When They "Cc" The World

When training people how to better manage their email, the subject of “cc” always comes up. Many of us are copied on emails that have absolutely no importance to our work responsibilities. They clog our inbox and create a significant amount of work, pouring through the email, making sure that there’s not some small morsel that might need our attention.

The difficulty in minimizing this behavior is that we aren’t in control of other people and their work actions. Some people use it as a way to document their actions and to tell the world what they are working on. I’m not positive, but I think that if you have to use this technique to justify how you are spending your time, there are bigger issues at work.

Last week I heard a brilliant technique from a participant to start the discussion with your department or others with whom you regularly communicate with that may default to this behavior. In his company they ask this question:

Would you pick up the phone and call the people you are about to “cc” on this email and give them this information if you couldn’t email them? If the answer is “No,” then don’t “cc” them.

He went on to say that if the person said they would pick up the phone and call the person, that they should be in the “to” line and not the “cc” line. And his company encourages individuals to use a shorter version of the email when communicating something to large numbers of people with only the pertinent information. While not perfect solutions, they certainly can start the conversation about minimizing this deluge of often unnecessary information.