With mobile devices in just about everybody's pocket, text messaging has become one a default way of communicating, with fully 97 percent of smartphone users hitting send at least once a day. But people don't have fuzzy feelings and confidence about every text they send. A SurveyMonkey poll sponsored by On Second Thought reveals just how common texting regrets are and sheds light on how negative they can be for workers.

Key findings

The On Second Thought survey of 1,000 mobile users across the United States found that

  • half of American workers text bosses, coworkers or other professionals they know.
  • over half send 10+ messages every day.
  • 71 percent of all respondents said they sent a message they wished they could take back, with 1 out of 5 having done so in the past month.
  • 84 percent of heavy texters (those sending 10+ messages daily) reported sending a text they wished they could take back, with 31 percent having done so recently.
  • 73 percent of all respondents realized they'd sent a bad text within just a few seconds of sending it.
  • 83 percent of heavy texters realized they'd sent a bad text within just a few seconds of sending it.
  • 58 percent of all respondents realized they'd sent a bad text immediately after pressing send.

Texting thus holds particular relevance for typical entrepreneurs and employees, and even though people don't always send what they should, people generally are able to recognize a lapse in texting judgment quickly.

But the survey also revealed that workers can suffer real relationship and career consequences if they don't use caution with their messages:

  • 39 percent upset someone close to them with a bad text.
  • 16 percent were bullied or faced serious professional consequences (e.g., loss of employment) because of the bad text they sent.
  • Men are more at risk of negative texting consequences, suffering bullying and professional issues at nearly double the rate of women.

In other words, you don't have to watch what you say just on social media anymore--you have to be aware of other forms of digital communications, including texts, too. Maci Peterson, On Second Thought's founder, puts in this way: "[People need to use even more scrutiny with texting] because text messages tend to be 1:1 instead of 1 to many. Therefore, an offensive comment is directly intended for the recipient."

Bad text, bad bottom line

Peterson cautions that bad texts can make the bottom line suffer. "An upsetting text sent from one colleague to another could decrease engagement and productivity," Peterson says, "[...and] texts could lead to HR issues depending on the content of the messages. For example, if someone sent a disparaging message about someone's appearance, age, race, gender or sexual orientation, it would be treated as seriously as if the comment was made verbally or via email. If someone sends an inappropriate text message, it can be escalated to HR or the company's employee relations department."

Where the most caution is necessary

Even though there are many pieces of content that could cause problems (e.g., sexually charged messages), Peterson asserts that people of all industries should be especially careful not to share hate speech. And because of current regulations like HIPPA, physicians who use texting to communicate with patients need to make sure they're not sending information to the wrong person, as failure to comply can result in fines.

Staying out of trouble

If you don't want to fall victim to bad texts, you can use the On Second Thought app, which allows you up to a minute to take back text messages before they get to the recipient. If you'd rather skip the app, though, Peterson's advice is simple.

"For someone without our service," she says, "the best thing [...] to do is to thoroughly proofread each message before hitting 'Send'."