News and advice on business etiquette — March 2014

What to do if you send a confidential email to the wrong person. Plus how not to quit a job, and what colour you should not wear to a job interview.

Business Etiquette

Q: I accidentally sent a confidential email to the wrong person. What do I do now?

A: Whoops. Sending a quick "How are you?" note to the wrong contact in your address book really isn't a big deal. But forwarding a message that contains personal information or something that you've been asked to keep hush-hush by your employer to someone other than the intended recipient is a major gaffe.

Try Outlook's "message recall" function as a first step, but don't rely on it to fix the blunder, says Toronto business etiquette expert Karen Cleveland. "Deal with the mistake swiftly and diplomatically. The nature of the sent email will inform how you address the issue," she says. "Sent some naughty photos to your HR manager by accident? Get your red-faced self into his office immediately and discuss it in person." A less harmful email sent to the wrong recipients can be fixed with a followup: "Apologize for sending a confidential message that wasn't intended for them. Ask that they please delete it and thank them for their discretion."

— Lisa van de Geyn

How Not to Quit

What would Beyoncé do?

It should go without saying but, no matter how badly you might want to leave your job, do not (a) quit via email; (b) address said email to your entire team or (c) fill it with vitriol and crazy hashtags. Sadly, that's exactly what an associate auditor at a large accounting firm in the US did recently, with her "Farewell and QUEEN BEY ALL DAY!" resignation that went viral after New-York based gossip blog Gawker posted it online.

The epic 1,000-word email authored by "Glory," a junior staffer hired by the firm less than three months prior, included "tips" for her team such as: "Auditing is for the birds, get a real career that has meaning," and "Your time is just as valuable [as the partners'], are the partners God? I don't think so...#don'tbeasellout." The message ends, inexplicably, with the top-10 reasons why Beyoncé is better than Britney Spears, including "Beyoncé has much more class."

While the email might leave some wondering whether Glory, herself, has any class — not to mention if she'll ever find work again — she insists she has no regrets. In an interview posted on the US accounting blog Noir CPA she says, "This email doesn't define my work ethic. It doesn't define my competency. This email is just a reflection of the truth that I was living at that very moment."

We wonder if her next hiring manager will agree.

— Tamar Satov

Colour Theory

Orange is not the new black

While you'd hope the colour of your outfit isn't the make-or-break factor in an employer's decision to hire you, it may be best to avoid tangerine in your next meeting.

According to a CareerBuilder study of more than 2,000 HR professionals and hiring managers, orange is the worst colour to wear to a job interview and is the hue most likely to be associated with someone who is unprofessional. About a quarter of respondents (23%) recommended wearing blue, followed byblack(15%).

— Tamar Satov