Death to Reply All

Jason Pankow Communication, HR (& Life!) Advice, Jason Pankow

This is an HR blog.  I guess I am supposed to be writing about HR topics.  You know…like how you shouldn’t ask an employee for their Facebook password.  Or how women and men should be paid equally.  Certainly, worst case scenario, I should be able to work a basketball analogy into our everyday HR work (by the way…throwing basketballs at players’ heads typically gets you fired).

But, no.  I have decided that I must part from the norm, abandon all basketball references and address something that has been a problem since the dawn of time.  Well, at least since the dawn of e-mail.

Effing Reply All!

I understand why Reply All was created.  It’s meant to keep everyone involved in a discussion.  Big topics often involve large e-mail chains.  And, sometimes, it’s important to involve a lot of people.

However, what Reply All has evolved into is an avenue for people to be noticed.  “Look at me!” says a reply aller.  “I’m here and I want attention!!!”

Right about now, there may be a few people who are saying to themselves, “I wonder if he is talking about me.”  The answer to that questions is YES!  If you are wondering, then I am indeed talking about you.  But, don’t worry.  You are not condemned to e-mail hell, yet.  There is still a chance for redemption.  For I am here to lay some ground rules around Reply All!

Rule #1
If the mail is simply informative, do not reply all.
Example: “Tomorrow is Salisbury steak day in the cafeteria.”
Reply All: “Whoa!  I love Salisbury Steak Day!  It’s even better than taco day!”
This simply comes across as a cry for help.  Please, oh, please let there be somebody else who loves Salisbury steak so I don’t have to eat alone again, today.

Rule #2
If the mail is celebratory or congratulatory, do not reply all.
Example: “Please join me in congratulating Joe on his promotion.”
Reply All: “Congrats, Joe! Very well deserved!”
What you are really saying is, This is well deserved…BY ME!  But, I will show no hard feelings.  I will remain passive aggressive until I get what I deserve!

Rule #3
If you are cc’d, unless there is something incorrect in the information, do not reply all.
Example: “We’ll have that completed by Friday.”
Reply all: *from the cc’d person* “Thanks…that sounds great.”
Clearly, the reply aller is making sure to show that he or she disapproves of being downgraded to cc instead of being properly placed in the To line.  CC is basically for FYI purposes only.  Nobody wants your opinion.

Rule #4
If someone asks a question of the group, unless you have the answer, do not reply all.
Example: “Does anybody know what’s being served in the cafeteria tomorrow?”
Reply all: “Nope.”
You might has well have simply responded with “Here I am! Please talk to me! Nobody has said anything to me in a week!”

Rule #5
If you are mistakenly added to a thread, do not reply all.
Example: “Don’t forget to bring your A game, tomorrow!”
Reply All: “I am strictly a B game player.  Please remove me from this list.”
Easily the biggest fail and possibly my greatest Reply All pet peeve.  Respond to the sender and that’s it! You just disrupted a whole group of people for no other reason than that you’re dumb.

Maybe it would be easier simply to state when you should reply all.  It’s pretty straightforward, really.

Rule #6
If it is relevant to the conversation, please reply all.  If it enhances the discussion, please reply all.  Bottom line…if it adds value, please reply all.

With the Reply All button comes great responsibility.  Responsibility not to waste everyone’s time.  Responsibility to move conversations forward.  And, responsibility to not clog people inboxes with irrelevant nothings!  If you need attention, buy a puppy.