/writing/ The Overlooked Email

I ONCE RECEIVED a curious email that had been sent office-wide. The subject line read “RE: Imminent security threat, see below for details.”

This email, naturally, alarmed me. I read with some urgency.

“It comes with great pain that I have to say goodbye to this wonderful team. I am moving on to another position.” The heartfelt farewell email continued for several more paragraphs.

The sender had used a previous email blast and copied in his text. He had forgotten to update the subject line.

An alarming mistake on a final farewell note to his colleagues. It was the lasting legacy of a bright and devoted employee.

Past the initial relief, my thoughts turned to how easily email is overlooked; at how casual and loose we have become with it, simply because of its utility.

Email reflects basic communication, in digital form. Imagine this email transferred to an in-person scenario.

You stand at the door of a crowded office room – “EVERYONE- IT’S AN EMERGENCY. OUR LIVES ARE IN DANGER”

Then you walk through the room and causally discuss the weather.

Email mistakes will always happen. This particular mistake bore no consequences other than a few laughs.

But imagine a comparable mistake made in a donor email, or outreach to a government official? It can quickly undermine the credibility of your organization’s work.

Communications teams can help by establishing basic email policies and procedures (for example, all office-wide emails get sent through a select group of individuals). Or consider compiling good and bad email practices for a short staff training on email etiquette. Particularly important emails should be reviewed by multiple staff, just as any speech delivered or report would be.

Invest in proper email use. It doesn’t take much.

Thanks for reading.

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