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’