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Guidelines for Forwarding Business Emails

Guidelines for Forwarding Business Emails

Forwarding emails is a topic I am contacted about regularly. And one which also causes misunderstandings, inefficiencies, and sometimes hurt feelings.

Business vs. Personal Forwarding

  • What do you do about a customer that forwards politically charged emails to you?
  • How about a family member that sends NSFW (Not Safe for Work) emails to your business address?
  • What is a “nice way” of telling a business contact or coworker not to forward?
  • How do you stop the attachments and religious and political commentary?


There is a hesitancy to ask others to stop. We don’t want to offend or make the sender think their thoughtfulness is not appreciated. Or that you are scolding them.

But let’s think about this for a moment. How thoughtful is it to click the forward arrow, then a bunch of email addresses, and hit send? Well, your brain had to “think” about those steps, but does that make an effort truly “thoughtful.”

I don’t think so… Here’s an example of how to handle compulsive forwarders.

Hey, John:

Do me a favor and send non-business related emails to my personal address my****@my*************.com.

I do want to hear from you but my work email volume is overwhelming and your emails will get lost in the shuffle.


See what I did there? “Will get lost in the shuffle” gives you an excuse to not respond to or acknowledge non-business-related emails.

Simple Forwarding Rules to Follow

Applying these simple guidelines will avoid issues associated with forwarded emails.

Don’t forward long threads expecting recipients to make sense of all the content, back and forth dates, bars, and >>>>>>>>>.

When a thread must remain intact, summarize at the top what the thread contains.

Take the time to write a personal comment.

After your greeting, include a brief comment about why you are forwarding it to the person you are forwarding it to. If you cannot take the time to do that, then you probably shouldn’t forward.

Will the email you are forwarding give a positive impression of your business?

Is the email of value? What is your intent? If you are cya’ing or being an eTattler, proceed with caution. Rarely does that work out positively.

Only forward to those who need to know.

When you do not have a solid reason why the person you are forwarding to needs to receive that email, don’t forward it.

When forwarding to more than one person.

Put your email address in the TO: field and all the others you are sending to in the BCc: field. Do not expose your contacts’ email addresses unnecessarily. Instead, take the extra step to remove those email addresses in the body of the email that does not apply.

The above guidelines will help you qualify if an email is worth forwarding and the right way to do so.

IMPORTANT: Is the email’s topic one that requires a forward in a work environment or to other business contacts? When on company time, using company email — think not twice but three times before you forward. Is that specific email worth the risk of diminishing your on-the-job credibility and professionalism?

Privacy and Copyright

  • There should be no expectation of privacy online, specifically with business email using company equipment. It is wise to assume your communications are monitored and act accordingly. Check your company’s email policy for specifics.
  • Should you copy the original sender, or should you ask first if it is okay to forward their email?   Cc’ing does not replace asking for permission. The author or the company owns the copyright to that written text.

Senders may not appreciate the email they wrote to you being sent to others or those they don’t know.  Or they may not mind at all.  So ask.

Remember that emails are sent and written to the party for which they were intended. Regardless of when or where they are written. Common courtesy dictates not to forward without the original sender’s knowledge.

Legal Jeopardy

You could be putting your company in legal jeopardy if you forward outside the company. But, on the flip-side, you may be putting your reputation as a professional on the line by forwarding internally.

In business, you have copyright, legal, and liability issues at play as well. This is why every business utilizing email should have a clear business email policy that all are aware of and agree to abide by.

The policy needs to clarify the details of what is expected when using company email and devices, including the procedures for what can and shouldn’t be forwarded.

Business Courtesy & Professionalism

How you handle the forwarding of business-related emails will reflect on you. For example, are you trustworthy, efficient, and detail-oriented? Including your level of professionalism, credibility, and ability to communicate with clarity.

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