Things That Suck #284: Misuse of the “Reply All” button

According the Tom Wolfe’s book The Right Stuff, the Air Force had some harsh rules about what they called “radio chatter.” The thing was, even if your plane was going down, you were not allowed to jam up the airwaves with a bunch of whiny-ass complaining about “Oh, my plane’s on fire. I’m gonna die!” The rule was, hey, just crash already and don’t whine about it over the radio.

Man, I wish we had that rule here in corporate America.

Here the rule seems to be: “Please publish every single thought that enters your tiny corporate noggin, no matter how incidental or irrelevant to the rest of the universe.”

And the worst of these offenders? The people who hit the “Reply All” button.

Okay, picture this scene. A project leader sends out a reminder that the meeting has moved from Conference Room A to Room B. Okay, fine. It’s an acceptable use of mass email containing useful information. What’s not acceptable? The microcephalic response of “Thanks!” and sent to Reply-All.

Duuuuude.

I remember reading once that agency-wide emails are frowned upon at Ogilvy. It makes sense, given the sheer size of the organization. When you multiply the amount of time it takes one employee to read a stupid “Thanks!” email by the 80-some-thousand employees in the company, dude, it adds up to some serious revenue-gobbling time.

Even more deflating is when my email server is slow. Now it’s adding-insult-to-injury time because first I have to hit OPEN (not knowing it’s one of these stupid emails) and then …. wait …. wait for it ….. and all the waiting is foooorrrrr? …. a cheerful stupid “Thanks.”

Okay, here’s the deal. No more thanking me. Well, okay, if I give you CPR and save your life, yeah, a “Thanks!” would be fine. Or even just a quiet thumbs-up sign as they wheel your gurney into the waiting ambulance. But I really and truly don’t need to be thanked for telling you the meeting is now in Conference Room B.

It was nuthin’. Really.

3 Comments

  1. Oh the truth in it! I really enjoy your posts, you hit the nail on the head.

    I was on a job in LA a few months ago with an agency producer whose love of the “reply all” button actually made my blackberry freeze up on set. For someone who already averages 100-200 emails per day, I get set off by unnecessary electronic noise. I find that these are usually the same people who call nonstop meetings about every little facet of a job. Give us a break!

    Reply
  2. Not to nitpick but… you shouldn’t be using email to tell people about meeting changes in the first place. Email, even essential email, is getting pretty unscalable. Use the messaging system within apps like iCal to handle that sort of thing.

    Also, to add on to your bitching, cuz that’s what I do. Don’t use email as file storage, in fact sending files via email is pretty silly in general. Talk about wasted resources, the same 4mb file in 20 email boxes. That makes sense.

    ps. Thanks!

    Reply
  3. Thanks.

    Reply

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Luke Sullivan

Author, speaker, and ad veteran available to recharge, reinvigorate, and refocus marketing, advertising, and branding firms.

I give a hugely energetic series of presentations on innovation, creativity, branding, and marketing. I spent 32 years in the trenches of advertising (at agencies like Martin, GSD&M, and Fallon) and I’ve put everything I learned into my book, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. But for me nothing beats taking the message out and speaking to living breathing audiences at clients, agencies, and conferences. You can book me on the button below.

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