Sorry For the Mass Email

One of our current clients is a sizable, nationwide orgnization. For sundry reasons, I’ve got an email address for their domain, as in So, I receive a bunch of emails sent to the whole company, everybody in the head office and other large groups.

I easily receive five emails a week that begin with some variation of “sorry for the mass email”, and describe anything from a lost phone charger to available spots on the company’s softball team. They’re trivialities, and certainly not relevant to 95% of the recipients.

If the head office recipient list has 250 people on it, and each person spends, conservatively, 10 seconds processing this email, then that’s 40 minutes of wasted time per email. If there’s just five a week, that adds up to 175 hours of wasted time a year.

I’m no productivity fiend, though. I think the bigger scourge is the systematic irritation that we all suffer when we receive these emails. Plus, each time one of these is sent, it grants tacit permission to everybody else in the organization that it’s okay to send such emails.

Why, in 2010, do organizations still have this decade-old problem? The issue, I suspect, is a lack of confidence in the common alternative: the company intranet. That’s not surprising, because everybody loathes their intranet. Also, in most organizations, only a few senior people and administrators tend to have permission to publish intranet articles into the ‘global feed’, enabling news to appear on each user’s intranet home page.

So, if you’ve lost your phone charger, then you’re far likelier to locate it using a global email message instead of the intranet?

If the mass email is a nuclear warhead, and the intranet is an ineffectual BB gun, what other options are there? The kitchen bulletin board? Maybe the simplest option is to not to try to distribute trivial messages?


  1. Depending on the size of the company, they could get away with some forum software. Put up a section for lost/found, another for rec (softball team), company news, and so on. The challenge, then, is convincing all the employees to actively engage in said forum… and even if they do, that’s another time pit.

    I see what you did there.

  2. The home page of my company’s intranet is a blog any employee can post to. Works for announcements, “I brought snacks,” unexpected absences, and general chatter with several dozen people. Even better: someone finds their phone charger and a comment on the blog closes that problem. It’s been running an old version of Movable Type since 2003 and still works great. Sure beats mass company email.

  3. I worked for a provincial phone company many years ago, which was one of the partner companies in a company that all the Canadian phone companies had established as their research arm. Nice idea. But in the process of learning about this email thing, the largest company had a glitch so that when someone received a message from their HR department and hit the reply button, it acted like a monster “reply to all” message. Not only did the reply go to everyone in that company, it was also sent to every employee in all the other companies across the country. That was bad. But it got the attention of the engineers, who quickly figured out what was going on and fixed it. That was good.

  4. This is very frustrating, along with the “Reply All” button. While mistakes can be made, the number of reply alls that you can receive in a day can be frustrating. We do need to do a better job educating those in our workforce about etiquette and thinking before clicking!

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