CC and BCC are Not Your Friends!

If you are working, then you will most likely be sending and receiving emails all day long.

But do you really understand the extra options for sending out emails?

Let’s start from the very beginning. There are 4 fields when composing an email – “To”, “CC’, “BCC” and “Subject:”

And unless you’ve been living under a rock, I would hope that it’s safe to assume that you understand what should go in the “To:” and “Subject:” fields, so I won’t dig too deep into either of those options.

But how about the “CC” and “BCC” fields?

I am sure many people are aware of these fields, but they are often misused! So for the sanity of myself and everyone you communicate with, I think it is highly important to address some of these email etiquette issues.


CC and BCC are Not Your Friends!

If you haven’t already got the message from the title, let me just repeat it here again.

Do you work at a company where everyone is copied on everything? 

If you are nodding your head right now as you are reading this, well then, good luck to you and the thousand of unread messages in your inbox!

The basic fact is this: Majority of the emails a company generates is unnecessary, ineffective, and primarily unread! This is because many of these emails are sent as a CC or a BCC. Isn’t the fact that these acronyms stand for “carbon copy” and “blind carbon copy” an indicator to people that their time has passed? I mean, who even remembers what a “carbon copy” is anymore these days?

So the summary is this: don’t loosely use it!


So why do people use it, and what do I use instead?

While I’ve captured your attention (hopefully), let me just take this opportunity to point out some of the reasons I’ve seen these being used, and give you some alternative ideas to spamming that CC and BCC field.


Sharing is not always Caring

CC for FYI (for-your-info)

This is a typical scenario in the workplace. You want to keep everyone in the loop, and ensure they know what’s going on with the current ongoing project. So you CC the treasurer, the account manager, the sales department, the marketing department, the guy sitting next to you, the girl down the end of the row, …the list goes on. But is this really the best way to keep your colleagues informed?

I mean, firstly, everyone in your CC list has to probably read through your long and detailed email to figure out why they got it in the first place. Secondly, they may not glean from it what you intended them to know. The more likely scenario would be they probably did not read it at all – because the email wasn’t even addressed to them in the first place! They could have easily scrolled past it without even opening it.

All this is ineffective because not only do they cause clutter, your purpose for sending it to them in the first place has also failed. It is no wonder why companies have frequent communication breakdowns.

The Alternative:

If you want someone to know something you’ve put in an email, then you should forward that particular email and send it separately to them. This way, there is no chance for any misinterpretation, and a higher chance that your colleague will open that email.

Another possible way is to address them directly near the top of the original email. Remember to use the “@” sign! For example, “@Jane – I am copying you in so you can have a rough view of the project’s budget thus far”.


Do not let your Responsibility become someone else’s

CC for CYA (cover-your-ass)

What happens if you aren’t sure if you’re on the right track of your project? You start copying everyone around you again, including your bosses, hoping that today will be the day he opens your email and gives you his feedback. Let’s face it. He is probably not going to even see your email amongst his thousands of emails flooding his inbox. And if all your colleagues are thinking the same way as you, and CC-ing everyone in, it is 99% likely that he will just bypass your email!

The most important thing you need to comprehend though is that copying your boss or colleagues into the email isn’t going to absolve you from that responsibility. Just because your friend Jane sitting down the row from you is copied in, does not mean the ball is in her court now, and thus does not give you the right to say “I sent her the figures already. Any delay regarding this project is on her end now.” This is hence another source of any communication breakdown within any business, which might sometimes produce damaging results.

The Alternative:

The basic courtesy is this: address whoever you want a course-of-action from directly.

For example, in the email, you could include a one-liner saying “Jane, I think we need to go through the project budget this afternoon”, or “Jane, I think we should go ahead with the 5×7 flier. What do you think?”.

Another alternative is sending your colleague a direct message (DM) through your company’s chat system, in order to alert her to look out for your incoming email.


Eavesdropping is not the way to go

BCC for Private Communication

If your company is sending out a newsletter or huge mass emails, using the BCC is a must! Your recipient would not want his or her email address to be shared with hundreds or thousands of other strangers. So in this case, if you do not BCC, be prepared to be blacklisted.

However, in every other case, let me just put this out there – when you BCC someone else, you are being dishonest – like it or not. I mean, you are emailing Jane, and without them knowing, letting Jack eavesdrop on your conversation. This may not sound like a huge issue, however in the business world, there are 2 very important characteristics – integrity and transparency. 

What’s worst is if Mary did not know she was in the “BCC” list and/or accidentally hits the “reply all” button when replying to you. Well, guess what, Jane would receive that email too! I mean, the reality is most people hit the “reply all” button, more than the “reply” button.

So, bottom line is this – stay clear from the BCC field unless sending mass mailers!

The Alternative:

If you desperately want to copy someone in on a message, then the next best option is to “forward” the email to them as a private recipient. For example, “Mary, below is the message I sent Jane in regards to her tardiness”. So now, even if the secret recipient does a Reply-to-All, it only comes back to you.


CC and BCC are Not Your Friends!

And in case you forgot my main message again, let me just repeat this one last time.

And if you want to set an example for communication within your company, minimize communication breakdowns, cut down on email clutter, and save everyone some time, then I suggest you keep this in mind the next time you decide to CC or BCC someone.


And if you are on Office 365, and just want to chat about this more…


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