what’s the etiquette for reply-all email disasters?

A reader writes:

Can we get a definitive ruling on the etiquette when someone accidentally emails an incorrect email list in a large office? Today I went to lunch for 40 minutes and came back to 239 emails — someone emailed the wrong distribution list for a request (there were over 1,000 people on this list). It always starts with few people emailing back and replying to all that it’s the wrong list, but then more people pile on. Soon we are in a “reply all” hell of emails saying “please remove me from this list” or “I received this in error.” Then it inevitably descends into “please stop replying all” and “why are people replying to all?”

Today it got so bad that my Outlook crashed. I have now received 430 emails less than 70 minutes. It’s descending into madness! Shouldn’t we all just delete after we see the first couple emails alerting the person to what happened? Why are people piling on?

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Colleague causes confusion with voice-to-text
  • Can I forward a candidate to my old employer?
  • Can I ask someone to stop tagging me on LinkedIn?

{ 293 comments… read them below }

  1. Goldenrod*

    Oh man, this is my FAVORITE office thing. I love when someone inevitably replies all with the directive: “Stop replying all!” So funny!! ;D

    1. Zona the Great*

      I LOVE this when it happens! I live for it! I would love for someone, after the chaos has died down, to reply all and say, “hey guys, where did we land on this?” and let it all go again.

      1. Ray B Purchase*

        This happened at my workplace about a year ago! I would wager that around 2,000 people were involved with this Reply All and it went through the usual 3-4 days of “This isnt for me” then “Stop replying all” then “Stop replying to tell people to stop replying all” and then finally died down.

        Cue 2 weeks later some guy known to be kind of a self-important douche replies all saying he just returned from vacation and noticed this in his inbox and that while the matter was almost certainly resolved by now, the person who sent it should feel consolation that we’ve all made this mistake before (as an aside, no…we haven’t) and he’s sure their reputation will heal in time. Immediately, a partner replies back “DO NOT REPLY TO THIS”

      1. SheLooksFamiliar*

        One of our C-levels was completely out of character during a reply-all meltdown: ‘FFS, people, IT knows about this! Your manager probably told IT, too. Stop adding your 2 cents and making it worse!’ He did not use FFS, just saying.

        But yeah, I think the CXO was on to something, and there should be a company-wide announcement after one of those meltdowns: If there’s another ‘reply all’ situation, DO NOT respond via email. Tell your manager, they will handle communication with IT.

      2. Pickwick*

        We had a rash of these events, several in the course of a few weeks; some sensors covering medicine storage areas were being updated one by one, and occasionally an “incorrect data” notification went out to the thousands of people in the temp-monitoring group. The third time this happened, a Doctor of Rheumatology in the group immediately responded with a beautiful, AI-rendered, oil-paint-style image of an office flooded by emails.

        Water was pouring into an office area, but that water was carrying a tide of little white “new email” envelope icons. Haggard-looking office workers try to bail out their cubicles, tossing buckets of envelopes back into the sea whilst their monitors all mock them by displaying that same icon, blown up to fit each screen. One employee hunches over in a rowboat, attempting to stay afloat atop the unstable surface. Rather ominously, some kind of rudimentary face, with red, glowing eyes and mouth, watches in apparent satisfaction from the stormy clouds above.

        It’s now my desktop background. His email didn’t stop the flood, but by George, it was a good effort.

    2. Person from the Resume*

      In Microsoft outlook, use the Ignore Conversation button to send all these messages to the deleted items folder. You won’t have to witness the carnage of the out of control Reply All.

      1. cosmicgorilla*

        Challenge with Ignore Conversation is when folks reply all, but change the header. Outlook doesn’t recognize it as the same conversation then.

        Really, the reply all storm is just due to a lack of common sense and thinking. First few, ok. The rest? How do you NOT see the 500 responses that have gone back and forth already before you add the 501st? It’s not like Outlook only delivers a single email to you at a time.

        My company now uses a feature where the email won’t go out unless the email was sent by an owner on the mailer. This feature is triggered if there are more than a certain # of users on that mailer. It has helped.

      2. Pickwick*

        My boss will love you for this tip. She’s on even more email groups than I am. Thank you for sharing!

      3. TamiToo*

        I discovered this nifty little feature during a job when someone would send out a “happy birthday to ” e-mail to the entire company. Then, instead of e-mailing or calling, or stopping by the desk of the birthday person, everyone on the e-mail would then “reply all” e-mail a happy birthday e-mail. E-mail inbox flood ensued. It was maddening.

    3. Ally McBeal*

      This hasn’t happened to me since I was in college but I also loved it because of the incredible snark (and, since this was at college, a sternly worded “letter to the editor” in the student paper a day or two later). The appropriate thing to do in this sort of situation, though, is to ask the IT department to interfere and block any further emails in the thread.

      1. Trina*

        College is also the last time I saw a reply apocalypse – that one definitely had some intentional trolling mixed into the replies!

      2. I Laugh at Inappropriate Times*

        I think that’s what happened to our last reply-all snafu; someone accidentally emailed a 3,000+ list, emails flew for an hour, then suddenly stopped. I was disappointed. it was quite entertaining.

        1. PhyllisB*

          Seeing this response, do you know what snafu stands for? I always knew it meant things are messed up, but never knew the precise meaning until I read a novel that mentioned it. We learn new things everyday LOL.

          1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

            I did — apparently these came out of military culture and I have some veterans in my family — but once had to explain it to a coworker who spelled it “snaffoo” and didn’t realize it was an acronym. (Thankfully a reply-allpocalypse in my office wouldn’t be SNAFU, because they’re not common. But, it might be FUBAR.)

    4. Bettina*

      I agree — I love seeing a ‘reply all’ journey unfold. The best I encountered recently was on a mailing list for a volunteer group. Tons of people replying all imploring others not to reply all; a couple brave souls pointing out that this was a mailing list and there was no reply all option, so the only way to kill the thread was for people to just stop replying; and one person threatening legal action (!!) if people didn’t stop emailing her.

      1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

        Oh, I’d be so tempted to reply-all “What kind of legal action?”

    5. Kai*

      I love this too! I even refuse to mute the thread. Also as a tip: I found that if your outlook crashes when deleting tons of emails you can try the web version of outlook and it works like a charm

    6. Wilbur*

      I’ve tried to help by detailing the “Ignore” feature in Outlook, but it is futile. For those not familiar, there is an “Ignore” feature (Cntrl+Del) that may eliminate or limit the impact of the reply all emails.

      Had one of these earlier in the year on an distribution list that had over 14k people. The whole thing went on for days.

      1. MrsBuddyLee*

        Its great until you crash the organizations e-mail server. I work at a large (>100,000 employees) company where an reply-all storm prevented *any* e-mails from getting through for the rest of the day. Made for great focus time but sucked for anyone who actually needed to exchange e-mails to do their job.

        1. RP*

          I have to wonder if we were on the same one. Same size company, and it took IT a four-hour email shutdown to basically delete all of the emails. That was a nice, quiet day after the initial storm.

    7. AlexandrinaVictoria*

      Where I work one of these was stopped in its tracks when a manger emailed “The next person to reply all to this email WILL be written up!”

      1. MsMaryMary*

        Once during a reply-all debacle my manager stood up and announced that if anyone on her team responded, even as a joke, they would be fired. She was joking. Mostly.

    8. EvilQueenRegina*

      Last time that happened where I am, I timed how long it took for someone to reply all with “Stop replying all!” It was about 6 minutes.

    9. Momma Bear*

      You can also set up a rule to move everything with that subject into a folder so as not to clutter up your inbox.

    10. throwaway123*

      This happened when I was at college. The college was about 2,000 people. A freshman somehow individually added everyone at the college to an email to recruit for a research study. Someone realized it and started the chain with a, “Good afternoon everyone. ” The swim coach replied to be taken off the list; several professors also replied to be taken off…then the reply alls crashed the whole email server.

    11. Toots La'Rue*

      My best reply-allpocolypse included an IT ticketing email address that autoreplied to every email it got. Every time someone replied all to ask to be taken off or tell people to cut it out, the IT ticketing system replied… and then replied to itself….

    12. jasmine*

      Yes, I probably wouldn’t reply all because I don’t want to genuinely make another person’s day harder, but oh boy would it be tempting to do it and revel in the chaos

    13. SpaceySteph*

      MINE TOO! I guess I must be some kinda sociopath or something but these truly make my day when they happen.

      I don’t join, I just revel in the insanity.

    14. Lizzianna*

      I have 3 favorite Reply All-pocalypses.

      First, we occasionally have people send the wrong thing to “All Employees.” Invariably, someone will ask to be removed from the list. The only way to be removed from that list is to stop working there.

      Second story, my husband works for a state agency. Once they had a Reply All situation that go so bad it made our local paper.

      Finally, my old boss once meant to send something to our office about a politically sensitive safety issue at the start of pandemic. She instead sent it to our whole organization. She was really skirting the line putting what she put in writing (it was important and the right thing to do, but the powers that be did not want to see that kind of thing go out). She ended up replying all saying “Sorry, this was just meant for my team, but I hope you all stay safe too!” Then when her boss called to talk to her about it, she ended up lecturing him on IT security and said it shouldn’t be that easy for someone to accidentally email our whole organization without permission. She got several emails from other offices thanking her for her obvious care for her team.

