We have no policy on CC'ing and most of the time people are CC'd only when a second opinion is required or they need to be updated / stay in the loop on a given topic.

However, sometimes there are externals/contractors or people from other departments who mention a small personal joke or do some other small talk in the e-mail... and keep my boss CC'd.

I find that a bit uncomfortable - maybe I feel like I cannot fully express my reply or "joke back" in the same tone without making my boss look negatively at me.

I generally prefer to build strong relationships one on one and feel like CC'ing is harming this.

What can I do to make people stop CC'ing my boss? Especially for trivial talk?

  • 3
    I think the context of this issue is a little different than the one linked (focus on building relationships, not a coworker that's cc'ing, etc.)
    – Jared
    Sep 17, 2014 at 13:38
  • What's your position, executive secretary to the boss? Sep 17, 2014 at 13:41
  • meta.stackexchange.com/a/194495/165773
    – gnat
    Sep 17, 2014 at 13:45
  • 2
    "maybe I feel like I cannot fully express my reply or "joke back" in the same tone without making my boss look negatively at me." -- why is that? Your boss's view could affect how your question should be answered. If your boss understands that you are joking with externals in order to build a relationship valuable to the business, then I don't see why that should mean you're looked on negatively when you do it. So the correct answer might be, "explain to your boss that responding to jokes in kind is part of your job, and ask if, when you do that, your boss prefers to be removed from the CC". Sep 17, 2014 at 18:01
  • 1
    Never, never, ever type or otherwise write something you think your boss or a client/customer might not like. Call or meet in person if you want to joke or talk like that. I had this bite me in the butt a few years ago and I think is a major reason we lost our biggest client.
    – user15729
    Sep 18, 2014 at 20:50

5 Answers 5


First, a general rule of thumb Treat every email as if your boss was cc'ed. If you don't, inevitably an embarrassing one will get forwarded to your boss, either on purpose to show you in a bad light, or more likely just because they needed to be included later. Even if it's light-hearted joking, it could look later like you were being unprofessional. Tone is very hard to convey via email.

Second point, the best way to build strong relationships is in person. If this isn't an option, then over the phone or via virtual-meeting software is the next best thing. That is followed by text chatting, and finally email. Most people won't open up when they realize everything is being documented, and it's just not as natural a way for people to communicate. It lends a bit of formality to the situation that isn't conducive to building relationships.

Still, there are times when you want to convey to someone that your boss isn't needed on every email. Usually this is more as a courtesy to your boss since they are clearly watching things at a different level. There are really two approaches you can take, subtle or not subtle.

The subtle approach is to just remove your boss from all of your replies and if you're still needing to push it further, even add yourself as the "reply-to" header in the email.

The not-so-subtle approach is to just say "Just wanted to let you know that while you're always welcome to email my boss if I'm not giving you the level of service you need, he'd probably appreciate if we didn't include him on the details of our current back-and-forth discussion". That first part, while probably doesn't need to be worded exactly like that, is very important. You need to show that this isn't some manipulative way to hide things from your boss .

  • 5
    Treat every email as if your boss was cc'ed is very good attitude. Don't forget, many companies don't care much about their staffs privacy.
    – Florian F
    Sep 17, 2014 at 19:42
  • +1 for the whole thing, and the treatment of every email is a great maxim. Remember that a person can always reply to an email that was sent only to you, and that you only responded to them, and then stick anyone they want in that CC - which will include the text of your "one-on-one" email right there in it!
    – BrianH
    Sep 17, 2014 at 19:52
  • 13
    +1 for "Treat every email as if your boss was cc'ed". Remember: there is such a thing as BCC, and your boss might always be included even if you don't realize it.
    – Nzall
    Sep 17, 2014 at 20:54
  • @BrianDHall Or they may even just forward it to whoever they want without involving you at all. Sep 18, 2014 at 18:05
  • @FlorianFida Exactly. It is legal and easily done to have IT auto forward every incoming and outgoing email on business email accounts. That's what happened to me.
    – user15729
    Sep 18, 2014 at 20:52

First, keep in mind that you are not obligated to reply-all. If A includes a small joke in a long thread that your boss is on, and you want to reply back to only A saying "good one", then do that.

