Category Archives: email etiquette

Do Not Reply

As I get older…and notice I did not say as I mature….I seem to be getting more petty and more flexible in equal parts.  I’m not yet the lady who is yelling at the children to get off her lawn, but then again I’ve not had any children on the lawn so I can’t be sure.  Truth be told, given the chance I just might be that lady.

I am the lady who thinks a lot of people are bad drivers and even though I almost accidentally ran a red light yesterday, I am not one of them.  I am also the lady who has had it up to here with all of the misplaced apostrophes (or should I say, apostrophe’s) and the lady who shudders at the thought of someone writing out a check in the grocery line.  Yep…I’m getting older…and that thing that happened to all those who aged before me seems to be happening to me, too.

So it’s no surprise that the workplace is a hotbed for a bevy of annoyances.  And the greatest of them all, perhaps, is the reckless abandon with which people use the Reply All function on their email.  I’ve thought about this for some time, and I’ve started to point it out to others as well.  Masqueraded as a part of polite society, Reply All is often nothing more than spam.  It was telling when I recently took a day off of work and took a firm stance that my work smart phone would stay at home.  After one day away from the office, I had 86 unread emails.  As I scrolled through them quickly, I realized that there were about a dozen that had information I really needed.  The rest were “thank you” or “OK” or “you’re welcome.”

So in light of this, I’ve started to muster up the courage to talk to my staff and tell them to stop and think before hitting Reply All.  Stop being so dang polite, stop feeling like you need to Reply All for much of anything, really.  Just stop it.  You’re slowing down our productivity.  I’ve even had fantasies of creating a way (or maybe there is a way?) to disable the Reply All function on some people’s email.  And then it happened.  I, the girl living in a glass house, was reminded why she can’t cast stones.  I became the biggest Reply All offender of all.

It was a Monday night after work and I was at safely at home, where I should have been minding my own business and doing something meaningful with my life.  But instead, I was paying more attention than I should be to my work smart phone (which is to say, I was paying attention to it at all.)  I wanted to ignore it, but the light kept blinking.  How can I ignore a blinking light?  Answer:  I cannot.

So my supervisor sent out an email to me and 25 other people – some of whom I know, some who I don’t, some who decide if I live to see another day at my job.  It was a big, widespread, influential group.  She immediately sent a second email just to me and one other close colleague and friend.  And you can probably guess where this is headed – I did a Reply All to the group of 25 instead of the group of 2.

The message I sent was cheeky.  It was meant to be endearing, a little sassy spunk to cheer up my supervisor who I knew had been having a rough day.  But to any reader other than her, it had a nice thick layer of anti-establishment snark imbedded right in the middle of it.  Trust me – it could have been a lot worse.  But it wasn’t exactly my finest moment, either.  It was not the sort of thing that promotions and professional accolades are made of.  I can forget about anyone erecting a statue in my honor now.

Of course I didn’t know what I had done until I hit send and 15 seconds later I got an out of office reply from someone on the list of 25.  My thought process went something like this:  “What?  Wait, WHAT?  OH MY GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE?”  I cannot describe for you the panic that set in.  I felt like I had been punched in the gut, but the irony was that I was the one who threw the punch.  I spent about ten minutes frantically trying to discern if I could reasonably recall the email.  I then spent the next twenty minutes crafting a sincere and exasperated apology to my superiors who were part of the fateful 25 and were sure to not be impressed.  My apology was not enough, and it was also all I could do.

I spent a good day or so deeply resigned to a well-deserved spell of self-loathing, but the dust settled quickly. In time I was able to sit comfortably with my own ugly, awkward humanness.  The good news was, no one got hurt.  I still had my job, and I seemed to still have the respect ad admiration of the people who matter to me most.  And yes, I still had my Reply All function on my email, but you can bet I won’t be using it much anymore.