People blame technology for things all the time. “My alarm clock didn’t go off”, “the train was late”, “my tamegotchi ate my homework”. However, what most of these people fail to grasp is that invariably it is they that are at fault, not the bundle of plastic, metal and assorted techie goodness that they are passing the buck to.
Never is this more true than in the workplace, and never in the workplace is it more true than when it comes to one of Microsoft’s greatest and most oft-misused ideas: the dreaded Reply All button.
Countless are the examples of important information getting accidentally copied to each and every member of a large group or organisation. Information such as pay cheques, personal phone numbers, even expenses can have hugely damaging effects on all those involved, as recently was proved by those in Westminster.
However, just as damaging in terms of wasting staff time are those discussions which pale into insignificance when compared to, well, just about everything else.
Over the course of the average year we will have an average of four such discussions take place. In the past these have included the installation of new water coolers, the changing of vending machine suppliers and the all important problem of the lack of toilet rolls in some toilets. Don’t get me wrong, all of these are things which need to be brought up, but surely not with every single person in the Council, from Assistant Tea Stirer’s Mate down to Chief Executive.
Not only are these discussions entirely pointless but often aren’t even made up of people discussing the original problem. Besides a few comments about similar problems in different Council buildings the majority of conversational additions are simply people telling everyone else to stop using the reply all button. The irony in them using the reply all button to do just that is generally missed by all concerned, and results in gems such as:
e-mailer 1 – “Can everyone stop using the reply all button to reply to these comments as it is filling up my inbox.”
e-mailer 2 – “That’s right, with the problem of only being allowed 2MB inboxes anyway which get filled up with the first picture of a cat being cute sent on a Monday I struggle to delete things quick enough as it is, and these e-mails aren’t helping.”
e-mailer 3 – “If people have something to say can they direct it to facilities management rather than replying to all, as it is really annoying.”
e-mailer 4 – “Not only is it annoying but actually goes against the Council’s e-mail and intranet usage policy. Still, technically so does making any use of e-mail or the intranet for anything interesting, so that doesn’t actually get us anywhere…”
e-mailer 5 – “And anyway, we shouldn’t be talking about this, instead we should be discussing what we are going to do about the lifts, which take ages to come. Let’s get them sorted out before worrying about who our office suppliers are.”
e-mailer 6 – “Can anyone explain why we aren’t allowed to use the stairs any more?”
e-mailer 1 – “Look, I’ve asked nicely and now I’m telling you – STOP REPLYING TO EVERYONE!”
e-mailer 3 – “Oh, and here’s a picture of a kitten that looks like it’s got a moustache, isn’t it cute!”
And so the list goes on until we all get told off and put on the naughty step (which is impressive as we are not officially allowed to use the stairs, but that’s a subject for another post).
Seriously, if you can’t be responsible about using the reply all button then frankly you shouldn’t be allowed to use a computer. In fact, you shouldn’t really be allowed out of the house, or be left alone with anything complicated like shoe laces or peanut butter.