5 ways to fail at email

5 ways to fail at email

Most email mistakes seem like no-brainers after the fact (don’t email when mad, make sure you put the right address in the “to” box, etc.), but these five email blunders are not so obvious:

The BCC. Most use of “blind-copy” replies are to keep someone informed of progress — a client who wants reassurance that you’re on top of a problem, or a boss who wants to be quietly kept in the loop. The problem is that the recipient may not fully understand the blind function, and may accidently (or deliberately) choose the “reply to all” option to comment. If what you sent isn’t ethical to share, or if there was a very good reason this recipient was cloaked, a subsequent “reply to all” can really blow up in your face. Avoid use of BCC whenever possible!

Archived “sent” files. Today you’re feeling frisky via email with your spouse. Or maybe you’re confessing to a friend how you’re working on your novel most Friday afternoons rather than the asinine projects you’ve been assigned at work. Then you give your notice, or have a to take a medical leave, unaware that your supervisor will be going through your “sent” mail to see if there’s anything there that might need a follow-up. Nothing is private about a personal email sent from work on office equipment, and deleting it won’t matter – I’ve personally scoured through resurrected archives after an employee has suddenly left and I’ve discovered very surprising and very personal messages that I can’t, even years later, “unsee”.

Syncing accounts. Syncing your professional account with your personal account is convenient, but keep in mind which account you’re using before hitting “send”. If a client saves the wrong address in their contacts file, your “out of the office” auto response will be meaningless. Also, if you’re on vacation and avoiding email altogether, the sender of a time-sensitive message won’t know that. Then, too, receiving a message from BeerBoy@yahoo.com may seem funnier to friends than it will to customers.

The forward option. Not everyone plays fair in the email arena. If you know the person on the other end has an agenda, consider using a telephone instead of email to communicate with them. Forwarded emails are easily edited. Do you want a message that could be forwarded to your boss to say you’re “not” on board rather than “on board” with their pet project? And how’s your spelling – not your spelling, because of course, you use spellcheck — but how’s the spelling in the message being forwarded? You’ll never see that message, so you’ll never know.

The waiting game. I’ve asked for a status update and heard, one too many times, that an employee is “waiting for x to get back to me” as part of an email exchange. The next question is “have you picked up a telephone and called?” The more important the answer, the more imperative it is to have a backup communication system or a reminder schedule in place. Sending an email is not the conclusion of most business transactions, but we forget that and think we’ve “handled it” when we haven’t. Placing a “Pending” folder in your email system in which you can place sent messages or replies that need follow-up – and then checking that folder every morning – is a way to avoid losing track of a correspondence thread.

Sometimes, it’s not what you say, but how you say it and to whom you send it. Being more aware of these blunders may help you save a future relationship, and maybe even your job.

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