Survey: The common mistake that costs people a promotion

One of the consequences of our nearly unanimous decision to never actually pick up a telephone is the dreaded text message gaffe. Mistakingly sending “U up?” to your clergy, “sweet dreams” to your boss, or an eggplant emoji to your grandmother, who’s dead thankfully. They’re unavoidable and quite common. 

In a recent survey of Millennials, a significant portion of respondents said that they privileged texting over calling because sending messages granted them a written history of their interactions-fair but the benefits are fairly limited in this regard. For one thing, text messages have to be properly preserved in order to be admissible in court. Secondly and most importantly, a lot of nuance gets amputated via text, this is perhaps doubly true in a professional setting.

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The average office employee spends 2.5 hours every weekday checking their emails. “Unlike more casual chat applications, though, you might hem and haw over the verbiage and tone of your email to avoid miscommunication. You want to sound casual (but not too casual), to the point (but not rude), and clear,” explains the authors behind a new study. 


According to the new report, we’re all bound to inadvertently send something we didn’t intend to sooner or later-my high school girlfriend and stepmom shared a name, so I’ve met my quota and then some.

This is just one of the pitiful errors reported by one of the 1,000+  participants surveyed for the new study. For both emails and text messages, the majority of faux pas came in the form of disparaging remarks mistakenly sent to the person that they were aimed at, with the unintentional revealing of embarrassing personal details trailing close behind. Almost 42% of respondents reported accidentally sending professional  (and critical) emails and texts to the person the messages were about, 40% hit send just after unintentionally indexing private information to a coworker, and 30% of respondents did the same but over text. Thirty-percent of that same demographic even included confidential financial details in their blunder email.

For whatever reason, men were found to be more likely to send text messages meant for someone else to their casual friends, close friends, and family, while women more often unintentionally sent messages to their moms, siblings, and partners. A similar demarcation was occasioned when applied to emails. A notably larger portion of men inadvertently sent emails to clients and educators compared to women, who were found to be twice as likely to send professional emails to complete strangers. 

I recently discovered that Gmail has an option to un-send an email after it’s been sent. After you send an email from your Gmail account, you’ll be given an option to recall the email you just sent. If you click it in time, you’ll be navigated back to the draft page. The best part is, you can actually customize the amount of time you get before the email is officially sent.”Ah man, I just sent the HR guy a torrent of The Sorrow and The Pity,”  no worries, you have a full 30 seconds to adjust (30 seconds is the max). 

Three in ten respondents in the report attempted to un-send an email that had a bunch of grammatical errors, while 20% did the same after sending a message to an unattended recipient. The remaining participants simply apologize for the impropriety, attempted to laugh it off, explained the context in full, lied, or even better-tried to pass the buck on someone else. 

Oops, there it is

Some people embrace the room for error. One in five people actually admitted to sending a text message to someone then claiming it’s an accident just to strike up a conversation. Soup to nuts, the vast majority of respondents reported doing so because they had a crush on someone. Twice as many women as men said they intentionally sent an “accidental” text to start a dialogue while arguing with the recipient, and three times as many men as women did so for the sake of a prank. 

Whatever the reason, the repercussions are occasionally severe. One in five respondents said that sending an erroneous email potentially cost them a promotion. Nineteen percent said this happened after sending an email to the incorrect recipient, 17% occasioned this outcome after sending an email to a higher up invested with grammatical mistakes. One in five respondents said their romantic relationships suffered after they sent text messages to the wrong person, and 3 in 10 said the same happened to their professional relationships., concludes, 

“Digital communication has become so easy that we may not put a tremendous amount of thought or energy into it. Just because hitting “send” isn’t difficult, though, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be careful with our written communication, even when it’s a casual conversation between friends. It’s easy to send something that isn’t grammatically correct, has the wrong attachment, or is even directed toward the wrong person if you aren’t paying attention. As we found, these actions, accidental though they may be, can have unexpected negative consequences for both your relationships and career.”