IT Infrastructure Heartburn: The Right and Wrong Way to Send Company-Wide Email

email envelope from wikimediaFor your consideration: a case-study in how not to turn company-wide emails into company-wide aiiiiieeeee-mails.

True story: I’m working as an IT Manager for a distribution company in the early 2000s. I’m responsible for the Lotus Notes email system (hey, I said it was the early 2000s).

One of the Customer Service people sends an email to the All Company Email list about the business. Apparently not thinking, employee A hits Reply All and jokingly tells the entire company an amusing story about how big employee B’s backside is. Employee C then hits Reply All and agrees that yes, employee B does have a big backside and adds a comment or two about employee B’s mother. Employee D joins in with their own take on the situation, both the posterior and the employee’s mother. And it goes on.

Finally, the president of the company chimes in and sends out another company-wide email telling everyone to stop immediately or else.

What a mess. Improper use of email causes some major personnel issues. As an IT Manager, what could I have done about it. Here’s a couple of ideas.

  • Don’t make company-wide email lists a public list – You can stop abuse by isolation. An emailer has to be authorized to the list in order to use it. This would stop just anyone from using the all-company lists.
  • Never, ever, allow people to use the email list in either the To: or CC: fields of an email. Company-wide email lists should always be sent in the BC: field (blind copy) only. Train or restrict authorized personnel to never put a company email list address in a delivery field that can be replied to. That would have stopped this situation, as well as the annoying situation where people ask questions to the entire company in reply to a company-wide email.

These are just a few ideas. Notice that one of the fixes is technical while the other is a training issue. If you restrict the company-wide lists to authorized personnel, the problem will be when people hit Reply All when the list is included in the To: or CC: fields. And that’s a training issue for authorized users, not a technical issue.

So that’s the issue and the possible fixes. If you have any other ideas on how to handle these issues, please feel free to post here as a comment or email me at joe@joehertvik.com.

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About Joe Hertvik

Joe is the owner of Hertvik Business Services, a service company providing written white papers, case studies, and other marketing content to computer industry companies. He is also a contributing editor for IT Jungle and has written the Admin Alert column for the past ten years. Follow Joe Hertvik on Twitter @JoeHertvik. Email Joe for a free quote on white papers, case studies, brochures, or other marketing materials.
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