in an email. If something was said to me in an email that was vulgar, I’d say to them “Wow, that didn’t sound good, maybe there’s a way that you could rephrase it? Or maybe if you’re struggling with something we could work on that together if you’d like?” My first move wouldn’t be to squeal to others " do you know what so-and-so just said to me? It was horrible, they said …" And spread it all over.

If everyone feels that a taddling/squealing/reporting culture is what the community wants and they all consent then go for it! But if not I don’t know how you can manage 1 on 1 conversations, whether written or spoken, because this isn’t just a work environment, this is a 24/7 living together situation. You can certainly manage conversation in meetings/at events and dinners and so forth, but what person A says to person B in confidence, I don’t think that is going to go over well if a management structure is suggested. Maybe I’m totally wrong and everyone will totally go for this. But I also think it could lead to lots of people choosing to leave the community. I’m kind of unique though so maybe I’m completely off-base for how your community thinks and processes.