Friday, May 16, 2014

Why "Reply All" is The Most Dangerous Button

When I first entered the business world, as opposed to when I was a teacher in the late 80s and no one had computers, I learned that there was a very dangerous setting in the email system.  It's "reply all".

This particular setting can be dangerous for many reasons, but the two most important ones, in my opinion, are:

- saying the wrong words to the wrong person

- saying the wrong words to someone who doesn't care one iota what you're saying, yet has to wade through your responses

Some people have their DEFAULT email settings on "reply all".  I do not understand this.  It is much more likely that what you need to say to respond to an email applies to one or maybe two people, than to the entire group the email was sent to.  It's much better to have it set to just reply to the person, THEN you can deliberately add others that you've specifically chosen to also hear what you have to say.

Using this pre-caution can save you a lot of embarrassment, and potential for putting your foot so far into your mouth that there is no extracting it.  I can think of many instances of corporate communication when the conversation veered off into complaining about a certain employees lazy habits, and yet there she was, still in the email chain, probably feeling each stab of the knife in her back as the emails rolled in, her name not taken off.

I'm not saying that those words didn't need to be said. Perhaps some disciplinary action was in order, but that should have been discussed through other channels of HR, and not in gossipy email between co-workers.

The other instance of mis-use of the reply-all button has to do with personal correspondence.  I've been the on the receiving end of too many of the following type incident.

Let's say someone is having a baby, and a list has been provided to a friend to "alert everyone" once the blessed event has happened.  Great!  Glad to be informed.  Happy for the new parents.  What I don't need though is my phone beeping for the next three hours when everyone on that distribution list chimes in with their congratulations!  

Random numbers that aren't part of my contacts keep popping up with, "That's awesome!  I bet he looks just like his dad!  Tell them all...."  For hours.  It's wonderful that you want to congratulate and communicate.  Just would you please do it with just the person who sent you the text or email or whatever form of communication it was?  I have no idea who you are.  I don't really need 27 of basically the same thing over and over again.

I know they mean well.  I know it's hard to teach some people to just hit "reply", or to start a new text to just the one person.  I'd appreciate it though, and I know others would, too.  We've discussed it.  At length.

Besides, wouldn't you rather be safe than sorry? Wouldn't you be mortified if you said the wrong this to the wrong person?  Wouldn't you prefer not to wake someone up all night long with congratulations texts?  I think you would.

So confession time.  How many of you have been burned by hearing the wrong thing about yourself, or saying the wrong thing to the wrong person? How many extraneous group reply texts have you gotten? 

Or should this have gone on Wednesdays rant about the little things that bother depressed people when they can't face the real world?

~Tina, inquiring minds want to know

©2014 All Rights Reserved 


25 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I have two groups that I will hit reply all for, but that's usually it.
And if I send something out to more than one person, I send it to myself and everyone else is BCC.
Must be annoying getting those notifications on your phone. I didn't set up access to my emails on my phone and now I'm glad I didn't.

Brian Miller said...

ha. i never hit reply all at work...smiles...i have seen too many train wrecks...and never express anything in email if you dont want everyone to read it....cause it will get passed around....

Mason Canyon said...

I have to say your email made me smile. I can think of several times I've gotten a text about something that was important to me and a few minutes later get slammed with texts from people I've never heard of. At first you wonder what's going on and then you realize they're replying to the first text. All well and good but at the time I didn't have unlimited texting so each one of those wanting to reply to the first text cost me money. Sometimes people just don't stop and think. Enjoyed your post.

Kate @ Another Clean Slate said...

Ohh I have definitely witnessed people make big "reply all" mistakes. I am super careful about that and also making sure the right name is in the "to" field.

JoJo said...

Fortunately I've never seen anything that I wasn't supposed to. I only ever do 'reply'. I completely agree w/ you on the ten thousand emails you end up getting. My former boss was part of Collaborative Lawyers of Pierce County and they had meetings and seminars and conventions to go to and plan. I would get up to 100 of the stupid 'reply all' emails every day b/c my boss didn't have a computer. So we were using reams of paper printing every damn reply, which after awhile, descended into joking around w/ each other, ones that came in with 'LOL' as a response, etc. It drove me CRAZY.

Jo said...

I hit reply all when appropriate as in when we were exchanging minion emails during the A to Z. The thing I had trouble with was two friends with the same name and I kept sending my bowling emails to another friend who was nothing to do with it. I solved that by calling my bowling friend Coach. Nothing embarrassing though.

cleemckenzie said...

I haven't been embarrassed yet, but I have been confused because the message had nothing to do with me or what I needed to know.

I think you're right. Be careful. Don't hit that Reply All unless you're very sure the message should go to everyone.

Silvia Villalobos said...

I've hit 'reply all' once or twice when 'reply' alone would've been enough. No one said a thing, but I realized that wasn't necessary. We have a client who hit reply all to complain about an escrow agent who was on the list (he either didn't know she was, or didn't care, which is bad). Not very nice on his part.
Rant away, that's what blogs are for ... no? :)

shelly said...

