Have you sent a note meant for your lover to your entire address book? Zinged off a juicy email about a coworker to that very coworker? Who hasn’t pressed the send button seconds before their brain realized they’d just done something incredibly stupid? (Cricket sound here.)
Since misery loves company, we bring you some mortifying real-life e-mail disasters and tips for avoiding embarrassing faux pas in the future.
Lesson 1: Make sure your automatic e-mail address function fills in the intended e-mail address. It’s too easy to hit “send” after typing in just a few letters of a name and having the wrong one pop up in the “to” field.
Email disaster : “Sally, my fiancé, had bought me a skimpy red Speedo bathing suit for my birthday. She didn’t get a chance to see me in it, so I took a picture of myself wearing it in a joking muscle-man pose. The subject line was ‘You want some of this?’ Five minutes later I got a note from my boss, Salvatore, saying, ‘Not really. But thanks anyway.’ I wanted to die.” – Joe, an accountant who asked that his last name not be used
Lesson 2: Be careful with subject lines and other email content since you never know where they’ll end up. General rule of thumb: never email anything that you wouldn’t send to any colleague or client.
Email disaster: “Years ago, I drafted an e-mail with an account update for my boss…In the subject line, for fun, I wrote ‘email for the Doberman,’ because the client’s last name was Troberman and he had a fairly aggressive “bark.” My boss re-wrote the email to be his, but didn’t change the subject…My boss was NOT happy with me!” – Laura Beck,public relations account executive
Lesson 3: If you’re upset, don’t send an e-mail right away. Give yourself time to cool off. Also beware of the common mistake of replying to an email you mean to forward.
Email disaster: “I got an email that sent me into orbit and I wrote a tirade that I thought I was forwarding to my boss, but unfortunately I replied to the e-mail instead of forwarding. There is something about a making a mistake like that, that you know the second you hit the button.” – Eleanor Taylor, senior marketing strategist
Lesson 4: Check and double-check the “to” field before sending. A good policy is to fill in the “to” field last.
Email disaster: “A work fling and I had lots of fun until one day he accidentally sent ME an email that was intended for another girl he was also hooking up with. In the e-mail he went on and on about how terribly annoying and horrible I was. I was devastated.” – Sascha Rothchild, author, How to Get Divorced by 30: My Misguided Attempt at a Starter Marriage
It’s disconcerting that such a little thing as an email slip-up could hurt your professional reputation. But following these simple tips and career advice can help you to avoid such mortifying, and potentially career-damaging, moments.