Help! I Accidentally Emailed the Wrong Person

Source: Brooke Cagle | Unsplash

We’ve all been there. Even with the most careful review, a wrong email goes out the door with a message you didn’t want to send, or to someone who shouldn’t have received it. When this mini office disaster strikes, don’t panic. Knowing your options and acting swiftly (but professionally) can help to keep your office reputation intact. Here’s what to do if you emailed the wrong person:


Don’t react, respond

The first step is to take a deep breath and prepare a response plan, not a panicked reaction. Since it’s likely we were distracted or working quickly when the wrong email went out, it can be tempting to hustle into face-saving mode. Unfortunately, that can lead to follow-on errors, so above all slow yourself down for a minute before proceeding. You’ll be better prepared to navigate the follow-on office politics.


Understand your recall options

Thankfully, the bright minds at places like Google and Outlook understand that these things are going to happen. Whatever email service provider you’re using, do a quick search to understand exactly how you can recall an email and what remains visible to the unintended receiver on the other side. (For example, some systems issue “recall” message, but don’t actually delete the received note, so just be sure you know what the end outcome actually is.)


Evaluate the content in the error

Take a beat to consider where you’re at on the email disaster scale. Is it just a mis-spelled name that landed you in someone else’s inbox at your company, or did you add an extra recipient without meaning to? Innocuous misdirections like this can be corrected pretty easily, provided you don’t have any personally identifiable information in the email or information that your company would deem sensitive. If the latter is the case, you’ll want to check in with a manager or HR contact on policies surrounding mis-dissemination—just to cover your bases. Data breaches are serious business, and you want to be sure you’re not in violation of any security policy.

If you didn’t have anything sensitive in the email, one of the most courteous things to do is craft an email with a single sentence in the subject line, sparing the recipient from having to open this note as well. (And if they haven’t opened the other one yet, possibly meaning they only have to delete it.) Something like, “Regret the earlier misdirect. Please disregard my previous note. n/t” (The “n/t” tells them there’s “no text” in the email, meaning it’s a quick scan for folks as they’re rolling through their messages on their phone.)


Source: @mylittlebooktique


Evaluate the recipient of the error

The quick one-liner works wonders if you know that it’s a peer, or someone generally in your colleague pool that received your misfire. Alternatively, if you’ve mistakenly sent something off to a big wig, it might take a little more repair. Depending on who you’re dealing with, you might consider a quick call to their administrative support, who likely have email access and can possibly even delete the mistake before it catches the eye of the big boss.

If the message went outside of your organization, that’s another incident where a phone call can be the best way to intercept a poorly-received message. Again, ensure that it doesn’t contain proprietary info that would require you inform a manager or other parts of your security team.

Depending on the cringe factor of the message in combination with who received it, you might do yourself a favor by giving your boss a heads up. Coming clean quickly, letting them know how you’re remedying it, and saving them from hearing it from another person is often the most professional way to save face in these incidences.

If something gossipy between you and a close colleague left the nest and it really wasn’t your best self, try for a quick call or drive by your boss’s office the same day. Your own office culture will help gage if this is necessary, but if there’s any chance that this could come back to haunt you in performance reviews, compensation discussions, or how you’re perceived by your peers, err on the side of disclosure.

A quick admittance and explanation, along with your apology and how you remedied the situation should be enough. “Alex and I were trading emails about the sales meeting today and in that note some of my comments were unprofessional. I accidentally sent it to Jenna, and gave her a quick call to apologize for those remarks asking that she delete the email. She understood and was gracious, but I just wanted to make you aware of the situation. It won’t happen again.”


Own up to your error and apologize

There are generally two categories of the most cringe-worthy sends. Either mass errors, where just your average every day work email goes to the wrong gal, or (eek) large group of people. These are annoying, but provided they’re not in the territory of security issues, can usually be solved with the one liner apology above.

The other category is the one we all struggle to recover from. The one where something outside of our normal office speak, badmouthing a person or process, or revealing perhaps plans for a new gig makes its way into the wrong hands. In these big error, wrong gal moments, extra damage control is needed.

Those always require a phone call to the recipient. (And, if it’s a thread where another colleague might come off in a less-than-flattering light, you may need to pre-plan with them as well.) Again, straight up honesty is the best policy here. “I’m sorry, that email wasn’t intended for you. I have some potential opportunities I’m considering but I’m not ready to share that information more widely. I hope you understand and would delete the note I’ve accidentally just sent.”

