Author Topic: Editing e-mail forwards  (Read 1781 times)

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Editing e-mail forwards
« on: September 20, 2014, 05:15:23 PM »
Is it okay to edit an e-mail then forward it on to someone else?

There are two parts to my question.

BG: My boss is pretty famous for her editing e-mails then forwarding them on to me or my CWs. I can understand, if it's a job request, that she's forwarding only the pertinent information . . . but she's also deleted things like customer name, etc. There have been times when her forwards seemed to be a bit sketchy so I've replied to the e-mail asking if there was additional information, at attachment, or a separate e-mail that I was missing? Sometimes she'll then forward the entire intact e-mail chain or she'll come talk about additional/missing information. endBG

Part 1: Recently, she sent me an e-mail with a job description (she left that part intact) and her comment to me was "I don't know what to do here."

The e-mail chain was very helpful as it went back and forth between another graphic designer from a different campus and his customer. It dealt with company branding so BigBoss (who is branding queen) was finally sent the e-mail asking for help and clarification. BigBoss forwarded it on to Boss with a comment and asked Boss to handle the situation.

With all the intact background I was able to quickly come up with a solution and I replied to Boss, copying BigBoss, with a few statements of what I did and why.

BigBoss replied to both Boss and me saying that she approves of this solution and she thanked me (by name) for responding so quickly.

Boss forwarded the e-mail (along with a .pdf of my work) to Other Graphic Designer (OGD) and copied me (not BigBoss) . . . I don't think she meant to copy me because my name from BigBoss's approval was edited out. She also deleted the heading from my response (the from/to/date etc. where my name appears) and edited the wording in my original reply by changing "I thought" and "I did" to "We thought and "We did." Plus she deleted her "I don't know what to do here" part of the chain.

OGD replied to all (Boss and me) saying "Thank you so much! This is a great solution! I've been struggling with this for days. I really appreciate your help."

Boss responded "I'm always happy to help. I'm glad it worked out for you."

I replied to all and copied BigBoss "Let us know if you need anything else. I feel your pain. Sometimes you look at a job too much and just need another eye. No worries :)"

OGD had a few other questions which he asked me, specifically, and I responded to all while answering. This went back and forth a few times.

What do you think about e-mail editing for the above story?

Part 2: Boss is rather stressed, lately, so I was tasked with creating a design for new UberBoss's office. UberBoss started with the company in July. The request came from BigBoss to Boss to me. I need to talk to UberBoss in order to get her real feel for the project. I thought the best way to do it would be to forward the e-mail request to UberBoss and ask her questions (highlighting certain areas) about the information that I received. I figure e-mail would be better than a phone call due to her schedule and then she could reply at her ease.

One part of the original e-mail from BigBoss to Boss is "Sorry, I dropped the ball." Which is true. The beginnings of the e-mail chain started early in August. The project is due on Thursday next week. ::) So, yeah, now it's a rush job. Sigh.

When I forward this e-mail on to UberBoss with my questions, should I delete the "Sorry I dropped the ball" part? Leaving it in almost seems like I'm throwing BigBoss under the bus.

What would you do?

What are your thoughts about editing forwarding e-mails? Is this a common thing to do or is it unethical, never heard of in your place of work?


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Re: Editing e-mail forwards
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2014, 07:30:57 PM »
I don't agree with editing that changes the intent/perception of the original message, as in example #1, and feel you were justified in responding as you did. 

Personally, I only edit to remove extraneous information, or on a particularly long e-mail chain, I may remove older ones if a more recent one has a good summary of the situation up to that point.

For your second example, I would advise against forwarding.  It sounds like the BigBoss has been up front about the delay, but again, I think it's irrelevant to the current situation and if she hasn't been forthcoming to the Uberboss, you don't want to be the one to call it out.  S/he may ask why you're just now getting to it, and you can truthfully say you were just assigned the project.  To get ahead of that, you can just include that in a separate e-mail - "I've recently been assigned to redesign your office" and copy/paste the details you were given about the project, highlight your questions, etc. 


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Re: Editing e-mail forwards
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2014, 11:18:23 AM »
Scenario 1 is clearly Boss trying to take credit and very bad form.

Scenario 2 I would edit out the dropped the ball. I've personally found trying to provide "cover" for bosses and co-workers has only helped me in my career. However, a Bigboss just saying I dropped the ball wouldn't be anything I'd be concerned about unless it is really a huge priority project. I think your fine either way.

I do edit some emails. Usually when my staff forwards something with the intro of... "Can you fix this?We've told them 3 times this won't work?"

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Re: Editing e-mail forwards
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2014, 07:46:03 PM »
I would never edit the way #1 did, and would likely speak up in that situation. That's misquoting/misrepresenting a situation.

Re #2, I trim email chains all the time to keep only the relevant bits. I make it very clear that it is only a snippet. I would definitely cut out things that made others look bad  - unless that was the reason I was sending the email.


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Re: Editing e-mail forwards
« Reply #4 on: September 21, 2014, 08:19:38 PM »
I think it's almost always best to skip the forward and just write a fresh email. Would you really expect you über boss to go back through and read the email chain? Just tell him/her that you're going to be working on the project, you understand that she's looking for X Y and Z, but you have a few questions you'd like to discuss.

The thing with your boss editing out your contribution is really weird.


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Re: Editing e-mail forwards
« Reply #5 on: September 21, 2014, 08:44:28 PM »
I think editing a forwarded email follows all the same rules of etiquette that already exist.

It's rude to steal credit from someone else.
   But it's also not rude to simplify.

It's rude to pass on comments other people make to you in private that might embarrass them if someone else hear them.
   So yes, absolutely, edit the forward to UberBoss.

But I also agree w/ gollymolly2, that you want to remove most of the forwarded material. You can either start a new email, and cut-and-paste anything that's too annoying to retype. Or you can greatly edit the forwarded email.


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Re: Editing e-mail forwards
« Reply #6 on: September 23, 2014, 04:24:23 AM »
In scenario #! - Boss was wrong to edit the email the way that she did. 

In scenario #2 - I would personally write another email to uberboss that went like this:

Subject:  Action needed: preferences on Project X


Dear Uberboss;

Short paragraph detailing why uberboss needs to weigh in on this part of Project X

Bullet points of specific questions where answers are needed

deadline of when action is needed by

Short closing thanking for time

While I would keep all the emails, uberboss probably doesn't have time to read them all and sift through the details.  They just need to get to the meat of the matter.


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Re: Editing e-mail forwards
« Reply #7 on: September 23, 2014, 11:32:58 AM »
Editing for the purpose of snipping out extraneous detail is one thing. The editing in the OP's example is definitely considered bad form. It some message forums the equivalent editing of a quoted post is a bannable offense.

At our office, we forward emails intact except for cutting out previous messages if the email discussion chain is very long and all the quoted messages would cause confusion. Otherwise, we change nothing, not even typos.