Me and my CC army
E-mails are great; seriously, they are time saving, efficient and most of all really easy to use even for a technical dunce. And whilst Mark Zuckerberg may be predicting the end of the e-mail I am confident that in local government they will be here for many years to come (we are never ever ahead of those sort of trends!).
Unfortunately, even the best inventions can fall foul to the mis-use of the human being who is in charge of piloting the tool of choice. Two and half years ago (yeah, I couldn’t believe we’d been going for that long either) one of my colleagues wrote about the strange mis-use of the ‘reply all’ button and concluded:
Seriously, if you can’t be responsible about using the reply all button then frankly you shouldn’t be allowed to use a computer. In fact, you shouldn’t really be allowed out of the house, or be left alone with anything complicated like shoe laces or peanut butter.
She was of course spot on but two and half years later I am taken with another e-mail problem similar to the ‘reply all’ phenomena: People using the cc section of the e-mail as a show of strength or bravado.
I call this phenomena ‘me and my cc army’ and it takes a number of different forms:
1) The ‘look at all the important people who you would be disappointing if you don’t do as I say’
In this version a relatively junior person is copying in as many layers of management as he or she can think of to show that the issue is really important. Not having the confidence to make the request themselves on its own merit they call in the ‘big boys cc army’.
2) The ‘see chaps, I really am on your side’
Here a manager wants to show his staff (or a team member wants to show their colleagues) that they are taking up an issue with someone else in the organization. The multiple cc’s say to the cc’d that you’re on their side and to the recipient that everyone knows that it’s their fault if the thing that needs to happen doesn’t. Here the army is the ‘cc infantry’
3) The ‘I’m not sure of my ground here’
Here a member of staff is not quite sure they’ve got it right and rather than risk a simple rebuttal from a single recipient they roll out the heavy roller and just cc in anyone who might be relevant to the e-mail in the hope that at least one of them will have the information / be the right person / care enough to reply. Here we have the ‘cc scatter gun’
4) The ‘army of one’
Who needs an army when you have a Director or a Chief Executive in your cc box? Here, the sender banks on the fact that they’ve ‘gone single’ to either get what they want from the recipient or to get the big cheese to weigh in. This is simply the ‘cc army of one’ and can be incredibly effective.
5) The secret army
Here the sender’s using the bcc to keep one party in the dark as to who knows what. Providing plausible deniability and trading on deception this gambit never works. This is the ‘bcc army’.
I’m sure there are many more and please do add some below but please remember that using e-mail should be a communication tool and next time you are tempted to use the ‘cc army’ to make an e-mail power play please think twice.
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