Reply All: Please Don’t!
By: Beth Slagle & Kirstin Kennedy
Just because the Reply All button exists doesn’t mean you have to use it. Let’s think about that — there are lots of superfluous or irrelevant things in life that are available that we don’t use or need for one reason or another. Yet, Reply All seems to be one of the most miss-used and over used computer “things” ever. And, it’s a button that has the ability to cause embarrassment and frustration with the potential to wreak havoc on careers.
The use of e-mail has become the primary means of communication for professionals. We’re nonstop and 24/7. The movies, church, even the grocery store bathrooms are breeding grounds for email malingerers with business being done and deals being made. It’s quick and easy. E-mails provide instant gratification, something that we’ve become so accustomed to that people have withdrawal when their blackberries or smartphones aren’t readily available. I’m one of these people, not feeling whole if my beloved blackberry isn’t in my hand, pocket or purse. I’m guilty, and I know it. Not only is email a necessary function of every day life, but it also enhances our morale. We like when we get responses to our emails, and likewise, we want to stay connected to our peers, friends and family. It is a way to both provide professional responses and to connect us all on a global level, instantly. But, e-mail can also act as dangerous liaison to the destruction of careers if it is not handled with care.
You know what I’m talking about – the “Reply All” button – a useful tool on occasion, yet seeming to mock us on others, taunting us to – “use me, use me” – just waiting for us to make a mistake. We’ve all done it, wishing that we could somehow magically take back what we’ve just sent out to our colleagues when mistakenly hitting Reply All. Interestingly, some companies, most recently consumer reporter corporation, Nielsen, have eliminated the Reply All button from their e-mail servers. Their logic is to cut down the number of superfluous e-mails that often result in the excessive use of the Reply All.
The thought behind the creation of the Reply All button is obvious and logical. It was to be used for large-scale brain storming as well as conveying massive amounts of information pertinent to numerous individuals at one time. Yet, everyone has heard the horrors of the erroneous Reply All. The new girl professing her hatred for her boss accidentally gets sent to her colleagues, rather than to just her friend two cubicles over; an affair between two co-workers is divulged to the entire office.
And what about those people who Reply All with “lol” or “I agree” or “thanks” or “you’re welcome”. Seriously? Anyone believing that the entire email universe cares if you “lol” should be sent to straight to the Email 101 class, where obvious email etiquette rules are taught.
The Reply All is an inbox polluter. I’m far from being perfect on email etiquette, but when it comes to the annoyance of being inundated with irrelevant emails, or even worse of having my colleagues inundated with extraneous emails, I make a practice of including a line in any mass emails that I send out: “Please do not reply all, but rather just to me.” It’s just a gentle reminder to use common sense.
The bottom line: don’t be an email polluter and don’t jeopardize your career with the use of Reply All. I’m not saying that it should never be used. What I am saying is that just because the Reply All button exists doesn’t mean you have to use it.