How to Unsend an Email in Outlook for Project Managers

Jacob Gibbs
Jacob Gibbs
May 22, 2024
How to Unsend an Email in Outlook for Project Managers

Project managers - we've all been in this situation: stomach in knots, hands clammy, the creeping horror when you realize your angry email rant meant for your best friend accidentally landed in your client's inbox! Whoops!

At that moment, we wish emails also had the five-second rule! You know, when you drop a cookie and frantically snatch it back before the invisible germs attack? It's a little less hygienic, perhaps, but just as helpful in rescuing you from sticky situations.

The tech gods have probably heard how a the wrong email has brought us doom, so now they've given us the option to take that email back. One email provider that allows users to do so is Outlook, and we'll teach you how to save yourself in totally embarrassing situations – or just run and hide as fast as you can!

Can You Unsend an Email in Outlook?

Indeed, Outlook offers a lifeline for such email mishaps through its "Recall This Message" feature. This tool is a must for project managers and essentially is an unsend email option, allowing you to retract messages sent in haste or error.

How to Unsend an Email in Outlook: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Verify Your Setup

First, ensure you and your recipient use the same organization's Microsoft Exchange or Microsoft 365 accounts. The recall function, a key feature for managing Outlook emails, works best on this setup.

Step 2: Locate the Email

In your Outlook interface, navigate to the 'Sent Items' folder to find the email you wish to recall and click it. This is an essential step in the unsend process.

Step 3: Initiate a Recall

Once the specific email is opened, click on the '3-Dots Menu' at the upper right side of the message, choose 'Advanced Actions', and then select 'Recall Message'. You will be given options to either delete unread copies of this email or replace them with a new message.

Step 4: Cross Your Fingers

After attempting the recall, Outlook will send you an email to track the status of your recall attempt. It will usually take a few minutes if you only sent it to one recipient, and will take longer if you sent it to more. You'll soon see if the pending recall was successful or failed. Your ability to unsend an email in Outlook depends on whether these actions are being executed promptly. So, at this point, it's one big hail mary for you!

Not a Fool-Proof Way: Factors Influencing the Success of Email Recall

While useful, the recall feature in Outlook is not guaranteed to work every time. Several factors impact its effectiveness:

  • The recipient's client and settings: Must be using Outlook with appropriate settings.
  • Email status: The email must remain unread by the recipient.
  • Tech alignment: Both sender and recipient must be on the same server.

Why the Unsend or Recall Feature is Important

Project management deals with tons of emails in a day on capital projects, and with all the commotion and chaos that comes with handling files and people, there's a great chance that we send the wrong things to the wrong people sometimes. This is not to say that we can be careless now, but it's a nice safety blanket that we can use to take back a wrong email.  

Missent email jokes aside, this feature can prevent potential embarrassment, reputational damage, financial losses, project delays, and loss of trust. Capital project management demands precision, and that includes every email we send. The recall feature helps maintain the integrity of your communications, ensuring that only accurate and intended information is shared.

Other Email Service Clients That Have an Unsend Feature

  • Gmail: Provides an "Undo Send" feature, which allows up to 30 seconds to retract an email.
  • Yahoo Mail: Offers a brief period to cancel the sending of an email.
  • Apple Mail: Recent updates include features to manage messages after they are sent.

Forget coffee; Outlook's 'unsend' feature is the real jolt that'll save your mornings. Sure, the best strategy is to practice excellent email etiquette from the get-go. But hey, mistakes happen, and this little feature is your guardian angel against those 'oh no!' moments.

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