We've all been there before.
An Analyst buddy sends a group-wide email. Something about a relevant deal and he wants to be sure that all the MDs know about it. Not to mention, it's almost bonus time and he wants them to know that he knows about it.
"Is he serious with this shit?" you think to yourself. Why not give him a little grief?
So, you shoot off a quick reply. "Way to make me look bad, d*ckhead. Get back to spreading."
You chuckle to yourself. Proud of your pithy, yet topical, comment, when suddenly it hits you...
"Oh my God. What I have I done." You hit 'Reply All'
During my three year stint in banking, there were two things that I feared above everything else.
- Getting staffed on a "Strategic Alternatives" pitch on a Friday afternoon
- Accidentally hitting 'Reply All' on a snarky email to a fellow Analyst
Unfortunately, I had to face Fear #1 on more than one occasion. There's little worse than knowing that you'll have to cancel plans so you can put together a 120 page pitchbook explaining towhy they need to sell a subsidiary, and hire us of course, knowing that there is no chance in hell that it'll ever happen. Literally nothing in banking worse than spending your weekend turning draft after draft of a useless pitchbook.
Hitting 'Reply All' is a close second, and it's something I managed to avoid throughout my entire three years. Looking back, I'm honestly kind of baffled that I never did it. With the sheer amount of email you get every day (make that every hour), you start to fire them off on auto pilot. I had a couple of close calls, but I always managed to check to make sure I didn't hit the dreaded Reply All button when it would've come back to haunt me.
An article last week in Businessweek addresses the 'Reply All' problem. Apparently, email client makers are starting to offer fixes. Microsoft recently released a plugin for Outlook called NoReplyAll, which allows a sender to prevent recipients from responding via 'Reply All'.
A company was founded on the premise that 'Reply All' is a nuisance. Sperry Software, not to be confused with the boat shoe business, sells a simple program that assaults users with an alert every time they hit Reply All to any email. It acts as a failsafe mechanism to prevent any foolish mistakes. And get this, it sells for $14.95 and has allegedly sold hundreds of thousands of copies, making the anti-'Reply All' business a big business to be in.
As I said earlier, I've never made the mistake of hitting Reply All when I shouldn't have, but I heard a story of a third year Analyst who came before me that did and paid for it, big time. He was working on a typical sell-side deal team with an Associate, a VP, and an MD running the show. Over the course of his Analyst stint, he'd become good friends with the Associate, and both of them absolutely hated the VP on the deal. They thought he was completely incompetent and couldn't stand that he didn't seem to do much other than point out the occasional spelling error in a pitch book.
Anyway. The Associate on the deal sends the team an email update about the process. He had been talking to potential buyers of the firm's client and wanted to give a run-down of who looked promising and who was dropping out of the process. The deal was going pretty well and there were a decent number of serious buyers hanging around the hoop. A standard update email for a process that was progressing nicely...until the Analyst wrote a quick reply email. It was short, but brutal. Something along the lines of "Good stuff, let's hope Jimbo [the VP] doesn't f*ck it up for us." As soon as he hit send he realized what he had done and it was too late.
His 'Reply All' mistake cost him big time. His bonus was trimmed and he lost any shot he had at promotion.
Frankly, I felt bad when I heard about it because the VP in question was completely useless and everyone knew it. But that's the way it works when you're at the bottom of the totem pole. If only he had Sperry's Software, he could've avoided the whole thing and might even be a VP by now.
Let that be a lesson to everyone: live in fear of 'Reply All' or pay the consequences.