Yikes! What did I just do!! You go to your sent mail and sure enough you just replied to all and what you wrote wasn't intended for everyone, so now what do you do?
Well you probably know Microsoft Office has the ability to "recall" messages; meaning after you send an email and before someone reads it, you can "recall" the message. As cool as this feature sounds, there are plenty of conditions where this feature isn't able to work. So, we can't rely on the "recall" to save us from our mistakes. It's up to us to proofread, spell check, and send messages right the first time. But in those cases where a message is sent to the wrong person (i.e. confidential or proprietary information) or the message is inappropriate (i.e. a snarky remark), then it's important to know how to recover:
1. Acknowledge the error. Once you realize that the mistake has been made, reaching out to the person(s) to take responsibility is the right thing to do. It tells the other person(s) that your credibility is important.
2. Apologize. Let the person(s) know that the intent wasn't to put them in that position.
3. Find a way to move forward. Yes, the situation is totally embarrassing. Learn from it. Tell the person(s) that your working relationship is important and you want to know from them the best way to put the incident in the past.
Speaking of which, it's equally important when we are on the receiving end of a misdirected or inappropriate email that we empathize and try to move forward. We would want the same consideration if we accidentally sent an email and couldn't recall it. The decision to confront the sender is based upon many variables such as your relationship with them and the content of the message.
Hopefully, this type of situation doesn't happen too often (if at all). If it does, then you might have a different issue on your hands and employee coaching could be necessary. And just because it occasionally happens doesn't mean it shouldn't get addressed. A true business professional will try to remedy the situation.