You should always seriously consider what you’re writing, why, when and to whom you’re addressing your emails. It’s part of your responsibility as a professional to be, well, professional — and that requires some degree of self-monitoring.
Regardless of to whom your writing, however, there are just some things better left unsaid — and, perhaps more so, better left unwritten. After all, you may not be the only person monitoring your emails. As a working professional, you never want an email thread to haunt you in your career. And because emails are traceable and, often tracked by your employer, it’s important to be thoughtful in crafting them.
Here are six emails you just shouldn’t send to anyone at work or from your work email, really, ever. Save yourself from the awkward cleanup in the aftermath.
1. The trash talk email
Sure, it’s inevitable that you’re not going to be the best of buds with every colleague you ever have over the course of your career. But keep those thoughts to yourself (unless your working relationship is seriously a cause for concern, in which case, take it up with that colleague and/or human resources). You don’t need to be friends with everyone in your office; you do, however, need to know how to have a professional working relationship with them that allows you both to do your jobs efficiently.
You never want to trash talk anyone in the office because you never know who your words might get back to — that’s why you especially don’t want to have those words in writing with your name branded on them. Besides, trash talking is incredibly unprofessional and can hurt the morale of the team. And you can spend your time much more wisely at work by, well, doing your job.
2. The gossip email
Similar to the trash talk email, the gossip email is never one to which you want your name attached. Gossiping in the office is unprofessional and can not only hurt your own career, but it can also hurt someone else’s career if you’re spreading false information about a colleague or boss. Leave your two cents on your colleagues or boss out of your emails (and, really, out of your mouth — at least while at work!), and focus on the work you have at hand.
If there’s gossip in the office that’s making you uncomfortable, instead of jumping on the bandwagon, address it at its source and take it up with human resources if necessary.
3. The job hunt email
So you’re on the hunt for a new job and plan on quitting your current one. Cool — that’s not uncommon. In fact, you probably have a colleague or two or three or a whole bunch secretly doing the same. But “secretly” is key. Don’t go emailing your colleagues about how your job hunt is going, especially if you work directly with them and your quitting will affect their work. You don’t want your job hunt status to get to your boss before you even land a new job, and there’s a chance that your boss is monitoring your emails even if your colleagues really do keep your secret safe with them.
In short, don’t spill the fact that you’re quitting for a new job until you’ve actually accepted an offer at a new job and really are indeed quitting.
4. The premature email
We’ve all accidentally sent emails prematurely, but if you take even a few extra seconds to reread your emails before sending them, you can avoid sending emails with typos, incomplete messages, to the wrong recipients, to unnecessary recipients or other mistakes. You don’t want to have to send a chain of emails to correct your mistakes, to add forgotten attachments or even to respond to parts of an incoming email you forgot to address.
Do your best to read all of your emails in their entirety, and read your responses in their entirety, too, so you make sure that what you’re sending back is comprehensive, complete, fact- and spell-checked and being sent to the correct and necessary recipients.
5. The irrelevant email
You should never send emails to people who don’t need your emails because we’re all already drowning enough. An average office worker receives 121 emails a day; do each other a favor a cut out the unnecessary CCs.
For example, if you’re sending an email to your human resources team with the W-9 of your new employee, you don’t need to CC five other team members involved in the hiring on the thread, just because they were involved. If they don’t need to see the W-9, they don’t need to see the email. If you’re sending your colleague in IT a question about a website glitch, you don’t need to CC your boss who doesn’t need to know about (and cannot fix) the glitch — you just need IT to fix it. If the project doesn’t pertain to them (and, especially, if they’re in a higher position of authority with more important matters to deal with), it’s not necessary — and it’s frankly frustrating for them — to clutter their inbox.
6. The too-personal email
Leave your personal problems, relationships, drama, weekend stories out of your emails. Whether you’re explaining why you’ll be in late or just catching up with a colleague based in another city (or even just across the office), you don’t need to overshare on your work email. While you shouldn’t be bringing personal matters into the professional space anyway, you especially don’t want to be putting those personal matters in writing where they could come back to bite you or be considered distracting or unprofessional.
If you’re really close with a coworker, it’s inevitable that you’ll share personal information; leave it for lunchtime conversations, happy hours or out-of-the-office get-togethers. Your boss, IT or someone else might be reading all about your date night or divorce or girl’s night out, too.
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report,
A version of this post previously appeared on Fairygodboss, the largest career community that helps women get the inside scoop on pay, corporate culture, benefits, and work flexibility. Founded in 2015, Fairygodboss offers company ratings, job listings, discussion boards, and career advice.