I work for an Indian startup. I got an email regarding the same confidential project whom I and a colleague ( Let us call X ) and several colleagues were a part of. I, these recipients and X are a part of the same team.

I checked with X and confirmed that they were still a part of the same project. Although in the email which was sent to seemingly all the participants, X was not mentioned in the recipients. So instead of telling the boss, I send the email to X directly without informing the boss, assuming it to be an error.

Later I checked the link mentioned in the email, it was mentioned that it should not be forwarded to others as the recipients have been chosen. I did not check the link before forwarding the email. Now, after this has been done, I do realize that I should have informed the manager about this missing recipient, but what action can boss take against me for this?

Should I discuss this with my boss as later he may get to know about this? Moreover, should I try to recall the forwarded message as a corrective action? Any advice would be highly appreciated.

4 Answers 4


I'm guessing this person "X" is actually in your company? If so, it may have been they forgot that person.

However, in the future, it's not your job to decide who gets the email or not. So I wouldn't look at the To/CC list and determine who isn't on the list. I would instead just assume the sender knew who they intend the things to UNLESS what they're asking you is related to the other person and the sender is someone you know and trust.

When you send emails, always look at the To/CC/BCC list and determine if those people are the intended people. Do not send emails to random people unless you know those people are people who need to know. Do not send "Did you forget X?" in an email while also sending it to X. Instead call the person or talk to the person and say, "Hey I notice in your email you didn't send to X. Did you mean to send it to X as well?"

Personally I would tell your boss in person. Not via email. Say you made a mistake and forward the email to X without knowing if he was intended to receive it or not. Say you will not make this error again.

Your boss may fire you for this especially if X is outside of the company. It is an incredibly silly thing to get fired for but you need to be upfront and honest about it right now, today. Your boss may be accepting to your error than if he/she found out and then has to talk to you about it.

  • 3
    Agreed. Also, if the company takes this kind of thing seriously then they ought to implement controls that prevent forwarding.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 19:57
  • It would be madness to raise the issue when the company and their systems are clearly an utter, utter shambles. Say and do nothing about it.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 28, 2021 at 22:59
  • For the future, there could be an easy work-around; reply to all: "I noticed that xxx was not in this email recipients. I'm not sure if it's on purpose or a simple mistake"
    – Laurent S.
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 14:50
  • @Fattie How so? There's no system that I know of that would prevent you from forwarding an email. Can you perhaps explain what sort of inadequate system they have in place or how they could prevent someone from forwarding an email? I work at a very big company and there's no way they can block someone from forwarding an email. They usually have a disclaimer, as the OP did as well, that says this email is not to be forwarded.
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 15:14
  • 1
    @Dan, Azure Rights Management is just one example of technology that can be used to prevent users from forwarding email.
    – joeqwerty
    Commented Jan 30, 2021 at 17:59

I disagree with Fattie.

You made a small mistake. Own up to it right away.

It's a small mistake. Mistakes happen all the time. You're only human like the rest of us. Do not overthink this.

Also, it is weird that someone still involved in the project would not be allowed to receive an email on the subject. So in my case, I would have probably made the same mistake as you did, given the same circumstance.

  • All good, but I would just reiterate that it would be madness to raise the issue. My impression is that it is a "utter shambles" and nobody will notice this has happened.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 13:15

Your situation as I understand is as follows,

You and X are colleagues working on the same project. You received a group mail in which X was not added. You forwarded the mail to X without informing your boss.

What to do next?

Send a mail to your boss explaining that X was missing in the last mail. So you forwarded it to your team mate X to keep him in loop. Do not recall your mail unless your boss ask you to do so. Be careful next time, it's not your job to send those mail.

Why it's important?

If your boss missed to add X into his mailing list then you are helping your boss. If X was avoided purposefully then it's better for you to come clean before your boss find out about it in some other way.


From considering the facts that you forwarded it to a colleague you can face anywhere from a "Thank you" to "Warning for irresponsibility". I am hoping this mail don't contains anything critical/secret information.

  1. Do and say absolutely nothing about it. Nothing.

  2. IF unfortunately the issue comes up, give the briefest possible explanation. Then drop it. If you get "scolded" say you're sorry and move on.

  3. The point is, absolutely do not go in to complicated stories and explanations. State what happened as briefly as possible, make no excuses, say you're sorry briefly in a businesslike manner.

  4. Take incredible care in the future about such issues. Unfortunately, that's just business.

  • The problem with #2, I feel, is that the OP noticed that "X" was not in the list of To or CC so he took it upon himself to forward an email that says "Do not forward" to this person. So if he plays the "dumb" angle, the boss would know there's no way the To list could change unless the recipients were added/removed by the OP. That's an offense that you could be terminated because you just sent proprietary information to someone who may not need to know. I think OP should own up to it now before the boss finds out or "X" uses it to his/her advantage.
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 15:16
  • @Dan - the fact is you could be right. Any of us can only try to read the situation as described. I 10000% agree with you that in other situations, "your" course of action would be the one to take.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 15:19
  • In the OP, he stated "Later I checked the link mentioned in the email, it was mentioned that it should not be forwarded to others as the recipients have been chosen." so it doesn't sound like "other situations" as you call it. It's exactly what the OP did, not something I'm hypothetically implying.
    – Dan
    Commented Jan 29, 2021 at 15:35
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    @Fattie: We can disagree on whether OP should come forward or not and that's fine. But the fact that this answer tells someone to use an excuse when finally caught, on top of that excuse being trivially provable to be an outright lie, means that is not a matter of "reading the situation", but rather of not thinking things through with your advice. The excuse itself is dangerously flawed. Being caught in such a lie is more harmful than confessing even only when caught, which means that this answer amounts to being bad advice.
    – Flater
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 14:09
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    @Fattie: The OP did not hit reply, they forwarded an email (second word in the title). Secondly, "reply" (and, for that matter, forward) never adds different people to the addressee list. The only way for someone to be included who up until then had not been included is to manually choose to add them. These are such office basics that I'm struggling to see how you're not getting this.
    – Flater
    Commented Feb 1, 2021 at 16:16

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