When it comes to building business relationships, there is a problem spreading like the plague.
This whole Mitt Romney video scandal got me thinking about privacy and how sometimes something intended for one person (or perhaps an intimate room of diners) is heard by many, many more. The real life equivalent of the GOP presidential nominee's latest challenge is what I like to call the Plague of Reply All.
I have heard hundreds of stories from friends and co-workers who got themselves in some sticky situations. A standout story came from a woman who replied to the benefits coordinator at her medium-sized company asking if her same-sex spouse was covered by their new provider. Little did she know she had inadvertently “outted” herself to thousands of people by accidentally hitting reply all. Luckily, this was not an issue for her and she was proud to do it.
Another gem came from a soccer mom who accidentally blasted a complaint about other soccer parents’ game behavior to every parent in her home state’s Youth Soccer Association (about 3000 people). Sadly, the tirade included her home phone number, and she endured weeks of calls from other parents defending their right to scream “Go Joe!” at their child’s soccer game.
These are fun stories to hear about, but it feels very different when you are the person who is saying “oops”. So what do you do when you make this common mistake?
OWN IT! – Tempting as it may be to say “I don’t know what happened, it just accidentally sent", the best option in the long run is to be honest. “I inadvertently hit reply all and that was a mistake”.
SAY IT! – The fastest way to calm the storm is to simply say “I’m sorry”. Careful not to follow it with something that can negate the sentiment. “I’m sorry you feel that way” could be interpreted that you do not condone how they feel.
REMEMBER IT! – The lesson here is: avoid doing it again. Set-up a delay send on your email or use my personal practice of removing the address in the “to” line until I am really ready to send.