Thursday, August 23, 2007

Reply-All Thank You E-mails: Costing Companies Millions of Dollars a Year

Author: Nick
Category: Money
Topics: ,

in hell, reply-all is the only option when sending e-mails

Thank you e-mails. Shudder. You’ve probably gotten them before yourself, especially if you work for a company with internal e-mailing lists and lots of employees. It doesn’t matter whether your company makes billion-dollar computer systems or pink pony stationery; the following situation will eventually happen to you:

  1. Person A (we’ll call him Samantha since his parents really wanted a girl) sends an e-mail to multiple distribution lists informing everyone of very important breaking news. For example, the building is on fire, or the cafeteria is out of pudding.
  2. Grateful for the advice that saved her from burning to death or taking an unnecessary walk to the cafeteria for non-existent pudding, Person B (we’ll call her Big Sally) hits “Reply All,” types “Thanks Samantha,” and presses “Send.”
  3. You (we’ll call you Chestaroti McFinkelstein) sit down at your desk and read through your e-mails, eventually getting to Samantha’s fiery or puddingly warning. You also see a reply from Big Sally in your inbox. You open it, eager to discover if the pudding stocks have been replenished. Alas, it is simply a thank you to Samantha that Big Sally decided to share with you and 2,000 other company employees.

Her intentions were noble, but Big Sally just cost you five seconds of your life and your company $277. How do I figure that? Let’s say that each of your 2,000 co-workers costs your company an average of $100 an hour (including benefits, bonuses, and all that wine you guys drink at the company Christmas party).

2,000 employees x $100/hour ÷ 3600 seconds x 5 seconds to read the thank you e-mail = $277.78

Now let’s say that each of those 2,000 employees sends just one mass-thanking a year.

2,000 employees x $277.78 = $555,560

Thanks to you and your co-workers thanks, your CEO will be unable to feed his daughter a diet of molten gold and crushed diamonds she so greatly deserves. Way to go, Chestaroti!

Fixing the Reply-All Thank You Problem

There are many apparent solutions to the reply-all thank you dilemma, but most of them won’t work.

  • Reply-Not-All. Instead of hitting “Reply All” when sending your thanks, you could simply click “Reply” and send your thanks only to Samanta. This won’t work because, thinking that Samantha is going unthanked, many of your 2,000 co-workers will also thank him individually. Samantha spends the rest of the day reading thank you e-mails, and the cafeteria pudding stocks remain empty through tomorrow.
  • Stop by the thankee’s office. Delivering your thanks in person rather than over e-mail is more personal, but as with Reply-Not-Alls, everyone else will still e-mail thanks to Samantha (and copy the rest of the company). Or maybe they’ll all line up in front of his office, costing the company far more than $277 an e-mail.
  • Give no thanks. Sure, this might save your company over half a million dollars a year if you and every single one of your co-workers agreed to ban thank you e-mails, but then everyone would go unthanked and unappreciated. Workplace depression would skyrocket, and mental healthcare costs would triple your insurance premiums.

My solution is simple and will save your company thousands of man hours this year alone. I present to you… your new work uniform:

t-shirt: thank you for whatever you did for me or may eventually do for me or are doing for me right now. you are really awesome, and i hope reading this t-shirt can take the place of a reply-all thank you e-mail that would just waste everybody's time

Your co-workers will feel so thanked and appreciated that they won’t need to send reply-all thank you e-mails ever again. I thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter (cc: the whole freaking world).

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