I see part of my role in HR to help with damage control. Actually, I see a larger part of my role as helping people from having to resort to damage control. It happens though.
Unless you are a lighthouse keeper, you are likely working with or around other people and issues are bound to happen. Sometimes it’s because of people’s reactions to circumstances and other times, it’s because of the people themselves. And we have all been there, on the cusp of saying what we really think, or responding to that email with a fantastically snarky response, but most of the time we bite our tongue or hit delete.
Most of the time.
Then there are times when we do say exactly what we were thinking or hit send. Or worse, hit Reply All.
And that my friends, is the ultimate “oh shit” moment. Seriously. Close your eyes (well actually, read this first and then close your eyes) and imagine that you receive the 157th annoying all-staff reminder email and you have had it – you are not a child and do not need constant procedural reminders of what to do. Just because other idiots keep forgetting, why should you be lumped in with them.
So instead of just deleting the email, you draft a snarky response and even take a dig at another employee in reply to the sender. Except, instead of hitting Reply, you hit Reply All. Reply ALL. As in everyone who was on the original email. As in every single employee on staff, which includes the person you slammed.
Those two words you are seeking to explain that feeling you have: “Oh shit”
I mean, if you were able to imagine this situation with out your stomach dropping and your eyes popping wide open in fear and disbelief, then you are either one cool cucumber or lying. My money is on the latter.
And this just happened to someone I know (no it isn’t me). They weren’t the sender, but they were one of the many staff that were copied on the following email response (names have been changed, but the atrocious sentence structure is all original):
Subject: Re: Shift Exchanges
I look at it every shift and a fair number of times even if it is confirmed it will not allow you to accept it it says so and so is unable to work this shift. So it won’t change. As for employees they in many cases don’t OK it themselves Maggie Fitzgerald the queen of shift changes. Multiple not accepted. Don’t know how she remembers where she is supposed to show up and for what shift.
A first glance it’s not really that bad an email – more on the “oops” side of things, but what you don’t know is that this was sent by a Manager to an employee. This was sent by a Manager at a workplace that is absolutely toxic, with little trust, and serious employee relation issues. Based on the email above…not really shocking.
What this inadvertent email gaffe did, aside from making the Manager look like an imbecile, is that is has revealed a bit of what happens and what is being said behind the curtains.
I personally think that the Reply All button should have a two-step process – similar to some delete features that will prompt you “Are you sure you want to delete this?” I’m thinking of how many inappropriate jokes, rude responses, and personal information could have been prevented from being shared beyond the original destination if there was a simple “Are you sure you want to reply to ALL these people?” before you hit send.
However since that doesn’t exist yet, this would be the point in which I would need to go into damage control advice mode to handle and defuse the situation.
When it comes to the preventative part, well that’s easy – how about don’t put that crap in an email in the first place.
Just ask Amy Pascal – I am certain she would agree with me on that one.