📄 Why you should never CC anybody on email


It seems so logical:

You're sending an email, and someone else in your world needs to be copied in, or participate in the conversation.

For example, the sales team I'm coaching at the moment:

If I need to tell these people something, and there's 15 people in the team, the most obvious thing to do, is to just add their email addresses and hit send.

Obviously, that means I interrupt 15 people's day, but that's how communication goes.

The problem arises when people start hitting reply-all.

Each time someone clicks that button, 15 people get interrupted.

And if everyone hits reply-all, only once, the total number of interruptions sent out across the team is 210. Every individual in the team will get pinged 210 times.

And that's only for the first round.

If people start replying reply-all to the reply-alls they received, you're suddenly looking at thousands of interruptions sent across a small team, in the space of just a few days.

Boom, there goes productivity.

That is why I never CC anyone.

If I absolutely HAVE to copy someone in, I'll use

Hi John, (Jimmy BCC)

as the salutation, to remove the reply-all option. Isn't perfect, people often still get copied in later on, but it helps.

And, by using this approach and linking to this page from my email signature, I try to help people understand why and how to avoid using CC.

"But I need several people to be in this conversation!"

Fair enough, same for me. Just don't use email for it.

You'll be far more effective and efficient in your communications, if you use a purpose-built tool for group comms, whether it's Slack, Whatsapp, Telegram or Teams or whatever tool works for your organisation.

Just remember that email is THE worst place to have group conversations.

If at times you absolutely have to CC people, keep these rules in mind:

  • 1 CC recipient at a max. The problem is that logistics in sending messages back and forth increases exponentially with each participant you add. A three-person dynamic is the maximum complexity you'll want to deal with.
  • Someone asked you to. Careful with quickly complying with that - it's easy to ask 'just copy me in, and Jenny as well', but that's usually not the only solution, and it's rarely the best.
  • Your message is genuinely relevant for all recipients. Before you go and plonk a bunch of names into the send field, ask yourself if this person will be worse-off for not being looped in.
  • All email recipients need to take actions. This is the big one. If you're only updating or informing people, and not asking them to do something, they probably don't need to get the update from you, through email, because they'll access the information later and/or elsewhere. In short, it's about being thoughtful, respectful of other people's time - and it's also about making sure you don't get 100s or 1000s or reply-emails shipped back to you.

P.s. When I need to lay down this rule in an email to for instance a client, I use a footer template that explains in a nice and friendly way. Hit reply, and I'll send it over for you to use.

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