That’s right! “We regret to inform you that your position with the company has been eliminated. Please pack your belongings and leave the building immediately.” Okay, I exaggerate, the actual message was “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and wish you all the best for the future.” Except it wasn’t true. Someone in the Aviva Human Resources department sent the goodbye email to the entire company rather than the one person for whom it was destined. And it was definitely a goodbye email as it covered returning company equipment and confidentiality policies.
Obviously, no company intends to release all of its employees at once and the mistake was corrected 25 minutes later. But it is a reminder that we should pay close attention to how we use IP communications. Sending emails to incorrect recipients is just one of the failings many have in utilizing electronic mail. Too many emails are unprofessionally composed, contain misspellings and grammatical errors, are missing subject lines or have nothing to do with work. As managers, we should not assume that employees know how to effectively use email. We should establish some basic guidelines. I insist that spell check be turned on and a signature (including a phone number) is in place prior to sending out any emails. It is impossible to monitor every email or address every situation where an email can be improperly used or erroneously sent. While the situation at Aviva may appear to be humorous to those reading about it last week, imagine the emotions of its employees until the error was corrected. Consider further the university that incorrectly sent an acceptance email to over 900 applicants on its wait list or another that sent the grades of all to all.
There are lots of examples of email blunders and most of them could have been corrected by just taking a moment to reread the email for content or to check the distribution list. My favorite Broadvox email story involves spell check. The first time “Broadvox” is typed in Outlook it is deemed incorrect and spell check suggests “Breadbox”. Well, imagine a new employee attempting to impress a large prospect by constantly referring to “Broadvox” as “Breadbox”. The email ultimately reached the desk of our CEO and eventually me. Fortunately, it only caused a little embarrassment and we closed the sale, but it could have been caught with just a little more circumspection.
Unified Communications, unified messaging, telepresence, instant messaging and chat are all tools that can improve our productivity and speed to communicate. Just remember, take a moment to reflect upon the purpose, recipient and timing before sending. It might be just the thing to further your career prospects.