To CC: or not to CC:, that is the Question

When do you CC: people on your emails as a Project Manager?

The history of the Carbon Copy goes back to the days of typewriters when carbon paper was sandwiched between two pieces of paper and the pressure applied to the top page would transfer similar marks to the bottom page. Those copies could then be distributed to people who would benefit from that information.

The days of carbon paper are long gone, but the idea remains the same for this feature in your e-mail program. However, the reasons for cc:’ing people have changed. I’ve seen the following three main uses of this feature:

  • FYI –This is probably one of the most effective and noble uses of cc:’ing somebody. While the email may not be directly addressed toward those who are being cc:’ed, the information it contains will be useful for them to know at some point in the future.
  • Blame Avoidance – One of the more ignoble reasons for cc:’ing people is to be able to pull out an e-mail if something goes wrong and say “See, I told you about this.”
  • UTB – Arguably the worst use of this feature is to use it to throw somebody under the bus (UTB). This is when the email that is addressed to someone directly goes something like this: “You said you would have this done by a certain date. It is now 10 days past that date. Please advise”. In and of itself, this would be OK. The problem is that writer of the email chose to cc: the entire company!

My rule of thumb when it comes to email is to obtain/provide routine answers to routine questions (for example, percentage complete) and to chronicle the decisions that were made as a project team for future reference. Those that are cc:’ed will be for Informational purposes only.  People should never be blindsided by news or questions they have not heard from you directly (especially bad news).

So, when and how do you use the cc: feature when managing your projects? Do you have any stories of how using cc: for Blame Avoidance or UTB purposes have backfired? Do you ever see the need to blind carbon copy (bcc:) somebody?


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