Every Leader Should Have a “Do Not Send” File

man with cell phone in hand laptop in background

Emails were bouncing around despite it being a Friday night. One report, one response, the downward spiral had begun. Selfishly, I was both annoyed and angry. I was ready for the week to be over, and frankly speaking, I was ticked off that this couldn’t wait till Monday.

Instead of throwing gasoline on the fire, I decided to wait till Saturday morning to respond. So, the next morning I began crafting the ultimate email response as I sipped my morning coffee. At first the response was too stern, so I edited it until it sounded somewhat polite. I read it aloud. Would this be okay if everyone in the company saw it, I asked myself? I assured myself it would.

Then a quiet voice in my head reminded me that Abraham Lincoln often wrote letters that he never sent. I have even written about this practice before, but would I have the discipline to follow it?

Instead of sending the email, I sent it to myself and filed it away in a “do not send” outlook folder. If things were terrible Monday, I thought, I could send the email then. Or even better, I could call a face to face meeting.

The first primary benefactor of this decision was my family. Instead of being around a grumpy, stressed out husband/dad all weekend, Sarah and the kids got a better version of me. The process of writing down my thoughts and sending them to MYSELF (no one else has seen them still) had that strong of an impact on me. It was almost as if I had worked the stress out of my body.

Meanwhile, my teammates were oblivious to my frustration, and even my anger. They didn’t receive a weekend email, and were free to have a break, which allows them to refresh and be at their best for the work week.

By Monday, things had already calmed down. One of the sales people involved admitted that they had not only overreacted in the Friday email they sent, but they also now see the other individual’s point of view. By the middle of the day, it seemed like the “conflict” was over and done with. Everyone had moved on. Would that have been the case if I had thrown gasoline on the fire?

Several weeks later, no one is even talking about this situation anymore.

Do yourself a favor and create a “do not send” file today. As leaders, we are going to occasionally say or write the wrong things. This won’t resolve that. But it will be another safeguard against such occurrences.

We just have to form the discipline to use it.