Ever had that sinking feeling when you realize an e-mail clanger has just thudded its way into cyber space?
Everyone's sent e-mails that they've lived to regret, but we're not going to give you another list of e-mail etiquette dos and don'ts.
There's a common five-stage reaction that happens following a serious e-mail blunder:
- Disbelief: “Oh no, surely I haven’t done that...”
- Denial: “Check sent box 50 times.”
- Twitch: “I have done that, bugger.”
- Panic: “PANIC!”
- Damage limitation: “Please ignore my previous message, I was on drugs.
Embarrassing e-mails take many forms, but here are a few of the most common:
- The angry reply: The recipient is unhappy with you and they’ve made that perfectly clear. You feel you’re being unjustly blamed for something or that this person is being unnecessarily curt. Time to give this bozo a textual pummeling so severe he won’t sit down for a week; prepare to unleash the hounds. SEND: Read your reply again five minutes later, refer to the five stages.
- The idiot response: Some recent lobotomy patient has misunderstood what you’ve asked five times, pushing your blood pressure across the 500psi danger-line and wasting your precious time. Looks like it’s time to let this moron know what you think of their cognitive reasoning. Set it out in short sentences, CAPITAL LETTERS and language that would patronize a turnip. SEND: Read your reply again five minutes later, refer to the five stages.
- The classic ‘Reply All’: Dave has invited you to his get together; good old Dave. Unfortunately you notice on the recipient list that Dan and all his friends are also invited. You reply to Dave that you’ll be happy to attend his party, but it’s a shame that Dan and co are coming, as they are a bunch of utter douche-bags. SEND: Oops, reply all; refer to the five stages.
- Forwarded conversations: A customer makes a legitimate e-mail complaint, but there’s no need for them to be so rude. You have a quick e-mail discussion with a colleague to formulate a reply, but part of this conversation includes a comment from one of you alluding to the customer’s dubious parentage. A seemingly satisfactory response is decided upon. SEND: Read your reply again five minutes later, refer to the five stages.
It's a problem that some tech companies have tried to address. Google’s free e-mail service, Gmail, added an unsend message function in March. Taking advantage of the 5-second delay in outgoing e-mails, the new feature allows users to quickly catch messages with errors before it arrives at the recipient’s inbox, preventing some potentially embarrassing situations.
Despite this, it's clear that the only surefire defense against e-mail blunders is cool-headedness and attention to detail.
Have you witnessed an embarrassing e-mail blunder that you're willing to share for the benefit of our sadistic enjoyment? Don't forget to check it before you click 'submit'!