I accidentally sent a confidential email to the wrong person. What's the best way to handle my mistake?
According to research firm The Radicati Group Inc., the world's 2.6 billion email users issue more than 205 billion electronic missives a day – and you can bet a significant number of those were sensitive communications sent to unintended recipients. The point is, you're not alone. And while you can't undo the email, chances are that you can undo any damage it caused.
First, contact the recipient, admit your mistake, and politely ask him or her to ignore and delete the email. Second, contact the intended recipient and explain what happened. Also apologize for your mistake, acknowledging any unintended harm that resulted.
That should bring closure to the problem. But if the email is getting wider circulation and causing concern, you may need to address the faux pas more openly by apologizing publicly and asking for your co-workers' understanding.
Finally, use these preventative steps for the future. Change your email routine so you always fill in the address field last. That way, even if you accidentally click the send button while composing a sensitive note, you won't actually shoot anything out. Then, when you fill in the address field, always take a moment to double check the name that appears in it. These habits can help avoid future email problems that could make you feel like going postal.
, organizational psychologist, is the president of management-consulting company Lumpkin & Associates in Fairhope, AL. Need answers? Email your career-related questions to firstname.lastname@example.org