Have you recently made a major email mistake? You’re not alone; email mistakes such as hitting “reply all” or sending an email to the wrong person are “common” according to US News. However, if you make one of these types of mistakes, you can usually undo the harm that comes from making such a blunder by using tact, common sense, and sometimes a little technical help. Here are a few of our favorite ways to undo email mistakes and prevent you from harming your reputation, losing friendships, or even risking your job.
Gmail’s Undo Lab
One of my favorite features of Gmail is its broad assortment of Labs. If you’re prone to making email mistakes, you’ll want to make sure you’ve enabled two key labs: Mail Goggles and Undo. Mail Goggles helps prevent users from sending emails late at night when they may be unable to make clear, conscious decisions when they may be too tired (or, let’s face it, too drunk) to make decisions as to what emails to send and to whom. Users with Mail Goggles will have to solve basic math equations to send an email, which should be fairly easy if they’re not too tired (or too drunk). Of course, you can easily disable this setting if you’re determined to send the email anyway. The other mentioned lab, Undo, allows users to send an email with a five-second delay. With this feature, you will have the option to Undo the sending of any email sent via Gmail for about five seconds, which is useful for those who get gratification from hitting send and then have instant remorse thereafter.
This feature can also be useful to those who are careless with their content. LockerGnome writer Matt Ryan, who used to work in customer service, explains that “sometimes, the email you send is more important than you think. Everything you send out becomes a part of the written record, which can come back to bite you if you inadvertently make a promise you can’t keep. A number, price, or product name in the wrong place can put you on the line in a big way.” He said that “while working for a consumer electronics company, I accidentally pasted the wrong product price in a form I’ve sent out hundreds of times before. That one minor error caused several hours of customer relations calls.” Matt says that the moral of the story is to “always double-check your messages before you send them off,” though these labs from Gmail can be useful in the event you forget to read your email before you hit send. Users should note that while Google announced it will be closing the Google Labs project to focus on Google+, Gmail Labs are not affected and will still be available for people to use and explore.
Send a follow-up email.
If you send an email to the wrong person and they deserve an apology, consider sending them an immediate, but brief email apologizing for the error. They may reply back with a much stronger response, but be sure you take the first step in resolving the error before any potential backlash. If your error is related to your job, consider emailing those who can impact your job an explanatory apology and correction. Then, cc other involved management to ensure they’re aware you not only realize your error, but are willing to hold yourself accountable for the mistake.
Apologize to those who complained.
Did you hit that dirty Reply All button? If a few of your colleagues complained, email them (and only them) back and apologize for your error, insisting that the incident was an accident and you didn’t mean to clutter their inbox. A sincere apology — especially if it is to someone in management — can go a long way in securing your reputation and even your job.
Alert your boss.
Did you accidentally send internal documents to opposing counsel? Before it hears about it from the other law firm, be sure you’re the first to tell your company about any mistake you made that could be a problem for your business. Often, the problem can be solved by others on your team much faster than simply by your panic. Alerting your boss that you made a mistake also demonstrates you’re not trying to hide anything, and are willing to communicate and solve problems; both are traits that employers appreciate.
Send the email again.
Did your email go out without the attachment, or with the wrong information entirely? Consider sending the entire email again, but this time with the correct attachments. You may want to use a subject line to alert your recipient of the correction so it doesn’t appear that the email is an exact duplicate. You can also indicate that the previous email contained the wrong attachments by explaining the error in the content of the email. Be aware that the recipient can still see the wrong attachments, but at least they’ll also have access to the correct documents. Fixing this type of mistake might not help you, but it can’t hurt you any more than the error potentially already has.
If all else fails…
If you have accidentally sent an email to your boss or coworker, and they are away from their desk or computer, you could try to sneak into their office and delete the email before they have a chance to read it. Of course, they may have already seen the email on their iPhone or BlackBerry, and the risk of getting caught for doing this is far greater than the potential repercussions for whatever you sent via email. We don’t recommend this solution, but if all else fails, you may want to consider trying to delete the embarrassing email before it can be read.
Have you ever made a major email mistake? How did you fix it? Feel free to share your story in the comments.