Banish Reply All

Reply all button

Digital Cleanse Day 15:

Banish Reply All

“Reply All” drives me batty. In general, I think email is a great communications tool. Easy to create. Quick to send. Simple to reply. But “reply all” makes me hate my inbox. I’m sure you can relate.

For example

Let’s say you have three projects on the go each with with 6 team members. If just one project manager sends an email to their team asking each person for input and every team member sends their response as “reply all” then you have 5 new messages. If everyone responds just once to all five of those messages you have 25 more messages. Suddenly you’ve got 30 new messages to read. But wait, you’ve got three projects on the go so you now have 90 messages. Multiple reply threads means the information is now fragmented. Worse is when someone hijacks the thread to ask one person a question about something unrelated adding still more email. And may the Gods help you catch up, if you happen to be offline when a “reply all” conversation hits your inbox.


This fire hose of messages can overflow your inbox. Even worse, it can bury genuine messages. You waste time wading through multiple copies of the same messages looking for the one tidbit of new information. Sometimes you just archive the whole thread unread. It’s just too hard to find the new info. Sadly that means key pieces of information can be lost. Not good for you, the project or the team.

Why do people still reply all?

So why do people abuse the reply all button?  Everyone wants to be perceived as a contributing member of the team. They share their two cents worth to demonstrate that contribution. In some cases, team members are focused on only one or two small projects. They don’t get a lot of email so they don’t see the same volume that reply all creates for people involved in many projects.  I’ve also seen people wanting to mitigate their own risk. If they didn’t acknowledge the email it didn’t happen.

A related problem may be the overuse of carbon copy (CC). Yes, you want to be inclusive. But many its possible to be over inclusive. What do you think?

What can we do about it?

Education is the first step. If everyone needs your information then use reply all with my blessing. But remember that everyone needs to know the location of the meeting, only the organizer needs to know your request for a gluten-free bun.

A better solution is to move your team into a different communication tool. Maybe a Facebook or LinkedIn group would work for your team?  Or an internal instant messaging service? Or a project collaboration tool like Basecamp or Slack? Please explore the options and banish reply all.

More on the 30 day #digitalcleanse tomorrow. Hope to see you then!

(If you missed yesterday’s installment, take a couple extra minutes to explore Figure out Your 3P. For links to the complete Digital Cleanse series, click here.)