Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

Don’t CC on Unpleasant Emails

See what he did? If you feel you must send a critical or corrective email at work, think carefully about whether you should copy (cc) anyone.  More often than not, it only escalates the hostility. It often presents you in a negative way, even to the person being copied. It gives the appearance you are telling the cc recipient:

  • “See how I’m trying to do good work but she isn’t?”
  • “I want you to be aware of what I’m having to deal with!”
  • “This is in case you don’t know what a jerk Greg is.”
  • “Why don’t you do something about this situation?”
  • “I’m writing really tough because I’m playing to an audience.”

To the original recipient it sounds like, “You’re going to get in trouuuuble!”

Alternatives To CCs

1. Blind copy (bc) the higher level person, so the main recipient doesn’t know you are copying anyone. This can be effective when your boss has asked for a copy, but no good purpose would be served by making it obvious. Check #4 for another option.

2. Wait for the response and, if it there is still a need, forward both to the person you think needs to know. You may get a response that solves the problem and your boss will not have to deal with the first email.

3. If someone else (your boss or their boss) needs to know about an ongoing problem, just write to that person directly and ask for assistance. Don’t use the disingenuous method of copying them on an unpleasant email, under the guise of keeping them informed.

4. If someone else needs to be kept informed and have all the information about a situation (and there may be many legitimate reasons for that) rather than blind copying, which prevents you from sending a personal note, re-send your message or your response message or forward it to them. In that message explain why you are sending it or add any other information that is needed. Just be sure there is a good reason to send it to someone else, beyond pointing out the bad actions of the other person and your good actions in comparison.

5. Consider not sending an email at all when you can talk to someone in person or make a phone call. Emails are effective for documentation, but often they should be reserved for when your first efforts to solve a problem haven’t worked. Talk to your manager or supervisor to make sure your response, whether in person or by email, is likely to be effective.

There are certainly times when it is necessary to send a written message to clarify an issue, make a statement or point out a problem as a way to solve it.  There are also times when you must respond to those types of messsages, using a strong tone. However, a negative reaction and response is almost guaranteed when the recipient sees you have “told on” him or her to someone higher up. Is the cc necessary this time?


December 13th, 2009 Posted by | Life and Work, Personal and Professional Development | 5 comments