Saturday, December 21, 2019

The CC Mystery

After having spent more than 15 years in the work place and sending more than a hundred thousand emails, I believe I have more or less figured out the CC mystery in emails. Before I actually explain it to you, I think we all need a history lesson:

CC stands for carbon copy. It comes from the days when letters were hand-written or type-written and if multiple copies were required we put something called as a "carbon paper" behind the original letter to "copy" text over to sheets of paper behind the main paper. As a courtesy, the original paper would have a CC: line at the bottom indicating who else received the letter other than the person to whom it was addressed to. I saw my dad write business letters at home sometimes and the carbon paper happens to be a memory of my childhood. Since I started working, emails had already taken over as a means of corporate communication. So I never really had the pleasure of writing hand-written or type-written business letters. For the kids amongst us, this is how the carbon papers looked like:

Carbon Paper

Anyway, CCs in email began as an innocuous relic of the past for me. But now they have taken monstrous, political, and psychological forms of harassment. So here is a brief guide to interpreting CCs in your email.

  • If you receive an email with no CC:

The sender is your friend, colleague or a business partner that trusts you can do your job. They are getting things done on their side, and do not care about letting anyone else know about it

  • If you receive an email with your boss in CC:

The sender thinks you are incapable of responding without nudging your boss. The sender thinks that you are scared of your boss, or worst they are playing power games. In either case, ignore such emails till - either they follow-up or your boss wakes up from his slumber and happens to read that email - or even better - the sender calls your boss and complains that you have not responded yet

  • If you receive an email with the sender's boss in CC:

The sender needs to show their boss that they are working diligently, are keeping the boss "informed", or are worried that if they don't mark the boss, the boss won't know that they are working on. Respond immediately to such emails (if you can) and praise the sender incessantly for the job they are doing. They might score a raise, a promotion or a pat on the back (if the boss happens to read the email). You will make someone's day and they will be thankful to you for that.

  • If you receive an email with random people in CC:

The sender likes to "inform" and "keep in the loop" a lot of people who have nothing better to do. Or worst still it is a politically charged organization where multiple people's ego needs to be stroked and kept happy.

Anyway, jokes apart, I think too much email is the number one cause of anxiety and distraction for me. Coupled with instant messengers, emails are responsible for a lot of lost productivity. As we complete 2 decades in the 21st century, I firmly believe that it is easiest to work on shared documents and work collaboratively, and if you need to get things done, just call the person and talk!

No comments:

Post a Comment