Wednesday, September 25, 2013

E-mail Rules

Don't let this be you

Instant communication is a great thing, except when it isn’t. Between calling, texting and e-mail it is now possible to instantaneously commit a faux pas and cause yourself no end of embarrassment. Of the three, I think e-mails are the worst.

We’ve all heard the two big e-mail rules:  1) Never write an e-mail when angry, and 2) Thoroughly review your e-mail before sending. I suspect every one of us has broken those rules at one time, or another. And we’ve paid the price. 

A number of years ago I broke rule number 1. For reasons unknown to myself at the time, a period of nearly three months had gone by without payment for my columns, and invoices had been sent in a timely manner. To exacerbate my disgruntlement there was an ongoing issue over ultimate ownership of my freelance columns, whether they were copyrighted to me, or considered work for hire. I made several calls in an effort to talk to the editor to straighten things out, but never connected.

Finally, with frustration running high, I sat down and wrote a flaming e-mail listing all the perceived affronts, and stating the column was done. I quit. 

Having vented, I felt much better. I decided to save the message and try calling the editor again the following day. Why I hit the send button instead of the save icon I will never know - must have been something Freudian. Frantic efforts to recall the message netted only notices that it was “irretrievable.” The next day’s phone call went something like this:

“I sent you an e-mail last night.” 

“I know.”

“Yeah… Would it help if I said tequila was involved?” 

Dead silence.

“Would it help if I said tequila was involved and I meant to save it, and hit ‘send’ instead?” 

More silence.

“What about saying I’m really sorry, AND tequila was involved, AND …” 

“That works. By the way, we have a new accounting system called SAP. Obviously, we’re having problems and that’s why you haven’t been paid. The situation will be fixed in another week. I’ll send you an e-mail.”

“Sounds good.” 

Last Wednesday, hump day, the lovely Mrs. Poynor provided an example of why rule 2 is so important. (I should also add that Mrs. Poynor announced her retirement and had submitted her two weeks notice on Monday.)

As the supervisor in a high stress office environment, Mrs. P tries to keep things light and bring a little fun into the mix. Every morning she sends out an e-mail to the staff, and a few muckity-mucks in the regional office, letting everyone know what’s going on for that day. It’s become a game to see what she can put in the e-mail to bring smiles and brighten the day. The lead techs often help her find things to add to the messages, usually cute pictures. So it was last Wednesday, when one of the lead techs shot her an attachment that was “perfect for the hump day” update. Without thoroughly reviewing it, my darling wife sent out her message and the picture.

The laughter that erupted from outside her office indicated people enjoyed the message. Mrs. P was feeling pretty good. That is, until someone came to her door and said, “Wow. Since you gave notice you really don’t care anymore, do you?”  

That person was practically bowled over by the office manager who dashed through the door screeching, “Recall it! Recall it! Now! NOW!” 

The office manager was shoved aside by the lead tech who was apologizing profusely. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t have my glasses on when I looked at it before I sent it to you. It looked like they were just laying side-by-side.”

And the picture?

D'oh! Review thoroughly before sending.