Interoffice Nuclear Arms Race

Or: How to properly use the CC/BCC fields in email to be a real jerk.

In business today, the email is mightier than the pen and the sword, combined. Here are things to be aware of in the usage of corporate email.

I have a theory that you can tell a lot about a company’s culture by their usage of the “CC” and “BCC” lines in email.

When they:

  • CC their boss — If their boss’ name suddenly shows up in the CC line, there’s usually three reasons for this.  Either:
  • They were called out in a meeting and are proving they are actually doing work.
  • They are trying to one-up you by a show of force. See also sabre-rattling.
  • You included YOUR boss in the CC line first, and the arms race just escalated. They are saying, “How ya like me now?” (video)
  • CC your boss — This only means one thing: “You’re incompetent and I am telling on you.” What it sounds like is, “I think I’m more important than I really am” (For an example, play the video starting at 1:03)
  • If the people you’re emailing don’t have the guts to blackball you publicly, they will revert to the tried and true “BCC” method, engaging in the clandestine act of corporate CYA. This is often uncovered when old emails are forwarded accidentally into the main stream  revealing side-channel chatter that is oh so less professional than the main flow of conversation.

    When they:

    • BCC their boss — First of all, you can’t see that they are doing this, but later it might come up.  This means they are trying to prove to the other person (usually their boss) that they are pushing you to get work done.
    • BCC your boss — This is blatant. It’s called throwing you under the bus, and it’s lame. This practice is usually employed by people who can’t admit to themselves you are right about something, or don’t have the guts to walk over and ask you to do something differently.

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