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How to Avoid the Most Embarrassing Webmail Gaffe Ever

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

As you may have gathered from prior posts on this blog, there are lots of ways that your email can ruin your life. Or at least your reputation.

In the past, we've discussed how spell check won't always make you look smarter, and the fact that giving your clients (or opposing counsel) pet names in your phone is simply a terrible idea. To illustrate these points, I've offered true stories from professionals who have made these mistakes and lived to tell the tales.

Today, I'm tattling on myself -- and attempting to save you from yourself -- with a cautionary tale of what not to do with an Outlook appointment invite.

Last year, I received an appointment request "inviting" me to a mandatory PowerPoint training session. Personally, I subscribe to the Steve Jobs theory on slide decks: People who know what they're talking about don't need PowerPoint. The rest of the world, now that Jobs is gone, seems to disagree with me. So it was time to beef up my PowerPoint skills.

Upon receiving this request through Outlook Webmail, I should have just clicked "Accept."

Instead, I forwarded the invite to a colleague who wasn't listed in the appointment request, along with the incredible professional comment, "FML. I've been summoned to the PPT course."

He thought my email was hilarious. Especially because it was labeled as "From: Robyn Cain on behalf of [the presenter.]"

Oh, did I mention that my forwarded message also went to the presenter, all of my co-workers who were actually invited to the presentation, and several of my boss's bosses?

That's when the panic attack started.

I know what you're thinking: Surely she hit "Reply All" instead of "Foward." Nope. I have confirmed at least 18 times that I hit forward. The incriminating message is still sitting in my sent mail box, taunting me. It was a forward.

Apparently Webmail, just for giggles, likes to humiliate people by publicizing an appointment request forward.

Suddenly, I found myself apologizing to anyone who would listen. Luckily, my FindLaw colleagues, including the presenter, laughed it off. (And, for what it's worth, the PowerPoint class was actually great.)

A client, however, might not be so forgiving.

So please, please, I beg of you. Do not repeat my mistake. If you receive a meeting request through Webmail, and you feel compelled to make a snarky comment, do so in an entirely separate email thread. Better yet, save the snark for your friends outside of work. Meetings can be a drag, but they are occasionally necessary to keep clients flowing through the door and money flowing into your bank account.

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