The Chasm Of Carbon Copy

The Chasm Of Carbon Copy

I get emails all the time that have nothing to do with me. People carbon copy (cc) me and hope that maybe I’ll chime in and move the task or project along. Then I get a lot of other responses with a nonsensical one word reply, “NOTED.” Noted? That’s a whole different post. I’m sure everyone’s heart is in the right place, but let’s look at the effectiveness of cc'ing.

Today, on average, people receive 100 emails a day. Junk mail, important mail, and cc’d email. Just think that 15 years ago dial-up was a phenomenon and Amazon didn’t even know what the heck they were doing—what a long thought.

Back to the 100 emails a day. When you’re working through those emails and you are cc’d with no direction or demand for input, more than likely you'll delete it, hope it goes away, or file it in the section of your brain that has the excuse, “Oh I didn’t think I needed to act or respond to that.” Then when people ask you if you got it, you actually don't remember. Here are some things to think about when you cc—all in the name of better and more effective communication.

Here’s when you should cc:

  • When every cc’d person is adding value and their expected value-add is clear. Whether it be the accountant, the lawyer, or the maintenance man–all should have a role. State this role in your meetings or your initial email conversation.
  • Make this a habit: Introduce everyone involved in the cc (in meetings prior to the BIG spam fest email). There’s nothing like getting an email directed at you and seeing 8 other people cc’d that haven’t been referred to, introduced or acknowledged. It’s like an awkward online party.
  • When there’s a follow-up for the cc’d person. If a team member should be in the loop for the value that they’ve added or will add in the future, then CC. See point 1 for details.
  • CC if someone specifically asks, “Please keep me in the loop on this…”

When not to cc:

  • You should never cc anyone when you’re looking for free help. Never ever. This act of email discourtesy is like trying to find people who have nothing to do except sift through long documents and tell you where they can add value for free. (If those people are in your loop of friends, they are either unemployed, or they should be.)
  • When you're sitting right next to the person you’re cc’ing, or they are one office door a way. A quick 10 minute chat for advice, or a second look will go a lot farther than an email.
  • When you’re hoping at least 25% of the people will respond or read your diligent work. This is a shotgun approach to momentum, and it normally backfires. If you’re not sure who has really bought into what you’re trying to achieve, then don’t include them on your emails.

Many cc’d emails come across as an FYI. For Your Information. The biggest thing about this FYI is that there’s no Ask. There’s no reason to commit. It’s a sign that basically reads, “If you have nothing to do and you’re in need of more information, go ahead and take some time and peruse through what I’m saying. And if you really like it, then go ahead and think of a way that you can help me with my incompetence."

“Anyone have any thoughts on this?” No, because my name is not Anyone, and I’m sure you can find Someone out of this picnic basket of people you chose to cc that will help you or contribute to the cc conversation. When you‘ve thought of that, will you please put together an email on your random contribution to the project and then send it to me and cc all the other people that I cc’d.

It’s simple but I believe it’s worth addressing: watch the cc’d trigger. Lay off on it. Think through each person that you’re including on a message. If it’s 1 in 100 emails flooding their account, why should they pay attention and can they get involved?

If it's such an important project, then please take the time to send me a personalized and well-thought out email. FYI's are more than likely lazy emailing. And if you want my direct input, never underestimate the power of a face-to-face connection.

(photo via iamnotunique)