We've all done this: You're on an email chain with a bunch of people, and you send your buddy a snarky comment, only to realize you hit "reply all" by mistake. If your inbox doesn't have an "undo send" feature, which gives you a short window to revoke a sent message, you're suddenly stuck in a very awkward position. What are you supposed to do?
Just admit the mistake, says Karen Dillon, a former editor of the Harvard Business Review and co-author of the New York Times bestseller How Will You Measure Your Life?
Dillon suggests reaching out to the unintentional recipients and apologizing or asking for forgiveness.
This advice comes courtesy of the HBR's Twitter account, which on Thursday posted a snippet from an article Dillon wrote back in December 2012.
Today's management tip: What to do if you send an embarrassing email pic.twitter.com/qzbxvIRe6g
— Harvard Biz Review (@HarvardBiz) March 19, 2015
Don't wave off your accountability, Dillon's article advises. Make sure your apology is sincere. And email might not be the best way to do that. "Make the apology in person or by phone, especially considering that email leaves tone to the imagination of the reader. You don’t want to risk getting it wrong again," she wrote.
And as bad as it feels in the moment, remember that the awkwardness and embarrassment will flame out quickly enough.
"Sometimes the tendency is to keep bringing it up as a way to show you can laugh at yourself," writer Laura Vanderkam said of "reply all" snafus in 2013. "But what people forget is that time makes everything seem less fraught."