Sending and receiving emails – it takes up so much of our business day that many people try to save time by sending without checking for mistakes. I’m not talking about typos (although that doesn’t help your professional image), but rather subtle details that can have much bigger consequences. As a consultant who specializes in the science behind influence, I’ve seen three particular email mistakes trigger a crisis for clients. Below, I’ve identified these as well as ways to avoid them to keep you and your company out of email trouble.
1 – Sending an email to the wrong recipient
How could that even happen? A lot of email systems autofill an email address after a letter or two is typed in. That’s how an email intended for Brad can wind up in Brandon’s mailbox. It happens more than you might think. I’ve seen cases where morale was damaged when someone on a team accidentally received an internal email that contained critical remarks about their team dynamics. In worst-case scenarios, this mistake has caused public relations nightmares or even lawsuits for companies where sensitive information was sent to the wrong person, who then leaked it to the press. Double-checking the recipient’s email address before you hit send will help you avoid these consequences.
2 – Unintentionally forwarding sensitive information in the email chain
This mistake is easily made in long email chains. Reviewing the entire chain before forwarding can be tedious, but is important before you send it to someone else. You’d be surprised at the insights and strategic advantages my clients have gained from information accidentally forwarded to them by prospects, especially in negotiation cases. The best way to avoid this mistake is to delete the part of the chain you don’t wish to forward or, to be safe, start a new email and copy and paste just the information you want to pass on to the recipient.
3 – Replying to Everyone
This is a pet peeve for me when I’m on the receiving end and there are a lot of people copied on the email. Most of the time when someone is replying to an email, only the sender needs to see it. Before automatically hitting “reply all”, keep in mind that many people could be blind copied, so you may never know exactly who is receiving your email. If there is information only relevant to the sender or a small group of people, it’s best to double-check that you’re only sending to those people. If there is a sensitive issue being discussed, I highly recommend opting out of email and responding by phone or in person. That way, you are limiting the chance of your communications on this issue going viral.
With the number of emails we interact with on a daily basis, it can be easy to fall into the routine of sending without checking for these things. However, it takes less than a minute to double-check that you are sending to the intended recipient(s), and that the content you’re sharing is correct. By doing so, you could potentially save hours, weeks or even months of “damage control” caused by a mistake.