Mastering The Art Of The Email CC

Let’s talk about politics. They’ll be no mention of Donald’s or Hillary’s or Russia in this discourse. We are addressing a different kind of politics entirely. Similarly confusing, maddening, and hard to navigate, office politics are an unavoidable workplace hazard. Especially when it comes to communicating via electronic mail.

Any leader with a decent track record and a chunky paycheck will tell you communication is the key to success, both for the business as well as the individual. But professionals these days are communicating less and less in a face to face manner. Everything is a conference call, a meeting via satellite video, a webcast. And of course, email. If it’s not in writing, was the conversation ever really had? No. 

You have a great idea. You have the takeaways from the meeting with the important client. You have feedback on the feedback from the meeting about the idea. Whatever you have to say, it’s time to let your fingers glide across the keyboard (complete with crumbs from this morning’s breakfast croissant at your desk) in order to compose the email consisting of your invaluable thoughts. You hit every bullet, you highlighted key points, you italicized the buzz words. Now it’s time to fire out your missive. 

You direct your mouse and click into the “To” field. Enter colleague’s name here. Click send and you’re good- right? WRONG. If you didn’t even stop to think about who needs to be “cc’d” on this directive you are going to have hell to pay. 

CC’ing, also known more formally as carbon copying, is the best way to anger anyone and everyone you work with. It’s a necessary evil. It’s also the electronic equivalent of passive aggressive behavior in a meeting. It’s an art, not a science, and it’s proven to be an acquired yet elusive skill for me in my career. 

Having joined the workforce not too long after the invention of email, you’d think I’d have mastered this by now. But I continue to get harangued by peers and even the powers that be when the appropriate people didn’t get copied on my communicados. I can never seem to get it right. Someone always feels like I was going behind their back, or leaving them out on purpose, or including their boss to make them look bad. I simply can’t win. 

I am certain I am not the only professional who suffers from insufficient CCing. Therefore I have composed a checklist of people you should consider copying next time you shoot out that email, regardless of how casual you may think it to be. 

Before you hit send did you include?

  • Your boss
  • Recipient’s boss
  • Recipients assistant
  • Your assistant
  • The client relationship manager
  • Your colleagues overseas
  • The entire sales force
  • The Head of HR
  • The Head of Compliance
  • The CEO of your firm

If you have hit on the above mentioned, not to worry. You have still probably left someone out. And if you didn’t, someone will still be offended that their name came after someone else on the list. Or a single word in your email will have rubbed a single person the wrong way, and it will result in a casual coffee in the cafeteria to discuss.

Now that you hit send, your thoughts are not only in writing, but are also blinking on the screen of everyone you work with, ready to be judged and criticized by the masses, and talked about by your nemesis and his or her cronies at the water cooler. But at least you weren’t hiding anything. No secret emails to see here.

Once in the hands of the recipient(s), you become vulnerable to virality if your email gets forwarded, nay blasted out, should someone feel the need to share. There is a way to prevent this. By using the nifty hashtag with the term “internal use only”, you are warning anyone who sends this email along that passing it on will be at his or her own peril. It’s not perfect, but it’s a decent deterrent. 

Finally, please be aware that there is an entirely different conversation to be had about other email pitfalls in the workplace. Need I highlight the hatred for the idiot who has a habit of hitting reply all? Or the dangerous cousin off the “CC”, the BCC. Blind copying seems like a much safer option vs. the CC, but no one likes to get a message “just for you” when they know they’re one of many on a mass distribution list. Conversely, CC’ing by accident when you meant to BCC just showed the world just how many men and women you’re trying to address with the single push of a button rather than take the time to reach out to each personally. You’re now not only stupid, but also lazy. And please, PLEASE don’t reply all to an email you were BCC’d on. You just ruined it for everyone.

Good luck remembering these pointers, or living in absolute fear of breaking any of the guidelines discussed today, next time you need to send a quick note to your client about tomorrow’s meeting. I’m sure we’ll all figure this technology in the workplace thing out eventually. 


14 thoughts on “Mastering The Art Of The Email CC

  1. Oh the perils of email – You’ve hit the nail on the head here with the whole CC’ing (a new verb) thing. Email has been around for decades but we’re still grappling with the etiquette of it all. The worst example I remember is when a colleague did a “reply to all” by accident and forget to check the spelling – The Director’s name had turned into something very rude via predictive text!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ah, email… So many possible errors! Navigating who to CC is something I only really realized was an important skill about 5 years into working. I actually think managers need to give their employees (especially new hires) explicit direction on who they should CC, both horizontally and vertically. That might save some headaches…

    Liked by 1 person

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