Mass Email is a HUGE problem

But you can fix it: How to be the hero that saves the company hundreds of thousands of dollars!

If you work at a large enough company, you are likely to have been on the receiving end of a Mass Email distribution chain:

Look familiar?

Now there are a number of ways to solve this problem on an individual basis:

  • Add a server rule that deletes or moves the unwanted messages automatically based on recipients (depending on how your company servers email)
  • Add a local rule to do the same (on your mobile client)
  • Mute the specific thread
  • Ignore / delete the messages on an individual basis

All of these will save you various amounts of time, most are worth the individual effort. Keeping a well maintained inbox will make you more productive and responsive and will likely be good for your career. Good on you!

However, if the email list you are on has 10,000+ co-workers on it, this “fix it on an individual basis” works about as well as selling umbrellas to deal with a leak in the fire-sprinkler system. Because 10,000 people manually deleting a single email, wasting only 5 seconds to decide if it is relevant uses 13 Hours of productivity. Spending 30 seconds to setup a custom server rule will save them future effort, but would take 83 hours for that one list (not to mention if there is information in the list that is actually useful, you’ve lost contact). Time sync aside, server rules take time to execute, and execute on every email that a person receives. Depending on how your email is hosted, and what provider your company uses, a leaky over-broad email list can cost tens of thousands of dollars in CPU / fees per month.

The good news, is anyone who gets an email from a huge email list that they don’t think is relevant has the ability to fix this.

  1. Don’t: Don’t send over-broad email.
  2. Use BCC: If you have to send an over-broad email, make sure the list you are sending it to is in the BCC field rather than the to or the CC field. This field hides who an email was sent to from its recipients, and importantly, This will keep reply all from going to that email list.
  3. Fix the list: If you weren’t the original sender, figure out who the admin / manager for the list is and make sure that (if possible) the list only “re-broadcasts” messages that are from a small, select group of people.
  4. Don’t: Don’t use email (a 40 year old chimera of a product) when something more flexible will do. Slack, a blog, etc.
  5. Help others: Replying to a mass sent email with a well thought out, brief, guide showing users how to use your companies email provider to remove themselves from the list, mute the specific thread, and most importantly moving the whole list to BCC, will ensure that you personally take the brunt of any reply-all, and hopefully helps a few others improve their productivity. Feel free to link here.
  6. Don’t reply-all with “UNSUBSCRIBE”: Not going to lie, when a crappy over sent thread breaks down into shenanigans and mockery at a small enough company it can become a thing of lore. But I am unaware of any server in which the way to unsubscribe from an email list is to shout UNSUBSCRIBE at all the participants until it goes away.

Hope you find this useful. Feel free to comment below with specific remedies and work arounds. And email with caution my friends.

Kevin Lohman, Software Engineer, Father, Story Teller, and former US Navy Sailor (who never set foot on a ship)

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store