Survey Highlights the Biggest Emailing Errors

Survey Highlights the Biggest Emailing Errors

One of the causes of erroneously sent emails is the human at the end of the Send button. This is why Gmail Labs' Undo Send feature is helpful. Of course, that's Gmail. What about the mistakes we humans make in the workplace?

Most commonly, the biggest mistake is usually just sending an email to the wrong people.  In the national survey, 78% admitted to such an error. Only 78%?  We certainly would admit to such an error.

The survey, done by an independent research firm on the behalf of The Creative Group, is based on 250 phone interviews, 125 with advertising executives randomly selected from the nation's 1,000 largest advertising agencies and 125 with senior marketing executives randomly selected from the nation's 1,000 largest companies.

While it's clear a SNAFU exists among close to 80% of the respondents, what did they say were the biggest mistakes they made?  Quite a few severe ones:
  • "Someone sent out confidential salary information to the whole firm."
  • "I once sent a job offer to the wrong person."
  • "An employee sent his resume to me by mistake. It was supposed to go to an outside company."
  • "Someone made a nasty comment about a supervisor and it was sent to the supervisor by mistake. It eventually led to dismissal."
  • "A person called another employee an idiot in an e-mail to everyone in the company."
  • "One of our vendors accidentally e-mailed me information about their sales performance, so I gained some inside knowledge about that vendor."
  • "My receptionist sent a very gossipy and catty e-mail about another employee to the wrong person. It was so unprofessional that she was terminated."
  • "We sent an e-mail to a client that was meant for a vendor. It made it difficult when the client had seen our costs."
  • "Confidential information about one client was sent to a different client. It was certainly embarrassing."
  • "Someone crafted a scathing, sarcastic e-mail about a customer and did not mean to hit 'send.' It caused problems."
  • "I once sent an internal memo about restroom etiquette to a prospective client by accident."
  • "Someone sent me a copy of an employee's bank records by mistake."
  • "Someone meant to send a racy picture to a couple of friends but ended up sending it to the entire staff, which caused her much embarrassment."
Notice that (ahem) frequently these examples say "someone," not "I."  It would be interesting to know how many of these are really meant to be "I." Additionally, The Creative Group gives the following tips, most of which would fall under "common sense."
  1. Give it your undivided attention. Avoid multitasking when responding to important or sensitive messages. If you can't respond right away, let the person know when they can expect to hear back. Then, compose the e-mail when you're free of distractions.
  2. Save the distribution list for last. When writing a confidential or sensitive message, wait until it is complete before carefully selecting the recipients. This will help you avoid sending out an incomplete thought or selecting the wrong individuals.
  3. Take care with those you copy. Think twice before hitting "reply all," and only copy people who need to be in on the conversation.
  4. Review it on a big screen. E-mailing using handheld devices with small screens and keyboards may increase the likelihood of typos and other mistakes. When sending an important e-mail, it can be helpful to view it on a full-size computer screen or use spell-check before transmitting.
  5. Check attachments. Insert any documents -- and confirm that they're the right ones -- as soon as you refer to them in the memo.
  6. Don't hit "send" when you're seething. E-mailing when you're angry is never a good idea. Give yourself time to cool down before responding. It may be better to speak in person.
  7. Keep it professional. Bear in mind that electronic messages can easily be forwarded and employee e-mails may be monitored. Avoid saying anything unkind or unprofessional.
Any readers have some embarrassing email faux pas to share?

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