Why worry so much about a reply-all gone wrong when we can just get rid of the option for good? That's the plan for at least one sales team at Wells Fargo, where "reply all" is a "swear word" around the office, reports Mike Rosenwald at The San Francisco Chronicle. The head of the bank's sales division tried to remove the button from company email altogether, but when that didn't work he made a "gentleman's agreement" with his staff to just stop using it. Which is kind of brilliant, if you're one of those in a rising tide of worrywarts — and a growing number of the recently unemployed — who agree that mass-email functionality can lead to more accidental anxiety than everyday utility. But could this really be the end of reply-all mail at work?
Sure, at times, clicking "reply all" makes things easier: if you want to talk to a group of people, that's the easy and long accepted option. But in reality, the button doesn't get much use: Only five percent of all emails sent in American offices are the result of a reply-all, according to data from VoloMetrix share with the Chronicle. Now compare that to the percentage of time you live in fear of sending out an embarrassing email to a list of people including not one but several of your bosses. Yeah, we're questioning the long acceptance now, too.
More than the benign accidental note sent to a group of uninterested coworkers, the reply-all has turned into something potentially dangerous. For one, there is the impending Replyallcalypse that threatens the take-over take over a truly mass e-mail list, as it did for NYU listervs last month. There are also cases of people getting fired because of a reply-all gone wrong. An administrative assistant in Texas lost her job last year because she sent her entire company a message that went something like this: "I really thought this email titled ‘Exciting News’ was going to be about X getting canned!!!!" Of course we can't muster too much sympathy for someone who wrote such a mean thing about a coworker, but other people have gotten canned for far more innocent reply-all mistakes. Some examples:
- Gustavo Reveles had to leave his job at the U.S. Border Patrol for using the words "kiss" and "ass" in a reply-all.
- Gary Chaplin lost his job for sending this reply to a what he thought was a spammer — and his entire company: "If you are not bright enough to learn how to 'bcc' ... then please f--- off ... you are too stupid to get a job, even in banking."
- "Jeff" got fired for writing this: "Ken, I'd suck your dick if Mark's tongue wasn't already in your ass."
- A principal lost his job after sending out an email to his entire school, instead of a set of parents, discussing the progress of a special-needs child.
Some might argue that these people deserved what they got. But then there is that moment, right after you hit "send" on a message to one person an email chain, when you can't help but wonder it to yourself: "Did I just hit reply-all by accident?" The relief upon double-checking may not make up for the anxiety that precedes it. Think about that.