How To Recover From A Reply-All Mistake, Because You Know It's Going To Happen
If you're just starting out or will start your first real-life adult job soon, chances are you're pretty nervous. You might be afraid of messing up at work — and I hope I'm not terrifying you by saying that, yes, inevitably you will. One of the most embarrassing, stress-inducing mistakes that you might encounter is when you send a message meant for one person and accidentally send it to your entire office. So how can you recover from a dreaded reply-all blunder?
Let's be honest: there's not really any particular way to bounce back from a really bad reply-all mistake. If this has happened to you, I have three words of advice: apologize, apologize, apologize. Apologize profusely and eventually (depending on how chill your office environment is), your co-workers will forget about the mistake and move on. In the meantime, give yourself a break, shrug it off, and pretend you're not squirming inside.
But if you're looking for some prevention, there are a couple of ways that you can keep this from happening — especially if Gmail is your primary email service provider. For one thing, you can set up a time delay in the seconds it takes from when you hit "send" to when Gmail actually send the email off. Just go to "Settings" and check the box that says "Enable Undo Send" to set this up. You can customize the amount of delay time you'd like, anywhere from 5 to 30 seconds.
Also, right below the "Undo Send" you have the "Default reply behavior" section, where you can click on "reply" as your default setting. This way, when you click to reply to a message automatically and forget to check who you sent it to, you can be sure that you only replied to the single sender of the email.
Something you absolutely should never, ever do in a reply-all situation is asked to be removed from the thread. Just take it from The New York Times. In the shortest story ever printed in the paper's history, when posing the question of whether or not to hit "reply all" to ask to be removed from an email thread you weren't meant to be in, the answer was simple "No." That's right — a one word article. Groundbreaking.
But just in case you've already had an embarrassing reply-all accident and are still feeling mortified? You can take comfort in the fact that you're definitely not alone. A few people shared their real-life, scarring reply-all email mistakes with Elite Daily to ease your pain.
"I Want All The Sweets"
"One of my co-worker friends who I hang out with outside of work came back from a vacation with a lot of goodies that he left for the rest of the office in the shared kitchen. He emailed the whole office to let everyone know. I very quickly responded, 'F*CK YOU! I want it all,' meaning: How dare you offer this up to the whole office, I would like to eat all of the sweets you brought back.
Within seconds I realized that I had replied all and I was mortified. I quickly figured out how to retract an email, but that only works for people who haven't yet opened it, and the damage was already done.
I apologized to my boss and to the whole office over email. Luckily most people are pretty informal in my office, and a few of the attorneys I work with thought it was the funniest thing that had ever happened. They still quote my email back to me regularly.
I felt pretty sick to my stomach for a week but tragedy + time = comedy, right?"
Government Photos Are Never Shareable
"In college, I was hyper-involved with our hyper-involved campus media, and it became muscle memory to take a picture of something on campus and email it off to our listserv.
One day, I had to take a picture of my passport. Muscle memory took over and I shot the picture off to the dozens of people on the listserv. Now, it's bad enough to have sent my international travel info to a couple dozen people, but to make it worse, my passport photo is so bad that multiple TSA agents have made jokes about it.
So sending this out to everyone on staff? It was... it was bad. It was bad."
- Alexandra S.
The Mug Thief, Exposed
"I had a mug from Fish's Eddy that I adored with Charley Harper fish all over it and a matching saucer. One day, it went missing. I wasn't too concerned, assuming someone in the office was using it and it would turn up in the dishwasher the next morning. But it didn't.
Two weeks went by and not one sign of my mug — not in the dishwasher, the kitchen, the whole office. So I sent out an email to the whole office describing the mug, asking if anyone had seen it, attaching a photo of the saucer (which I still had) for visual reference.
I got an email back from a woman in HR — let's call her Brenda — saying she saw the mug, loved Charley Harper, and decided to take it home with her. She assured me she would return it the next day (which she did with a very nice card and apology).
Trouble is, she replied all. So everyone in the office knew she had taken my mug. From that point on, any time someone sent out a 'Has Anyone Seen My...' email, everyone would write back, 'Have you asked Brenda...?'"
- Liesje K.
So the moral of these stories?
If you double check your "Send To" bar, you'll save yourself a lot of heartache. Good luck, and happy emailing.
These responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.