There’s this communication functionality in your work email called “Reply All.” You may have heard of it. It can be difficult to decide when using “Reply All” is appropriate. I’m here to help make that decision a bit easier.
Here are the number of instances in which using “Reply All” on your work email is a good idea:
OK, maybe that’s a bit extreme. I’ll concede there are some circumstances in which “Reply All” can be useful at work.
For example, when you’re communicating with a small group of 3-5 colleagues. That’s a time when “Reply All” is beneficial because maybe you guys are talking about which coworker you’re going to throw under the bus at the next staff meeting and you need to be on the same page so as not to incriminate too many people and destroy your credibility and reveal that you’re actually the ones who left the box of jelly doughnuts on top of the Xerox machine to melt and leak goop into its insides over the weekend by mistake.
Or maybe you’re discussing where you want to go hang out after work and you need to keep everybody involved — especially your DD — apprised of the dive holes you’re up for and the ones you can’t show your face in after that one embarrassing episode involving the whip, the cowboy hat, and your old nursing bra. These are occasions when “Reply All” is acceptable and, I’d go so far as to say, necessary even.
But what about when somebody sends out a mass email announcing that there are leftover bagels and coffee in the break room, or asking the food caper not to eat the yogurt they’ve left in the community fridge, or reminding everyone to turn in their productivity reports before leaving for the weekend, and you have a super funny joke to tell in response, but really nobody else thinks it’s super funny except you and maybe — maybe — your dog?
Or how about when your boss sends out an email to the entire staff politely but firmly asking that people stop parking on top of the hostas at the edge of the sidewalk, or borrowing petty cash to play Keno at lunch, and you also want to politely but firmly agree with your boss because you’re a kiss ass who jumps on every opportunity to side with your superiors, or you want to add your own items from your list of don’t-do-this-stuff-because-it-makes-me-feel-angry — a list you not-so-secretly brood over and mumble about in your cubicle and around the water cooler while wearing that t-shirt you know nobody gets but you wear anyway because you think it makes you look ironic?
Or, and this is my personal favorite, when you have a question or complaint about the mass email that applies only to you and your unique circumstance — a question or complaint that nobody else in your workplace, let alone the entire world, could possibly need to see or have any use for the response to? Should you “Reply All” in these situations?
No. The answer is no. Because nobody cares and everyone will hate you for it.
If you’re a “Reply All” abuser — admit it, because we all know who you are anyway — I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but we’re not taking you seriously. We’ve stopped reading your emails entirely and, on the rare occasions that we do actually open your correspondence, we roll our eyes and discuss the never-ending torture in private emails between 3-5 people, which we do “Reply All” to because we realize we’re the only ones who think we’re funny (even though, let’s be honest, there’s no disputing our hilarity), so we keep our responses “in the family” rather than sending them out to God and everybody and mass murdering the entire staff’s will to live.
Of course, you can ignore everything I’ve said if your “Reply All” involves offering free food, booze, or money. In that case, reply away, my friend, and forget about everyone who says you’re the worst — I think you’re the best (on the condition that you’re giving away free food, booze, or money. Naturally.)