I work for a very large organization, and sometimes I get company-wide emails about a promotion or a birthday. Sometimes I am even not sure who the person is, however I still hit “reply” button and write “Congratulations!” I think it’s just a nice thing to do. However, this nice thing turns into a nightmare when people start replying all, and I mean ALL. All the people on the list. Dozens and hundreds of people on the list. My inbox keeps happily notifying me of new messages. It lasts for hours before finally dying down until the next email with a large distribution list. My favorite one was when someone accidentally sent an email to the entire organization (remember, we’re talking hundreds of people here). Half the people were very concerned about this mistake, so they made sure to point out to the sender that the message was sent in error, by “Replying All”. The other half got annoyed with those replies, so they angrily demanded everyone stop replying all, and of course they did it by replying all. The mistake-correctors then tried to explain themselves — well, we just wanted to let the guy know he made a mistake! The annoyed ones retorted with a cease and desist. The former apologized. The latter insisted. It was quite a show.
Is there an appropriate time to reply all? Yes, when I email my team and ask for sourcing advice, I prefer people to hit “reply all”, because this way we can exchange ideas and teach each other something new. I do not mind when someone on my team replies all with a joke. We all work in a virtual environment, and hardly ever see each other, so those email threads are similar to a coffee break in an office. We work hard, and an occasional off-topic discussion serves as a very welcome distraction.
So the moral of the story is, as usual – stop to think before hitting Reply button. I guess many people who send a “Happy Birthday” to an entire organization instead of just one person, don’t realize that their email can be viewed as inconvenience or a source of annoyance. While it can be a very minor annoyance, and definitely not the end of the world, let’s just be mindful of our colleagues. Be kind, and count to 10 before you hit Reply All. Maybe you’ll reconsider.