The Curse of the CC

Do you ever wish email didn’t exist? Heaven forbid you go away on vacation or go home sick. Is unplugging even possible? Per the Washington Post, “79% say they check their work email while on vacation.” Nothing says quality family time as “hold on a second, let me respond to this email for work.” Guilty as charged. I check email first thing every morning and the last thing every evening (yes weekends included), just so I can stay on top of it. There have been a few occasions where the owner, John Rinaldi, has scolded me to stop checking emails at 9:00 pm at night. Even on a recent vacation, my mother was looking in a gift shop as I was quickly taking a “peek” at emails that have come through. I probably should have paid closer attention to the mountain of knickknacks she was buying for my kids tipping my suitcase past the 50 lb. limit.

Citing an article in Forbes Magazine by Annabel Action, “On average, office workers receive at least 200 messages a day and spend about 2 1/2 hours reading and replying to emails.” Now throw in the emails that you are copied on. “Do you ever wonder, why I am I CC on this?” Do you reply? Do you not?  What do you do with this message? Especially if there is no pre-text to why you are CC. It is as if your co-worker Mitch, in mid-sentence to another colleague Joe, pulls you over to just listen to them talk. You don’t need to provide input. There are not questions being asked directly to you. You just stand there watching. That is what a CC email portrays, the courtesy copy.

Entrepreneur.com shared a few labels to describe forms of CC that one should be careful before it is becoming a curse. “Responsibility-minimization CC,” “Join the Cause CC,” “Defensive CC,” and “Blind CC.” At a prior company I worked for, the manager would frequently CC individuals to minimize her responsibility or act defensive. She would CC a superior manager, fellow manager, or someone random, thinking it would force the outcome that she wanted, even if it was not in the best interest of the company. She also didn’t understand why the environment was so toxic. Her methods were a culture killer.

A prior client of mine in Illinois had several policies that the entire company was included on as a CC email. Some of the correspondence is specific to only one department, but all departments were to be informed. What are some of the reasons as to why this is a good practice? Is it a good practice? This client believed if everyone was CC, then everyone would be aware, and his responsibility to implement would be minimized. The issue is when you CC a mass quantity, your message becomes white noise and there’s no assurance that the message is absorbed. What is the happy medium?

Here are a few antidotes to the CC/Emailing Curse:

  1. Your subject line should be the most important feature of your email. It pretty much determines if your email will be opened or even read. Make it relevant and brief.
  2. Careful what you put in email. An article from Psychology Today phrased it well, “Just because you write in a certain way doesn’t mean it’s received the same way.”
  3. If you want to include someone in the conversation, put them on the “To” line and introduce them. Then it is understood that they are to be a participant, not a bystander, in the conversation.
  4. If you decide that you need to CC an individual in the middle of an email thread, introduce the person and why you are including them on this email.
  5. If you are noticing the email thread getting lengthy, it might be wise to just pull everyone into a room/on the phone and discuss it, versus the back and forth exchanges.
  6. Don’t CC someone to “make” them feel more involved than they are. If you want them involved, get them involved.
  7. Identify who is in the know. More importantly, why do they need to know?
  8. Try to resist the urge to “Reply All” unless if it is critical that all be informed. Everyone enjoys their email tripling in size for Happy Birthday/Congratulation messages.
  9. CCing an individual as a threat is never appreciated. A conversation goes much further then threatening emails.
  10. Also, using the CC email to campaign for support is also not the best way to use of email.
  11. Use blind CC with caution. When not used appropriately, you are pretty much asking for someone to hide behind the bushes and listen with a kid spy listening device. I am not saying that these tactics should never be used. Instead, I suggest that the emotion be removed from the email.
  12. Putting a smiley face at the end of a sentence does not lightened the mood of the email if you are reprimanding them. ????

Now that you’ve mastered the art of email, it’s time for you to up your game and move onto tougher topics. We’ve got helpful how to’s on those too! Check out Real Time Automation’s digital university, industrial networking university, and blogs providing insightful tips of the trade and training opportunities.