    15. Jamoche*

      I worked at a place where we had email lists for people with the clearance for specific projects. If you had clearance, you were on the list. They weren’t for discussing the projects, just for the very infrequent times that the project leaders needed to notify everyone. You could be on a dozen of those lists and not ever realize it. The only way to get off the list was to have your clearance removed.

      Despite every email to that list having boilerplate text explaining why you got email from it, inevitably one of those rare messages would get a reply-all “remove me from this list!” from someone who didn’t know that clearance for project A included clearance for project B.

    16. Reluctant Mezzo*

      I know that nobody follows Dilbert any more, but I can’t help thinking of “Tina, the red-faced monkey of love”.

    17. Jules*

      This has never happened to me. I am so sad that I’ve never gotten the chance to experience this particular piece of work absurdity just once.

  2. TeenieBopper*

    Proper replay all etiquette is to email your IT team and tell them to get their house in order.

    1. PacketLoss*

      This!! Let the IT team know what’s going on because they likely have tools to block and even remove the messages that were sent in error. I work in IT and have helped clean up after something like this very recently…

    2. Admin of Sys*

      I mean, if it’s a enterprise level managed list, sure, but many organizations, even decently sized and staffed ones allow clients to manage their own email list sending rules. And if a department has decided to allow allow of their list members to have reply-all rights, that’s on them. Mind you, if you get to the point of crashing outlook, it’s probably worth bringing down a gentle hammer on such things, but it’s really not feasable to have all lists locked down across an org.

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      Truth. I am UNABLE in my org Outlook to send to our large distribution lists without using the BCC field, which eliminates the reply all hell. If I do it accidentally, I get an auto reply admonishing me and it fails to send. The BCC’ed recipients will not receive any reply emails from the other recipients, even if they select “Reply all”

      1. Ashley*

        What amazes me are the number of people who don’t understand what BCC is and why you use it.
        I had one volunteer group insist on using CC (and thus sharing my personal info in an unauthorized fashion) because the ED who they sent on the emails on behalf of wouldn’t know who she invited to events. Given the group of volunteers that weren’t really tech savy themselves the number of reply all about not being interested, able to attend, an the litany of details about illnesses was exhausting. I was so glad when they retired.

        1. Ama*

          To be fair on Outlook the BCC line is hidden by default — the first thing I have to do every time we get a new hire in our office is tell them how to turn it on.

          I have for years wished there was a way to group bcc’s for limited visibility because I mostly bcc a group of people with assistants and so now I have to include in every email “Your assistants have been bcc’d on this message,” otherwise we get multiple emails asking us to include their assistant on the message. I’ve even had an assistant outright lie to their boss that they weren’t receiving our messages (as an explanation for why he repeatedly failed to put our meeting dates on the boss’s calendar) because he knew the boss’s version of the message wouldn’t show his name.

        2. Reluctant Mezzo*

          I know, I keep telling people to use BCC because I honestly do not want to have 250 email addresses added to any message.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        My undergraduate institution had an all-campus email list that ANYONE could send to. ANYONE. You didn’t even have to have an email address from the institution. joeblow@sketchy-free-early-2ooos-email could send mail to every single human being affiliated with the college.

        It was the early 2000s and a very small, not-terribly-well-known college so this mostly went better than you’d expect, but we averaged about one all-campus flame war per year.

        They finally put the kibosh on it when one of those viruses went around that you could get just by looking at the email preview in Outlook Express (which everyone used because early 2000s). Once you got it it immediately sent itself to everyone you’d ever emailed, so the entire campus got it multiple times.

        1. Tradd*

          OMG, email preview. And reading panes. I refuse to use both. Coworkers think I’m bats!

        2. Berkeleyfarm*

          Email macro viruses made my life hell in the early-mid 2000s. I worked for a local government that had a lot of addresses. Stuff bounced around our system for days, people screamed at us non stop, and we made the local paper.

    4. Venus*

      It shouldn’t even be feasible. Our big distribution lists have limits on who can send to them.

      1. CR*

        Yes, once I accidentally try to reply-all to an email sent to the whole org and it wouldn’t let me send it.

      2. Kevin Sours*

        There are all kinds of tools. Restricting access. Putting messages in a moderation queue. Even putting a 15 minute delay on sending for emails sent to large lists would avoid real blow ups. It’s completely a technical problem.

      3. Reply all not on my watch*

        My company requires HR approval to be on the list to send to division distribution groups. We had issues in the past and Microsoft allows admins to set that function on distribution lists. It’s also handy for a team to have a list while blocking others. My IT team has one for us to communicate as a group and someone in another department tried saying they needed to have access to send emails to the group “in case of emergency”. My boss laughed saying there was no emergency where she could send us an email that she couldn’t send the email to the Helpdesk or simply call our support line. Our division leadership backed us up.

      4. Moira's Rose's Garden*

        This. My org has well over 20K employees. There are probably only 5 people who could email *everybody*, but even for smaller distribution lists, IT makes it so that only owners of the lists can reply-all.

        That said, it could be *hella* fun round these parts back in the early ‘aughts!

    5. Kevin Sours*

      This. People keep trying to make replayallpocalypses a user issue, but it’s fundmentally a technical issue. There is no reason random people need to be able to reply to massive mailing lists and there are tools to restrict that ability to the people who do. If your mail system is set up properly it can’t happen.

    6. Kristin*

      or, if you’re using Outlook, to immediately recall the message to limit the damage

    7. Karina*

      And some preventative treatment: teach your staff to use the BCC function when emailing large distribution lists.

      BCC seems to be email’s most secret non-secret. I’ve had a bunch of people ask me in confusion “How did this email get to me but my name’s not on the recipient list?”

      Because of the power of BCC.

      Besides the obvious of confidentiality of recipients, the Blind Carbon Copy is great for preventing unnecessary reply alls. People should use it more.

    1. Constance Lloyd*

      After taking approximately 30 seconds to set up a rule that files all responses to this email straight into the trash.

      1. Miss Pickles 2022*

        Love the ignore function. I actually learned about it during reply-all thread disaster. So glad I actually read that one.

  3. Archi-detect*

    the only time I have reply-alled in one of these situations was showin with a screenshot of how to use outlook’s ignore feature. 6 people replied to me thanking me for saving their sanity. It is a simple little thing, but outlook seems to be full of simple little things you have to know about to use

    1. Mostly Wearing Hats*

      Oh my goodness! I did not know this! Thank you Archi-detect – I am in your debt forever!

      1. NonprofitED*

        In Outlook in the top left hand corner you can press “Ignore” and it will put all replies directly into the deleted folder. Reply all is my biggest pet peeve! If I could remove it I would. I still can’t understand why someone thinks they need to reply all to say Thank you to the sender. 300 people don’t need to know you said thank you. Just say thank you to the original sender.

        1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

          I knew one person who regularly sent reply-all thank you and you’re welcome messages…beyond my comprehension.

          And why do so many people leave reply-all as the default option? Madness.

          1. La Triviata*

            The Bloggess (Jenny Lawson) is a very funny woman. She received an email from a company (marketing?) offering her the “opportunity” to carry something on her blog about something the Kardashians endorsed. It was not relevant to her, her blog or any interest of hers. She responded as she usually did and, somewhere along the line of the company’s internal emails and responses, someone hit “reply all” for a message in which she was called a bitch and she received it. She passed on the message to the top person in the company, with a mention that this was not recommended as a way to build a good customer relationship or a good professional reputation. I believe there was a firing as a result.

        2. Brain the Brian*

          Our annual auditors require that all emails pertaining to financial matters have someone with designated approval authority copied so that they can theoretically tell us peons that we’re doing something wrong or to formally disapprove a transaction or something. Reply-all in small groups is useful in situations like these.

    2. Lady_Blerd*

      OMG! Thank you!!!! We almost never have Reply all storms but I am often CCed in email chains that I don’t need to be involved in.

      1. Archi-detect*

        just be careful as it deletes everything on that thread, in case you need a copy

  4. JMA*

    Always the most fun day in the office. I love the sidebar email chains that pop up to mock the self-important, oblivious people who DEMAND to be removed from the conversation.

  5. SockKnitter*

    When I saw this starting up, I set up a rule to put all of those in a folder, which mostly worked, but people were having fun with it! Some changed the subject to keep it going, some made memes, and two or three people said something to the effect of ‘I know I shouldn’t, but I’m retiring soon so I’m adding to this anyway’.

    1. Archi-detect*

      We had a chili recipe discussion in one. There were over a thousand people on the chain

  6. EtTuBananas*

    The thing that strikes me most about the “voice-to-text” guy is that he says he often does it in his car. Let’s back this up – he should not be checking emails while driving! That’s so dangerous! Unless their office has no chat alternative (like Slack or Teams) most people I know expect an email reply within a few hours, not a few minutes. That’s more than enough time for him to arrive at his destination and type out a thoughtful response.

