I’m Tired of Babysitting Man-Babies at Work

Is it wrong to be thoroughly annoyed by people who reply all in an email thread when their reply isn’t necessary for all to see? It drives me nuts. Is that extremely petty? Am I crazy? Is it uncalled-for if I send a gentle reminder to those people that they have replied all?

— Demi, Brooklyn

We will have finally evolved as a species when people stop replying all unnecessarily. Reply to the sender if you need to communicate only with that person, or reply all to everyone if you need to communicate to the group. It’s not that hard.

I wish I knew why this was so elusive a skill. I guess most people are overwhelmed by professional emails, try to respond to them quickly and perfunctorily, and don’t take the time to reply carefully. That’s how you get trapped in endless email chains about topics irrelevant to your work, and just when you think you’re free from its clutches, someone who was on vacation will return and add to the conversation, triggering a new wave of replies, none of which should have ever arrived in your inbox.

Long story short, your sentiment here is not extremely petty. It’s only moderately petty. You are not crazy. This is one of those minor grievances that irritate most people, and there’s really nothing you can do about it but complain. Embrace that.

Our H.R. department is trying hard to get us to connect virtually while we are all out of the office. Unfortunately, these efforts involve online events that cover a pretty narrow range of interests. Virtual ugly sweater party. The online version of that game from summer camp where you need to figure out who is the spy. Zoom calligraphy lesson. The last one was mandatory: Every team needed to come up with a motto and make signs.

It looks like H.R. insists on continuing to mandate “fun” events. Do you have any ideas that I could suggest that are less twee?

— Anonymous

As I’ve discussed previously, mandatory fun in person is unbearable. Mandatory fun via Zoom is even worse. But I also think we need to extend a little generosity to H.R. departments. They are doing their best to maintain collegial work environments with everyone working remotely. If this state of affairs goes on much longer, H.R. will adapt and, hopefully, realize that the kind of warm, fun work environment you can create in person might not be possible in a distributed, virtual workplace. And that’s probably OK.

If you’re going to suggest anything, ask for these events to be optional. You might also suggest they deploy a survey to ask employees their opinions on how to support strong connections and what kinds of activities would be more enjoyable. For better or worse, lots of activities have moved online. On a recent date night, my wife and I attended “Inside the Box,” a virtual magic show featuring David Kwong. It was so fun, and we enjoyed it far more than we expected to.

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