I've only ever walked into rooms where peeps were gossiping about me.

Hugs and chocolate!

Michelle Stanley said...

I've never used "reply all", but remember an ex coworker sending a sexy photo of herself to a male coworker and sent it to the supervisor instead. The office was in shock when the supervisor showed it around, as she was married.

Andrew Leon said...

I almost never use "reply all."

TheCyborgMom said...

Even worse: I did a reply to a friend of mine (just her and not the other 10 people on the original list). Purposely did not do a "reply all" because what I had to say was private and only to her. She then took it upon herself to forward my response along to everyone else. wtf??? she said she did it because she thought I forgot to "reply all". Um, no. I'm not an idiot. I know when I want to "reply all" and when I don't! ugh! some people get under my skin.
~Katie

Mina Lobo said...

I'm almost even afraid to comment on this post, my terror of inadvertently hitting "Reply All" when I REALLY DON'T WANT TO is THAT STRONG!!!!! :-)

Rachel said...

If I think I hit "reply all", even after writing a novel of a text or email, I copy it, close out, and paste whatever I'm saying in a new text or email. Just to be safe. I get those notifications on Facebook though. I just said "Congratulations" and I don't need to be alerted to 30 other people saying the same thing and the original poster responding to every single one.

Stephanie Faris said...

I have a horrible story about this! Just a year or so ago, I thought I was forwarding an email to someone but I accidentally replied to all. I ended up bad-mouthing someone in the email. The woman was a co-worker and she never forgave me! Luckily I left to be a full-time writer soon after because it was really, really awkward. I learned to be extra careful when sending emails at all costs!

Amber Livingston said...

Ugh Tina I can so relate to this rant! The holiday texts are the worst! I understand that you want to tell all of your friends Merry Christmas or Happy Easter or have a great Flag Day, etc. Is it that much trouble to text them all separately so that I don't have you get a random "you too" and "thanks" for the rest of the day from numbers I don't recognize? Maybe it's just me, but I'd honestly rather not hear from you at all if I'm not worth my own text message :-p

Michael Di Gesu said...

HI, Tina,

I'm smart... I NEVER use reply all... So It's never happened to me.

However I do get annoyed when my in box gets loaded with emails from replays from posts of various group members. The congrats and thank you's do get VERY OLD....

RANT away!

amanda lee said...

I hate those annoying group message texts! Sitting on multiple boards, I see people misusing email all the time. I have learned NEVER to send a private email that could possibly be used to paint me in a bad light, after being severely burned by a board member I spike with on the phone, then sent a follow up email to. The board member forwarded the email to the entire board, twisted the meaning of the conversation, and basically threw me to the wolves. I was devastated, but I also learned some valuable lessons! As a blogger, I am also very sensitive to copyright law, and would never intentionally forward a private email, as the email is actually owned by the person who created it, and it is illegal to reproduce it in whole, without permission (work emails may be a different thing, depending on your contract).

Claudia said...

the reply to all button is a pest - it creates email floods that are totally unnecessary - and yes - may end up at the wrong person. i wouldn't discuss delicate topics by email anyway - better face to face - emails can get misunderstood easily

tadpoleintransit said...

I have Damyanti's A to Z Challenge post thingy to thank for finding your blog :) I agree with the No Reply All people- like someone said, too many train wrecks. Plus, if it's an informative email or message send to a large number of people it's bad manners to clog up everyone's inboxes.
I look forward to continuing reading your blog when I have more coffee in me :)

~Sia McKye~ said...

I only use reply all when I get something that needs to be said to all in response. That happens rarely. Reply All is never my default. If I want to send basically the same email to several, I prefer to use BCC. In business, I do use BCC more and especially when I need a paper trail.

As for my phone--I don't use it for online correspondence. I hate to text to begin with, although I do with family and a few friends when a phone call isn't possible. And I've ticked off several of the sibs by saying pick up the phone and CALL me. I hate sound byte conversations. My cell phone # is private and that's the way I want it to stay. :-)

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Sia McKye Over Coffee

Milo James Fowler said...

True that, Tina. Not a fan of "reply all" texts -- they eat into my data plan.

Briane Pagel said...

I have to watch hitting "reply all" because lawyers will blind copy their clients and sometimes that sends them back messages that technically are an ethical violation.

But I rarely reply to people, period. So it helps to be antisocial.

bemuzin.com said...

That's not the only thing that makes me think twice before hitting a button. And yes, I hate those unnecessary "all" responses that could/should just go to the original sender!

What I hate worse? There are so many advertising and like and whatever links everywhere on every web, facebook, and (some)blogs that I inadvertently click something when I'll I'm trying to do is scroll through the frickin' screen! It's very rantingly-worthy frustrating!!

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Tina .. in the dark days of pre 2000 probably ..I used reply once - and never again!

Though sometimes I need to think before hitting the send button ..

When we of Tina's Team email ... I often don't use the reply all - because of the (few) flood of emails from the others ... now I'm laughing .. such is life ..

Cheers to cheery Viking chick .. Hils xoxo