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Workplace Etiquette: How To Recover From An Email Gaffe

Two words: own it.
Keep calm and step away from your computer.
David Malan
Keep calm and step away from your computer.

There are some situations in life that you just have to own.

While hiding from an old uni friend in the supermarket is not one of them, owning up to an email that was incorrectly sent to the wrong person is undoubtedly a time which requires explanation and a full apology.

Nobody likes having their tail between their legs but as Alexandra Blakemore, etiquette expert and founder of French Navy explains, sending an incorrect email is something that everyone will likely do, but it's how you manage the knock on effect that matters most.

"Depending upon the sensitivity of the information that has been emailed, advise your superior straight away and confirm together how you will manage it from here," Blakemore told The Huffington Post Australia.


"You may be a bit panicky at this stage, so getting a boss involved will initially be scary, but ultimately will help you manage the situation in a timely and well thought through manner."

Once you've owned the situation it's time to pick up the phone.

"Your apology needs to sincere therefore an email or text is not appropriate," Blakemore said.

"It's important to remember that everyone makes mistakes. The person that you accidentally sent the content to, while potentially upset, will have to respect that you have admitted to your mistake and have taken the time to call and apologise."

Once you've lived through the utter despair of having an email go to the wrong person it likely won't happen again however, Blakemore explains a few rules to live by (just in case).

Should you recall the email?

"Recalling an email is fine, you just need to explain why. If it is due to incorrect content, explain just that. However, always follow up with a phone call and also with the understanding that while a lot of people will respect your wishes and delete the file as per your request, others will still read it," Blakemore said.

"People often forget that their correspondence in the workplace is just that, for work. While you may be friendly or even friends with the people you are corresponding with, you are still in a work environment and you should behave as such," Blakemore.

Basically ask yourself this question before hitting send, "Would you have faxed this inappropriate picture or couriered across this funny video?"

If not, it's probably best you move your draft to the trash.

"A great piece of advice I was once given was to imagine every work email you write being read out in a court of law and how that would come across," Blakemore said.

"If the thought of that makes you shudder, you need to be more formal in your workplace correspondence."

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