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ALL CAPS: A fireable offense?
A New Zealand company fired Vicki Walker for using “confrontational” font styles in her emails. Which party stepped over the line?
 

“WHAT COULD BE MORE ANNOYING THAN THIS?” said Christopher Null in Yahoo! Tech. How about if the font were red and boldface? For accountant Vicki Walker of Auckland, such typographical flourishes in work emails were deemed a fireable offense, because they were “confrontational” and caused “disharmony in the workplace.” Walker “got the last laugh,” though, when a New Zealand court awarded her $11,600 for wrongful dismissal.

It sounds like Vicki Walker is “a crazy control freak of a cat lady,” said Rosa Golijan in Gizmodo, “who insists on spelling things out as if she works with a bunch of children”—or else her coworkers are in fact childlike and only responded to colorful instructions. Either way, you can’t run “crying to the boss” over every annoying coworker.

That’s essentially what the New Zealand tribunal decided, said Matthew Moore in Britain’s Daily Telegraph. Yes, her emails were “shouty” and abrasive, but they didn’t cross the line into grounds for dismissal. Concerns over “professional ‘netiquette’” are very real, however, and with reason. “Over-familiar or misjudged emails to clients can costs firms tens of thousands” in lost orders.

That’s one reason companies hire outside firms to sift through the “digital breadcrumbs” of their employees, said Michael Agger in Slate, including signs of who is “using all-caps (typically a sign of high emotion)” in emails. These data analyzers can tell how productive you are, and if you’re trouble. It may be a little “Big Brother-ish,” but it’s naive to think you’re not leaving electronic fingerprints at work.

 

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