I received an email from one of my colleagues (we aren't personally acquainted) on some irrelevant topic. First I thought that the email was sent to some large group including me, but it was sent to another employee and I was cc-ed.

I'm pretty sure this email was sent to me by mistake, but it looks a little suspicious to me.

Is it appropriate to respond to this email to make sure it was a mistake?

P.S. This might be relevant: the email addresses of all employees are accessible and auto filled in our mailing system.

  • What do you find suspicious about it?
    – Blrfl
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 14:24
  • 1
    Simply consider how you would want the situation handled if you had accidently sent such an email to the wrong recipient. In other words, it is hard to go wrong if you treat others as you would want to be treated.
    – Angelo
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 14:38
  • @Blrfl, what looks suspicious to me is that, even though there is an auto fill, it would be hard to type my name by mistake. The email came from the US office, while I'm working in Armenia, and my surname is typical Armenian. Besides no one in the whole company has a surname like mine.
    – superM
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 14:53

2 Answers 2


Accidental emails are commonplace if your system is indeed using auto complete and there are user accounts with similar names. So in your case, unless there is another reason to suggest otherwise, I recommend you just treat it as an accident.

If its a work related email (whether related to you or some other party), I would advise that you email him back officially without the CCs and let him know what happened.

This is mainly because:

  1. He might not know that the intended recipient did not receive the mail and that it might be important.
  2. Officially provide a verifiable trail to cover yourself in case unsuspected things happen
  3. Your company might have a policy in place regarding miss sent emails that you are not aware of.

Either way, it doesn't hurt to err on the side of safety.

  • The email wasn't about work. So I guess you're right, responding to it would be over-reacting.
    – superM
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 8:17
  • @superM He wrote: "I would advise that you email him back officially". Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 15:29
  • @DJClayworth, it's in case if the email is related to work, but it is not. Maybe I didn't get right, but that is how I understood that.
    – superM
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 18:37

I have faced these kind of incidents many times because there are many people in my organisation with the same name as me.

The appropriate action for these kinds of accidental emails are

(1) Reply back to him politely by saying something like "I think this email was sent to me by mistake. Please let me know if it is really intended for me". He will realize and take preventive actions if it was an accident.

(2) Just ping him and get clarification about the mail like "Hey I am slightly confused with the email that you sent yesterday with the subject XXXXXX. What is that about?". If the email was a mistake, he will realize and take preventive actions in the future.

(3)In my organisation, 2 other people exist with my name. Quite often, I receive emails intended for others. At such times, I usually try to identify the right person and send it to them. Many times, I search in the directory for other recipients. If many of the recipients(CC'ed people also) belong to same group or department, I will go to that department and check the members of that department. If any body in the group has the same name as me, I will forward that mail to him, saying "I believe this email is intended for you. I received it by mistake".

  • 2
    I agree with (1) and (2), but I wouldn't do (3) if there are multiple candidates (you said "other people" have your name). If you get it wrong you're just compounding the problem. I always handle mis-sent email by replying to the sender and letting him handle it from there. Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 2:56

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