Thursday, June 23, 2011

Supporting my post on doing nothing as an OK response

Two weeks ago I wrote on the topic of not reacting to our feelings to act. Today I believe that is more true then ever. I'll offer up an example:

Today, some low-level know-nothing in my company decided to send a simple request to a distribution list that she didn't really understand. We've all been there. We know what happened. It set off a torrent of reply-all messages saying "take me off this distribution" and, helpfully, "stop hitting reply-all". Except they hit reply-all themselves. You see, it's a catch-22. Everyone who replies thinks to themselves "after I send this email where I specifically say 'stop hitting reply-all' then these emails will 100%, definitely stop". Except they don't, because nobody listens to you if you're not a head honcho like Steve Jobs. If Steve Jobs said STFU the email traffic would stop. That instant. No question.

But they're not Steve Jobs. None of us are. We're all anonymous cogs that are just trying to become bigger and bigger cogs so eventually we can be on top of the machine and get access to the controls. The truth is that we only have influence over our cog neighbors. Nobody else listens to us. Or respects us, because they don't know us. These response emails people write are generally short and to the point. They would be effective if people read them. But no one ever does. Unbeknownst to them, they are just further spreading the virus that was the original email. (Aside: scary when you contemplate extrapolating that example to actual and harmful germs. I could easily imagine how an epidemic is spread quickly. "Aw geez I'm not sick")

Inaction is an appropriate response to this type of situation. I can understand someone's impulse that "I'm going to get this to stop myself and everyone will thank me for it". If that's you, maybe your best option is to sit on your hands. Or if you really have to be pro-active, create a filter that automatically takes emails with that subject line or distribution list to the trash. But, for God's sakes man, don't hit reply all.

*I'm going to continue to document situations where it's best to do nothing. I think this is really interesting.


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