By now, I’m sure you have all seen the TV commercial for Bridgestone tires with the office worker whose colleague tells him he just hit reply/all on what had to be a seriously inappropriate e-mail (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X9xGw-SWej8). The sender freaks out and attempts to destroy every computer and mobile device in the company before anyone can read his e-mail (riding on his Bridgestone tires, of course), only to find out his coworker was jerking his chain. It’s pretty funny.
Probably most of us have had at least one reply/all e-mail disaster. Personally, I once hit reply/all to a message where I asked my partner if so and so “had the cajones” to do something…only I used a different word than cajones. And the person in question was a woman. And I copied her. Oops.
I was also recently the recipient of an accidental reply/all. We were raising money for our new fund. I sent an e-mail to one of the prospective investors asking their status on a decision. The person replied with a one word reply, clearly intended for her colleague, that said: “Strange.” About 3 minutes later, I got another e-mail from her saying, “Strange, I thought we had already replied to you. Oh, and sorry I hit send too soon on that last e-mail. I got a new Blackberry and I’m having trouble with it.” Uh, yeah, sure you are. Nice try.
But, frankly, the accidental, career limiting reply/all is neither the topic of this blog nor my least concern. It happens to us all. Some more embarrassing than others. We get through it. And, they all make for great stories over a few cocktails. It is the deliberate and inappropriate reply/all that annoys the crap out of me. You know exactly what I’m talking about and you know exactly who you are. Stop it now!
The worst offenders seem to be parents of other kids in your kid’s class or on their sports teams. An e-mail goes out from the home room teacher. Hey, we’re having an end of year party. We need some people to bring cupcakes and drinks and some people to help clean up. Then the reply/all barrage starts.
Reply/All: I will bring 12 chocolate cupcakes.
Reply/All: I will bring paper cups
Reply/All: I can stay from 3:15 to 3:30 to clean up, but I have to leave no later than 3:35.
Reply/All: I will bring some of those big garbage bags, with the ties.
Reply/All: David is out of town and I have to pick my younger son up at hockey so I can’t help.
And on it goes until your IT administrator calls you into his office and informs you that you have just caused the entire company’s computer system to crash and forced him to purchase emergency server space at great cost.
I once complained about this to my wife and she made the semi-valid point that it’s important to copy everyone on this type of daisy chain so each subsequent respondent sees what the prior person had to say. Anything less and the after school party, she reasoned, would almost certainly end up with 2 gross of cupcakes for 15 kids and nary a juice box or napkin. I don’t really buy it since the original sender can manage the inventory, but I begrudgingly concede the logic.
However, there’s simply no countenancing the reply/all sports e-mails. My daughter’s softball coach sends an e-mail a few days before every game to ensure he has enough players. (Quick digression: these kids are on a team; don’t they have to be at every game and, if they can’t, don’t they have to let the coach know. I’m just saying.) There are 14 girls on the roster and, I swear, every one of their parents hits reply/all. I get these e-mails on my work and personal e-mail addresses, both of which go to my Blackberry, so I end up with over 25 e-mails that look like this:
Reply/All: Hannah will be there.
Reply/All: Sarah will be there.
Reply/All: Piper will be there.
Again, you get the picture. People, before you hit reply/all, or perhaps just after you’ve hit it, but before you’ve hit send, look at the list of recipients. Ask yourself one simple question: will anyone else care? You already know I don’t.