Reply All Responsibly

By: Beth Strange

Image Source: ThinkStock

Reply All is a powerful collaboration tool. When multiple professionals are working on a project together, email threads enable members of the team to stay up-to-date on the latest actions taken, the most recent thought processes, and the current planning. However, Reply All also has the potential to tarnish both a professional brand and hard earned reputation. Like most benefits that come with technology, the Reply All function must be used responsibly.

Here are a few thoughts to clear misconceptions and, hopefully, some inboxes:

  • Review and edit the addresses prior to Replying All. Team members change and ad hoc members are sometimes brought in for just one phase of the project. The initial members of the thread may not be the appropriate recipients as the thread matures.
  • You aren't the only one who is busy; everyone on that email list is busy. Being busy may account for the majority of folks who are hitting the Reply All button on email correspondences. Professionals process dozens, even hundreds, of emails a day, some critical, some important, some interesting, and some that are just annoying or don't apply at all. Again, to show consideration to others, take a few minutes to review and edit the recipients' list.
  • No one but the grieving recipient should know that you have sent a condolence email. Replying All to a condolence email is just plain tacky. It may appear that you are just saying, "Look at me. Aren't I wonderful for offering my condolences on the death of this loved one." The same principle applies, if not quite as strongly, to congratulatory emails. If you really mean "I'm so sorry" or "Way to go," then send a thoughtful, personal message. It will mean so much more than a Reply All "Congrats!"
  • Never Reply All to an announcement sent from a mailer. Although somewhat rare, email storms bring into stark focus the problem with unthinkingly hitting Reply All, especially when the original email came from a mailing list. Companies and government agencies have been brought to their knees for a day or two by the tremendous volume of emails that can be generated during an email storm. If you want to unsubscribe from the mailer, you'll have to unsubscribe yourself; the mailer can't unsubscribe you. Additionally, no matter how irritating the storm gets, resist the urge to instruct others about their email etiquette, regardless of how amusing you think your response is.

Responding by Reply All might only fuel a firestorm raging through an organization, cluttering inboxes with hundreds of emails. It's bad enough having to spend precious time deleting emails, but worse is the number of people who get caught up in the storm wasting company time reading the responses.

Using Reply All judiciously has the following benefits:

  • It's a great way to collaborate.
  • It saves time.
  • Your reputation as a responsible professional will remain intact.
When thinking about your professional brand and image management goals, responsible use of Reply All should be on the list.


Beth Yvette Strange, an AICI CIP (Internationally Certified Image Professional) and Certified Brand Analyst, is CEO of Chapman International. Chapman specializes in a 360 degree solution called Presence Management™, encompassing Image Management, Brand Development, Reputation Management, and Public Relations for individuals, groups, and companies needing to refine their personal and professional presentation.

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