    1. juliebulie*

      Yes! Supposedly this person has zero time for answering emails except while he is driving. This might be a simple time management problem, or he might truly have too much to do. Risking everyone else’s safety is not the answer.

      1. Death-cat*

        The description of them as a co-lead scientist… I know this type. I work in clinical research, and so many PIs (Principal Investigators) are so self-important. There’s no way this person could *possibly* have the time to handle their email in a professional manner! They have so many important things to do!

        1. Orv*

          Once upon a time someone like that would have had a secretary to take their dictation.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      I imagine this is both a time management thing and an undisturbed block-of-time thing.

      He read the email in the office, but only when he’s in the car is he isolated from other people and can spend time expostulating on whatever the research subject is.

      “Thanks, Fergus, for bringing up the issue with doing the DNA analysis for llamas with marker XB43-Qr7. I suggest we try a couple of different approaches for characterizing them. First, we can re-use the breeder questionnaire forms that we sent out last year…”

      He doesn’t need to be referring to the original email for that. Lots of information about this particular project, and the general field, are well-organized in his brain, and he just needs the time to spit it all out.

      1. AMH*

        Sure, but voice to text is not safe (and in fact in some studies has been found to be nearly on par with texting while driving) and he shouldn’t be relying on it.

        1. Charley*

          This! The reason distracted driving is dangerous isn’t only if you’re physically looking at something – it’s that you’re attention is split and you’re brain isn’t able to process and respond to hazards as quickly as it should be.

          1. Brain the Brian*

            Oh, come on. It is definitely more dangerous to remove your eyes from the road than not. I wouldn’t advocate text-to-speech email while driving, but I would advocate it over typing.

            1. BikeWalkBarb*

              The point is they shouldn’t be doing email. They’re driving. Driving is a task that requires the prefrontal cortex, reflexes, visual field that shrinks when they drive faster, and many other factors. Running into someone with their two-ton-plus steel box because they “had” to do email will kill someone. There’s no justifying that.

              Signed, a person who works in transportation and gets weekly reports with the death toll

              1. Brain the Brian*

                Of course he shouldn’t. I’m just tired of people ignoring the obvious — that the thing that makes texting so much more dangerous than anything else you can do while driving is that it forces you to look elsewhere. People who design surveys that claim texting and talking on the phone with a hand-free device are equally as dangerous make me question the design of all the other surveys they’ve administered.

                And frankly, I’d be asleep behind the wheel half the time if I wasn’t allowed to make a phone call to help keep me awake. Can we at least acknowledge the extreme boredom factor when talking about this stuff?

                1. AMH*

                  If you need distraction in order to stay awake when driving, don’t drive. You are driving a multi ton vehicle that can kill people. Pay attention.

                2. Brain the Brian*

                  Let’s uninstall all car radios while we’re busy making cars completely distraction-free, why don’t we? And ban kids in cars! Those sneaky little gremlins distracting their parents.

                  If I could avoid driving altogether, I would. Most of my driving is on four-plus hour trips to see family in rural areas with no transit or nearby airports. The drives are boring — end of story.

    3. Three Owls in a Trench Coat*

      ^^^^ and that’s the root of the problem. And if he’s doing this outside of business hours, that’s a problem too.

      If he absolutely must send an urgent email or reply, he should call someone authorized to send messages on his behalf. “Team – I just got the phone call from Dr. Dangereux, and he wants the team to test the widgets for sprocket induction using the following parameters….”

    4. Rainy*

      I had someone dial into a zoom meeting while they were driving once and I declined to meet with them unless they pulled over. I did have the power in that situation, so I could just tell them to reschedule and end the meeting, but it’s so unsafe. And pointless! They aren’t taking notes, if their attention is on the road they’re not participating, if they’re participating, their attention isn’t on the road…I just don’t want any part of that.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Normally I would do the same, but once it was a co-worker driving on the family farm. He was showing us the landscape, and I’ve never seen anything so absolutely flat that wasn’t also paved. He could have gone off the road and it would be fine, plus he was driving about 15mph.

    5. Hyaline*

      This was my reaction! It’s not just the typing that’s a problem—he’s reading emails in order to respond to them! Just wait until you’re at your desk, or at least parked!

    6. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I really want an update for that letter. Did the guy ever figure out how to edit the emails before sending them? Did OP start asking him to clarify all the time so he got sick of using the voice-to-text?

      My mom uses voice to text all the time and it’s pretty hilarious how wrong her phone (whom she calls Veronica) gets things sometimes. What’s particularly weird is that sometimes the msg will have the correct text when Mom sees it before sending and then Veronica will change it at the time of sending so it’s wrong when I get it. Mom is a former technical writer and editor, so that makes it even more hilarious, and I find a large amount of joy in calling out the errors (because of course we both know it’s Veronica’s fault and not Mom’s). At one point Mom wrote back, “Veronica’s an idiot” and I responded, “Still smarter than [my really bad coworker I had at the time].”

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I call it “faux-recting,” as in “No, I DID in fact mean to say….”

          1. saf*

            My mother (who has to use speech to text for Parkinson’s reasons) is prone to follow up texts with “I didn’t say THAT! The phone said that.”

            1. Pickwick*

              At the bar I bucked and roared
              I picked a fight and I got floored
              I had a shot, got plumb insane
              Took everybody’s name in vain
              But all that stuff is just a bluff
              I wouldn’t hurt a flea
              It was Veronica talkin’, not me

    7. Carmina*

      Well, assuming he has a voice feature that reads his emails aloud, it’s not forbidden. I do agree it’s dangerous, but it’s more difficult to take a stand when almost every country allows hands-free phone calls and the like…

  7. Kivrin*

    I had an experience that combined two of these — a guy messaged me angrily on Linked In complaining that he was getting notifications about my posts and he DIDN’T EVEN KNOW ME and to stop. I wasn’t tagging him (or anyone). I had to explain (three times) that becoming my contact and notifications were all within his control, not me spamming him. I removed him from my contact list but he didn’t seem to realize that at some point he had added himself as my contact and that I had zero control over what showed up in his email as LI notifications.

    1. Enai*

      See also: the idiots on the microblogging site formerly known as twitter, now xitter, who reply “get out of my mentions!” apparently blissfully unaware of block and mute functions and also of the fact that The Algorithm decides who sees what, not the person xeeting (formerly known as tweeting).

      1. Media Monkey*

        and the fact that replying/ commenting shows the algorithm that you are engaged and you get more of it….

  8. A Simple Narwhal*

    The at-home version of this game is if someone makes a groupchat of random numbers, either through accident or (more likely) spam/scam. The thing to do is just to ignore the text, but inevitably someone always responds “who is this? I don’t know you” and then someone else responds “I didn’t do this! Don’t text me!”, followed by more and more angry messages of people texting back and forth insisting that they’re not part of this.

    Ignoring the annoyance factor it is semi-entertaining how quickly we descend into madness.

    1. Ama*

      I once got a scam email (one of the “here’s this invoice for something you did not order” type) but it was a lazy scammer because they put a whole group of addresses in the to line instead of the bcc line, which resulted in several people who did not realize it was a scam angrily replying all that they didn’t make any such order and finally someone replied “it’s a scam, just delete the message.” That was the point at which I found it in my inbox and hit mute so I don’t know if it went any further.

    2. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

      The only time I replied to one of those was when several people sent “STOP” and I couldn’t resist replying “Hammertime!”

      1. Orv*

        This reminds me of the situation with 2-way radios where someone’s radio gets stuck in transmit mode, tying up the channel. Invariably someone will transmit on top of them to say “someone has a stuck mic,” not thinking about the fact that the *only* person who can’t hear them is the person whose mic is stuck, who is also the only person who can do anything about it.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          It’s like the people with loud noises in the background on Zoom calls. If you can’t hear the noise through your headset, it is coming from your location and you are the problem!

    3. La Triviata*

      At a previous job, a person new to emails absolutely panicked because she was getting emails from the Nigerian prince and wanted to know how he got her name and email and was she safe. It took a good deal of calming explanations that she was safe and should just delete those messages.

  9. CPANON*

    ….. I once intentionally create a Reply All Nightmare because, sometimes, you just gotta do what you gotta do.. I work in a field which is overwhelmingly lead by white men, even though the majority of college graduates are women. Women don’t make it to the top. The firm sent out a “culture survey” to the only predominately female department, seeking input on ways to improve the department culture, with suggestions like (I. Kid. You. Not.) book clubs, knitting clubs, cooking clubs….. All after hours, unpaid labor in order to “improve culture”….

    My Reply All: “We are professionals, and therefore improving culture should be through professional channels such as: appropriate (i.e. equal) pay, benefits, professional development opportunities, supportive management, interesting work assignments, etc. If the culture of the Department needs improvement, asking us to put in more unpaid time to read books and watch movies together will not fix it.”

    The replies went on for about an hour and a half and I regret nothing.

      1. CPANON*

        I never heard anything more about any sort of After Hours ‘Clubs’. The firm started a Women’s ERG, that does have a book-club component, but it’s offered to women in all departments and meets during working hours. (There are several other voluntary identity-based ERGs).

