The Perils of 'Reply All'


We have blogged before about the lurking perils of engaging with your workforce through email or text.

The recent ‘Salad Bowl’ case reinforced just how careful you have to be when communicating instantaneously through various media channels rather than face to face through well planned, structured and often scripted meetings.

It reminded me of a true story I was involved in a few years back with a well known iconic NZ company (which incidentally but importantly as you will read later has Blue as it company’s brand colours).

It goes like this…

The CEO who I will call Jill is at home on a Sunday when in the middle of her child’s 10th birthday party receives an email from “Fred” who informs her that he is tending his resignation and returning to his home country.
Fred is a valued Manager in her organisation.
The CEO immediately responds to Fred suggesting he may wish to reconsider his resignation given that she was thinking about moving Fred's Manager ("Jack”) on and if that role interested Fred he could effectively make the role his own if it made a difference to his decision to leave.

Before hitting the REPLY ALL button Jill forgot to check who else had been copied in.

Reply All use carefully

Five seconds later the responding email hit around 80 Blackberries and iPhones simultaneously including that of Jack who was enjoying his Sunday lunch. Up until then Jack had no idea of any pending restructure or any under performance allegation. Jack; after a small bout of indigestion then rang his General Manager (“John”) and said ‘I am guessing that email was not meant for me’.

Jack was a much respected and highly experienced 40 year employee with an unblemished employment record and on a very generous salary package!

John rings me and says ‘Houston we have a problem!’

Two days later this little error is fixed in a settlement that cost the Company hundreds of thousands of dollars.


Just before his leaving function I asked Fred what he was going to do with his life. He looked at me with a wry smile and said.....“ Well… I’m going to go back home to Rotorua…I am going to buy myself a bloody big blue boat and I am going to call it…… (you guessed it). REPLY ALL!

Mistakes can be costly when distracted…whatever you do,  check your email thread in the future before you push the ‘Reply All’ button

By Paul Bell


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