Make reply all a nuclear option

Posted by Dermot Crowley on 30th May 2018

I was running a workshop recently in a large financial institution when three of the participants started talking to each other in whispers. This went on for a few minutes, and they eventually shared with the group that someone in their wider team had sent an email to the entire group of three hundred. People then started to Reply All to this email, and their inboxes started to fill up with response after response. None of this was relevant to the people in my workshop, so their inboxes were just filling up with noise.

Eventually a senior manager stepped into the conversation and asked everyone to stop Replying All. Hilariously, someone then responded to the group with ‘I agree’! Crazy stuff, but not unusual in the corporate world.

I think Reply All should be considered a ‘nuclear option’. Remember the old cold war movies where the button to launch the nuclear missiles would be protected by a range of safeguards? Two officers would have to insert their missile launch keys at the same time, then a cover would have to be released before the launch button could be activated. Well I reckon you should have the same safeguards on the Reply All button! It should not be available on every email, or so easy to just press instead of Reply

As most IT departments are unlikely to remove the Reply All button in MS Outlook across your organisation, the best I can do is encourage you to think hard before you Reply All. There are few circumstances where it serves the group. Consider just replying to the sender, or the few people who really need to know your response. A more thoughtful approach to email will improve the productivity of many people in your team. And if you discuss this strategy with your team, they might even start to improve your productivity too!

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