As I’ve written about before, internal email can be challenging. The most ambiguous part of internal email – email sent within the company – is knowing when to reply and when not to. As I wrote in that post in 2012:
Know when to respond and when not to. This is a tough one. I like to put myself in other people’s shoes. If I would want a response from them – even if it’s just “great idea!” or “keep me posted, I’m interested” – then I write a response. If it’s more of a FYI type of email then a response probably isn’t necessary. If you’re not sure, I think you’re always better spending a minute and writing a quick response to show the other person that you’re paying attention.
I still like that rule when it comes to external email, however internally as we’ve grown that ambiguity has become more and more of a problem. We’d send out a message to our employees and then wonder if they read it or acted upon it. After some discussion, we decided to add one simple rule to completely remove the ambiguity: respond to every single internal email with a reply-all unless the sender specifically writes “no reply necessary”. That puts the onus on the sender – if you don’t require a reply, say so, otherwise you’re saying that without a doubt you do want a reply.
Of course, we also have the rule that if you have a question or concern that you should ignore the “no reply necessary” and reply anyway. This rarely happens though, maybe 10% of the time at most.
In retrospect, this was so obvious. We should have done it sooner. We’ve had almost zero problems since then. I send a decent amount of FYI type of emails, particularly when I make a small programming change and want to just keep everyone in the loop. I don’t have to worry about clogging up everyone’s inbox with a half dozen replies saying “cool”, but in the same breath I know they all read it and if there are actionable items on their end I just keep the “no reply necessary” out of the email.
Such a simple solution to a long standing problem!