Ahh, the foward button: the friend of the delegator. With a simple click and the addition of an email address, all the history for a conversation, or information for a project is forwarded and you don’t have to worry about a thing. Right? Wrong.
This past week I have seen three big forwarding mistakes, and none of them have ended well. So next time you click forward, make sure read this first!
Click forward, insert “FYI”, ass covered… right? Wrong. If the information contained in that email is important for a person, take the time to debrief them on it. Don’t expect them to scroll through the last twenty emails to try work out what is going on. This week I was cc’d on an ‘FYI’ email, and the sender received a curt response from the intended recipient: “If you want me to know what’s going on, come and talk to me about it. I’m not reading through your correspondence.” Ouch… but a very valid point.
Forwarding private conversations
This week I received an email from a friend asking if she could refer my husband and I’s web design business to someone. Of course, being friends I replied as a friend… complete with an email full of in-jokes about how work was going with my husband and I. I said sure to the referral, and asked her to start an email introduction between myself and the client. To my absolute horror, my friend then forwarded the email on to the client in full and copied me in as an ‘introduction’. The potential client hasn’t contacted us, and I can’t blame them. Who would want to be involved with someone so unprofessional??
Clearly there are two things at play here: the forward without checking the preceding conversation, and me assuming my friend knew better. Lesson learned all round!!
Forwarding private information
This is pretty similar to the above, but I think it deserves it’s own mention! I received a forwarded email recently from a client. The first email in the chain was relevant to me and my work, however the emails prior to that contained highly confidential information about someone else’s accounts – including credit card information. Lucky for my client, I’m pretty trustworthy, so I let them know straight away and deleted the email after completing the task. However, can you imagine what would have happened if those details had fallen into the wrong hands??
The forwarding checklist
Ask yourself the following before forwarding your next email!
- Is this information relevant to the recipient?
- Is this the best possible way I can provide this information to the recipient?
- Have I read the entire email chain to ensure it is on-topic?
- Am I happy that every email in this conversation is professional and free of private information?
If you answered ‘yes’ to all of the above – send away! If you have any doubts, abort! You can either edit the email chain to ensure that any bits that don’t need to be there are removed, or find another way of communicating the information.