I'm working on a major project with my manager. I've got the impression for a while he is 'keeping me out the loop' - I'm not being told of developments in the project.

I have become concerned as the project is stalling, I don't want him to be able to scapegoat me as the manager and say I haven't done the work. He has instructed me to hold back tasks whilst telling higher up we are doing them. The project generally is stalling due to external reasons which he is looking at and this might explain why he has done this.I'm aware he is in a tricky position.

Recently, I had an email from our partners about a client for the project. I cc'd the contact into an email to him with their suggested next steps (so they could see I'd passed this on, and also requesting a new spreadsheet they mentioned we are now working from which I hadn't been given by my manager).

He's now asked I don't cc any internal or external contacts into emails to him. Two problems with this 1) He could claim I just didn't tell him 2) We work in a small team and these emails are relevant to others i.e. I'm working on some tasks that directly affect them, or one of their clients. I'm wondering if they way around this is to forward on emails (when relevant) to the internal/ external contacts and so avoid ccing. What should I do?

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    Have you asked for a 1-1 meeting where you say that you have some concerns and that you need to know why things are going as they are at the moment, to perform your best? There might be very good reasons that you cannot see right now - the worst thing that can happen is that you find that your suspicions are correct. – Thorbjørn Ravn Andersen Jan 14 '15 at 1:54
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    What should you do is not something we can help with.it sounds like you are in a situation with a toxic manager creating conditions that are setting the project up for failure. You definately need to take control of your situation. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jan 14 '15 at 14:57
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    If nothing else, make sure you archive your email conversations (do not delete them) so that you've got evidence of the events/conversations: you may not wish to CC your manager as that can cause confrontation or tension or just seem like you're being petty, but it sounds like it could be worthwhile ensuring the contents are available. – Jon Story Jan 14 '15 at 15:09
  • There's no easy way out of this. In this situation, I would perhaps do what the manager says, and when things go wrong later, just say that you were following your manager's instructions. In the meantime, start looking for another job. When you are made a scapegoat later, you have to be ready with another place to go to. – Masked Man Jan 15 '15 at 16:43

Fun with BCC

There is an exceedingly useful piece of email functionality known as the Blind Carbon Copy (BCC). BCCing other contacts/addresses will send them a copy of the message, but the recipient of the email will not be able to see that the email was BCCed.

This is not necessarily foolproof:

  1. The other contacts may use the information they received in the message when interacting with your manager and your manager may figure out that you sent the information to other recipients.
  2. If anyone who is BCCed on the original email uses "reply all" to email a response, both you and your manager will receive that response and your manager will definitely know that you sent this information to other contacts.
  3. If the email message goes back and forth between you and your manager multiple times, you may forget to add the contact back into the BCC list, leaving the other contact without the full picture of what was communicated throughout the entire email exchange. The flip side of this is that you can choose when to add the contact to BCC and when to exclude them from BCC, giving you control over what information gets sent to that contact.

  4. This depends on your company culture, but as the wikipedia article states:

    In some cases, use of Blind Carbon Copy may be viewed as mildly unethical. The original addressee of the mail (To: address) is left under the impression that communication is proceeding between the known parties, and is knowingly kept unaware of others participating in the primary communication.


Forwarding the relevant emails, as you mentioned, is another solution. The only major difference between a BCC and a forward (aside from icons in your mailbox client and the like) is that a BCC is the exact email that you sent, whereas a forward allows you to edit the forwarded message before sending to the other party. Again, this may be a benefit or a drawback, depending on your needs.

Talk to the Manager

As with most things involving human behavior, there is also a non-technical solution which may get you better results: ask your manager how you should keep the other relevant parties informed.

As you mentioned, your manager is looking at external reasons that you are unaware of. It may be office politics or there might be some sort of larger email policy at play. Talk to your manager about what you are trying to accomplish and why and the two of you should be able to reach a mutual solution.

You can always print/make local copies of the emails (or your manager's response to those emails) if you need proof that you told your manager about X.

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  1. If you are concerned that you are being asked to do something not in the organisation's best interests, talk to your boss' boss and explain what your boss has said and ask them how they think you should handle it. In this conversation, put the emphasis on efficient communication within the team, transparency and the need to reassure those outside the team. Recognise that the project is not delivering and your boss is having to manage those difficulties and keep things positive.

  2. In the meantime, follow your boss' instructions but instead of sending one email to two people, send two emails, one to your boss ("here are the client's suggestions, could I have the spreadsheet"), one to the client (thankyou for the suggestions, I've forwarded them on and we'll get back to you with the spreadsheet).

  3. Unless you've had a direction otherwise in step 1, ask your manager why they don't want other people to be copied in. There may be reasons for it you don't know about and the focus of the conversation should be on understanding what's troubling them and how you can help. Don't argue, and avoid dwelling on issues that are unrelated to solving your boss' email problem: note points of disagreement and move the conversation back to the topic. Are there times when they do want to be copied in? If so, can they articulate a clear rule, and what to do if in doubt? Make sure you've made it clear you think this risks information going missing and it will mean sometimes you need to communicate things more than once to several people which will slow the project down. Follow it up with an email summarising the points you and your boss have each made in the discussion. If the senior boss wanted to know the outcome, forward it to them.

  4. Keep your own records of important sent emails, things you've asked for that haven't got to plan, etc.

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  • Do not go over your boss's head at this stage. – user8365 Jan 14 '15 at 14:05

I would ask the boss for more explanation so you can help him with this plan. Otherwise, he has to micro-manage your behavior for every step: hold off on this task, don't CC in email, etc. What other levels of secrecy are you suppose to keep?

A failed project will make your boss look bad regardless of the reason. He can blame you all he wants, but if the opportunity is there to be successful and he chooses not to, blaming you is not really a way out for him. This may depend on how functional this company is, but someone should ask him what he's done about your performance at the start of the project.

You may not have a paper trail to others, but you have your own email that you could use if this matter is brought up in a review. Make sure you document what you're doing as much as possible. If there is a project tracking system, you may want to either not assign tasks to yourself, put them on hold or adjust the expected due date.

All of this really depends on how much information you can gain on what your boss is up to. If you help him follow his plan, he should have incentive to keep you.

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