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Situation: A colleague thinks he has found a (minor) mistake in a report I have written. He sends an email to me together with colleagues, managers and senior managers of our respective departments.

Question: Is there a best practice to answer in this situation?

I was thinking about the following solutions, which I don't find fully satisfying:

  • Reply only to the sender. However the manager doesn't know if this is a critical issue.
  • Replying to all in each of the future discussion, which will totally confuse the senior management since this leads to a flood of dozen of emails, where even more people join the discussion in CC.

I want to avoid email flood, where the senior management receive 10-15 emails for a minor mistake. Is it a best practice to do the following way?

  • Respond to all, stating that this is is a minor issue and that the sender will receive an answer with more details about this.
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    Yes. That makes the senior mgmt know the issue is being handled and the sender knows to expect a follow up. – dfundako Jan 15 '17 at 21:59
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Is it a best practice to do the following way?

Resolve the issue with the colleague privately first.

If you are both located in the same office, talk with your colleague, get to the bottom of the issue, and determine a resolution.

Then, Reply All to the original email with the details, the solution, and the date on which the issue will be (or was) resolved.

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Depends on the E-mail. There is no universal answer.

You need to think about how many of those people really need to see your response and make an active decision.

Sometimes it's a group discussion and everyone should hear it all, sometimes it's gathering info and only the sender should see your response, sometimes it's somewhere between the two.

Think about it and do what makes sense in that case. And accept that sometimes you'll get it wrong, and that's OK as long as you don't do so too often.

  • I completely agree with this. If in doubt, I just follow original sender. – VarunAgw Jan 15 '17 at 22:01
  • There's always the option of just hitting "Reply", but then using CC to add anybody else you think needs to know. – Simon B Jan 15 '17 at 22:52
  • This seems to be a generic answer to "when should I reply all to a reply all" rather than an answer to the more specific (but common) situation the OP is dealing with. – Lilienthal Jan 16 '17 at 11:02
  • It depends too much on context to give anything but a general answer, I think. Have they indeed found an error? Are you willing to embarrass them publicly if they are wrong? Do you want to complain about their having not talked to you first? How important is it for the executives to see your response immediately? ... I'm sure I can come up with other considerations given a bit of time. I don't think one response fits all situations... though I certainly think the proposed response is one that may be highly appropriate. – keshlam Jan 16 '17 at 14:51
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If someone spams the whole team over a minor alleged mistake in your report, I don't think that you have any choice but to reply, cc'ing every person that this someone cc'ed. Better that the group as a whole be informed than not. Better that you come across to everyone as responsive and responsible than nobody knowing that you are responsive and responsible.

  • Rather than repeating the mistake of the first person, why not handle it in a more mature way? Spamming everyone with e-mails is not necessary – Draken Jan 16 '17 at 7:58
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    Spamming everyone with e-mails is absolutely necessary in many places where lots of spammed managers will otherwise only remember that you sent out a report with mistakes. – gnasher729 Jan 16 '17 at 8:52
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    In a single e-mail, yes. But CCing everyone in the whole chain trying to fix the problem? No. I feel the original question asker put it quite well with the part that said, "Respond to all, stating that this is is a minor issue and that the sender will receive an answer with more details about this." – Draken Jan 16 '17 at 9:07
  • @Draken - Assuming that it's minor matter, I expect to be done with a matter within a couple of emails - one email stating that it's a minor matter and that I am on it, another email stating that the fix is in. I don't give a damn about your concern about spamming when my good name is on the line and this dude put my good name on the line in the first place. – Vietnhi Phuvan Jan 16 '17 at 13:14
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Only respond to the managers:

"I am sorry that I could not solve this issue before you were bothered with it - Thanks to colleague X who identified this subtle error, I expect that it is fixed within x minutes". Update the report and send it to anybody (if you like to play an especially ugly game: anybody but the colleague who pointed out the mistake).

  • "Thanks to colleague X who informed you all about this subtle error". – gnasher729 Jan 16 '17 at 8:54
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    This is way too apologetic given the limited context we have. By all accounts OP wasn't even aware of the potential issue until the mail so he could not have resolved it before that went out. – Lilienthal Jan 16 '17 at 11:01
  • Yes, that's what the mail says. – Sascha Jan 16 '17 at 11:15
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As others have stated, there isn't a generic answer here - what the right thing to do is depends almost entirely on your office dynamics. If you're not sure about the right way to approach a piece of office politics, then you need to get advice from somewhere - and in the general case, I'd say the best person to give you that advice is your manager. Arrange an in person meeting with your manager, explain the situation and ask them how they think you should handle this.

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