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My company has no direct policy about this and we generally have an informal way of communicating, especially within teams. Between teams, I have seen varying behaviors in the past 12 months I am here - from only writing directly, to CC'ing the entire department, or even superiors - in all cases people who are completely unrelated to the subject of the e-mail.

Being both on the receiving end and sending end of e-mails, I generally find it uncomfortable to CC people who are not related (or when people writing to me CC others in my team e.g. my boss or the entire department), as it seems to signal lack of trust. Generally, it also makes the e-mails less personal, which I feel doesn't help if we work in an informal environment where bonding and open communication is imperative to teamwork.

My current practice is that if it is somehow indirectly related to others, I CC' the whole team, but when one person replies, I write all follow up e-mails only to that person.

This all goes down to building a relationship with the person I am working with, making a joke or two, communicating one to one.

In what kind of situations is it critical to CC people even if they are not related? When is it acceptable not to CC the team or the supervisor of someone I am writing to?

Since we don't have a policy on this, let me know what would be most professional but also instrumental to building good communication.

closed as too broad by Jim G., Michael Grubey, IDrinkandIKnowThings, jmac May 30 '14 at 6:47

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Hey Toshiba, and welcome to The Workplace. This question as-is is pretty tough to answer because it is tied to work culture. The short answer is, 'it is critical to CC others when your boss expects you to', but defining that is going to be entirely dependent on your working environment. If you can scope your question a bit better with an edit, you will probably get better answers. Thanks in advance! – jmac May 30 '14 at 6:47
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This varies greatly from organization to organization. The person you should be asking this to is your direct manager. That is the person who assesses your work and is responsible for giving you guidelines.

There is a tendency in many organizations, as you note, to CC unnecessarily. A professional approach would be to avoid inundating people's inboxes with stuff they don't need to read. I also find it is best to not include people in discussion emails when they only need to know the final decision, because they may not read the whole string and could end up with partial (and therefore possibly incorrect) information.

When is it critical to CC?

  • when you need a witness to a conversation
  • when you need to time stamp your efforts
  • when your reputation is at stake
  • when management needs to know
  • when deadlines are looming and others may need to be prepared to jump in and help
  • when you need buy-in
  • when other people's decisions may be affected by the work being discussed
  • I would add when you know you are going to be off and other people may need to be aware of or solve the problem in your absence. – HLGEM May 27 '14 at 13:24
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One simple rule, if you have absolutely no clue about your corporate culture, is not to change the cc list without a very good reason. This means don't add people, but it also means don't drop people. I have customers I work with who appear unaware of the Reply-All function, requiring us to forward things around that everyone needs to see. We would have all seen them if the customer had use Reply-All.

Once a chain has started, if you add or drop anyone you should start your email with a note like:

Dropping A and B since this is just about scheduling the order of tasks on Tuesday

or

Adding A since this will need support from X.

or

Moving A to bcc

(This last one means that A will see this email, but subsequent Reply-All will not include A. It's a common approach in many large companies and lets A speak up and say "actually I want to still be included in this conversation" if need be.)

Even if someone replies to you and you decide to continue the conversation with that person only, include a line saying so and perhaps why.

If you're starting the email then you have a harder task. You may have reasons to include or exclude people, but understand your audience will think your reasons are:

  • as a heads-up about what is going on around them
  • to show off that you have achieved something (eg when telling a client everything is done and ready, cc-ing your boss is expected)
  • because they need to know
  • to make sure a complaint about a coworker reaches the right audience
  • so that later you can say "but I told you about it!" when the stuff hits the fan

Your motivations may always be pure and generous, but they won't always be interpreted that way. Failing to cc people can be seen as an attempt to fly under the radar, go around the authorities and processes, or try to sneak something past others. You can't win. When starting a new email chain, take a moment to ask your boss or a senior colleague you trust who should be cc'ed on it. Eventually you will learn the rules for your company.

One last tip: if you want any particular action to be taken by anyone, make sure they are on the To line, not the CC line. Many people take CCs as information only and will read them when they have a chance. Drag people up to To as an extra reinforcement that there is action for them in the email.

  • Thank you Kate Gregory, very insightful though still I have mixed feelings about this if I have to be honest. On a different note, what do you think would be best practice if the two people actually concerned (me and ONE person of the team) carried on the conversation one-on-one IN PERSON? If the matter is not that relevant to the entire department, should the result of the conversation still be summarized in e-mail and CC'd to all? – ToshibaCandleMug May 26 '14 at 21:21
  • Yes, otherwise they might think it was still unresolved. A quick "hey everyone, A and I got together and worked this out, here's what we plan to do" or "here's what we did" and "here's where everything stands as a result" works great in companies that use email as their only archive service. – Kate Gregory May 26 '14 at 21:36
  • What if the actual solution is "not their business"? I know this question might sound a bit arrogant. But part of the reason I ask is that quite often, people who are CC'd actually read the e-mails and if they are not fully knowledgeable/experts in the subject that is discussed, they get overly worried about nothing or ask irrelevant/annoying questions. Example: imagine two developers from two different companies exchange e-mails about a highly technically specific code. The CC'd sales rep asks something without having any understanding at all, thus prompting further useless emails. – ToshibaCandleMug May 27 '14 at 0:05
  • (more often than not, those are contributions for the sake of contributing, with no value at all) – ToshibaCandleMug May 27 '14 at 0:08

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