In a number of answers here we see people recommending that emails or other communications be saved. Whether that's by forwarding those emails to a personal email account or printing them off.

My question is: is there any documented case where saving those communications actually helped anyone save their job? In other words, is this just a placebo action that people, who otherwise feel powerless, do to feel better or is it something that is ultimately actionable?

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    – Jane S
    Nov 7 '15 at 23:42

Not a direct answer to the question but there are situations where it can hurt the sender. In litigation let's say a persons company email is collected as part of the discovery process. A responsive email is forwarded to his/her home email or in the email they state you can contact me at jj@personalemail.com. What happens is that is grounds to collect the personal email and people will say lots of stuff in what they think is "personal" email including disparaging remarks about the company that hurt their career.

Saving an email may violate the company document retention policy.

Yes an email could be used to help your case but it could also hurt you.

An email can be spoofed so typically corroborating evidence is required but the email copy may be what drives that process. If the email is no longer on the server and there are no backups then that corroborating evidence is gone. If other parties were on the email and they testify to the authenticity then maybe. IANAL and this is not legal advice - it would be something you give your attorney and they use it to build a case but in a court it would probably not be admissible without proof of authenticity.

There is wrong doing and right doing. Saving emails and documentation of tasks performed in case you are dismissed for non-performance is another thing. Project completion report with you as project manager is a report that is probably still exists. An expense report that puts you out of office at the time of supposed infraction.

  • It would be so they would know what to ask for (emails dated jan12, 2014 at 8:32 from ..., etc.) and sometimes by seeing who else was copied on the email, they can find the email that was deleted in one place but not from the account information of the person who was copied on it (or get some ideas as to who to call as a witness) . It could also help the attorney give you advice on whether you have an actionable case at all.
    – HLGEM
    Nov 6 '15 at 19:47
  • work emails are not your property, even if sent to you. as stated in this answer, you might be violating company policy at the minimum and possibly breaking laws at the maximum.
    – Keltari
    Nov 6 '15 at 20:54
  • @Keltari Again IANAL but an email that shows a criminal act may trump a document retention policy. Your attorney may advice you destroy email sent to a personal address. Be careful and consult an attorney. It is very one sided as a company can collect data on you but collect data on a company is more problematic.
    – paparazzo
    Nov 6 '15 at 22:06
  • @HLGEM Again IANAL. The more surgical does happen but more related to the question is personal as a whole. If you can show the personal email was used for email responsive to the matter then you go for the email account as a whole and that is where people blab as they think it is personal. Mixing personal with business brings stuff into play that you may not want. Print it out save it to thumb drive. If I you cc a person not a party to case then an order for their email is not likely. It would be more they cooperate to validate the email.
    – paparazzo
    Nov 6 '15 at 22:23

I can think of one instance where it saved my job. The boss was overseas on annual leave and I was having problems with a new Manager giving me tasks I did not like and were not in my contract to perform. He was emailing these to me, so I printed the emails, refused to perform the tasks and got given 2 weeks notice of termination.

Unfortunately for him when the boss returned from leave I went to speak with her and took copies of the emails with me, got my job back, and the Manager was fired (although I think my issue with him was more the last straw then the full reason).

So I think that yes, it is worth keeping emails for reference purposes if you believe there is going to be a problem over their contents. It's not all about going to court with evidence, in my experience most things don't have to go to court and can be settled between people.

  • Just curious, was having paper copies of the messages the critical thing? Did the manager attempt to have your emails altered or removed?
    – Kent A.
    Nov 7 '15 at 13:07
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    I'm not sure, but it definitely helped, because I couldn't prove anything without it, I was locked out of my machine at that point.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 7 '15 at 20:32

There is nothing that will save a job necessarily, if the terminating party is bullheaded enough. But email, if forwarded to an account you retain access to after being terminated can serve as powerful evidence in follow-up litigation and for that reason alone, it can save your butt in a situation where they say one thing and you have another in writing. Because while yes, printed emails can be faked, hacking Gmail's servers to inject fake emails is considerably more difficult, making any hanky-panky with the email database on the employer's end a lot more obvious.

It might not be super-hard to fake an e-mail from a given IP, but usually the timing of a critical communication can give it some veracity, especially if it agrees with what's been found on other servers, so forward anything you think is important sooner rather than later when you get the sense trouble is brewing.

For nipping problems in the bud at work before it comes to an actual risk of termination, however, any email evidence of bad behavior on the part of a coworker or good behavior on your part that refutes what's being said about you should be reported to your immediate manager or whoever is over their head if they're the source of your problem. And do it promptly, because it's sad but true, a lot of people respond more to a narrative that's been formed about you than evidence you present that counters all of it if they've been writing a story about you for long enough. If you can always provide evidence in writing and do so promptly on every attempt at under-bussing that you are aware of (keep that in mind), the narrative that starts to form will be about the weasel and not you.

As a developer at a fairly hectic/chaotic "fast-paced" ad agency, I'm personally very careful to make sure any promises I make are both stated and ideally acknowledged in email in case somebody tries to rewrite the narrative when it turns out something needed to be done much sooner or differently than it was handled which tends to happen a lot, often out of ADD shenanigans more than any real malice.

And learn to keep an eye on anybody who never wants to commit or acknowledge anything in email. They might just hate typing. Or they might be slippery weasels. Sadly you can't ignore politics. I tried for years. If you conduct yourself professionally the best defense is to preemptively strike the crap out of any attempt at sullying your reputation. Using email well provides plenty of ammo for that.

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