I read the other day of a gaffe made by one of the new MP’s elected to Parliament. A constituent wrote to her, and one of her back-room staff handling the complaint sent the MP an e-mail basically saying that the sex education issue the constituent was raising was a joke and included all sorts of sex-related asides, some relating to the constituent. Unfortunately, the aide also copied the e-mail to the constituent!
Been there, done that and it nearly cost me my job.
I hadn’t long been a manager in IBM and of course, any complaints with either the sale or the after-sales service would come to me and this particular customer would call or write weekly to complain about something or the other. And then he managed to get hold of my e-mail address and bombarded me with diatribes about this that and the other. All unjustified in my opinion. He was just a complete moaner.
And then one day he sent me an e-mail complaining bitterly about a female systems engineer who was quite upset by what she’d read because he’d actually been vindictive enough to copy her on the e-mail.
As she worked at one of our other offices and was uncontactable, I sent her the e-mail with some reassuring words about how good her work was and ‘not to let that little ****** get her down, he was a complete ****, a total time waster and if I could get rid of his contract with IBM by snapping my fingers, I’d do it immediately.’
I sat back quietly satisfied that I had supported my staff member and then she came on the phone. ‘Do you know you copied the e-mail you sent me to the customer’, she said.
Aghast, I looked at my ‘sent mail’ and sure enough, his address was on the distribution list. I don’t know what I’d done but it had been copied to him. I called him immediately but he wasn’t at his office. I tried to ‘retrieve’ the e-mail but it was obvious that he’d already received and read it.
I waited for the inevitable and it didn’t take long.
The call came through. It was from the UK CEO’s office they said. I prepared my apologies and resignation speech. I was almost clearing my desk when a familiar voice came on the phone. It was my skiing buddy, a girl called Nadine who had shot to the top in IBM and was now the CEO’s PA.
‘Tom, I’m going to delete this e-mail which is sitting in the CEO’s in-tray.’ I’ll send the client an e-mail saying you’re being ‘dealt with’ but watch your e-mail buttons in future.
PS – what I’d done of course with IBM’s Office E-Mail system was to ‘reply all - PF6’ instead of forwarding to just my staff member!