      1. Zona the Great*

        Ugh are you being serious? Please don’t do that here. We know. “Not all men” “Women do this too”. Totally unnecessary.

      2. Cat on the Keyboard*

        Most of the people I’ve seen complaining about extra curricular activities at work are white guys. The difference usually is the admins want to add them and the worker bees want to work and go home. The bosses might be more likely to be white guys, but still.

      1. Jaydee*

        So some women, who are leaders in fields where women make up most of leadership despite men making up most of the graduates in that field, send out surveys to the only mostly-male department of the company asking if, I don’t know, golf outings and baseball games (or some other “male” gender-coded activities) will improve the culture of that department?

        I mean, very little shocks me anymore, so it probably has happened once somewhere. But I just can’t imagine this being a common occurrence.

        1. BikeWalkBarb*

          Agreed–color me skeptical on a gender reversal. I can certainly imagine people of any gender suggesting extracurricular activities for bonding but the purpose, content, and targeting of this from leadership are pretty clear.

    1. Private School Survivor*

      Ooh I did this once too for a similar reason, though not in a work context exactly! My (horrible) private all-girls high school emailed out an alumnae directory to my class without BCC’ing us, and, even though I had never notified the school of my marriage because I was not exactly an enthusiastic member of their community to begin with, an announcement had appeared in a local paper, so they saw fit to CHANGE MY LAST NAME TO MY HUSBAND’S NAME in the directory. (The newspaper had actually specifically stated, to my minor annoyance since they never say this about male newlyweds, that I wasn’t changing my name, so poor feminism AND poor reading comprehension were involved here.) And this was in the late 2010s — it was recent!

      Well, they hadn’t bcc’ed us when they sent out the directory so I sent an ice-cold “accidental” reply-all to correct the record and suggested veeeery politely that the alumnae office amend their policy of automatically changing their graduates’ names. I was hoping there would be a reply-all storm but it can be hard to light a fire amongst a group of genteel young New England ladies. One person did write to me in support, and someone from the alumnae office eventually apologized, but I never found out who the directory vandal was, nor did I cause as much trouble as I had hoped.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Oof, that sounds very satisfying for you, but maddening too. I am a CRM admin, no longer at the small non-profits I worked at but I was always extremely careful not to assume people changed their name when they married and only changed names when I was explicitly told to do so. That said, it can be really hard to get things right and on at least two occasions I had women email me asking me to correct their names after they got married or divorced. But, see, that’s because I didn’t read about it in a newspaper that explicitly said whether or not they were changing their names. What doofuses they were at your school, sheeeeeesh.

        My favorite name-changing story was my old boss at one of those NPs. When she (queer cis woman) and her spouse (trans man) married, they both changed their names to a neat combination of their pre-marriage last names. Think, like, they were “Johnson” and “Macon” and they changed their name to “MacJohn.” (Only in their case the new last name was a pretty common last name too.) It was, IMO, very clever of them.

        1. LikesToSwear*

          Good for you on waiting to change names util it was requested! I had a former employer that would “helpfully” change your tax withholding if they found out you had gotten married! Not ask for a new W-4 – which is absolutely appropriate – no, they would just change it!

        2. Jules*

          I tried semi-seriously to get my husband on board with a portmanteau last name when we married. He didn’t bite, so we’ve both still got our birth names. (We don’t have kids, but were considering them at that time. I told him that the kids could have the portmanteau name or my name, because if I was gonna carry them and birth them, then damnit I was getting the credit.) But we have a number of friends who address mail to us using the smashed-up name, which I always enjoy.

    2. RVA Cat*

      Love it!
      I’d want to add something like, “Let’s practice traditional French knitting – while watching our enemies lose their heads.”

  10. Richard Hershberger*

    Voice to text is like ChatGPT: impressive in a dog-walking-on-its-hind-legs way, but not good enough to be used without reviewing the output. Yet here we are.

    1. linger*

      ChatGPT is scarily impressive at constructing a logically-shaped argument for any conclusion you specify from any premises you enter. I suspect several politicians are now using it on a regular basis. And the parlous state of the mainstream media, with nobody left to do any fact-checking, means the output gets reported as credible.
      See for example, NZ First MP (and government minister) Shane Jones’ recent argument (purely coincidentally coming after mining companies donated to his party’s campaign) that opening national parks to mining would help save the environment.

    1. hypoglycemic rage*

      Please can you link this?? I am a huge fan of Dawson’s Creek (Team Pacey, obviously).

      If this is a fake name, my apologies – I’ve been listening to a few DC rewatch pods lately….

      1. Zona the Great*

        Team Pacey for life!! This was a reference to that episode in season 6 where Joey’s at school and emails Dawson about “the incident” where they had sex for the first time but she sent it to the entire school instead. Her professor then read it in front of the class.

        I’m gonna have to find those rewatch pods!

  11. Sandra*

    The correct etiquette is to sit back and enjoy the ridiculousness. And/or join in, if you’re so inclined.

    1. Jiminy Cricket*

      And then to share with your friends. Don’t keep all the fun to yourself!

  12. H3llifIknow*

    The easiest way to handle it is right click on one of the emails, the most current one usually, and hit “Ignore” and you will no longer see all of the REPLY ALL replies. I have stopped trying to get people to stop RTA and just ignore and move on!

  13. KaciHall*

    My favorite reply-all cluster started when someone tried to reach out to the region’s HR to get information about a promotion/transfer, and he didn’t want his boss to know. He sent it to the entire region list instead of the region HR email list. I felt so bad for him, but the entertainment from it lasted a week.

    1. Goldenrod*

      OH NO.

      My favorite involved an embarrassing email that the sender (a woman) meant to send to just one friend, but accidentally sent to the entire listserv. She mentioned in the email that she needed to get “a bit of ass” that weekend.

      Hilariously, in addition to all the “remove me from this list” and “stop replying all” comments, there were also many replies from people who were offended by the raunchiness of the email and demanded to unsubscribe…as if this poor woman had sent it on purpose!! lol

      1. Cyndi*

        I remember someone telling a story in the comments here, a few months ago, about a time she’d left a work party early to pick up her then-long-distance BF from the airport, and when a work buddy asked why she was leaving she said “Because I haven’t gotten laid in three months!” right as everyone else’s conversation hit a lull. She and this woman could form a support group.

      2. Dandylions*

        Oh jeez. Reminds me of a rather precious academic NGO I use to be in. They had a list serv and sent a monthly newsletter. A new chairman to the board. She kept responding to the office IT – this looks terrible fix it. They redesigned the newsletter 11 times before finally demanding she take time to look at it with them. Turns out she had never right clicked and hit allow images to download ….. And she never bothers to click the “Having trouble viewing in your email? Read it here!” link….

  14. AnonInCanada*

    And that’s why Outlook has an “ignore” feature. As soon as you see the pile-up on the info highway (to use Alison’s metaphor,) you hit CTRL-DEL and that should take care of it. Until one of them decides to be catty and changes the subject line to “Re: **STOP REPLYING ALL YOUR ANNoYiNG tHE LiVINg S#!+ OuT OF ME!!!!** [original subject line]” Lather, rinse, repeat, get cyber road rage.

  15. girlie_pop*

    My mom worked at a state agency when they had a situation like this that made it into the news because of how many emails ended up being sent! One agency accidentally sent an invitation for their holiday party to every state employee, and what followed was a days-long fiasco where thousands of emails were sent from people telling others to stop responding, to take them off the list, and on and on and on.

    She spent hours cleaning up her inbox that week and sorting through her emails, trying to find the important ones and getting rid of all the holiday party-related ones.

  16. Clementine*

    My two favourite ‘reply all’ incidents happened when I worked at a large university. It used to send out ‘all staff’ update emails each evening at about 10pm. One Friday evening one particular member of staff had clearly been drinking heavily at the point that these emails started arriving, and replied all saying ‘You don’t pay me enough to give a f*ck about this.’

    The other was on a global researchers mailing list where someone thought they were sending a message to a friend but accidently included the whole list saying ‘Personally, I’ve never thought much of Jane Doe’. Obviously Jane Doe was on the list, as were many of her friends and colleagues. There quickly followed a desperate follow-up email saying ‘When I said I’ve never thought much of her I mean I’ve never thought about her much because our research areas don’t coincide.’ We all knew the truth though.

  17. Stella70*

    I was a minion at a job once. As many minions have sadly experienced, I was inexplicably asked to send an email to a rather large group of people, notifying them of one thing, and also, asking one clarifying question.
    I dutifully wrote the email, added the names (tripled-checked, as this baby was getting sent all the way to the top!) and pressed “send”.
    Well, it took no time at all for those squatting on the highest branches of our tree to realize that Ms. Someone No One Had Ever Heard of was sending them an email. Seeing how big the “To:” field was, caused them assume it was internal spam.
    I had a notification tone set up for incoming emails, and that damn thing was ringing so hard, it sounded like the bell tower at a megachurch.
    What was downright enjoyable was the loudest, rudest, bitchiest responder – who demanded I remove her gilded name – was the one and only person who was tasked to answer the question included within the rest of the information (again, I followed my orders to a “t”).
    I started a polite response to her when I noticed a lot of people were letting her know she was added deliberately, then people who argued she should have received a separate email, followed immediately after by those who argued it was more efficient to do it with one email, etc.
    It so perfectly embodied how humans can get stuck in minutia, no matter their job title.

