You really messed up. You sent the wrong email to the wrong person. Maybe you harshly criticized your boss, and sent it to…your boss. Or you fired off a joke to the most serious person in your office. Or you hit “reply all,” but only meant to direct your sarcastic comments to one person. Almost all of us have ended up red-faced after making an awkward email blunder, and we survived.
Here are your options for recovering:
There’s no sense in denying something that is saved as evidence for eternity on your company’s email server. Your best option when attempting to recover from a serious gaffe over email is to apologize sincerely face-to-face. That’s right, step away from the keyboard, wipe the sweat beads off of your brow, and walk over to your boss or colleague to say you’re sorry in private. Depending on the severity of your transgression, you may face punishment or a very stern talk. But by owning up to your mistake and apologizing instantly you’ll show your best side.
Ignore it and move on
If you feel your mistake was relatively minor (a misspelling of your boss’s name with the entire company copied can be mortifying but probably not career-threatening), then you might just want to move on and vow to never make the same mistake again. Is it really worth sending another group email out announcing you’re aware of your error? Probably not. The next time you send an email with the correct spelling, everyone will know you just made a simple typo.
Do nothing and suffer
Once, about three days into a new job, I sent an email to my friend and former colleague Evie, sarcastically complaining about the company’s cafeteria offerings and overall disappointing décor (our former workplace cafeteria was designed by Frank Gehry and served delicately toasted tofu and fresh sushi—we were spoiled). But as I was typing “Evie,” Outlook’s name recognition software inserted “Executive Change Group” and off went the email to about 65 top firm executives around the globe. I only realized this when I started getting calls from their assistants. I even got a few emails back, either complimenting my taste in architecture or asking me to not send personal emails to this group. I decided not to tell my boss, and I waited, tortured, for days and days to be fired. Nothing ever happened. Sometimes you just have to suffer through your stupid mistakes until they are a distant memory.