The problem: I insulted a work colleague in an e-mail, then accidentally sent it to him. What do I do now?

Low road: Blame it on the Russians.


High road: I did this once. It happened more than 25 years ago, and I can still remember the recipient’s name, his face when he came over to my desk and my desperate desire to quickly inherit an invisibility cloak.

The good news is that, after making this mistake once, you’ll never again commit this painful interpersonal infraction.

For now, what should you do? Own up to your e-mail completely. Ask for a few minutes of his time, privately. Tell him what is true: That you wrote it, you sent it and you did not mean for him to receive it. (You don’t have to tell him that, yes, you know that Freud said there are no such thing as accidents.)

You might also say that you’re going to figure out why you feel threatened or angry, but that is your work to do. You can tell him you hope that he will forgive you.

But you have to be realistic here. Depending on how big of an insult it was, you might have severed this relationship permanently or, perhaps, shifted it to one that’s tentative and awkward. Forgive yourself for this common mistake, don’t repeat it and never push send before counting to 10.


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