The UK’s Daily Mail reported yesterday that Aviva Investors accidently fired, via e-mail 1,300 employees. The e-mail was originally intended for only one employee who was to be leaving the company. It carried instructions on handing in all company equipment and reminders of the corporation’s confidentiality rules concluding with the statement, “I would like to take this opportunity to thank you and wish you all the best for the future.”[i]
Since Aviva had announced layoffs back in January, my assumption is that this e-mail created quite a bit of panic within the organization. Managers quickly realized what had happened and sent out an apology. What, I wonder, happened to the hapless HR employee who sent out the message?
This reminded me of an incident that took place many years ago to me. At that time I was Vice President of Sales for a small software development firm, reporting to the President. I was dating another executive at the company (she’s now my wife, I’m proud to say). We worked in different offices located about two and a half hours away from each other. In the morning when I arrived at the office, I would dash off a quick e-mail to my girlfriend to say good morning and tell her that I loved her. I would then go about my day.
One morning I arrived at the office and was immediately swamped with employee and client issues. After about an hour, I realized that I had forgotten to send off my normal e-mail to my girlfriend. As I was typing, I received a phone call from the President asking me to do something (I can’t remember what). As soon as I got off the phone, I sent off the e-mail.
About an hour later, I received the following response to my e-mail from the President of the company:
“Dear Steve, my back is fine. I love you, too.”
I had inadvertently sent the e-mail to the President instead of to my girlfriend. Oh, it gets even more embarrassing.
Little did I know, the President saved the e-mail and at the next all-employee annual meeting, decided to read it in front of the employees and guests (about 350 people). I was called up on stage as she read the e-mail. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see my girlfriend sinking under the table as she grabbed a large glass of wine. I was then presented with the annual “Foolish Knucklehead Award” for obvious reasons. I stood there as the entire audience got a laugh at my expense and to this day, am surprised and grateful that my girlfriend STILL agreed to marry me!
Regardless of how you communicate, be sure to proofread your work and make absolutely sure that the address is 100 percent correct. Otherwise you will get fired, married, or both!
P.S. I went on to win the “Foolish Knucklehead Award” again the following year. I’ll save that story for another time.
[i] Cooper, R. (2012, April 23). Blundering Aviva accidently ‘sack’ 1,300 staff after forwarding goodbye email to everyone. Daily Mail [online]. Retrieved April 24, 2012, from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2134100/