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We have an "email group" set up for our department whose intended purpose is to provide a way to share information that everyone should know. However, because the manager is included on the list, it is rarely used. The reason is that people are afraid that the information may be in some way taken in a derogatory way by the manager.

For example, if someone would want to say "the last report left out x y z information... I think it would be better if that was included going forward" the fear is that the manager would have a negative view of the person that wrote the report leaving out x, y and z. (They should have thought of it themselves without having to be told.)

Is it a good idea to remove the manager from the list so that it gets used? As it is, there is not enough communication.

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    If you guys are that scared of your managers then you have bigger problems. – MrFox Apr 30 '13 at 19:43
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    My answer to your question in the title was going to be "what's your manager's preference?" but then I read the actual situation and, like @MrFox, see that there are issues much greater than the question in the title. I wonder if it would be helpful to ask a question about that, instead? – jcmeloni Apr 30 '13 at 19:44
  • Has your manager ever commented on or taken action as a result of anything communicated across this list? – enderland Apr 30 '13 at 20:51
  • @enderland, no because it is only used for the "Safest" possible things like announcing schedules – JoelFan Apr 30 '13 at 21:46
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    I usually write such correction emails just to the single person. Why send to the entire mail list? Decent managers know employees are human and do make mistakes. It's the core reason there are managers in the first place. But if you have an issue with a manager or afraid employees, just don't use such mail lists. – Petter Nordlander May 1 '13 at 11:57
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Keep in mind that anything you put on corporate email is not private. Thus creating a group that skips management, may not actually avoid the problem.

Any item that criticizes the performance of one person, can be easily forwarded or blind carbon copied to management.

Knowing that management is reading the emails, is actually a good thing. It keeps the message traffic professional. Knowing that items can be taken out of context makes you think about how to construct the message so that the message is more than a rant.

You need a group email; once the list gets longer than a few names there is a chance that key people are forgotten when constructing the address list. It also cuts down on the misdirection of emails due to somebody picking the wrong name from the global address list.

Embrace the presence of management. It make it less likely that people will assume management can't see the emails, and end up in even more trouble when they realize that management has been seeing the emails.

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I think the manager should be included if he/she feels there's information he needs to know.

You don't have to name names or refer to a particular instance of a task, to inform everyone about potential problems or mistakes. Just indicate how things should be done. Some sort of wiki site is beter for this stuff anyway.

There will be occassions where you need to follow-up on something that is late or you have a question about something you think is an error, but that should be directed to the person(s) and not broadcasted to the team. Again, if it turns into a need to keep everyone from repeating a mistake, dont' point fingers.

Seems like this group may have a little fear of failure. It's sad if the manager has created this type of environment. Good leaders want to hear bad news quickly.

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Always include the manager/supervisor when sending information. There are two reasons for this. The first is so that the manager can keep tabs on what work is being performed and can analyze any weak points or issues which may be forming in the work group. Secondly, keeping management in the loop of business matters will make things flow much more smoothly. Ultimately, managers will deal with issues better if they find out sooner than later, especially if it is important information.

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Is it a good idea to remove the manager from the list so that it gets used?

If the purpose of the group isn't being served, due to its composition, then the list should be modified. If this list isn't being used, solely due to the presence of the manager on the list, then yes - remove the manager from the list. Note that it's not all that hard to contact others in your group without using this list.

But far, far better would be to get to the source of this fear of the manager's negative view. Perhaps this fear is unfounded? Perhaps you could discuss this with some safe third party in your organization? Perhaps some group-plus-manager team building is in order?

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OK, since my original answer was apparently too "technical" here's an adjustment: No you should not ask to have your manager removed from a distribution list that is for your whole department. It's just fishy-sounding. If you are trying to send emails to smaller groups, have your IT Team create additional groups that include people you want but not the manager, OR do the following if it is possible in your situation: (warning - mildly user-level technical answer follows)

I don't know if you're using Outlook for your email client or what, but I know that in Outlook you can manually expand your distribution lists and trim out the people you don't want to send emails to. We do that at my company all the time for things like birthday-card-signing invitations and things of that nature that should be a surprise or otherwise don't directly involve the extracted individual.

I would hope whatever email client you're using has a similar feature.

Also, if you're saying things to people that could be construed by the manager as a complaint, common courtesy should probably dictate that you take it up with the person "off-line" and not in a group setting anyway. I know I personally hate it when some jerk drops a dime on me in front of a group of people for no particular reason. However, if it's a group discussion about the best way to generate whatever reports, then merely saying "Hey, I realize this wasn't in the original requirements for this report, but it would be nice if we had x, y and z in it, too" really shouldn't upset anybody who's not a complete sociopath.

There are really a number of different ways to handle this situation. Heck, you could even try setting up a meeting with the manager where you explain that every bit of constructive criticism isn't necessarily damning towards the person in question and that having the ability to debate a little bit via the email system is a good thing and will help overall communication and productivity.

  • This site is not about technical details of sending e-mails. Likewise, your post is not an answer to the question. – Deer Hunter May 3 '13 at 17:57
  • Well my technical answer can effectively solve both of his problems. They don't have to remove the manager completely from the whole distribution list, they don't have to mention removing him and thereby can avoid potential political or other backlash by just leaving him out of some conversations. – Matt May 3 '13 at 18:42
  • Matt, this is a dangerous solution. Should a manager learn about that (through human error or anything else), the reaction would be unpleasant. Nobody likes conspiracies behind one's back. – Deer Hunter May 3 '13 at 18:55

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