  18. Justin*

    I once made a comment here and turned on notification for responses thinking it would just be to my own comment. But it was every response made to the post and I had to create an inbox folder and just make it go away

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      I did that on an open thread once when I first found this site about 11 years ago. For context, this was at the time when there was only one open thread on a Friday, for work and non work. I commented about something work related and wondered why my inbox was full of comments about cats – I do love cats, but the emails were a lot. I soon learned that lesson.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        IIRC, Alison turned off the ability to receive such email notifications because the automated process that sent them out was overloading her Web server.

  19. Dust Bunny*

    A friend of mine inherited a dilapidated house in a choice part of town and was flooded with letters and texts from hopeful realtors.

    He collected all the phone numbers and sent out one massive group text the day after the house sold.

    I wish I had been there to witness the carnage.

        1. La Triviata*

          Somehow a sorority got my phone number and called me regularly for several months insisting I had to respond with my current contact information. They called, I told them I was not a member and they really didn’t want to include me in their directory.

          I wasn’t a member of any sorority (my college didn’t have ANY). Also, it was a sorority for predominantly women of one race and one different from mine. I think if I’d included my info and a photo, they might have realized the error without my telling them

          1. Dust Bunny*

            I accidentally sent my SAT scores to the wrong college. The college above the one I wanted was a religious college of a denomination that is definitely not mine, even if I were religious. My scores were pretty good and I guess they were impressed because they had people calling me from all over trying to talk me into going. Eighteen-year-old me was very bashful and having to tell them I was just bad at filling in Scantron bubbles was mortifying.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        So when one replied it would go to all the realtors.

        Some of them were pretty relentless about pestering him, even sending letters that were meant to look like they had been written by kids. It was super annoying, and they wouldn’t stop.

  20. Brain the Brian*

    I think we’ve overused the “reply-all” trope to the point that some people now single-reply only, even when multiple people in a group need the info they are sending. I get a lot of these emails single-replying to an email thread that has until that point been a group. It’s equally annoying and much less funny.

    1. Zona the Great*

      It’s true. I’ve even had a colleague come to me and say, “oh I don’t think you need to keep so-and-so on the response. You should delete them”. My responses is, No, I don’t manage other people’s in-boxes for them.

      1. Too Many Tabs Open*

        Through long painful experience, I’ve learned that I’d rather be included on an email I don’t need than left off an email that I do. I can delete the email I don’t need; I have no way of knowing the one I do need but didn’t receive even exists.

        1. Brain the Brian*

          Yep yep yep. Way too often, people assume my boss will forward something to me, and then she assumes I’ve heard about it already and doesn’t forward it… leaving me with no clue it’s even happening.

        2. Former Admin Turned PM*

          I would also prefer to include someone who might not need the information than to be blamed for not communicating thoroughly.

    2. Jiminy Cricket*

      This is true. I started this conversation with all five of you because we all need this information at once. Please don’t make me keep looping people back in. Reply all is very much the norm where I work.

      I mean, it’s not like I emailed asking for individual lunch orders.

      1. I Have RBF*

        I will reply only to the sender if it’s something that I don’t want the others to see, like a correction of fact, and let them decide how to handle it. But I don’t tend to trim group emails otherwise.

    3. allathian*

      I’m so glad that most of our team-wide communications happen on Teams channels and the org-wide stuff is on our intranet. I get very few emails as a result. The bonus is that doing this completely eliminates the reply-all chaos.

      1. Brain the Brian*

        I viscerally dislike Teams. People where I work use it to create a false sense of urgency (it’s an “instant” messaging program, and they expect instant responses) about decidedly low-priority stuff with deadlines far in the future. And they do it all. The. Time.

        Many of my coworkers work in locations many time zones ahead of me. As I write this, it’s 3:30am in my city, and several coworkers are asking why I haven’t answered the Teams messages they sent me an hour ago. Teams can F off. Email all the way for me.

  21. AnonAnon*

    This was always my favorite day at my last company.
    We had a Yammer site at the time that was dedicated to these events.
    Someone would grab a screenshot and post it to the channel. Comments would ensue.
    Then there was a sidebar email chain that would kick off saying “here we go! Buckle up”.
    It was always too funny to create a rule to clean it up.

    Heaven forbid it was an international email list. Woooo!

    Then, sadly one day, IT intervened and created a rule on their side that would stop these things.

  22. Retired at last*

    I fondly remember (back in old days of email forums, before the systems got a little smarter) the chaos caused by out of office messages – someone’s machine would send an out of office message in response to a post and, within seconds, there would be a cascade of hundreds or thousands of messages – the out of office message would post, triggering yet another out of office message, and, inevitably multiple posts would appear complaining about receiving the out of office message, each of which would trigger yet another cycle out of office messages. The moderators had to track someone down in the original offender’s office and get them to shut down his machine to stop the avalanche. Thankfully both out of office messages and mail list systems are more sophisticated now, so it hasn’t happened in years (decades probably), but it was entertaining in a rather horrific way at the time.

    1. Georgia Carolyn Mason*

      Yes! Many years ago a family member of mine turned on his OOO message before a week-long vacation, and someone emailed him and immediately put on their OOO message before a week-long vacation. They bounced back and forth for days!

  23. MAW*

    I once was on the CC line of a spam email. There were a couple of the “unsubscribe me” “stop replying all” emails, but then someone witty jumped in and proposed that we all start a book club and get to know our fellow spam victims. And people actually seemed interested in doing it! I just quietly peaced out and filtered the rest of it to the spam folder so I don’t know if it actually came to pass, but last I read of it, they were suggesting books….

  24. spiffi*

    OMG I was onsite at a customer when I witnessed one of these – it started with an email letting people know that the parking lot for one building would be closed for resurfacing later that week and to use this other lot for alternate parking.

    Only it went out to the entire 51k company – who are spread across many, many buildings.

    SO many reply-to-all “why did I get this?”

    I set up a rule to put them all in a folder, and got popcorn – the frenzy lasted about an hour, and generated more than 7000 emails.

    Finally the CEO replied back saying ‘SHUT THIS EMAIL DISTRIBUTION LIST DOWN – NOW!’

    1. Zona the Great*

      I would have paid so much money to someone who had the cajones to reply all to CEO and say, “Okay I just shut it down. Did it work??” knowing good and well it did not! hehe

  25. Dr. Vibrissae*

    Not exactly a reply-all nightmare, but related. In graduate school our college used Outlook for email and Outlook calendars for scheduling. So you could schedule your own meetings in the calendar and see others’ availability as well (pretty standard stuff). You could also take an email with event details in it and make it into a calendar event for yourself (again, a useful and standard thing). However, Outlook had a default setting that would include EVERYONE on the original email as an invitee of the event you created, unless you remembered to uncheck that box. If you forgot to uncheck the box, it would send an email invitation to your event to everyone on the list. If you then realized your mistake and deleted the event, a second email then goes out saying the event is cancelled. Which is how I inadvertently gave the entire college the impression that our huge annual open house had been cancelled one year. This did devolve into a lot of reply all trying to clarify the mistake. These days I just forward everything to my gmail calendar

  26. Joyce to the World*

    Leadership at my company threatens corrective action at a certain point to anyone who continues to reply all. It seems to work. I mean, how out of touch do you have to be to continue the madness? I guess some just have to have the last word.

  27. Ollie*

    The voice to text reminded me of a time when I was driving home to Virginia from Florida. Standard procedure with my husband is to text him when I reach a state line or when I stop to eat. I was in mid NC one time when I stopped to eat and tested him that I would text again when I reached Virginia. I got this very garbled text back from him and ignored it. Apparently he meant to say was “tired, going to bed, see you at home” meaning don’t text from Virginia. I texted him when I got to Virginia and got a very angry phone call. When I got home and showed him the text I received he forgave me and we had a good laugh.

    1. BikeWalkBarb*

      So he doesn’t know how to turn his phone off so he doesn’t get a ping when he’s asleep?

  28. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    I’m like the Sickos guy from The Onion when one of these happens, so IMO the proper etiquette is to prepare some popcorn.

  29. anononon*

    My current favorite voice-to-text typo is a disjointed letter my boss recently attempted to dictate about the lease on a “cannibal dispensary.” He’s stopped using voice-to-text as often since then, alas.

    1. RVA Cat*

      So would it dispense Forbidden Foot Tacos *to* cannibals? Or would it dispense hungry cannibals to people for Body-Disposal Purposes?

      1. anononon*

        No idea! I feel like the latter would be more lucrative by default, but there would definitely be a (small but extant) market for the former, assuming they were serving tiny well-garnished portions and looking to draw in foodies who wanted to try it just once.

