Thursday, February 23, 2012

Red-faced: A short lesson in Email 101

Today, as I was racing out the door, two half-dressed children shouting in my ears, one piano lesson to get to, I received an email. A response to something I'd sent out, intended to be passed on to someone else. With one eye on the job and one ear on the kids, I forwarded said email - with a smart-arse remark added.

I walked away from the computer. I gulped. Who had I just sent that email to?

I went back. I checked. I died a little inside. I had hit reply and the whole thing, smart-arse remark included, had gone back to the person who'd sent me the response, not to the person for whom I'd intended it.

I died even more. My face turned red. My children were still teeming and writhing, shouting, not doing what they were supposed to do. We were late and now my stress levels were at 500 percent.

"Stop making noise! Mummy's made a horrible mistake. I need to decide what to do."

Silence. They slunk out the door.

I bashed out a quick email. Full of sincere apologies. Full of horror. Full of pleas for forgiveness.

And then I had to go, out the door, mind in turmoil. Why had I put a smart-arse remark on it? I never do that. Why had I not double-checked before I hit send? I always do that.

Except I didn't.

The boys sat quietly in the back seat. "Will it be okay Mum?" Mr8 asked, little voice tremulous.

"I hope so," I said.

I dropped him at his lesson. And then Mr5 sat quietly in the car while I rang the person to whom that email had gone. So that I could apologise in person, and explain how I never do that, and ... grovel really. She laughed. She told me that I was lucky that it had gone to someone who was not going to worry about it. I agreed that I was lucky. She explained her position, addressing my smart-arse remark. I agree that she was right. Because she was right, and I was just being a smart-arse to the friend to whom I had been intending to send that email.

We agreed that I would be more careful in the future.

When I picked Mr8 from his lesson later, he asked me if I was still worried. "No, I rang the person and sorted it out," I said. Parental inspiration struck. "That's what you should do if you make a mistake," I continued, in my best-mother-knows-best voice. "Own up straight away and talk to the other person. If you leave it and let it fester it only makes things worse."

And always, always, always check the recipient on your emails before you press send.

Just another new Life Rule to add to the handbook.

Have you ever sent an email to the wrong person? What was the result? Please make me feel better. I'm dying here. And have you got a new Life Rule to add to the handbook?

[image: I love this little 'sorry' card from littlepiggypants/etsy]


  1. Don't die....I have done it too. Muchos embarrassing....gawd, cringing now at the thought of it. The person who received my smart arse remark was not so forgiving as in your case...but I lived to tell the tale!

  2. Not an email, but a text. I was flat-sharing at the time and sent a text to my boyfriend whingeing about how much of a tight arse my flat mate was with the bills. I realised my awful mistake when her I heard her phone 'beep-beep' through the wall. Yep - I sent the text to her by mistake.

  3. .....or when the recall doesn't work so you have no choice but to apologise profusely ....and just how long do you wait??
    um, yes been there lol

  4. I've been on the other end. When I was still in the corporate world, one of my suppliers had been giving me the runaround on a quote and I'd been hounding them to itemise it for weeks. Finally I sent a terse (but not outright rude) email saying I'd waited long enough and expected the breakdown by COB the next day. I got it - along with the email chain below it that had flowed from one employee to the next following my email. I will not dirty your blog by repeating some of the words used, but my favourite was ballbreaker (because I'm usually exactly the opposite!).

    Long story short: I received many apologies, a new account manager, and the job was done for free. That campaign produced our best ROI ever! Totally worth it.

  5. I have done that in the past (emails involving budgets that were sent to the wrong people - ouch!). I bet a thousand other people have done it as well too. Great come-back on the parenting 101 front though! Glad it all got sorted out ok.

  6. I have not done this and am actually so paranoid about it I never ever say anything bad about anyone or even be a smart ass via email. This is hard for me because I am a massive smartass in real life!

  7. Ah well, there's perfection in being imperfect. We all are and all do things that we never do. Harsh bloomin' lesson though and do feel for you.

  8. Yes, stomach still churning at the reminder ...

  9. I totally agree with your mummy instincts! Far better to have five horrible grovelling moments and get it over with - than spend 5 hours worrying about what might be. Own your stuff up and move on.
    I'm glad it all worked out ok.
    PS: and have I done something like that before?? Only all. the. time!!! :-)

  10. Oh my! I am glad you called and were able to sort things out.

  11. I'm another one as well on both a works front and a personal front. Its the worst feeling in the world, epecially when your brain clicks into place as you literally hit the send button and you watch it disappear from the screen in front of you.

    Mind you I did feel better the other day when someone I work with who is a right stickler for getting things right and seems to take great enjoyment out of pulling me up on things, sent an email to someone we are dealing with who had sent a presentation to us - she meant to forward it to me with her comment but hit reply by mistake and the sentence 'these slides are a joke' was clear to see! Made me feel 100 times better!!

  12. I'm feeling better already! Thanks everyone.

  13. This made me shrivel in horror. I haven't done it, but live in fear that I will someday. I do tend to send out smart ass replies to third parties and I always triple check that it's not going to the person I'm talking about. I'm sure someday this will come back to bite me in the butt. It's only a matter of time.

    On the positive side, this is one of those things that will get funnier as time passes. So you will always have a good story to tell at parties.

  14. Can't say I have done this, but I think I would die and just slink away! Good that it turned into a life lesson for your boys :)

  15. Blimey!

    You could say that's a lesson to not check/reply/send emails in the morning while rushing the kids out to lessons/school.

  16. I wrote a very sexy text to my new boyfriend and sent it to my 14 yr old nephew! Luckily he believed me when I said I didn't know how to text so it can't have come from me - very red faced! I also somehow forwarded an email to my BF to a committee I belong too - don't know how it happened but fortunately I had deleted the body of the email so only the subject line went and it wasn't too bad although I got some puzzled emails back asking me what I was on about!!

  17. Nice one! To turn an error into a lesson, that is. I'm pretty careful with email, but there are times when I've sent them intentionally, and seconds later thought "Oh, I shouldn't have said that"!

  18. I really feel for you - I haven't done it but I have had an email I sent forwarded to the person in question by the recipient - humble pie is always a hard dish to eat!

  19. I have a policy that if I'm sending an email that might be a bit controversial or if I'm annoyed with someone, I write it, then wait for 24 hrs to send it - amazing how you see things differently the next day - I've saved myself some angst with that.

    I once wrote to my boss to complain about one of our office staff who was driving everyone nuts - it was a genuine complaint as she had put me into a very difficult situation that could have been unsafe. the boss sent it on to her and she rang me at home and abused me. I found out afterwards that he does that so I've been very careful with my emails to him since then...and she doesn't work there any more...nor do I.

  20. Oh Al! The horror. I'm squeamish for you. Thank goodness the recipient was so magnanimous. Grace is a wonderful, but often elusive, quality - thank goodness she had it! J x

  21. Oh Al, you poor thing! We are human, and we always err when the heat is on. I *almost* made a critical error like this when working recently, sending something on behalf of a very senior person and for some reason our work global address book included the name of a journo and Outlook picked her name (spelt very similar to the person I meant to send it too). The subject wasn't too controversial but it had the potential to blow up in my face as the placed I worked was easy prey. From them on I have been deathly scared of doing the same thing...

  22. How about forwarding a stupid email valentines card you recieve (not being one to ever send such trivial things) a card that when you click open says I 'heart' you - only the 'heart' is a baboon's bottom, and who do you forward it to ? ... not to your friend (why I was forwarding it is still a mystery), but the top lawyer of a company you have never met and have been trying unsuccesfully to negotiate with all day - don't talk to me about red face or grovelling ...


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