Software

When e-mail serves to lower productivity

E-mail's "Reply All" function seems to lend itself to misuse. Here are some reasons not to use it.

Many moons ago, I wrote a blog about people who are e-mail impaired. Among the many infractions I listed, one was a personal pet peeve: The apparently uncontrollable urge by some people to "Reply All."

If you're in a group of people who are all on one thread because you're seeking a common piece of information, then by all means, Reply All to your heart's content. That's what it's for.

But if your reply to some group copied e-mail is something like "OK" or some attempt to suck up like, "Wow, Jim, I have to say your e-mail messages never cease to enrich my existence," you should resist the lure of the Reply All siren. Because if you don't, the group then has to read 29 other responses like "Sure does!" and "Thanks for sharing!"

I will acknowledge that I can be a curmudgeon, but I'm fighting the battle of information overload just like nearly every other human on the face of the earth.

Jonathan Spira, a chief analyst for Basex, Inc., forecasts information overload will be the problem of the year for 2008. In a piece for msnbc.com, Spira said that Reply All can actually lower workers' productivity:

Workers get disoriented every time they stop what they are doing to reply to an e-mail. Workers can spend 10 to 20 times the length of the original interruption trying to get back on track. It's too much information. It's too many interruptions. It's too much lost time.

His advice? Make sure the subject line of your e-mail clearly reflects the topic and urgency of the e-mail. And use Reply All sparingly.

Okay, so let me have it. Are there any Reply All devotees out there who want to come to its rescue?

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

Editor's Picks