Wrong person: Do not forward

Wrong recipient? Maybe

So, you received that awkward email. Here are some possible scenarios and followup actions:

  1. An email you received might be an honest mistake with no significant information, harmless.
    a. Delete

2. Sensitive but not intended for you.
a. Delete
b. Contact the sender to alert him/her know that you were inadvertently copied on an email

3. Highly sensitive not intended for you and from someone senior to you.
a. Delete
b. If the person is in your building, pay a personal visit to inform of the mistake
c. If the person is not in close proximity, pick up the phone and inform the sender
d. In either scenario, do not discuss the contents

4. Highly sensitive and you were either Cc: or Bcc:
a. If Cc: it is informational only. Do not respond to the email
b. If Bcc: it is most likely not your business; however, the recipient probably thinks you should be informed in secret. Note the information, delete, but under no circumstance respond to ALL in the email
c. Contact the sender privately to either ask that you are Cc: in future communications if you believe you have a need to know.

5. You received an email that was intended for your boss to fire you!
a. I am going to let you work through this one on your own. Good luck with this one.

In all of these scenarios mentioned above, how you handle such situations will depend on your relationships with senders, recipients, the organizational culture, and your ability to manage or mitigate risks. Tone and empathy are very important because you might be the sender in some future case.

Stan Brooks, PhD

By Stan Brooks, PhD

Dr. S. MacNivan Brooks is an Intergroup Leadership Coach, Motivational Speaker, and Author.

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