4 Emails to Send to Your Boss When You Screwed up Big Time

We’re all human meaning that mistakes are bound to happen many times throughout our careers. Most bosses are willing to give us the benefit of the doubt, (as they make plenty of mistakes too) but often what affects our results is our attitudes and how we react.

Whether your natural response is to jump on the defense, tell a white lie, or overcomplicate the situation neither response is the most effective when it comes to owning up to a mistake at work.

So, how to go about breaking the bad news to your boss in the best way possible? For that we’ve put together 4 email templates to send to your boss when you’ve messed up at work and need to come clean:

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Email Template 1 | For When You’ve Sent Your Boss (or Colleague) a Rude Email


Hi [Insert Name], 
I sincerely want to apologize for the email I sent you earlier. 
It’s no excuse, but it’s been one of those days when [Insert the Reason You Sent the Rude Email]. I lost my temper at you when I had no reason to, and I’m very sorry for my inappropriate message. 
The next time something like this happens I’ll be sure to pause before sending a response.
Kind regards,
[Insert Your Name] 

Sometimes when the pressure is on us an email or response can push us over the edge. Before we know it, you’ve fired off a rude email to someone you probably shouldn’t have.

Whilst its helpful to explain why your response was rude, it’s a good idea to keep it general and resist the urge to make a list of excuses or complaints.

Unfortunately, there’s no way for you to take that inappropriate email back, however immediately following up with an apology should help to smooth things over and undo some of the damage.

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Email Template 2 | For When You’ve Failed to Deliver


Hi [Insert Boss’s Name],
I would have preferred to have discussed this over the phone or in person but in the interest of time I want to let you know that unfortunately, our schedule to deliver [Insert Project Name] been pushed back to [Insert Date/Time] due to [unforeseen circumstances/ a miscalculation on our part.]
I completely understand the frustration that comes with a setback like this. This is definitely not how we like to do business, please accept our sincere apologies for any inconvenience this may cause.
I want to assure you that [Insert Project Name] remains a huge priority for our team and we’ll put our best efforts in to make sure it’s a success. I’m happy to jump on a call to discuss further- in the meantime we’ll continue to update you on our progress.
Please do not hesitate to reach out if you have specific questions.
Again, my sincerest apologies.
[Insert Your Name]


Dear [Boss, Client, or Co-Worker Name],
I’m touching base because, unfortunately, I’m unable to submit [Insert Project Name] by [Insert Date] as discussed. I take full responsibility for underestimating how long it would take, and for not reaching out sooner.
I’ve attached my [notes/projections] to give a better idea of [timescale/resourcing]. I feel confident that this task will be completed by [Insert Date/Time]. 
I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience and want to assure you this won’t happen again.
Kind regards,
[Insert Your Name]

Everyone makes mistakes, and as awful as it feels when it happens, you will recover and will move on. In fact, if handled correctly, a mistake can do more to impress those around you than to tarnish your reputation.

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Email Template 3 | For When You’ve Completely Misunderstood the Task


Good Morning [Boss’ Name],
Admittedly, I’ve come to a standstill on [Insert Project Name]. So far, I’ve implemented the changes discussed however I’m still not making the right level of progress. 
To move forward, I thought it would be better course of action to see if I could be guided by your expertise and insights. Do you have some time this week to sit down and catch up?
Thank you,
[Insert Your Name]

Swallowing your pride and admitting to your boss that you’re not where you should be in your project can be an exercise in humility but, it’ helps to look at it as a fast track to growth and success. In fact, more often than not, your boss is likely to be more than happy to help you out if it means they’ll get their desired outcomes in a more efficient way.

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Email Template 4 | For When You’re Ridiculously Behind Schedule


Good Morning [Boss’ Name],
I’m so sorry, but I’m running [minutes] late this morning because of [reason]. I hope to arrive to the office around [time].
I’m aware we have a meeting scheduled for [Insert Times] if I miss this would you be willing to move it to [Insert Time]? In the meantime I wanted to make you aware that your notes for the meeting are ready and in the [Insert Location].
Again, my sincerest apologies, rest assured this will not happen again!
Thanks again,
[Insert Your Name]


Good Morning/ Afternoon [Insert Boss’ Name],
I wanted to give you a head’s up that unfortunately due to [Insert Reason], I’m running [Insert Minutes] late today. According to [the train driver/ Google] my current ETA is [Insert Time].
I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience. Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do, I can access my [phone/work emails] in the meantime.
Thank you for your patience,
[Insert Your Name]

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Your boss might still be annoyed with you and if the roles were reversed you probably would be too. If you use these email templates to keep your boss in the loop and promptly correct your errors, in time your slip-up should be forgotten.

Assuming you’re a hard worker who doesn’t make these kinds of mistakes very often, take a deep breath and remember that one mistake is not likely to tarnish your whole reputation.

Of course, these emails only work if these mistakes do not happen too often and there aren’t major repercussions. If there are some major obstacles to be discussed it’s always better to talk these over with your boss or client over the phone or in person.

At Never the Right Word, our aim is to give you practical examples of how to handle life’s difficult conversations. If you have an awkward situation that you’d like example templates for, request a topic here.  

If you’re interested in further reading, we’ve also included links to our trusted resources and related posts below. To find out more about NTRW and our recommended tools, you can do that here.

Lastly, if you found this content helpful or want to share your own examples, let us know in the comments. We’d also be delighted if you shared this article and joined us on social media too!

Article by Never the Right Word

Scripts & Templates for Life’s Uncomfortable Conversations. Learn more about NTRW here. NTRW is supported by adverts and affiliate marketing links. For more info, please see our Earnings Disclosure.

This site does not constitute legal, mental, or medical health advice, please consult a competent licensed professional. If you have questions please Contact Us.

Never the Right Word

Never the Right Word

Hi there! I’m Amy, and I’m the person behind Never the Right Word. I’m a designer-by-day who’s fascinated by human psychology; you’ll find me learning about what makes others tick through all types of media and good old-fashioned conversation. Learn more about me here.

In 2019 Never the Right Word was born to fill the gap of ‘how-to’ websites with copy and paste examples showing you EXACTLY what you need to say to steer difficult conversations into positive outcomes.

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