*this is a work of nonfiction based on actual events that I experienced personally
It was the biggest workplace snafu of my life.
I wrote a scathing email complaining about the coworker sitting to my immediate left and then sent it directly to that very same coworker in error. It was my worst workplace nightmare come true.
As I glanced downward, I realized what I’d done. No one else was in my periphery, so I had no one else to blame for this horrible mistake. After clicking the red “send” button — oh, did I mention I hate red buttons? — I felt my face flush with embarrassment.
My plan was to vent all my frustration in an email and then magically zap it across the office to another coworker. Unfortunately, with my brain entirely focused on the target of my complaints, I had mindlessly pulled up his email address from the drop-down menu, added it to my diatribe, and swiftly hit the send button.
The email detailed all manner of my issues with my coworker. I was candid, and honest, and unforgiving. My message went against everything that I believe in — being open, fair, and kind to everyone — and yet it had been sent. There was no doubt about that. It wasn’t going to magically reappear in an outbox or spin around a virtual circle of hell before popping up in my drafts folder, chastising me for such an inconsequential error. I had done the unthinkable.
My body went completely tense, while my heart raced. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I was horrified at the thought of telling a co-worker there was something he was doing that upset me.
You can’t cry over spilled vitriol.
I knew without a doubt that this coworker did not obsessively check his emails as I did. It could be many long minutes to several hours before he finally read my missive, but he would indeed read it. There was no option to un-send it.
I did the next best thing. Steeling myself for embarrassment at best, I stood up from my chair, exited my cubicle, walked around the office until I reached the entrance to my coworker’s cubicle, and said his name.
Yes, I could have accomplished the same thing by standing from my chair and leaning over the chest-high wall that separated our cubicles, but I decided to take the scenic route instead.
“Can I talk to you for a minute?” I asked.
“Sure.” My coworker smiled, clearly not having read my email. “Have a seat.” He gestured to an empty chair that sat in a corner of the cube where he spent forty hours of his life every week.
I sat down, hunched forward, and told him everything.
I am almost certain that everyone has indeed done this at some point in their lives. If you don’t believe me, just type “I accidentally sent an email to the wrong person and…” into your favorite search engine and prepare yourself for a virtual ocean of horror stories just like this one to appear before your eyes.
As for my coworker’s response, he just shrugged and told me not to worry about it. Two weeks later, the boss fired him over some unrelated issue.
It was a relief.