I love 5% of the “reply all” emails I get at school. Wait . . . I hate 100% of the “reply all” emails I get at school. I only love the 5% of reply alls that get hijacked by my smart ass colleagues who turn them into jokes. Take the day we got notice that the “Cow Bus” was running late. Imagine the pun battle. That was a good day…
But most reply all emails are the hangnail of my existence, resurfacing multiple times a day to make my nerves twinge.
It has to stop. That reply all reform is not a major topic of presidential policy and debate is infuriating. Since our top political leaders aren’t willing to address this issue, we need to take action ourselves. And, as everyone who watches My Strange Addiction knows, step one of change is awareness.
We begin, then, by helping people identify their role. Below are the 9 types of people who are destroying our email sanity:
1. The Reply Allcoholic
This person’s gut response to any email is to reply all, regardless of content. Someone’s looking for her coffee mug? Reply all to let everyone know you don’t have it. An offer for free tickets to the football game? Boom: Reply all to tell us why you’re too busy to go. The Reply Allcoholic is the most severe case. This person may not even know that there is a “Reply to Sender” option.
2. The Smart Ass
The Smart Ass is incapable of giving a sincere response. Perhaps it’s boredom. Perhaps he or she is plagued by repressed memories of missing punch lines. This person can only make a mockery of mass emails. However irking, this role serves a critical purpose: He or she helps people consider whether to reply all and thus take the risk of being bullied by the Smart Ass.
3. The Closet Smart Ass
A more advanced stage of The Smart Ass is the Closet Smart Ass. This person is able to produce satirical responses so advanced that a large proportion of the staff won’t even catch the joke. Unfortunately, this role is gasoline on the frustrating flames of email threads. One response from the closet smart ass is likely to multiply responses three-fold as people try to work out whether it was a joke or not.
4. The Proud Mama/Papa Bear
A warmhearted soul, the Proud Mama/Papa Bear just really wants you to know some exciting news about his or her students. Mackenzie got a response from Highlights magazine, and I thought you all should know. Amir just won a $100 scholarship from the Future Zoologists Organization. Although there is nothing wrong with the Proud Mama/Papa Bear’s joyful tell-all, the issue emerges when people attempt to one-up each other with congratulatory praise, even weeks later.
5. The NPRvangelist
Every school has at least one NPRvangelis—someone who has a constant stream of boring NPR news stories lilting in the air. Nary a group email can exist without the NPRvangelist sharing an “interesting” (a.k.a. not interesting) podcast or news clip about the topic at hand. While no one actually reads these articles, the next time you see the NPRvangelist he or she will ask if you “saw that article I sent.” It’s important to have at least one reference to This American Life handy to shift the NPRvangelist’s focus away from the fact that you ignore every email he/she sends.
6. The Pot Stirrer
We can thank the Pot Stirrer for keeping everyone grumpy. Rather than speak to an administrator directly, like a responsible person should, the Pot Stirrer poses controversial questions to the whole flippin’ building. You thought the yoga pant dress code debacle was history until the Pot Stirrer writes, “I thought we made a rule against yoga pants. Why am I still seeing so many?” These issues usually have nothing to do with actual learning, but the Pot Stirrer knows just the topics to get people fired up. “Did we ever decide on a whole-school policy for cell phones?” “Anyone else not getting follow-through when they send behaviors to the front office?”
7. The Angst-Hole
In days goneby, a teacher was only subjected to griping at the monthly staff meeting. Thanks to the jerks who made the interwebs, the modern teacher is now liable for an angst-induced vent at the click of a button. The Angst-Hole has a bone to pick with . . . life and wants to make sure everyone knows it. Complaints range from student backpacks to evaluations to a 500 word lecture on how to change the copier toner for the next person. Consider the Angst-Hole a former Pot Stirrer with an extra decade of teacher rage. Whatever you do, whether you agree or not, do not respond to the Angst-hole.
8. Mr. Cryptic
A lover of obscure literature, Mr. Cryptic packs a lot of meaning into nonsensical emails. Usually the message title contains the key idea with only a “?” in the actual email. Or, a pure lack of predicate exists, such as,
RTI. Peyton. Tier 2 but complicated. Thoughts?
There is little need to respond because (a.) you don’t know what the hell he’s talking about and (b.) by the time you generate a response, Mr. Cryptic has already come up with his own answer. Much like the Closet Smart Ass, Mr. Cryptic’s emails generate more unnecessary reply alls as people give thirty interpretations of the original message.
9. The Paranoia Prompter
Usually an administrator, the Paranoia Prompter mass messages a vague criticism or warning that’s intended for just a few people. Examples include:
I'm noticing a few of you aren't following the handbook on tardies.
I'd like you all to revisit the teacher dress code in your staff handbook.
We had thirteen errors on that last fire drill.
No matter how upstanding of a teacher you are, the Paranoia Prompter will make you question everything about your existence.
There are endless other roles—the Devil’s Annoying Advocate, the Enthusiastic Newbie, Technologicas Ignoramus—but the above 9 are the most important roles to identify and curb.
And this leads us to a critical question: When should you hit reply all? Use and share this chart to help:
Together, we can cure “Reply All Disease” and regain our sanity. Let’s work together. Let’s fight. Let’s make email great again . . . or at least bearable for one day.
Chase Mielke, author of G-Words: 20 Strategies for Fostering Grit and Growth Mindset, is a learning junkie who happens to have a love affair with teaching. His obsessions with psychology, well-being and cognition often live on his blog, affectiveliving.com.
Follow him on Twitter @chasemielke.