My current issue:

I receive an email asking for my help to solve a system issue, but I'm not the one responsible for it and I don't even know who the right contact would be.


How to reply to emails that I may have received by accident, name mixup or whatever reason where I don't even know the right recipient?

Do I just tell them or make an effort to find the intended recipient or forward it to a manager to deal with it?

I'm trying to be professional and polite about it at the same time.

  • 2
    I was one of the people sending emails to the wrong person, and my boss brought it to my attention about a week after I started copying someone who shouldn't have been in the list. That person contacted my boss and said wrong 'Joe' (so to speak). You could reply by saying 'I am Cindy x in Accounts Receivable, and this appears to be intended for an unrelated Cindy in Accounts Payable. Please remove me from your cc and add her as appropriate. Thanks.'. Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 5:24
  • Duplicate? workplace.stackexchange.com/q/10966/325 Commented Aug 10, 2014 at 3:48
  • 1
    How is this even a question? Next time people are going to ask how can they politely and professionally go to the bathroom? Come on…
    – o0'.
    Commented Jan 19, 2015 at 10:29

5 Answers 5


Hi there.

Was this email sent to the wrong person?

I am [Joe Bloggs] in [XYZ Department], I am not responsible for this issue.

Sorry, I'm unable to refer you to correct contact person.


Joe Bloggs.

  • 6
    I think this is great if you know the requestor is an insider. In some companies, it's a general policy not to disclose rank or department to an outsider and in some cases the outsider may be phishing you - so either a terse response or none at all can be appropriate to an external sender. Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 22:27
  • I wouldn't recommend a terse response, as that can give a bad impression to a real customer: A polite-but-giving-nothing-away response which directs them at the generic support email/website is sufficient in most cases.
    – Jon Story
    Commented Dec 4, 2014 at 10:46

I'm going to say that it really matters who the email is from. If it is from someone within your own company, and not the highest level of management, then a quick reply that you think they have the wrong person, what you do, such as geekrunnings' example shows, is very appropriate.

If the question is from a high level of management, it's worth asking your manager for who might be the right person or department, and send an apology email back, but cc that person as well. That gets it going in the right direction and shows that you're not just blowing them off.

I think this was sent to the wrong person, but I've been told that Justin Thyme in Shipping might be the correct person to handle this. I'm sending this request to him, but please let me know if I do need to help in some way.

If the question is from outside the company, then you again want to track down who might be the right person, starting again by checking with your manager. You want your company to look like it cares for its customers, so it's important to care about getting the email to the right person or department. The reply is similar to the reply to management, but show that you're willing to be contacted again if this redirection doesn't help.

I think this was sent to the wrong person, but I've been told that Justin Thyme in Shipping might be the correct person to handle this. I'm sending this request to him, and here is his contact information as well. (include phone and email for contact as appropriate.) If your request isn't handled, please let me know, and I'll try to find out more how we can help you.

If your manager also doesn't know who might be the correct person to contact, then it's worth looking up in a directory and trying to find someone. Or asking the manager who might know. For a CEO or customer, you really do want to direct the email in the right direction as well as sending a reply back. If you really can't, then at least cc your manager in the reply back, so the responsibility for finding the right contact is moving up the chain.

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    And above all don't just ignore it. At least let the person know he sent it to the wrong person. I have seen people get the wrong thing, ignore it as not pertinent to them, and then the right person never gets it.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Dec 16, 2013 at 18:27
  • YES @HLGEM, very much yes! Commented Dec 16, 2013 at 18:37

If you can find out who the right person might be with < 30 minutes effort, it can boost your reputation for being helpful if you do so. In my organization, I know certain people might be able to tell me who is responsible for system X; a quick walk and a chat and I could reply, copying the correct person, indicating that they might know. It's not worth derailing your whole day over, but it makes you look very considerate and helpful if you can pull it off.

  • 7
    30 minutes is a lot of effort. I'd give this 5 minutes tops, but agree that it may reflect well on you, especially if the person emailing you is senior Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 15:10
  • @CodingKiwi Eh, on a slow day I might spend 30 minutes, when I'm busy I'd spend 0. I figured I'd hedge my bets by picking a larger number Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 15:11
  • I figure in 10 minutes if I can not find the right person I can find someone who can figure out what they need and help them out. Kicking it back to them is not the right answer unless you have been directed to do so by your manager, even then be polite. Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 19:02

I feel that you really have two options.

First is the "sorry, can't help you" email, which geekrunnings provided a fine example of.

The other is to forward the email to your manager with a note:

Hey, [Jane Smith] in [ABC Department] sent me this email about an issue with the Foozlewotsit System, but I don't actually know who can help her. Can you pass it on to the right person?

It's a managers job to handle things like this.

  • 1
    NO to be "professional" it's your job to handle it maybe passing it up the chain is the right way but in some cases you deal with it. Commented Dec 13, 2013 at 13:34
  • @Neuromancer - it's not 100% clear whether the OP knows nothing about the system and is unable to help, or whether they could help but don't want to, because it's "not my job". I assumed the former, but if it's the latter, I agree with you. Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 6:32

Make sure you have some idea who is sending this email. Depending on their status within your organization, you may have to put more time and effort into this. You don't want it to get back to your boss that your best client's top decision maker was the one sending this email. This is probably a rare case. Check with your supervisor and find out how to address requests like this in general. You may get some insight into how far up the "food chain" you need to be involved on solving this problem.

Regardless, be polite and professional.

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