The Microphone is Always On
By: Gregory L. Shelton
Shelton Law Carolinas
We all enjoy hearing the off-the-cuff remarks politicians and celebrities make while they believe the mic is off. We believe that these comments give us insight into what somebody is truly thinking at the moment.
It is too simplistic to regard these utterances as truth. People say things to vent, to impress others, or to forward agendas. For example, the phrase “I’ll kill you” is often said in jest, in the heat of the moment, or to thwart a violent act. The words do not necessarily evidence murderous intent.
In the business world, however, supposedly private emails within a company become very difficult to explain away. The frustrated superintendent may vent in an email to the project manager that he wants to “put the sub out of business.” The superintendent, having not been invited to the seminar on project documentation, has no idea that the “confidential” internal email will be produced in discovery when the GC and sub end up in court. Can you picture the sub’s lawyer waving the email in front of the jury as he excoriates the evil-doers? And while the superintendent may have been venting because the sub installed the wrong material or abandoned the job, none of that will matter. The lawsuit is now about a nefarious conspiracy by a large GC against a small subcontractor.
On construction projects, the “microphone” includes internal email, verbal statements made to a supposedly trustworthy person (a future disgruntled ex-employee), recorded telephone conversations, and notes made in the daily diary. And if you’re ever talking business in a restaurant, never sit next to a person dining alone.