Use of "reply all" increases frustration with coworkers

Rose Bak

Why You Should Stop Driving Your Coworkers Crazy by Using the “Reply All” Function
Photo by Stephen Phillips - on Unsplash

If I could go back in time, there are many things I would be tempted to change about the world but possibly the most controversial thing I would change is this: I would make an extra effort to stop whoever invented the “reply all” function for email.

Seriously, there are few things as annoying as indiscriminate use of the “reply all” function.

If you work in an office, you know exactly what I'm talking about. You go to your email and someone sends out what appears to be a relatively harmless email, but somehow it triggers a cascade of dozens, maybe hundreds, of time-wasting and soul-sucking emails in your box.

Why? “Reply all”.

“Congratulations to John Doe on his promotion” an email might read. Then, inexplicably, twenty people “reply all” to add their congratulations. "Congratulations John".

What is the point of this? Can’t you just email your congratulations directly to John Doe in a separate email? Does everyone really need to know that you said congratulations?

You may receive an email with some mundane update like “The window cleaners are coming this weekend” or “There’s leftover pizza in the break room” and invariably a group of your coworkers will decide to reply to everyone on the distribution list with such important additions as “thank you" or “yum”.

I have often pondered the over-use of “reply all”. Is it accidental? Is it that people are wanting to make sure that their coworkers know they are working and actually reading their email? Do people think it’s funny? Do they somehow not understand that when they select "reply all" their response goes to everyone?

Why people? Why are you using the “reply all”?

Most of us who work in an office get a lot of emails. I average around a hundred emails a day. Indiscriminate use of “reply all” just adds to our collective overwhelm at work, especially now that we are mostly working remotely and all of our contact is via machine.

Unnecessary emails create a lot of stress and extra work for all of us.

When I finish a meeting and see twenty or more new emails have come into my inbox, it makes me want to burst into tears and throw my computer into a dumpster. When I realize ten of those emails were people reiterating “congrats” or “thanks” I feel a bit betrayed, like I got stressed out for nothing.

I also get annoyed, because I have to open all of the emails up, read them to verify that they are actually nothing important, and then delete them. That’s precious time I’m wasting. It's time I could spend doing something more productive, like my actual job.

I am happy for my promoted coworkers and I am always glad to send them a personalized message of congratulations. And leftover treats in the break room make me as happy as everyone else in the office.

But please, I beg of you, I don’t need you to blow up all of my coworkers’ emails to express the joy of extra donuts.

And neither do you.

My fondest wish is that every email system would have a little pop-up box that says, “You are about to reply to everyone on this email chain. Is it necessary? Is it appropriate? Does everyone on the list absolutely need to see your reply? Check yes or no to proceed".

Please outlook, google, and all those other email systems, program in a “reply all” challenge question. It's the only way to stop the madness.

Can someone invent that next? Every office drone in America will thank you.

#office #email #business #communications #timemanagement

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Rose Bak is a freelance writer who lives in Portland, Oregon with her family and special needs dogs. She writes on a variety of topics including local news, homelessness, poverty, relationships, yoga, and aging. She is also a published author of romantic fiction. For more of Rose's work, visit her website at or follow her on social media @AuthorRoseBak.

Portland, OR

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