Digital Dilemmas: How to clean up after an email blunder

From recalling emails to grovelling apologies...

Oh noes! What do you do when you've sent an email you shouldn't have?'s Natasha Lomas deconstructs this most cringe-inducing of Digital Dilemmas...

Oh dear. You've really gone and done it, haven't you? You've sent an email you shouldn't have - an email you didn't intend to send at all.

Perhaps you clicked 'reply all' when you meant 'reply', thereby gifting every man, woman and intern in the company with your latest expense claim - you know, the one with the £300 taxi receipt and that rather large 'in-room entertainment' hotel bill.

Maybe you fired the draft sales plan - the one with the strongly worded mark-ups still scrawled all over it - straight to the inboxes of your client list.

Perhaps you sent confidential performance feedback to the subject of said feedback.

The list goes on.

Either way, you pressed send. Now your palms are sweaty and your finger is glued to the mouse whose fatal click landed you in it, as you run through all the possible excuses and damage limitation scenarios you can muster.

What's to be done in this post-blunder reality? Should you run around clucking out apologies like a headless chicken, or put a bag on your head and sit really, really still, wishing scientists had got their act together with that whole invisibility cloak shebang?

man stressed out using internet

Uh-oh, you've hit send. What are your options for saving face?
(Photo credit: Shutterstock)

First up, users of Gmail might have a quick way out: last year Google added an 'undo send' feature to its webmail, enabling users to stop an email being sent out - provided the regret-filled emailer clicks the undo button within five seconds of clicking the send button. Not exactly a massive margin for saving face, however, but if you act fast then the need for a spot of je ne regrette rien posturing can be avoided.

Users of Microsoft's Office Outlook 2007 email client are not entirely bereft of get out of jail free cards either: probe your inbox and you'll find tools to recall and/or replace an email after it has been sent - but only if recipients of the fateful email are also using an Exchange email account.

Plus, even then, if the email has already been eyeballed there's no way on earth to recall it - short of hiring a crack team of brain washers to erase the memory of everyone on your email list, which is somewhat excessive.

If you're thinking of turning to an email recall tool - the sort that will trigger an email along the lines of 'Bob Smith would like to recall the message "Confidential documents"' - then proceed with caution...