The Risk of Casual Tone Used in Short Messages

November 2023 | Fusion Tips

The casual tone used more frequently in short messaging systems (such as IMs, Slack, Teams, and customer service databases) could pose a significant threat to your organization come lawsuit time. Organizations of all sizes need to be aware of what employees are saying and the possible damage from using an ever-increasing casual tone in their work communications.

Communication data has changed over the years, and more short message data is being produced because more organizations are using these tools for daily business functions. Instead of drafting an entire email or requesting a meeting, people casually send a short message saying, “Have time for a quick meeting?” This often turns into, “You'll never guess what my manager just did.”

Our Fusion team has noticed that employees at all levels increasingly treat their work communications, especially short messages, like personal text messages. This unprofessional language and level of casualness illustrates the employees’ lack of awareness that these private comments could eventually be used in litigation and possibly read in a deposition.

The off-hand comments are stored and, during review, often come up in a different context, in a string of communication about a different topic. While not topical to the case, the comments are part of the data string and are being produced as responsive. Once out there, those comments paint the employee and the company in a bad light, putting the organization at risk.

Best Practices to Protect Your Organization

1. Teach your employees of all levels about the short message and customer service applications being used in your company. Ensure they know the data is never deleted and is stored in a warehouse. And, by the way, the tech guys can get into any short message channel or group at any time. Lay out what the system is, what it's used for, and how it should be used, and ensure they’re using it only as a workplace tool.

2. Provide a guide on how to use professional language in short messages and customer service applications. Do not assume your employees know this already. Ensure they know this is all work communication: here's what we say and don't say.  

3. Address the whys, how things work on the back end of discovery, and what happens in litigation. Ensure they know the data is collectible in discovery and explain the process.  Most workers never worry about their communications getting collected in discovery, but all staff communication, especially customer service, can often play a crucial part in lawsuits. In fact, customer complaints are some of the most important documents, so having good notes, professional language, and well-utilized systems is essential.

Note: Memes, emojis, and acronyms are also discoverable. These can often be even more misunderstood because they may be about an inside joke with a coworker, but the person reviewing the document doesn’t know the context, so this can make the comment seem worse.

PLUS Fusion Review

The Fusion review team is highly trained and adept at finding anything abnormal that may shed a bad light on your organization. We assist clients and guide them in how to treat any poor communications we find and offer suggestions on how to handle this data before it goes out the door to opposing counsel.

Have questions? Need guidance on an upcoming review production – or want to discuss the best technology or workflow for your project? Contact the Fusion team today.

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