Saturday, January 29, 2011

Congratulations! (Reply All)

Is it just me, or do others find the "piling on" of reply-all emails of congratulations within their organization a bit annoying?

When someone in our college is recognized in an email announcement (originating from any faculty member in the college) as achieving something newsworthy, inevitably five or ten or even more emails will be sent to everybody with some variaton of "congratulations...we're all proud of you and you make us look great to the world." I'm really glad that we have a faculty that feels happy and thankful when one of our own does something that we all aspire to. (For example, recently, Donna Ogle was elected president of the Reading Hall of Fame and Tim Collins was elected to the TESOL board).

Of course we all feel the urge to offer our congratulations to the person. If we were sitting in the same room when the announcement was made, we'd all cheer and maybe later offer a congratulatory hug or handshake to the honoree. But would a queue of us get up to, one after the other, to offer our personal congratulations, perhaps combined with some reference to how this honor benefits all of us?

What is the purpose of "replying all" to these messages? Is the congratulator trying to get themselves noticed? Is it just laziness? Or is there a commendable reason for this?

I've noticed it tends to be the more senior members of our faculty who do this. Perhaps they hold dear in their hearts the days when the college had 30 faculty members on one campus, and feel that they're recreating that old community feeling? I kinda wish we had that feeling more now, but we have 170 full-time faculty now, on 7 or 8 campuses.

I've been tempted to write to everyone and urge them to ask themselves whether replying all is necessary in any individual case, but I don't want to be seen as a buzz-killer. My own view is that IFF your reply adds some information or substance of value to the majority of the faculty, replying all is justified. But I wonder whether mere piling on without adding tangible value is actually some attempt to put oneself in the limelight for a moment.

I'm uncertain about what's right in this situation. As our faculty ages and retires, maybe the sensibility of the current more junior faculty that email (especially reply all) is for business only (which includes discussion of issues of importance to us all) will become more common. But...Part of me worries...will we then lose something important that the more senior faculty members are trying to preserve?

I welcome comments. That is, if they're substantive. :-)
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