May 13, 2014
In my not-so-humble opinion, email is one of the greatest and worst inventions ever. Don’t get me wrong, being a remote worker for a technology company, email has changed the way I work, and has allowed me to do things that I never would have been able to do pre-email. But my issue with email is the pure amount of email that I get, have to read and deal with. Many days I feel that all I do is read and respond to email and that is really not what my job is.
One of the biggest email time wasters is Carbon Copy or CC.
This is an amazingly overused feature of email and cause of a few key email behaviors.
- The CYA Email (or cover your ass email) – This is the email where you copy half the company because you are afraid of the fallout if you leave someone out of the loop and then have to deal with the political ramifications of trying to explain it was not intentional, so it is easier to just CC everyone.
- The “I want to show you I am working email” – This is for the person that feels that the more emails they send in a given day, the harder they worked. So they CC their boss all the time just to say “see … I am working.” But sometimes the boss that does not trust the employee so asks to be CCd on everything to make sure their team is working.
- The “heavyweight email” – This is when you email someone in another group or department and you want them to see your boss or an executive was included on the email. I also call this the “my dad can beat up your dad” email.
The issue I have with all of these emails is I am actually not being asked to do anything. Side note … if you want me to do something in an email … don’t CC me … if you do, then you do not understand the use of CC. But I will get to that in a second. I must get 100 emails a day where I am CCd for many of the reasons I listed above. If I go through and read all of those, it takes away from the time I have to do the things that people need from me. But the challenge is there might be two or three of these hundreds I might actually need to read because I need to know what is going on even though I don’t need to respond.
So what do I do?
I have a Microsoft Outlook rule that says, any email I am CCd on, is automatically sent to a CC folder for later. They don’t go to my mobile device, they are not in my inbox and I can then go read them when I have time. For me, I block an hour on a Friday afternoon when I know my productivity is lacking and then read through and clean out my CC folder. I stole this from a previous manager who did the same thing but instead of a folder, they went right in the trash. She never read CC email.
The key thing to making this work is to educate and train people that work with me that this is how I work. My team and people I work with most, know this is how I work and it won’t take long for the person who CCs me asking me to do stuff to stop doing that when I never see their email until Friday afternoon. Trust me, they learn fast. So by doing this I cut my email inbox in half and can then focus on the important stuff.
But the truth is, I wish I did not have to do this. In today’s workplace there is no way to post or share FYI types of information without emailing it to half the company. There is no way to share the status or update a group of people to read or research at their convenience without interrupting them with an email. So that is exactly what we do, interrupt everyone to read something that they likely don’t care about and didn’t need to read right now.
But Social Collaboration tools are changing that. You can post conversations around topics or projects and people can read it when they want to and not be interrupted from their work. This type of thing has made it easy for me to go find out the status of a project my team is working on without being interrupted during key times. Not only is it easy for me, but I (and others) can stay in the Know without disrupting the team or requiring an additional action of a status update. I can naturally be in the loop because I and part of the conversation so I can drop in the conversation anytime to get a pulse on things.
This also creates one version of the “truth” so to speak vs. the spiraling email thread where people are added/dropped from the conversation and everyone is saving the email in their personal folders. If there is a document involved there is one document saved in the tool for everyone in the conversation vs. the same document being saved for each recipient in the email.
Or even better, when I trust my team is doing the right thing, I can ignore it all together and go read and work on the stuff that does need my time. So that is why I hate CC, but how I deal with it.