As they say, never email anything you wouldn’t want on the front page of the newspapers. So if you’re considering using your work email to send military secrets, a character assassination or even an erotic proposition, then think again – the end result could cost you your job, as well as your dignity. These chumps learnt the hard way.
8. “I haven’t swallowed in years.”
When is a compliment not a compliment? Perhaps the following might qualify – back in 2000 Claire Swire, an employee of a large internet provider, found herself involved with a less than scrupulous lawyer. One day whilst at work he sent her a joke concerning male bodily fluid (yes, that kind). Claire immediately replied:
“I hadn’t swallowed in years but yours was yum and very good for me too! Apparently it’s a very good conditioner for your hair too…getting a funny picture in my head…”
Ego swollen, he impulsively forwarded the reply to all his friends to show off what a stallion he was in the sack. But compliment quickly turned to embarrassment when one of his friends replied stating he felt “honour bound” to forward it on further. Soon the couple became the laughing stock of the office and the internet, although in the end they both managed to escape with their jobs (just).
7. To whom it may (not) concern
Giving away what you like to get up to in the bedroom is one thing – but when it comes to emails that shouldn’t have ever been sent, national security is a whole different league. In 2000, schoolgirl Claire McDonald began receiving emails from the Pentagon containing top-secret military information. Her address had been accidentally added to a group list by a navy commander. Even Claire was laughing when, in a cruel twist of irony, one message offered advice on how to prevent secrets from being leaked on the internet. Why bother hacking when the Pentagon can do the work for you?
6. “Tell her to get stuffed.”
When school Principal Patrick Hazlewood received a complaint from a local pensioner about his pupils misbehaving, his immediate reaction was to email his colleague with his true feelings: “Tell her to get stuffed”. Alas, he hit ‘Reply to All’ by mistake and his remark found its way to the entire staff address book and parents’ association. The school was later forced to offer an apology.
5. Racist or moron… or racist moron?
Early 2006: the phrase ‘credit crunch’ had not yet made its way into our daily lives, the US housing bubble was in full swing, and Gordon Brown sat licking his lips at the prospect of becoming the next British Prime Minister. What could possibly go wrong? Well aside from the recession… an email sent by a junior official in the UK entitled “Advantage of being Chinese”. Not only did the sender expose himself as a racist when he encouraged recipients to “try pulling the corners of your eyes as if you were Chinese”, but also as a moron when he copied it to his press list, containing 83 national newspaper journalists and columnists. Woops. One chuckling journalist even replied: “Will we be invited to your leaving party?”
4. “I think they’re both crap.”
Sports commentators are no strangers to embarrassing gaffes. In 2002 the BBC radio 5 hired well-known commentators Andy Gray and Jonathan Pearce to help cover the upcoming soccer World Cup in South Korea and Japan. The executive editor of BBC Sports News, Graeme Reid-Davies, decided to email a colleague with his own two-cents, declaring “I think they’re both crap.” Unfortunately, Graeme had not quite mastered the concept of the ‘Reply to All’ button yet, and before he knew it had sent his comment to over 500 BBC sports staff – including the new signings, Gray and Pearce. When asked about the incident Graeme did however show he could turn his scathing criticism against himself, stating: “I can’t believe I was such an ass.”
3. Note to self: Even Billionaires Should Delete Incriminating Emails
In 1998 Bill Gates showed that even experienced IT professionals are not immune from being caught out by the email. Whilst defending Microsoft against charges brought by the US Justice department, Gates continually denied everything, saying ‘I don’t recall’ so many times that even the presiding judge had to chuckle. Unfortunately for the software mogul, a thorough examination of his email later confirmed that not only had he been aware of, but had actively participated in attempts to establish an illegal monopoly. Had the man who brought Microsoft Outlook to the masses really thought the police wouldn’t check his inbox? Microsoft were later ordered to share their technology and settled out of court.
2. “The more upper-class you dress, the less likely you shall be denied entry…”
On her 21st birthday Lucy Gao, a worker for Citigroup in London, organized a bash at the world-famous Ritz Hotel. Little did she know her email invite would go down in internet history as one of the greatest email blunders of all time. Included were instructions on how to deal with door staff, what to wear, what to say, how to look your best and a staggered schedule of guest arrival times. Helpful hints included:
“it goes without saying that the more upper-class you dress, the less likely you shall be denied entry”, and “if you experience any issues… my PA Ms. Gill will kindly deal with your queries between 8:30pm to 10pm” (believed to be university friend Sanampreet Gill).
Hours later Lucy’s email was doing the rounds of investment banks around the world as she become the subject of global ridicule. Citigroup launched an investigation but later declared that Ms. Gao had done nothing wrong and her employment remained “unaffected” – unlike her reputation.
1. “Dude, the threesome’s off… that last email cost me my job.”
At 9.38 on the 30th July 2003 a high-flying lawyer, Patrick Smith, received an email from a colleague inviting him for drinks later that day. Unfortunately for him, Patrick had evidently been away the day they covered ‘keep it simple stupid’ at nursery school. Where a simple ‘yes’ would have sufficed, Patrick chose to reply with the following:
“Dude, ‘Carol’ [not her real name] wants some of that double penetration action, so let me know when you and the old horse fat are around.”
For ‘old horse fat’ read ‘penis’ and ‘double penetration’… well, you get the idea. Unfortunately for Patrick, it seems he was also away the day they learned how to use email. It’s hard to imagine how he felt when he realized he’d hit ‘Reply to All’. As one blogger pointed out, his secret remained a secret for all of ten seconds – just enough time for his colleagues to stop laughing and hit the forward button, and in the end Patrick lost his job, his dignity and any chance of getting laid that night. Hmmm, there’s a lesson to be learned there.