Ivanka Trump work email debacle offers perfect HR case study

Ivanka Trump work email debacle offers perfect HR case study

For detractors of President Trump, news that his daughter and senior White House advisor Ivanka Trump has been using her personal email account for Government work will be politically-charged catnip.

Especially as Trump ran a not-insignificant part of his ultimately successful Presidential campaign on the admonishment of Hilary Clinton over her usage of a personal email address for official Government business.

The irony is probably tasting very sweet right now for the US President’s opponents as facts about the White House employee using a personal email account to send hundreds of work messages make news headlines across the globe.

However, for HR practitioners the reports hold an altogether different meaning – with the news acting as an exemplar case on data protection, work-life balance and compliance.

Keeping work data safe

It might seem like common sense but using a personal email account for work poses a serious security risk.

Whilst many employees do it – many for ultimately work-minded reasons – there can be a serious reputation risk, to both individual and business concerned, as well as security risk.

There are also extreme cases of when it goes. In 2016, a law firm employee was found to be liable by the ICO after sending confidential client data to their personal account.

Turning a blind eye to personal email use also encourages bad data and security practises. Loss of data through personal email use could be a breach of data protection regulations and result in heavy fines via GDPR legislation.

That said, nearly 75% of office employees send work files to a personal email account but doing so can seem unprofessional – no-one wants a client to see an email from [email protected] – and leaves the company open to viruses or security risk.

In order to combat this, HR should educate the workforce, try to implement work systems which mean they can access the company network form anywhere and be proactive.

Switching off from work

In the digital age, many workers now take work emails, calls and messages around the clock. It’s an easy habit to fall into.

Whilst Ivanka may have thought that she was doing good by answering emails from her personal account, it does raise questions about how much her personal and professional life were disentangled.

Whilst it might be a lot to ask for someone so high profile but what about lesser known individuals – that bosses, managers, and workers that we all are?

From our magazine

In France, a ‘right to disconnect’ law came into force last years which means that employers cannot contact staff outside of work hours to do things like answer emails.

Instances like this, and the Ivanka case, should make HR question if they’ve got an always on culture at their office and how they can counteract it – especially as long hours are found to impact productivity, attrition rates and employer brand.


Setting rules around the use of personal emails is key but only if company’s have set up a better path of least resistance  - for example, setting up seamless technology and systems that allow staff to log on wherever they are and are educating their staff too.

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