A New Zealand company recently made headlines after it fired an employee for sending an e-mail in all caps. That’s unlikely to happen at most organizations, but e-mail blunders can still do some damage.
At best, the sender is just a little embarrassed. At worst, an e-mail mistake results in a serious miscommunication, leaked information or an (unintentionally) angered recipient.
Here are four of the biggest e-mail mistakes — and how they can be avoided:
1. Sending “flame mail”
It’s easy to get snippy or sarcastic when you’re not actually talking to someone face to face.
Solution: Don’t send anything when you’re mad. Save a draft, come back to it in a half hour and see if you still really want to send it.
2. Coming off as angry and annoyed
Another problem with e-mail: Without the benefit of tone and body language, what’s written can easily be misinterpreted. Something meant to be innocuous or playful can be read as insulting or angry.
Solution: Avoid sarcasm and re-read the message to imagine all the ways the recipient could read it.
3. Forgetting to attach a file
It happens all the time: Someone will write an e-mail saying there’s a document attached and forget to add the attachment. Usually the sender doesn’t realize until he or she gets a response saying “Umm.. there’s nothing attached.”
Solution: Attach the file before you start writing, when it’s fresh in your mind.
4. Misusing urgency
It’s doubtful anyone wants to see an e-mail from HR saying “Come to my office ASAP.” If they don’t already know what you want to talk about, they’ll likely be expecting bad news.
Solution: Briefly explain what you need, or find a gentler way of getting someone’s attention — such as by using the phone or stopping by someone’s desk.