Over the last several years we’ve been well lectured on the horrors of absent mindedly clicking “reply all” on emails and thereby sending out embarrassing or inappropriate messages. It appears that message has sunk in and the good news is there seems to be fewer of those stories circulating. Good news right? Not so fast on that reply!

Enter the proliferation of social media and broadcast responses to almost every communication. Since it’s “social” it doesn’t seem to matter the use or content. It’s just very convenient to be able to deliver one message to a couple of dozen folks; even if that message is just a one word response. And so we have again blurred the lines between what is good for Facebook or Twitter and what is proper etiquette for email in a business environment. And why having few simple rules for professional communication is still incredibly important.

Here’s one of my pet peeves:

Scenario: There is an email thread circulating among several folks in the office that correctly includes the appropriate participants. It is shared information that each party on the email should know or may want to be able to comment on within the conversation. It is collaborative. For some on the email participation is essential, for it is informational and they may choose to stay quiet. Still the information exchanged in that email thread is important to each person. Enter the email “stripper”. They use “reply” in the middle of the email thread, and in so doing, disconnect the very people that should see what they have to say. It gets worse. Side threads now get started, and some but not all of the original participants get associated with these separate email threads. And poof, the idea of a collaborative discussion gets disrupted, and effective communication gets tossed to curb. It’s even more fun if someone was blind copied and decides to reply.

Here’s a simple tip. If you are on a shared email and you wish to contribute to the group conversation, use “reply all”. It’s okay. You won’t appear in a YouTube video. Just heed the sage advice of Ron Burgundy and “keep it classy”. If you do need to comment “off line” to an individual on the email, try going old school and pick up the phone and call them. Yup, that still works.

With every form of communication imaginable right at our fingertips, it’s understandable that many of us have morphed what is acceptable on social media into the rules for email road in a professional office. So, we break it down one rule at a time starting with my personal vexation. Take a moment before you hit reply. Don’t be a stripper!

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