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Workplace communication and the real world: email features for the quick-tempered and impulsive

undoYou’ve written an email that says some things you might be better off saying in person—or not at all—right? Like when you wanted to tell off a co-worker—or supervisor—about taking credit for your work, or putting you down in front of the boss, or just for generally being a jerk. Maybe you were caught up in the anger of the moment—you let your temper get the best of you—or maybe you were just a bit—or a lot—drunk. And maybe you hit that “Send” button, and maybe you reconsidered before it was too late.

I don’t like to imagine the result of sending such a message. I’m sure I’ve written and sent emails that I wasn’t particularly proud of afterwards, but I’m far too cautious to tempt fate with an impulsive shot at s colleague or supervisor. Even my friends are unlikely ever to get a glimpse of my e-temper.

And when I’ve been drinking I only tweet. I stay away from email.

Of course, the Undo Send function has more practical uses than simply avoiding saying something hasty, stupid and perhaps dangerous to your career. You’ve probably sent an email without its intended attachment or before you fully explained what it is you were trying to say, or maybe you just pushed “Send” when you meant to push “Save” and, zoom, off went the unfinished email. I’m sure it happens to just about everyone—even the most cautious.

Ever-thoughtful Google has considered the plight of the poor working person in this confusing modern age. The company has added two handy features to its GMail service to help cooler, more sober, and forgetful heads prevail, and to circumvent embarrassment (or worse).

Undo Send lets users take back an email once they’ve hit “Send”, within 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds. GMail users can enable this feature by clicking “Settings” at the top right of their inbox and looking on the “General” tab. Seems simple, right? Of course, you’ve still got to be quick with the mouse.

Mail Goggles adds a clever spin on the problem of “beer goggles”—well, at least one aspect of the phenomenon. Beer goggles affect the way one sees the world after excessive drinking, and can have several unfortunate effects. The main is that the “wearer” finds other people more attractive than when sober. I suspect the only solution for that problem is abstinence. But a related effect is that the beer goggles make the wearer think his or her ideas are far more attractive than they would appear when sober—ideas like sending a rambling email to a co-worker with the intent of educating her about all the ways she annoys the wearer.

So how do you use technology to address this problem? You force potential drunk emailers to answer several skill-testing math questions within a short time frame. If the goggle wearer can’t answer the questions, she can’t send the email. If she can, well then, hopefully she’s got enough judgment remaining to reconsider the content of the message. If the wearer is a math genius, well, there’s always abstinence, right?

GMail has a couple of other handy features for workers. Don’t forget Bob suggests recipients you might have forgotten. And Got the wrong Bob? asks whether you’re sure you’re sending your message to the correct person. The latter feature could be particularly useful for people who work with sensitive or confidential documents. I know I’ve received plenty of emails intended for others. I imagine I’ve sent a few, too.

Now, let’s be candid: have you got a horror story about a mis-sent email?

Adam Gorley
First Reference Human Resources and Compliance Editor

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Adam Gorley

Adam Gorley is a copywriter, editor and researcher at First Reference. He contributes regularly to First Reference Talks, Inside Internal Controls and other First Reference publications. He writes about general HR issues, accessibility, privacy, technology in the workplace, accommodation, violence and harassment, internal controls and more. Read more
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2 thoughts on “Workplace communication and the real world: email features for the quick-tempered and impulsive
  • Adam Gorley says:

    Good idea Sandra! I like it.

    I think if I did that though I’d be afraid that I’d accidentally send the angry message!

  • Sandra says:

    Normally, if I’m angry at something/someone at work I write an email I have no intention of sending but secretly wish I could send, just to vent and release some of the anger. Then I erase it and start over. It helps 🙂

    I definitely need to install Got the wrong Bob? – Thanks Adam!