REFLECTION: Andrew Cawood, the CIO at Neilsen (the multinational marketing, trend tracking company) started the new year with a burr under his saddle (or a bug in his bonnet) over the efficiency-sapping impact of the Reply All email function. So determined is Cawood to shape up the email misbehaviour of Neilsen employees that he has order the Reply All function to be eliminated from the company’s Outlook software.
Now, most of us have been victims at one time or another of the over zealous copying of messages – reluctant recipients of missives in which we had little or no interest whatsoever. Still, as tempted as I am to cheer Cawood’s decisive declaration, I doubt whether it will be all that effective.
After all, even without the Reply All option, misguided thoughtless souls can easily continue to torment others by adding them to Distribution Lists and popping the group addresses into the cc or bcc line of the message. For better or for worse, there are always fixes and work-arounds.
Mostly what Cawood’s action generates for me are echoes of ‘disciplines past’. To wit. Someone unfortunately sports a pair of Daisy Dukes on ‘Casual Friday’ and all of a sudden, even well tailored walking shorts and capris are ‘off the list’. Cast your mind back to schooldays and the classmate who acted up in class. His bad, but all missed recess and were slammed with dentention.
It’s a page from the ‘someone’s foolish…let’s get rulish’ school of management. Instead of addressing a specific problem with a specific person, everybody takes a hit.
Problems with individual behaviours are rarely resolved with wide sweeping hints or generalized blanket rules or memos. Specifically targeted action has a better chance to make a difference.
The real problem here is that Reply All offenders are wasting the time of others by forwarding useless information that people don’t want to receive.
ACTION: Now maybe Cawood tried different approaches, and this decree was a last resort. I don’t know the full backstory are all the steps that led to this decision.
But I do believe that an effective process for addressing missteps looks more like this.
* Determine how often the problem is occurring.
* Identify the business consequences.
* Educate the offenders about the impact of the problem
* Encourage better choices.
* Police the folks who continue to misuse the function.
* Apply the law of natural consequences. (For example, if dear old ‘Reply Al’ continues to misuse his namesake function, create a filter that blocks or tosses all messages that originate from Al! Being flipped out of the loop completely just might get his attention and prompt a change in behavior!)
* Don’t toss everybody in virtual jail just because it’s expedient and possible!
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Good judgment comes from experience, and often experience comes from bad judgment.” – Rita Mae Brown
RESOURCE OF THE WEEK: Want more on email etiquette and policies? Check out the information at: http://www.emailreplies.com/
READERS WRITE: In response to last week’s ‘Five Good Minutes’ Pause message, PW writes: “Thank again for a great weekly newsletter. I’m forwarding this one on to a few folks who I know NEED to read it (including me). I think I’ll have to print this edition and post it all over my office, at home, and at work. I chuckled right out loud at the quote about the Tupperware lid. Too funny! Thanks for the laugh.