Friday, April 13, 2012

Courtesy in the online world: Reply All, embarrassing?

This week one of our business partners has repeatedly forwarded on the emails he's received from a third party: the other guy just doesn't "get" the 'Reply to All' function, it seems...

If Alice, Bob and Charlie are communicating by email then it's rude, naive and unprofessional of Bob just to hit 'Reply' and shut Charlie out of the loop; and it causes extra work for Alice to forward stuff on to Charlie to bring him back to speed. Bob simply learning to use 'Reply All' solves the problem.

Of course, 'Reply All' can be misused, and it often is. Some organizations are so political that people add others to the circulation list of emails 'just in case' and to protect their position. In this environment 'Reply All' becomes a serious pain and a drain on productivity.

To be an  effective professional in the online world, you have to think hard about these little details of presentation. I don't always get it right,
  • but I try to keep my "To" list for emails restricted to the (few) who need to take action; 
  • "Cc" is for those who absolutely have a need to know, but I'm not expecting them to do anything; 
  • "Bcc" is something I try not to use, much. A good example, I had to correct a situation by email: I wrote to 'Bob' - and only him, to spare his blushes - but put 'Charlie' in the Bcc list because he needed to be kept in the loop. I then explained to Charlie why I'd done what I did, to protect Bob from further embarrassment. It worked.
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