Whether you’ve “replied all” when you meant to reply to just one or maybe you’ve forwarded a thread to someone who really shouldn’t have seen it, you are not alone. Keep calm and try these tips.
1. Own your mistake
Don’t try to pretend it didn’t happen, or spend ages dithering about what to do. Act swiftly to minimize the damage.
2. Reach out to the unintended recipient
If you can, call the recipient of your errant email immediately to apologize. Explain your mistake and ask them to delete the missive.
3. Assess the damage
If you’ve simply forwarded an innocuous email to the wrong internal person, the loss is limited. Promptly apologizing, asking for the errant email to be deleted and resending the information to the correct recipient should be enough to correct the damage. However, if your stray email contains offensive or confidential information you will need to escalate your response.
4. Talk with your boss
If the misdirected email did contain offensive or sensitive content, the sooner you come clean to your boss the better. Explain your mistake and discuss what remedial action needs to taken.
5. Escalate serious problems
If the content leaked out of the company and could harm it reputationally, you will need to work with your boss to notify the PR and legal teams. If you’ve sent something inappropriate internally, you may need to involve HR. Get the right teams involved as soon as you can, so you can benefit from their professional support. It’s important to give internal teams time to prepare a response to a significant data breach or PR disaster and it will help to smooth things internally for you too.
6. Put it behind you
After you’ve apologized to everyone affected and acted to limit the damage as far as possible, put the episode behind you. Don’t dwell; the way you deal with the problem will set the tone for how everyone else deals with it, so if you don’t want to talk about it – stop talking about it.
Above all, act swiftly and don’t panic – there will soon be a new office intrigue to capture everyone’s attention.