Why Use Reply All, All The Time?

We are working on a client project that involves two people in my organization, the client and another business partner. In order to improve communication and make sure all people involved are in the loop, I requested we all hit “reply all” when responding to emails. Doing so is not just common sense but also good business practice. Well, you guessed right. On numerous occasions both the client and the business partner did not choose to “reply all” and hit the “reply” button only, which would then reply only to the sender and not the others involved. There are of course occasions when this is necessary, especially when you want to reply to the sender, keep it confidential and prevent others from seeing it. But this was not the case here.

An oversight? Perhaps. But if you are not paying attention to important requests that affect proper communication and project success, you are increasing the chances of communication breakdowns and failures. I realize we all may suffer from dementia at times but the fact from my experience is that this situation is ubiquitously common.

The exception to this rule is when someone, erroneously or not, decides to include me and other recipients in their distribution list. Unless the content contains an error that needs to be pointed out, or all recipients need to know that I should not be included in future email updates, I simply hit the “reply” (to sender only) and ask the sender to keep me out (opt-out) of their distribution list.

Since I hopefully got you reading this far and since I know you would agree with me that we all get tremendous amount of emails and spam let me also suggest the following:

  1. Reduce the number of emails you are sending and replying to.
  2. Keep your email pithy.
  3. No email jokes please. Let me share with you that I either delete them without reading or reply to sender with a request to stop sending them to me. This is an example where I choose not to hit “reply all” since I want to reduce the chances of others I do not know on the distribution list deciding to become my “friend” and add me to their distribution list.
  4. Which brings me to the last point. When sending an email to people who do not know each other and unless previously agreed by all as expected, use the blind copy (bcc) option when sending your email. This way you are not revealing email addresses of people who would rather remain anonymous. I am one of these people.

Did I follow my rule number 2 of being pithy? Well, this is not an email and you decide.

This was my rant for the day and I do feel better now … I think.

0 thoughts on “Why Use Reply All, All The Time?

  1. Chad,

    Doesn’t this create extra work for you? What if it’s just a minor issue that can be delegated or work out between the parties involved? Does a project leader always need to be involved in all the details?

    I would think it would be better to empower workers to resolve the issues and then hold them accountable for the outcome. You could delegate certain types of decisions and let them get on with it, no?

  2. Good point Richard and I think I somewhat suggested that in my third paragraph and your point about holding people accountable for the right outcome is great and right on.

    My preference is to be involved in the project strategically rather than tactically. Therefore, and for most projects, I elect to opt-out of all the detail and leave it to my great team to get the job done. There are times and or for certain reasons that I do want to be involved while the brief email exchanges keep me in the loop.

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