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E-mail Oops! of the millennium (so far)

Email Oops

I'm sure you've done it. Clicked the SEND button too fast, I mean? Of course you have.  I certainly have.

Last year I received an e-mail from Legal. In it, some bonehead attorney for the other side in an obnoxious case that was pending articulated a position that was so aggravating that I had to make a comment about it to my pal, the General Counsel of our company. "Who is this f***ing guy?!" I wrote, in perhaps not my most convivial or corporate tone. "And will somebody please tell him to SHUT UP?!" I was in a bad mood. I admit it.

About six seconds later,  I got an e-mail back from our General Counsel, whom I will call Bud. "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" it read. "BOB GROSS IS COPIED ON YOUR E-MAIL!!" Bob Gross, which is not his real name, was the flatulent barrister who had generated my wrath. Obviously, I had hit REPLY TO ALL instead of the simple, safe REPLY. Several moments later, I got another e-mail... from Bob Gross himself. "Who is this?" it inquired politely of me. "Perhaps we should have lunch sometime."

I was required to reply to the gross Mr. Gross in the most subservient, sniveling and apologetic of terms, admitting that I had lost my temper and sent an impolitic correspondence, etc., etc., and blah blah blah. Gross, for his part, was pleased. He had aggravated somebody. His job as an attorney was done for the day. Or at least for the hour.

I tell this story to make a point: into the valley of digital humiliation and possible termination go we all.

Which brings us to a particularly stunning atrocity of the genre, reported by Advertising Age online earlier this week. I'll give you the short version:

Carat is a media agency that, like many in the sector, is "rationalizing its costs" during the current economic downturn. This odious part of corporate life is very often run by the Human Resources department of a company, a discipline given to the over-generation of formal internal communication about everything. HR is very good at planning these kinds of things, but should never be given the job of handling the communications for them, really. Honest. You can take that to the bank.

Anyhow, in the process of working up the communication strategy for their upcoming layoffs, sorry, I mean Restructuring, the HR department produced a comprehensive suite of documents elucidating how it was supposed to go, the messages to employees, internal talking points, and so forth. When that was assembled, the head of HR for Carat pushed the wrong button and sent the entire package of material wide via electronic mail to all employees, including a lot who were scheduled to be decruited in the coming debacle. AdAge reports:

Struggling media agency Carat is planning a major restructuring of its U.S. operations, including an undetermined number of layoffs - news it accidentally released today via a memo the agency's top New York-based HR executive e-mailed to the entire agency that appeared to be intended only for senior managers.

So... a word to the wise and the foolish alike: Think before you click. You'll be glad you did.

10 Comments Add Comment


Yours beats mine! My trip into the valley of digital humiliation was to reply to a cross-company message that fire alarm system testing, including drills to clock the time from the office areas to the meeting point, would be conducted over the coming weekend. Instead of forwarding to my team with my usual witticism, I Replied to All: "Any volunteers to help with the testing? Anyone who says 'yes' won't get a raise this year!" Several rather indignant senior managers immediately pointed out the absence of wit - and computing skills - in my message. Once was enough!

Hey Bing,
Can you give some advice on the blog business? I've been thinking about buying some websites, start blogs and generate traffic. Can you give advice on generating traffic? How did you land the deal with Fortune?

Any advice would be appreciated!

Here's another disaster waiting to happen ... you know how e-mail "helpfully" fills in addresses for you? I've been mildly embarassed thanks to this -- well, thanks to my own haste -- but this has the potential for true career-ending catastrophe.

Bing, I laughed till I almost bust a gut. I WAS fired from a temp job one time for pointing out a correction to a supervisor, but hit the reply all to the entire office, instead of just to her. OMG I hope someone in that office reads your blog. I wasn't that upset as she was a twit anyway and it was a temp position... Great blog today!!

Check your attachments, too. Once, I had a guy send me what should have been a routine spread sheet. It was not. Instead, he sent me a spreadsheet with the salaries and bonuses of everyone in my department. Unfortunately, the sender was my boss as well as the boss for everyone else appearing on the spreadsheet.

Best advice I ever heard: do not fill in the address until you compose and read your e-mail. Then wait a few minutes; maybe longer if you are in a less than stable emotional state.

To all my staff that may have gotten a copy of an order for a penis enhancing drug for me.
That email was not sent by me, it was obviously done by some malicious interloper.

Who invented these damm group email lists anyhow.

Here's one that has happened several times at our company. An e-mail goes out to a distribution list with hundreds of names on it. Someone hits "reply all" and requests to have their name removed from the distribution list. It is guaranteed that for the next several hours, my inbox will fill up with dozens of messages, with one of two responses: either "I'm sorry, but I don't control the distribution list, please contact the original sender" or "stop replying to all!" The last time there were at least 50 people who hit the Reply All button to tell people not to Reply All.

While working as a Sales Rep for a manufacturing company, I had a client send me an email. Yeah, he sent me attachments that were porn pictures instead of PDF's of the corporate artwork that our art department needed for the clients order.

So I forwarded on to my friend and head of the art department with a note that said Happy Birthday.

We all laughed including the owner. The client was well known in the company as being a total idiot.

One can only imagine the ooops e-mails the sheriffs around the country scan through; seen on 20-20 programing.

One would wonder if the psychosis witnessed on these programs is organismically or drug induced?

Takes me back to an episode of "The Office", where Michael (Steve Carell) sends a picture [mistakenly] to packing@dundermifflin instead of packer@dundermifflin, a friend of his named Packer; shows you even need to watch the email address itself.