        IIRC the issue was that they weren’t able to get the proper permits from the city and state and were breaking their lease. I can only imagine what the permitting process for cannibalism would look like. Gory, presumably.

        1. MA Dad*

          I’m pretty sure The Simpsons did a Treehouse of Horror like that where Homer realized he tasted good and then it turned into a restaurant serving bits of him (among other fillers)

  30. NerdyKris*

    The proper etiquette is for someone on the IT team to restrict sending to that list. There probably isn’t a good reason for everyone on a thousand person list to have the ability to send to it.

    That alone massively cuts down on accidental reply all bombs, since even if an authorized sender does it, it’s not 1000 people replying to let them know.

    1. Lauren19*

      Came here to say the same! Part of my remit is internal comms, and part of that is understanding large distribution lists. There should be policies around how ‘large’ is defined (number and rank of recipients), who has permissions to send to those and content audits to ensure they’re used appropriately. Now not every org is going to have someone to manage this, but if you have 1,000 employees, you should also have someone overseeing employee comms.

  31. soontoberetired*

    Ah, we’ve had a few of those here – including someone who sent out a rant blaming out top execs for an issue his sister was having (those emails disappeared really quickly). One thing they did was get rid of email lists with everyone on them. So you really have to go out of your way to send an email to everyone in the company now!

    1. geek5508*

      we had one coworker at an old job terminated after he sent an anti-GW Bush screed to everyone. He would have had to select from 5 separate distribution list to do so, so he could not claim it was “an accident”

  32. National egg day*

    I think people secretly love reply all disasters. Everyone lets their inner middle school child come out & play.

  33. I should really pick a name*

    For #4, I’d just drop them as a LinkedIn connection unless there was some reason I thought they’d be particularly useful.

  34. Nameless*

    Years ago when I was still at everyone’s favorite group coupon company, someone sent out an email to the entire company about a particularly successful launch of some merchant offer. This was in Groupon’s “fastest growing company in history” era, so there were a LOT of us, and people responded with about as much decorum as you’d expect. I can’t remember what the exact nature of the deal was, but it was something slightly controversial, which led to at least one sales person replying to the entire org to complain about this deal being approved when his also slightly controversial deal (I want to say that one had something to do with beer bongs?) hadn’t been – on, again, an email thread that went to EVERYONE, including the C-Suite. Eventually Andrew Mason (who was still CEO at that point) had to step in and tell everyone we were done with the thread.

  35. I Count the Llamas*

    My favorite happened several years ago. An employee emailed their resignation to the entire company (over 10,000 people) with a bullet point list of all the ways they hated their job, their boss, management, and the company.

    It was hilarious – we received thousands of reply-all emails and servers were crashing. Upper management was sent around each floor to tell people to stop and that they would be fired for responding at this point.

    A coworker kept a printed copy of that email on his wall for years.

    1. Roberta*

      that is a Regina George releasing the Burn Book pages level of petty and dramatic. beautiful.

  36. C4TL4DY*

    I work in IT so we have seen this a few times. We have been able to shut it down by having a member of IT respond to explain the situation and tell everyone to stop.

  37. Mouse named Anon*

    This is my nightmare and happening on small level at the moment LOL. Our company is raffling off some tickets and if you want to be included you are to reply TO THE SENDER ONLY. But not everyone gets it. LOL

  38. Cabbagepants*

    My favorite lawful evil is to reply directly (not reply all!!!!) to the people who reply-all telling others to stop replying-all and let them know the Outlook feature to autodelete all new emails within a thread.

  39. UnCivilServant*

    For Reply Storms, I typically just amuse myself by reading them. Engaging does no good and only contributes to their longevity.

    1. UnCivilServant*

      One incident within an otherwise ordinary reply storm springs to mind. A poor helpdesk agent so confidently announced that they had disabled replies to the thread – but had only turned off replies to the particular email announcing that. People continued to reply-all to other emails in the thread, soon burying the overconfident declaration.

  40. Bast*

    Adding my own “Reply All” fun — my first or two week at a new job, someone burned a bagel in the toaster, which resulted in the firm alarm going off. Those toasters really needed to be watched closely, because things would barely toast at all some days, and on others, it would burn (settings were not toggled different ways, it was just an old POS) so it really didn’t take a lot. Food burning in either the microwave or toaster and fire alarms going off happened at least once a month, so that in of itself was nothing special, HOWEVER, for some reason, someone got really invested in knowing who burned the bagel. They sent a company wide email (100+ people) titled “Who burned the bagel?” and included a picture they Googled of a burned bagel and a description of how badly it stunk up their space. Before long, there were dozens of responses speculating on who burned the bagel, how many times bagels had been burned, plenty of “OMG LOL” type of replies, and comments on the smell. It got so bad a manager finally replied all, “These emails are immature and need to stop. Thank you.”

    1. kalli*

      It’s paywalled and none of the usual anti-paywall things will get over it, so very few people can read it though.

  41. MsMaryMary*

    My favorite reply-all debacle didn’t have interesting content, but someone in accidentally India sent an email to our entire multinational company. You could see the responses come through in waves: Asia-Pacific’s responses, then Europe, South America. It was a holiday in the US so there were separate waves for non-US North Americans and then the Americans. I had actually fully unplugged over the holiday and I had thousands of emails in my inbox when I returned.

  42. Lovebooks007*

    I wonder if this person works at my previous agency. This happened 3 times and I ended up having to create a rule to just dump the emails in my delete box. The 3rd time I think someone got a hold of IT to handle it very quickly as the emails and every reply disappeared and nothing further came through.

  43. Ess Ess*

    When I see this happening in my office, I set a mail ‘rule’ in my outlook to automatically move anything with that subject line to a separate folder so that they don’t clog my inbox.

    I also make sure that office/email professionalism is part of an employee performance review. If an employee participates in perpetuating the ‘reply-all’ chaos, it will be used in their performance discussion and mark down their score in that area unless there was a reasonable reason for the mistake. Since I work in an IT professional office, there is almost no excuse for not knowing how reply-all works in this day and age.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      Or you could properly configure your mail system so it doesn’t happen in the first place.

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      The last time I was part of a reply-all storm, I did participate, but I manually put the list address in the bcc field, put my own address in the cc field, and included instructions on how to ignore the thread (Outlook).

  44. Sled Dog Mama*

    This is one reason I love IT at my current workplace. You are limited to max number of recipients, if you need to email more than that number you need a IT setup distribution list and most of those are restricted as to who can email them. For example the all staff list is restricted to use by executive staff, assistants on their behalf and IT. Some of the smaller lists are not restricted, like my department of 65 people anyone can reply all.

  45. Yoyoyo*

    My favorite reply allpocalypse moment was when someone sent out a coverage request for Thanksgiving to a list of about 2000 employees. It was bananas, but early on there was a reply all that said “Take me off this list. I don’t know who you or any of these people are but I hope you have a nice holiday.”

  46. Decidedly Me*

    During our last reply all nightmare, the person who mistakenly sent the email to the wrong list explained what happened and apologized. This stopped most, but not all of the replies. The funniest thing was the very last reply, which came in probably 12 hours after the previous last reply when we all thought/hoped it had ended, which was “I am ignoring and deleting this chain as I don’t think it’s relevant to me”

  47. Roberta*

    it always amazes me. I intern with a major teaching hospital network (roughly 25,000 employees). Many of them have multiple degrees and are experts and pioneers in the medical field. They developed the scientific advancements!
    And they still get stuck in reply-all disasters. Truly amazing how someone can be brilliant in one scientific area and just horrible in another.

      1. linger*

        True. But so are the stupidest people. Mistakes are equal opportunity.
        Though, all else being equal, the more powerful the person, the greater the impact radius of their mistakes.

    1. Berkeleyfarm*

      I worked for a biotech company that has now had two people win Nobels for what they did there (one at the time). I noted this phenomenon a lot. I used “Poor helpless Dears” a lot.

  48. Innocent Bystander*

    What I do in these situations is set up a special rule in Outlook that will move all of these replies to a special folder so they don’t clutter up my inbox. Then after a few days I can go back to that special folder and see if things have quieted down. If so, I can delete the 10,000 reply-all emails and the rule.

  49. TiffIf*

    My company had a couple reply-all disasters where somehow the ENTIRE company got added as watchers on a JIRA ticket so that means everyone gets emailed when there is an update on the ticket and then people reply saying “why am I on this ticket” an it descends into madness.
    Some of the people on the email obviously were not people who ever used JIRA in their job and had no idea what JIRA even was.

    I went and removed myself as a watcher from the ticket.

    This happened two or three times before they fixed whatever was adding everyone at the company as a watcher.

  50. Justin D*

    We had one of these yesterday! So funny. One guy who kept replying all was apparently some IT guy who was on call and wasn’t allowed to turn off his phone to sleep. So he was begging people to stop replying all but doing the same thing himself.

  51. Hotdog not dog*

    Very timely! I logged on yesterday to a reply-all-pocalypse. You would think that by now folks would know how to use email.

