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The CC epidemic: 5 reasons you shouldn’t use it

Updated: May 27

The text "Cc:" in a gray text color

CC’ing a few people when you email, that’s no big deal, right? It doesn’t cost you anything. Or does it?

You know HOW to do it: just tab down after addressing the primary recipient and enter a few people who may or may not need or care to see the note. It’s literally a few keystrokes thanks to the miracle of autocomplete. When your parents were kids, they had to write out the complete email address, that made it harder to add so many people to your messages. Or even worse, they had to get an envelope, stamp and hand-write it.

Fast forward to today – according to Fortune Magazine article citing a McKinsey Global Institute study in 2012, the average knowledge worker spends 28% of their work time managing email. CC-abuse may not be taking lives, but it’s killing a ton of time. Here’s the problem: it’s an asymmetrical action. A tiny bit of typing by the sender creates a bunch of work for other people.

What the sender experiences:

– addresses the message

– adds a few CC names

– presses send

What EACH recipient experiences:

– sees a “new message” indicator

– opens email app

– reads subject line

– opens message, only to find that they are cc’d and not the primary recipient

– reads message

– files or trashes message

We’re talking seconds here. But how many times a day? How many days a week, year? If you’re a gmail user, you could try one of these tools to measure the number of emails actually sent to you vs. emails received:

Only cc someone if there is a STRONG reason to do so, not a “possibility they will need to see it”.

Habit # 1: CC because you think they might need to know. Either they must know, or they don’t. Tip: if you feel the need to say “FYI” on it to the cc recipient, then don’t cc them.

Habit # 2: CC’ing because a person was on the original email (otherwise known as “REPLY TO ALL”) – Don’t perpetuate an excessive recipient list. Just reply to the one person who actually needs to see it.

Habit # 3: CC’ing to look busy to a supervisor – they used to have your job. They know when you’re busy. If they want to be cc’d on your notes, they’ll tell you. Assume the answer is “no” to start.

Habit # 4: CC’ing to cover your ass. If your boss trusts you to do the right thing, you don’t need to copy them every time.

Habit # 5: Not respecting the management interest in details. Just because a higher level manager was originally involved doesn’t mean they care about the execution and derivative steps. You think you’re helping by including them in the note? You may be upsetting them but they may not want to irritate you by saying “remove me from this thread”

Some tips if you feel you MUST cc people:

a) ask them. “Unless you tell me otherwise I’m not going to include you on this thread unless there are complications”

b) suggest they create a filter where they receive the message but their filter automatically archives/files the message if they are not the primary recipient (some email applications can do this) – that way they still “get” the message without having to see/notice it. But they can search for it if they need to later.

Forward this onto a friend. Just don’t CC them.

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