If the email was more of the snarky variety, you can still save some face by using it as an opportunity to potentially have some more constructive conversations about whatever you’re addressing in the note. “Please excuse the language I used in reference to the sales meeting we had last week. I’m feeling frustrated about where we’re at with that project, but I certainly could have taken that feedback to Anna directly and will do so now.”

The bottom line is that nothing is without repair if you act thoughtfully and with enough grace and transparency. And going forward, adding a few safety nets like turning on spell check prompts and sending confirmation features can give you that extra few seconds of review to help prevent future email sending disasters.


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Tips for Succeeding as a Full-Time Freelancer

A man at a table with measuring tape and rulers

The start of my career as a full-time writer, ghostwriter and content creator was unintentional. I was 21 years old when I found myself simultaneously graduating from college and being my grandmother’s primary caretaker.

At the time, I felt like I had the rug pulled out from under me. Up until that point, I’d lived most of my adult life as if both roles were meant to be my future. I saw myself taking my resume and pivoting to a full-time role as a magazine editor, all the while still working to keep my grandma alive and healthy as she continued to grow older. 

A life as a freelancer was never in the plans. Yet, on the heels of a new chapter, it was the only part of my life that made sense. Taking on self-employment full time gave me the opportunity to grieve my grandmother’s loss at my own pace. The flexible schedule made tending to my mental health a possibility. The excitement of being responsible for bringing on new clients and working on projects I loved helped remind me that I had a say on where and how my life unfolded. 

A life as a freelancer was never in the plans.

Now, almost eight years since that first client, it’s easier to know what makes my life as a full-time writer and content creator fulfilling, less stressful and more manageable. Here are a few tips I have found to be helpful for finding success as a full-time freelancer:

Create your “A team.” 

I’ll start with the lesson that I’ve had to learn time and time again: schedule intentional time to workshop or to simply chat with people who are on similar paths. You will never regret having a mastermind group of people who just “get it.”

These people will understand the ins and outs of trying to grow and scale your career. They get the nuances of figuring out contracts or negotiating rates. They get it. They support you, and they help you become better at your craft.

They get it. They support you, and they help you become better at your craft.

Whether you come from a traditional work environment where you were surrounded by coworkers or you have been a solo-preneur since day one, the freelance path can get lonely. Having a built-in support system helps keep you on track. 

Play to your strengths.

The best part about being a full-time freelancer is that you get to cater your work to play to your strengths. This also happens to be one of the hardest parts about being a freelancer. Oftentimes, we’re our own worst enemies and playing to our strengths turns into a hard task because we don’t believe we have any strengths to begin with.

Take some time at the beginning of every quarter (or month, especially at the beginning of your freelance career) to list on paper all your strengths, what you do well and when you work best. This will set you up for success. It will also give you a tangible reminder whenever you’re feeling down because of work. 

The best part about being a full-time freelancer is that you get to cater your work to play to your strengths. 

Build routines and skills.

A big mistake I made early on in my career was to focus solely on building routines. I am constantly working on my morning routine or on setting boundaries at home so that my work time is protected. While those routines have been beneficial and I recommend anyone who is self-employed to dedicate time to building them, it’s also important to pour into your skillset.

A gap is born the minute you go freelance because unlike those who work under a manager and are learning from higher ups, you are now (mostly) working solo. In order to fill that gap, build your skills by attending seminars, listening in on panels or participating in courses. 

Define success for yourself.

When you’re freelance, you choose whether you’ll inherit society’s definition of success or whether you’ll pave your own. Success used to mean solely climbing the corporate ladder. Now, however, it can mean whatever you want it to mean. Lately success for me as a self-employed individual has meant scaling my business so that I don’t have to exchange time for money in a 1:1 transactional way. I set goals based on what makes sense, both for my career and my life. 

Whether you call yourself a freelancer, self-employed, a solo-preneur or a small business owner, we’re all on the same path to pursuing a career that’s meant to wrap around our lives. It’s a good journey to be on!

What tricks or hacks have helped streamline your day-to-day as a freelancer? What advice would you give to someone who is new to self-employment?

Image via Tony Li, Darling Issue No. 17