OCS: Obsessive CCing Syndrome

emails2Mr. Sharma started his career in manufacturing and email was not mainstream yet. Official  communications used to be on paper, brief and focused addressed to select set of people. One would review the same, make their comments and pass it on to the next receiver. It was when Mr. Sharma joined the IT industry, he was exposed to rampant use of what they called “email”.  Having experienced the labor unions and the associated politics, he initially thought it to be a big scam by the management to keep track of what their staff is doing.

Mr. Sharma accepted this form of communication over years. In due course, he was also introduced to short forms like CC, BCC, TO et al. A basic inquiry made him discover that one would add a person to  “TO” if it’s for their attention and action. And if some one needs to have a copy of the information he is kept in “CC (Carbon Copy)”. And if you are sending them a Copy and you don’t wish the other recipients to see that you sent it to this contact then BCC ( Blind Carbon Copy) is used.

As some one who is particular about etiquette of official communication, he expected his colleagues to use CC, BCC and TO as per the above definition. To his shock he found CC and BCC being used and abused by many people including himself in the organization! As a result Mr. Sharma decided to make a note of this and circulated the below. He kept every one in TO, as he believed this is something they all needed to act on right away:

When is some one added to CC?

  1. If some one needs to have a copy of the information he or she is kept in  CC (Carbon Copy). This is the fundamental principle for using CC
  2. There could be select scenarios under this viz. cases where you are not getting a response even after follow ups and hence need to escalate it to the persons manager / senior
  3. Rare scenarios where its absolutely essential to keep the senior management/bosses informed around developments in a project one is working with the persons addressed in TO
  4. OR you have a  some one  in your organization who feels they need to be “kept in loop” for all your communication (though you can always ask him/her why is that required?)

When  NOT to add some one to CC? 

  • The information that you have in email is non essential or  just “good to know” for people marked in CC! And you have the option of informing the people in CC during your weekly call, across the table conversation
  • Using “reply all” when you know that the subsequent mail communication would be a 1: 1 between individuals in TO field! Discretion is must here or else you are essentially spamming others! The sanity check here is to ask the question ..is this a multi-person conversation?
  • Using CCing for reasons of  Visibility . While its completely OK to share a great result or a key success, it does not make any sense if its to just to inform an activity is done.
    Your job is doing what you promised, by the date you promised you’d do it

Emails unfortunately have replaced a good part of our verbal / face to face conversations. The 100s of unread emails only leaves us frustrated. Hence there is a strong case for using CC and BCC very sparingly…may be TO as well!


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