Second, trying to get other people to trim To: and Cc: lines is like pushing a rope. You can try all you like, but it's unlikely to get you anywhere. I have the opposite problem, with people who reply only to me when everyone needs the answer, meaning I have to forward to the rest of the group. Some people just don't get it.

Third, if your boss doesn't like being included in these threads, that's for your boss to deal with. Whether it's deleting them unread, setting up rules to move them out of the inbox, or replying privately to some people saying "you don't need to cc me on this sort of thing" -- your boss has options and is quite capable of exercising them. Don't take that onto yourself. If your boss says "can you tell A I don't need to be cc'ed on everything" that's a different story, but in the absence of a request like that, don't start acting like a personal assistant or executive secretary unless that's your role.

Fourth, and most importantly, if you're doing anything in email that you don't want your boss to see - that might make your boss think less of you - stop it. There just isn't a safe way to do that - your boss could get looped into the chain any time with your previous messages included in the old quoted text. Always behave as though all your emails are being read by your entire company. After all, they might be.

  • "If A includes a small joke in a long thread that your boss is on, and you want to reply back to only A saying "good one", then do that." And what happens then when the client uses that email, where you said good one, as the starting point for the next wave of business related emails, adding all the original persons to the cc line, which includes the boss? This starting line and your fourth point stand in contrast.
    – user15729
    Sep 18, 2014 at 20:55
  • @fredsbend sure. I don't think saying "good one" makes you look bad. But replying only to one person isn't a safe way to be sure only that person sees what you write, agreed. That's why you shouldn't believe that getting your boss off the cc line is the key to "I don't want my boss to think less of me." Sep 18, 2014 at 21:19

The easiest way to stop your boss from getting trivial emails is to stop encouraging trivial emails.

At my work, we use Outlook and Lync. Generally, we reserve banter for Lync and use email for things that we feel there should be a record of (since Lync does not and can not reliably record conversations. Don't get me started.)

I wouldn't explicitly discourage a joking email, but I certainly wouldn't send them unless you didn't care if they ended up in your boss's inbox. I personally make a lot of jokes, almost to the point where people wonder if there's something wrong if I don't make one. But I don't ever put anything (joke, insult, opinion or otherwise) in an email. Whether I think it's going to end up in my boss's inbox, or his boss's or the senior director's or the CIO or the CFO or the CEO, or the intern a few cubicles over. I just wouldn't put it in an email ever.

Now, there's a difference between trivial emails and joking/embarrassing emails. If the email is something like "Joe, we decided to go with four pixel borders on the widget." and it ends up in your boss's inbox, that's bad. That is probably a very small detail that your boss doesn't need to know. (Okay, maybe there was a big political battle over borders, I've seen stranger things, but generally that's a small detail your boss doesn't need to know about.)

If people are clogging up his inbox with crap like that, there's one of two possibilities. 1) They don't know any better. In this case it's your boss, not you, who needs to speak up if he doesn't want these emails. The other possibility is 2) They need to CC your boss on everything because they perceive you (correctly or not) as a non-deliverer. If this is the case, you need to remedy that immediately. If it's true, then you need to start delivering so they don't feel the need to have your boss included on everything. If it's not true, you need to find out why they feel that way and clear up the situation.

tl;dr - Don't do embarrassing things. Don't worry about your boss's inbox. Do get work done.


One option is don't CC in your boss, once they are included the correpondent will follow your lead out of politeness rather than boot someone out of a conversation. Instead BCC or forward on anything important enough to be relevant to the boss.

  • 3
    It's the other people initiating the CC's, not the OP.
    – user8036
    Sep 17, 2014 at 20:06
  • The OP's question does not say that. It says they "keep my boss CC'd" implying that it was not them who first cc'd the boss. Either way an answer is for the general situation, not just the OP. This possible solution will be applicable at least sometimes.
    – JamesRyan
    Sep 18, 2014 at 9:18

"From: Executive Secretary
To: External
Bcc: various contractors and externals (make sure that your email software does not disclose the names of the recipients on the Bcc list to each other)

Re: Jokes and Small Talk

I appreciate jokes and small talk just as much as anyone, but my boss gets at least 200 emails a day and I have to go through each one of them and filter them. And as well you might guess, I have other duties, too. Please be kind and don't cc jokes and small talk to either me or my boss - You may not intend it, but they add to our volume of work."

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