A Personal Story to Illustrate a mistake…

Our system was based on Lotus Notes. Lotus Notes was a platform that included integrated database and email that communicated with each other. Lotus Notes was at the time a primary email system with product installation of 50 million users in 2000.

Around 2012 or so, Lotus Notes simply couldn’t handle the information needs of the company and a move to a relational data system was necessary. Two bright young women were hired to rewrite reports and move to an SQL server data system. We remained on Lotus Notes for email and I began to focus mostly on email management.

One of my responsibilities was to give new employees in the corporate office a 20 to 30 minute overview of the email system. A few days after the bright young women mentioned in the previous paragraph started work, I made arrangements to meet with them to give them the overview.

Lotus Notes relied on groups for sending email to a large number of people and one of the groups we have is the Corporate Office group. One day I receive an email from Payroll about an election we have to make about some deduction that must be made about a dollar amount that should be deducted. The subject line read something like, “This election must be submitted by such and such a date to become effective…”, so I create a reply email with something like “My erection for 2015 will be $50 and I will come by to sign the paper work later today.”

I selected the option to respond and was about to click submit when I noticed I had selected the Reply to All option. I changed my selection and then noticed my typo… I had typed “erection” and not “election”.

I corrected my typo, selected reply and sent correctly to the single person in payroll that should receive the email.

I thought it funny and even significant that a single typo could change a word so drastically and also the meaning of the sentence. And I enjoyed telling the story.

So I met with the two bright young women in the office of one of them. I went over every thing essential to an effective and efficient use of the email application. And as I was finishing up, I pointed out replying to an email and replying to all…

To illustrate how important paying attention to the difference between the two options is, I told my story…

There was a moment of silence after I completed my illustration.

One of the bright young women broke the silence.

“You typed erection instead of election,” she said.

There was a pregnant pause. I knew immediately I had made a mistake.

I barely knew the young women. I knew what I said was not appropriate. But I said it anyway. It might be that with someone I knew for many years, I could tell the story to illustrate the issue, but not with anyone I had only known for a few days.

“Be careful when you use the Reply to All option,” I finally managed to say.

The story illustrates a simple point. We all make mistakes. We use poor judgement in the moment.

The young women for what ever reason did not report my lapse in judgement and I never brought up the moment again. That moment taught me that something that seems appropriate can be so inappropriate.

I will not draw similarities with current events. I will leave you to do that.