Careless communication skills cause disasters on every scale. From seemingly small typos to accidentally hitting "reply all," here are five of some of the worst email disasters on record.
When I was in college, the most common way to communicate with my friends during breaks was to write them letters. Although not the fastest way to talk to people, writing letters gave me time to think about what I wanted to say.
One of the major benefits of letter-writing was that I could cross out mistakes or erase something and start over again before I mailed it without facing any bad consequences. I took my time creating a good message that expressed what I really wanted to say.
Being careless is a recipe for disaster
Crafting the perfect message in a slow, thoughtful way is kind of a lost art. Now our communication tools are instant, convenient, and often unforgiving when we make a mistake. It’s so easy to whip out a response to an email or text that we forget to proofread or double check which delivery option we’ve selected for our recipients(reply all, anyone?).
When we take our messaging tools for granted and get hasty with our writing, mistakes are sure to follow. The following five stories (quoted directly from the Business Insider) remind us of the dangers of careless email communication skills.
Email Disaster #1: U-Penn Senior Blasts His "RSUM"
There are no shortcuts in life — unless you use bcc. Then you can send an email blast to every firm on Wall Street asking for an interview, and no one will be the wiser. One University of Pennsylvania senior had to learn this the hard way.
My name is [redacted] and I will be graduating from the University of Pennsylvania this May. I am very interested in pursuing a career in investment banking upon graduation and I wanted to know if your firm would be hiring analysts this coming summer. I know you are busy and would appreciate any time you could give me. Thank you in advance and I hope to hear from you soon. My rsum (sic) is attached.
Email Disaster #2: "Actually, this student isn't anywhere near graduating yet"
I'm in a graduate program, and no one ever remembers that hitting reply to the graduate listserv sends your response BACK to the whole listserv.
So, the director of the program sends out this email asking for graduating students to do a reading at the end of the year. And one girl writes back (to the whole group) that she would be happy to do it. And then her thesis adviser hits reply all, thinking he was just writing to the director, and said:
Actually, this student isn't anywhere near graduating yet. She needs more time to work on her thesis. You might want to write back to her suggesting this, without saying I said so.
Email Disaster #3: "The customer doesn't need it, but we can convince 'em to buy it"
The insurance company I work for maintains an internal mailing list devoted to one of our customers. One day, one of our sales reps sent an e-mail to everyone in my group asking about a policy we were selling. I replied:
We could easily convince the customer to buy it--even though the customer doesn't need it.
Unfortunately, I clicked Reply All. Hiding in that massive list was the customer's e-mail address. We didn't make the sale.
Email Disaster #4: "We're thrilled that you've been admitted to UC San Diego..."
Apparently the admissions folks at UC San Diego mistakenly sent a welcome email to all 46,000 applicants for the freshman class, including about 28,000 who had already been rejected. In a case of false hope to the extreme, the school sent:
We're thrilled that you've been admitted to UC San Diego, and we're showcasing our beautiful campus on Admit Day.
The entire admissions staff was on hand to field angry calls from crestfallen wannabe students and their parents after the email went out.
Email Disaster #5: "They're both crap"
Leading up to the 2002 World Cup, BBC Sports secured commentators Andy Gray and Jonathan Pearce as their color men. But apparently the guy at the top of BBC Sports had a beef with the hires. He intended to email a single colleague, but instead sent his true feelings to 500 employees (including Gray and Pearce):
I think they're both crap.
He owned up to the mistake, later saying he couldn't believe he was "such an arse."
Reversing the trend (and the consequences) of careless communication
Although there’s humor to be found in each of these mistakes, it’s never funny to lose your job from personal carelessness. Most organizations today expect their employees to have adequate, professional communication skills that won’t cause embarrassment to the company.