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“Reply All” Messages Cause Uproar At State Department

A lesson in etiquette and email storms

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Here’s a little validation for everyone who thinks politicians talk too much.  Patrick Kennedy, the U.S. State Department’s Under Secretary of State for Management, has warned everyone in his organization to be careful about clicking the "reply all" button when responding to emails.

Patrick Kennedy
 Patrick Kennedy

This goes a bit beyond standard, don’t-annoy-your-coworkers good behavior; it seems that some sort of mass email exchange nearly overwhelmed the State Department’s email system last week.  Several thousand people would receive messages, and then manage to tell each other that they wanted to be removed from the mailing list.  Others would pop in saying not to do this, and then attempts to recall emails would add to the strain.

As a result, Kennedy instructed State Department employees to "take immediate action" and become "aware of the negative impact of hitting ‘reply all.’"  According to an OhMyGov! article, he also stated, "[A]nyone who disregards these instructions will be subject to disciplinary actions."

Kennedy used an unclassified cable to send his message, by the way, thus more or less following his own advice and avoiding the possibility for another mishap.

It’s a little bit unnerving to see an important U.S. agency threatened by overly chatty personnel, but everything seems to be back to normal by now.

“Reply All” Messages Cause Uproar At State Department
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  • http://www.SperrySoftware.com Mike Sperry

    After listening to all the customer stories I have heard over the years, I guarantee it will happen again. There are tools to prevent this – Permessa for instance, or our own Reply To All Monitor (http://www.SperrySoftware.com/Outlook/Reply-To-All-Monitor.asp).
    It seems a bit harsh to enforce disciplinary action for an error that technology can correct.

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  • http://www.scrubly.com scrubly

    Good tip, I know of many who make this mistake and send messages to people who aren’t supposed to get them.

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