  52. Hydrangea*

    Wells Fargo had an incident where someone emailed the entire company to wish Holly a happy birthday. The responses actually became pretty hilarious (this was during the early pandemic and people seemed to appreciate a light-hearted moment) and it even made the news. I think for a while, they sold shirts and mugs that said #happybirthdayholly.

    On a less hilarious note, I worked at a company where someone continually replied all to organizational emails to ask how to request a sick day. It incensed the VP and was a deciding factor in the internal comms director above me getting let go, because he simply couldn’t or wouldn’t figure out how to stop it from happening. It was one of the first things I did when I took over.

  53. Cat Lady*

    Ah, yes. The RTA Fail.
    This happened to me back in ~ 2006 where I stepped away from my desk for 10 minutes and returned to 200+ emails, all from people demanding to be removed from the list. One person named “Chalmer” even piped in with a “hi mom” message in their RTA, and now my friends from work who also experienced this madness fondly use “hi Chalmer’s mom” as an inside joke.

    There is no way to stop this. Revel in the ridiculousness! I can’t say a fail of this proportion has happened to me since.

  54. Lyudie*

    There is a weekly report that is sent out to a fairly large distribution list. It isn’t really relevant to a lot of people it’s sent to and honestly I’m not sure why it goes out to so many people (over a 1000) so occasionally there is a reply all storm of people asking why they are receiving it. At one point there was talk of having IT disable reply all and…the IT guy assigned to the ticket sent a reply all to the distribution list.

    Apparently that didn’t happen though because someone else new to the company sent a reply all last week.

  55. Mostly Managing*

    Not quite a reply all, but I’m definitely on an email thread at the moment that I really don’t need to be. And I started it!

    I sent a question to my counterpart in another department. She copied someone else in on her reply to make sure her response was correct. Fair enough – except that it triggered an internal discussion in the OTHER department, pulled in three more people, and I have not (yet?) been taken off the distribution list.

    It’s a slow month in my world. I’m enjoying the insight into how another department works. Also, I might end up learning something that could be useful sometime. “Nothing learned is ever wasted” – Ellis Peters

  56. Bitte Meddler*

    When I worked at *the* Fortune 1 company, we had an epic Reply All event. It was so bad that we were on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars (maybe even up into the $100K range) in surge pricing from Amazon Web Services.

    IT had to literally shut off Outlook, company-wide, for an hour or so to clean up the mess and to drop the spike in volume.

  57. Bitte Meddler*

    My ex uses talk-to-text and only reads them after he has sent the messages. I recently got this series of texts from him:

    “The lights are out on adele and traffic is backed up.”

    “Adele not adele”

    “Dammit! Adele. I am saying adele”

    “The major street near your mom’s old house”


    I replied, “Are you trying to say Audelia?”

    He wrote back, “Yes I said adele!”

    He was in stopped traffic. He could have safely edited before sending, each and every time.

  58. Squirrel!*

    Gerry Brooks is an elementary school principal who makes hilarious videos – my favorite of all time is his one about reply-all etiquette. According to him, pretty much the only time it is acceptable to reply-all is to tell everyone what you’re bringing to Goody Table Day so as not to end up with twenty bowls of potato salad and no brownies.

  59. Catherine UK*

    There was one time where the UK’s NHS had the same e-mail sent to at least 800,000 of its staff, resulting in over 100 million e-mails generated by people replying all!

    1. BellaStella*

      WOW I had to go to the UK NHS stats page to view this and learned this:

      All NHS Hospital & Community Health Service (HCHS) staff
      1,338,753 FTE in January 2024. This is 5.5% (69,525) more than in January 2023.

      Which, wow … how many staff there are! website is digital dot nhs dot uk and there are great stats there!

  60. Zephy*

    I think I’ve told this story here before, we had an ask-the-readers or open thread or something about Reply Allpocalypses.

    I served with an Americorps program right out of college. The overwhelming majority of the corps were fresh college grads, so honestly it’s a wonder this didn’t happen more often. The org works in various cities across the US.

    Someone at Site A (let’s say, Chicago) was *trying* to email everyone at that site to inquire as to the whereabouts of a particular clipboard. However, instead of Chicago@org, they emailed AllSites@org – a few thousand people all told. The first few responses were pretty typical – “I don’t think you meant to send this to us, Chicago, but just in case – no, your clipboard isn’t in Minneapolis, sorry!” – but within minutes people were joking that “oh yeah Chicago, your clipboard is kicking it with us in Houston, here’s pics,” and attaching pictures of corps members engaging in various activities with a clipboard. First it was just a few people or the whole team posing with the clipboard, class-photo style, but then things got silly. Chicago Clipboard is in New Orleans, helping the team with XYZ! Chicago Clipboard is in NYC enjoying some lunch! Chicago Clipboard is at the beach in Miami!

    We all got a slap on the wrist and a short lecture about professionalism, but it was all in good fun – there were no serious consequences, just “PSA, this will not fly in the professional world, glad we all had a good time but don’t do this again here or anywhere else.”

    1. Enai*

      Okay, this is just kinda sweet and mischievous? Also, much better than “professional” replies along the lines of “Please take me off this list”.

  61. Fluffy Fish*

    Do your part to avoid peoples incomprehensible inability to not reply all and use the BCC line when emailing large groups. Then just put in the top of the email body “This email was sent to (all employees, XYZ dept, abd group).

  62. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

    Oofda, having flashbacks to when reply to all and list serves were a relatively new thing and then the first time multiple people were out for holiday and back then auto-reply wasn’t smart enough to only reply once a day like it does now. It replied to all, every time it got a message. After an hour the only solution was for IT to go in and crash the servers and start all over.

    1. an academic*

      This happened last year with a volunteer listserv I’m on. Person A emailed the listserv. Person B’s email replied with a vacation auto-reply. Then Person B’s email replied to THEIR OWN vacation auto-reply. Then it did it again. And again. And again. Thousands and thousands of times. My email client could handled it, but it crashed the emails of several of the other people on the listserv.

  63. FrigidLizard*

    This happened once at an old job I had working in state government. A new hire sent out a ‘getting to know me’ message to our entire department of several thousand employees rather than their program. The first wave of reply alls were somewhat amusing in their obtuseness, and a few were downright rude; “Why are you messaging everyone? I don’t work with you, I don’t care if it’s your first day.”
    The really frustrating part for me was that as the cascade effect increased my direct supervisor decided it was likely a cyberattack and ordered us to power off our computers. I tried to explain to her that it was just too much webmail and that even if it were an attack on the network shutting off my desktop wasn’t going to protect anything. She disagreed, and it took 2 hours to get my workstation back up and running once she gave the all clear.

  64. Paul Z*

    My form deans caused a reply-all storm in high school that brought down not only people’s personal email clients but the entire email server itself. The school used some terrible off-brand email system that had a lot of problems, and didn’t implement POP3 or IMAP quite correctly so it only really worked with its own proprietary client. And apparently it was susceptible to people unwisely putting too many addresses (in this case, the entire 4th form of about 230 students) in the To: field, and then having tons of people replying-all. Later that week my form deans learned how to use BCC.

    This is only one of many stories involving the general incompetence of my form deans.

  65. La Triviata*

    There is a very funny book called “e” by Matt Beaumont. It’s set at a the London office of an international ad agency starting on New Year’s Day 2000. The head of the London office is infuriated that his emails to that office are going out to every office of that firm. He keeps getting responses from the head of the office in Sweden?Finland? which infuriate him, so he keeps raking the IT staff over the coals. And there’s one London employee who uses the distribution list for the entire London office for truly inane messages (i.e., trying to sell a toaster, letting people know he has a limited supply of a special color paper), which tie up the system and take time to know to ignore. It’s dated, but very funny.

    1. EvilQueenRegina*

      And it turns out that the reason why that guy’s emails are all getting copied to his counterpart in Finland is something he’s actually doing wrong in the first place, which isn’t discovered until they’ve taken email out of action twice trying to find the fault and then someone says “Since David’s the only one with a problem, let’s have a look at his PC!” 3 people actually get fired over it.

      I did wonder what exactly he was doing, since it’s explained as “when he sends, he sometimes presses the wrong key combination and automatically copies Finland. Yesterday he must have got it really wrong and copied all worldwide employees.” I’m just used to clicking the send button and wondered why he needed to press a key combination.

      (Yeah, it was my go-to book for when I needed cheering up. I know it well.)

  66. MassMatt*

    I confess that I was once one of the “reply all” offenders. I was working at an international company and responded to a group email that started to go down that familiar road with “Stop using reply all, this is being sent to over 600 people!” to the most recent offender. In my defense, I was the very first person to point it out, I added “Please don’t reply all” to the subject line, and it nipped the gathering storm in the bud.

    And hilariously, my manager congratulated me later that day, adding “did you notice WHOSE email you responded to when you sent that?” I hadn’t noticed, it was just the latest offender. He said “That was Steve Last Name. He’s our corporate counsel! He was also a linebacker at Notre Dame!” Ahem.

    Fortunately said (huge) counsel had a good sense of humor and we laughed about it in a meeting a couple days later.

  67. Database Developer Dude*

    Oops, nesting fail. Sorry.

