If you can honestly say you’ve never sent an email you wanted to recall immediately, we applaud you. You’re a minority. We asked you to send us stories about how email got you in trouble. And you responded. Judging from this month’s contest entries, many of you have pushed that send button before reading what you were sending.
Here are a few of the best entries.
It’s a tough day when you vent in an email about a coworker -- and then send that email to the coworker. We’re pretty sure Susie V. has learned a valuable lesson:
"I was working in the IT department, and there was a new girl in the procurement department. The first few days she worked there, she constantly asked me questions about her job, questions that she should be asking her co-workers in her own department or her boss! But, I guess she didn’t want them to think that she didn’t know what she was doing and, since I was always nice to her, she’d ask me for help. There were several emails going back and forth between us throughout the day. By the third day, I was getting quite aggravated because she was taking up all of my time when I should be doing my own work!
"Well, she emailed me another question, and I got so frustrated that I just hit ‘Reply’ and started to vent to who I thought was my own boss, telling him that the new girl was taking up too much of my time and asking me questions that she should be asking someone else. At first, I didn’t know that I had emailed back to the new girl, until she responded with a short email: ‘Are you kidding me?’ My heart just dropped! I knew I was in deep trouble!
"I then went looking for my boss to tell him of this big boo-boo I’d made, and he assured me that everything would be fine. Well, later that day, he called me back in his office. Apparently, my email caused the newbie to cry, and she went to her manager, who went straight to her director and then contacted my director. My boss said that the newbie’s director even printed out my email and put it on her wall!
"I did apologize to her, but I’m not sure if she really ever forgave me.
"I definitely learned to triple-check the ‘To’ line in my emails and make sure it’s the person I want to send the email to. Always be cautious! You definitely don’t want your email on the boss’s wall!"
We received many great entries, some of them quite funny. Here are some we liked best:
Here’s more testimony to the importance of thinking twice about your emails:
"A few years ago, while in an administrative assistant position, I received calls almost daily from departmental employees asking me to go into my boss's email account and delete emails they sent by mistake. Employees often accidently hit ‘reply all’ to emails that were definitely not intended for my boss's eyes."
[The message here, of course, is never send an email you wouldn’t want your boss to read. That’s just common sense.'
It’s NOT a good idea to recall 3,000 messages at once:
"I was brand new at my job, and responsible for sending out a newsletter to over 3,000 employees. Within minutes of sending my first publication, I received the dreaded phone call. Something I had put in the newsletter, a date for an upcoming event, was inaccurate.
"Since it was the end of the day, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to recall the message. That was my second mistake. Sending out a large newsletter with images was enough to occupy the email system for some time; recalling that message from over 3,000 email inboxes was enough to take it down!
"Then came yet another dreaded phone call, this one from the IT department. They were not pleased. Not a great way to start my career! "
Be wary of any spell checker:
"I was emailing an executive at my prior employer, trying to apologize for an ‘inconvenience,’ but when I tried to spell check the email -- while not paying attention -- I chose the word ‘incontinence’ instead. So I wound up ‘apologizing for my incontinence’ to the president of the company. It was pretty humiliating. I was so worried about getting everything spelled right I didn’t pay attention to the words I was correcting. Now I’m a lot more careful, and I spell check the spell checker, too!"
Cell phones bring a whole new level to sending errant messages:
"One morning, waking up a little late after a night of second shift work, I was fumbling for the coffee when I spotted my daughter's flute case on the dining room table. ‘She forgot her flute,’ I thought. So I flipped open my phone and sent out this mid-morning missive: ‘Do you need your flute?’
"I expected an instant reply, as usual, from my daughter. Nothing.
"A few hours later, I got a weird text from a peripheral contact that said, 'Scuse me?’ That was followed by another text from a casual work associate, reading: ‘I don't play the flute.’ My heart sank. How did I flub that up?
"By 2 p.m., 30 people had sent me a range of responses to my irrational flute query.
"Of course it didn't take long to figure out I'd hit ‘select all’ in my contact list, rather than isolating just my daughter. Lesson learned? Double check your ‘send to’ list before actually sending."