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88% of workers have sent an email they regret—this 4-step trick will help you avoid it

In Business
April 14, 2024

Ever wanted to retract an email right after you’ve sent it?

A majority of workers know the feeling, and the youngest professionals are the most likely to feel email regret.

Some 88% of people say they’ve regretted the contents of a work email right after hitting send, and 28% even believe an email they’ve sent directly hurt their careers, according to a survey of 2,000 U.S. office workers from Babbel, the language learning platform.

And just around 1 in 5 Gen Z office workers between 18 and 24 years old say they “very often regret” the emails they send.

Two big mistakes that can lead to email regret is having typos and unclear messaging, says Esteban Touma, a cultural and linguistics expert at Babbel.

To avoid those missteps, take time to “pause and review the email carefully, ensuring the tone is appropriate and the content is clear and concise,” Touma tells CNBC Make It. “Look for any ambiguities or potential misunderstandings that could arise from the wording. Consider whether all necessary information has been included and whether the message effectively conveys your intended meaning.”

The 4-step process to avoid sending a regrettable email

Another important tip: Don’t respond to something under stress, says Christina Gialleli, director of people operations at Epignosis, a learning software company.

She suggests using the GROW framework, which stands for:

  • Goal: What am I trying to achieve through this message or response?
  • Reality: Does this message address the reality of what’s happening?
  • Options: Does this message give the person options to move forward?
  • What will we do: Does this message specify what we’ll take action on next?

In other words, “make sure the email includes very clearly the topic you’re trying to cover, action items and next steps,” she says.

If you do find yourself feeling agitated while drafting an email, Touma says it’s best to take a break and revisit the message with a “calm and composed mind.”

“Rather than sending an email immediately, consider drafting it first and saving it as a draft,” he adds. “This allows you to revisit the email with a fresh perspective after some time has passed. Upon revisiting the draft, you may identify areas for improvement or reconsider the content altogether.”

For urgent matters, it’s best to respond within an hour or two, Touma says, though for things that aren’t time-sensitive, responding within 24 hours is “considered courteous and professional.”

Want to land your dream job in 2024? Take CNBC’s new online course How to Ace Your Job Interview to learn what hiring managers are really looking for, body language techniques, what to say and not to say, and the best way to talk about pay.

Plus, sign up for CNBC Make It’s newsletter to get tips and tricks for success at work, with money and in life.

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