    The last time I participated in a reply-all storm, I manually moved the list address to the bcc line, put my own on the cc line, and included instructions on how to ignore the thread.

    I got lots of ‘thank-you’s in my email after that.

  68. Llama lamma workplace drama*

    I worked at a company that was international. One day someone sent out a company wide email about losing a pair of sunglasses in one of the parking garages for the Kansas City office. Next came all of the ‘They’re not here in London!’, ‘They’re not here in Bangkok!’ etc etc.. then all of the ‘take me off this list’ and ‘stop replying to all!’.

  69. Perihelion*

    For some reason at my workplace it’s pretty easy to send an email to the whole organization, even by accident. I am careful so this has never been an issue for me, but the head of HR not long ago sent an email to everyone telling us to remove an employee’s access to all systems, since they are no longer employed with us. Then she followed up telling us to disregard. Someone asked whether they should remove that employee’s access and HR said no.

    I don’t know the guy who was named in the email but it doesn’t look like he still works here. Of course I have no idea what happened. But the email seemed awfully specific to have been completely in error as HR said.

  70. Tisserande d'Encre*

    My old company [REDACTED] had the strongest reply-all culture I’ve ever seen. The word “centithread” was used for reply-all chains that passed 100 (usually people saying “why did I get this, please remove me”) and people seemed to be excited to “achieve” that status on a thread.

    Suffice to say, I did not concur.

  71. Swix*

    More than a decade ago, when large companies would run their own email servers, someone sent an email to everyone in a large company. There were so many emails flying around that IT had to take the email server down and go through deleting all the queued replies before they could get it back up and running. Took a whole day, I got a lot of other work done without any email at all.

  72. CouldntPickAUsername*

    oh man I have 2 reply all stories, one from 15 years ago and another from last week.
    The one from 15 years ago happened at a college I went to. They regularly emailed sports updates to the entire student body (whether people wanted it or not). Well apparently the ‘all_students’ mailing list wasn’t restricted to staff only. Someone replied ‘big whoop, no one cares’ to an email, what followed was a reply all war for the entire school.

    Meanwhile last week an announcement that our new van was ready went to our transportation department (about 12 people) and someone replied all to that with a joke about migrant workers living in the van. yeah, that went over well…..

  73. Not that Complicated*

    It is so easy to just mute reply-all threads. That’s what I do. No drama.

  74. Addison DeWitt*

    At one of my ad agencies, someone forwarded a message to someone else in somewhat pompous language—I don’t remember it in detail, but I remember the key phrase was “I think this is more in your bailiwick.”

    This struck someone as funny, and so they passed it along to a friend “because I think this is more in your bailiwick.” And so it got passed around, with the references to “bailwicks” frequently becoming suggestive (“you’ve got a big bailiwick, Steve, so I think this is for you”). By the time I got it, it had been forwarded with so many additions that it ran for like a half hour. Of course, it also wasn’t just one long message by then—there were multiple variations, and people were making bailiwick jokes in the elevator. It also was so abundant that it crashed the voicemail system.

    The office managers, not known for having a sense of humor, let it be known that this was never to happen again. Still, for months people would try to sneak “bailiwick” into internal presentations and get a knowing laugh from others in the company.

  75. Lady Knittington*

    My individual response is to set a rule on my email that any email with the title ‘Re: Distribution list’ (or whatever it is) gets sent straight to trash. It doesn’t stop the multiple emails asking people to stop replying, but it does mean that I don’t have to see them.

  76. Student*

    There are several perfectly good technical solutions to this problem, and I am indignant that this still happens at all.

    Most of the burden for addressing this should fall upon anyone who sends emails to large distro lists, instead of upon the people on the distro list.

    1. Berkeleyfarm*

      I, who have been admin for multiple large email systems, mailbombed myself once with duelling autoreplies. Fortunately my colleagues sussed it out and went and killed my rule for me.

      1. Berkeleyfarm*

        Whoops, meant to post this one on the comment below this, where “duelling autoreplies” crashed the mail server.

  77. Dina*

    My wife’s colleague once accidentally put the all-staff distro list on the notification list for a ticketing system… which meant every time someone replied, it also created a new ticket… which also created a new email notification…

    In the end, it crashed the entire Exchange server.

  78. Berkeleyfarm*

    Oh emm gee.

    I am an email administrator. And I have been in on the admin side of some really epic reply-all storms. It’s not fun, because for every busybody chiming in with “STOP SENDING ME EMAILS” or a “lecture” or a “joke”, there are about ten calling the helpdesk in panic/screaming in frustration to “MAKE IT STOP!”

    When I worked for local government, the only thing that stopped both the lecturers and wanna-be comedians was the threat of a write up.

    With my modern email system it’s a lot easier for me to write a serverside rule right quick that redirects things to the bitbucket. But we have seriously limited # of recipients/ability to mail extra large dist lists.

    (When I hear of a reply allpocalypse, I always mentally pour one out for the admins.)

  79. Berkeleyfarm*

    So. Email admin here.

    When this happens, please keep the amusement to yourself. Don’t keep it going. You may be amused but I can assure you that a lot of people are being screamed at. The company might also lose money/something important with email not being available.

    Your email will probably let you write a rule to send the subject line to junk/a holding folder.

    You can also try calling IT and asking them nicely to try to stop it on the server side (in case they haven’t heard).

  80. Baffled Teacher*

    This is why I LOVE that we use gmail; by default it’s reply only and you have to deliberately drop down and choose reply all. Not a lot of advantages to working in public ed but that’s one, hahaha

  81. Inkognyto*

    My thought is this. Let the highest person with authority handle it.

    First thing I do to those, it setup a rule and push it into a folder with that rule.

    Oh I will check on the chaos on them but 1,000 people? pfft. we’ve had company wide ones with everyone on it.

    I’ve also been in charge of the email server’s before where we had to go stop the email or the replying of it.

    Usually if people keep abusing it in last distribution lists, there will be limits on who can email to it. That way it’s used to communicate but only a manager or something can use it.

    That prevents that sort of thing from happening. I’ve had to set those rules myself it’s fairly standard.

  82. FormerStudent*

    Back in the late 1990s my (UK) university had the largest email traffic IN EUROPE at one point. There were over 25,000 students and someone would email an ‘All Students’ list saying there was a room to rent in their house or something, and people would Reply All saying they weren’t interested in the person’s room (only in a less polite manner) and then others would Reply All saying ‘stop Replying to All’ and on and on. This happened a few times and then the Reply All button was disabled on our email system. Granted, email was still fairly new back then and university was the first place many of us had had access to it and our own email addresses, but still. Common sense. It probably hadn’t occurred to the powers that be that letting students have access to a mailing list of that size wasn’t a good idea either…

  83. anonforthis*

    Adding another “reply all” story is probably like replying all at this point, but I work for the (federal) Department of Justice. I’m not certain how big it is exactly, but at least over 115,000 employees. One quiet Friday afternoon, someone managed to find exactly the right group email address to send something (a question about something very specific to their job) to literally EVERY employee with a DOJ e-mail address.

    It was MADNESS. I’ve never gotten so many e-mails in such a short period in my life – my inbox looked like a popular YouTuber’s chat panel during a livestream. I think literally within 3 minutes my office’s IT person sent out a message telling us all how to create a rule that would send these messages directly to our junk folders in a desperate attempt to head off complaints.

    But honestly it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen – so many versions of all the greatest hits, from “I think you replied all” to “why am I getting this” to “this question shouldn’t be directed to me” to “how did I get on this list REMOVE ME” to “STOP REPLYING ALL!!!!!” to “now everybody, please calm down” to instructions on how to stop the messages to “this made my Friday afternoon” to people just posting memes. If you ever needed a reminder of the limits on human originality, this was it. It could be the basis of sociology or psychology dissertations, I swear.

  84. Up the Down Staircase*

    Bad advice to the voice-to-text dude. The way to handle it is to respond to his emails as though everything is completely correct, and react as though you’re confused/upset about him changing things up. “Fergus, I thought you said you wanted this dead by tomorrow, not read. Since I thought you wanted it dead, I didn’t forward it for edits like I normally would have. If you had wanted it read, you should have made that more clear.”

    This works even better when other people are included on emails to see how confusing Fergus is being.

    1. Up the Down Staircase*

      “Fergus, you said ‘the cookies are fine,’ not ‘the cookies are mine,’ or else I wouldn’t have eaten them. Next time please clarify what you really mean.”

  85. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    1. Inform IT of the problem
    2. Don’t send any emails for a bit to let the exchange servers cool off
    3. Buy some liquorice allsorts for your IT department

    and to the IT personnel: Disable reply-all if you can. Those who need to email entire departments/companies will have a distribution list created for them and they will be responsible if they misuse it.

  86. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    “You never know, maybe he’ll say your old manager is married to his current boss, who doesn’t know he’s searching”

    Something very similar happened to me – though it was for a job I had ACTUALLY applied to! It all worked out fine, I just wish I had known that the spouse of my colleague (not my boss, but a manager in a parallel vertical) would be involved in the final decision point, as I would have handled things differently. In hindsight, it’s something I should have anticipated!

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