How To Recover From An Email Disaster

How To Recover From An Email Disaster

We’ve all done it before: hit the wrong button or pressed “send” too early and dispatched an email with disastrous results. Here are the most common gaffes and what to do the next time your electronic correspondence lands you in the doghouse.

The Flubbed Forward

Everyone gets those missives that are either so outrageously bad or personal that they must be shared with your close personal friends. However, instead of forwarding, you actually replied to the sender of the message. Now they know you think they’re horrible or that you’re sharing their news with the rest of the world. Even if you didn’t say anything bad to them, you end up looking like a traitor.

Solution: Send an immediate reply, explain the situation, and get ready for the fallout. You made a mighty blunder and you have to take the scolding that’s coming to you. Also, apologise and promise it will never happen again, but know that whoever you did this to will never trust you—ever!

Switched Contact

Thanks to address books and contact lists that are smarter than most university students, no one needs to know anyone’s email address, because your email program fills it in automatically. You type out an email and put “Brian” in the “To” field and let the auto-fill do its trick. You think you’re sending an email to trusted nightly news anchor Brian Williams, but instead you click on the wrong name and it goes to vicious gossip blogger “Brian Moylan” who then airs your dirty secrets for the whole world. Yikes!

Solution: This is really the most innocuous mistake. Depending on what was in the email, there are a few different scenarios. If it was something innocent or boring, the recipient will just be confused and figure out it wasn’t for him. A simple “Oops! Man, I hate Gmail. That was meant for Brian Williams. Please disregard,” is more than enough. However, if you sent “Can’t wait until our romantic dinner tonight!” to your wife when it was intended for your mistress, there’s only one way out: lie!

The Drunk Email

The slightly more literary cousin to the drunk dial, this is what happens when you drink a bottle of wine at dinner and then decide it’s a good idea to check your correspondence before passing out. When you wake up on the couch covered in drool and still wearing the same clothes as the night before, you don’t know what you sent to whom, and just what you said. You might have told off your boss, pissed off a friend, or admitted to that cute boy in accounting that you want to do very nasty things to him in the copy room.

Solution: Log into your email account immediately and see what you did. Then send follow up emails. It should say, “Sorry, I was drunk last night and shouldn’t have been emailing. Oops!” Everyone’s been there, so as long as you didn’t go full Galliano, most people will have a chuckle at your expense and carry on.

The Sent Draft

You send an email before it’s finished. Or, even worse, you type something out in anger and think better of it, but end up hitting “Send” when you didn’t mean to. Your mother always told you to get that temper under control.

Solution: If you just sent something incomplete, who cares. Just say “Sorry, here’s the rest of the email.” No big whoop. However, if it’s a nasty little letter, the best thing to do is not say anything at all and pretend like you meant to send it. Sometimes it’s good to get your feelings out and if you really feel that way it’s better not to hide it and let resentment build. Maybe sending something a little harsh will get good results. It could also get you fired, one or the other.

The Accidental Reply All

You know when you’re on a big email chain and someone says something so stupid that you want to reply to one coworker on the thread and be like “Damn, Sally is such a fucking idiot,” but instead of responding to your work confidant, you send it to everyone, including Sally. This is a common accident, since “Reply” and “Reply All” are usually right next to each other and viciously look so much alike.

Solution: If this happened personally or professionally, you need to find a new job. If it happened professionally, everyone in the office (except your bestie) will hate you and try to not work with you. You’re pretty much screwed. If you were talking trash about your boss on the thread, might as well pack up your desk right now. And if you did this to a friend, you’ll need a new job because its time to relocate and find a new group of friends, because you just alienated everyone on that list (except your bestie). Good job!

Image via Shutterstock

Republished from Defamer


  • A variation of the flubbed forward; My Mum has the bad habit of sending an email to one person insulting another, then as the conversation goes back and forward a few times, she eventually forwards the whole thing to the person she insulted, having forgotten her original statement.

  • Firstly: I don’t see the need to include expletives in the article, its not professional.

    Secondly: One of the best things to do is what i read here a while ago, and that is to use a delay send rule in outlook (or your preferred email client). With high priority and certain categories being excluded.

    • Or they could keep the expletives in, because this is an article for adults, as far as language goes saying “f**k” is the exact same as saying “fuck”.

      It’s not unprofessional they’re just treating us like adults.

      I agree with the delayed message though, very handy.

      • Censored or not doesn’t matter “Damn, Sally is such an idiot” would have the virtually the same effect, don’t get me wrong, i have nothing against swearing, i do it all the time, i even enjoy Penn & Tellers Bullshit (and there is more swearing in 5minutes than in the whole of the movie White men cant jump), but in an article, i expect professionalism, leave unnecessary swearing to the fucking comments.

        Maybe my expectations of professionalism are just out of sync with Lifehacker’s intentions.

  • Gmail’s “Undo Send” feature is great and has saved me a couple of times. It’s one of the many very handy Gmail Labs features that you can enable/disable as you like.

    “Undo Send by Yuzo F – Oops, hit “Send” too soon? Stop messages from being sent for a few seconds after hitting the send button.”

  • The “solution” to really avoid is to try to recall a message. It might work if you are within a corporate network on an exchange server but with everyone else external or not using outlook it just raises a huge red flag that you have sent something compromising or embarrassing, making you have a very close look at it.

    Case in point one of my service providers send a complete xl spreadsheet with all her clients details out to each of her clients and then tried to recall it and pretend that nothing had happened. If I hadn’t seen the recall I would never have looked at the attached xl file.

    • I did that for a while, but i found with replies sometimes id forget to cut the address and the odd time i forgot that were the times i needed to do it (ie when I’m rushing and/or not with it). Thats when i switched to the delayed send.

  • A lesson I learnt very early on in my corporate career is to never think of an email message as private or “unforwardable” – whatever you say could potentially get out there to an unfriendly audience, and it can be interpreted in an unfriendly light. Emails aren’t the only ones susceptible to this – how many of us haven’t accidentally ended up typing in the wrong IM window?

    So as tempting as it is to vent to friends and be careful of these mistakes, it’s far easier to have these conversations off-the-record – over the phone or a private conversation, something which can’t be easily copied on.

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