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About a month ago, my boss instituted an awful policy of CCing the whole group (about 20 people) for any email correspondence as opposed to only people that the sender deems affected by its content. I think she was inspired by something like someone needing something and not including a person that would have been able to help and that person not being aware and the thing not getting done. Regardless, it was a terrible decision due to which I stopped reading email because about 1.73% of it total really affects me.

I would like to go back to a meaningful percentage of relevant emails in my inbox. I can think of two ways of moving on:

  1. Talk to her directly and present her with my reasoning to reverse this terrible policy

  2. Petition the team (most of whom I am sure also hate it) to collectively ask her to change the policy. My concerns here are that it may be perceived as some sort of mutiny against management and also that nowadays most people are too cowardly and passive and will want to avoid confrontation just to save themselves from any prospect of getting demerits in the workplace.

Are there any other methods I should consider?

  • Does the boss herself also get everything in cc? If so, your third option would be to simply wait until she sees the problem herself. – S. Kolassa - Reinstate Monica Aug 5 '15 at 16:15
  • i am guessing she does, possibly even more... but there are different cognitive styles, some people thrive in chaos. i don't... – amphibient Aug 5 '15 at 16:16
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    Set up a rule to move all emails that you are cc to a folder called greymail. Have the rule mark it as read. – crh225 Aug 5 '15 at 16:22
  • that won't work (i considered it) as some emails that are directed at me and are relevant are sent by simply CC-ing my group in the CC field, not including my explicit email anywhere – amphibient Aug 5 '15 at 16:23
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    possible duplicate of E-mail management question – crh225 Aug 5 '15 at 16:27

11 Answers 11

9

Are there any other methods I should consider?

Another method you should consider (and frankly, the one I would choose) is to do nothing right now.

This ill-conceived notion will certainly die a death soon on its own lack of merit.

That way, it will appear to be her idea, not something one individual tried to coerce her into doing, and not something derived from a mutinous petition.

Your use of the terms "passive and cowardly" suggests that you wish to take a more direct, aggressive approach. You know your boss best, and you know yourself. I'm just offering another alternative as requested, and suggesting that aggression (while sometimes justified) isn't always rewarded in the workplace.

  • of course it is not rewarded but if done under right circumstances (of some sort of check-mate where saying no obviously seems too authoritarian) it may work. i've seen it happen. but you have to be able to checkmate and that may take more effort than it's worth – amphibient Aug 5 '15 at 17:04
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    I think the solution brings more problem. At first everyone would read the emails but slowly stop reading it. Chances are it's going to die on itself. – Dan Aug 5 '15 at 17:42
  • checkmate as in being confronted with evidence so compelling that you can't refute it without either sounding like a dictator or stupid – amphibient Aug 5 '15 at 18:38
6

Your boss is stuck in the 1990's. She's trying to use Email for a tool that would (likely) be done better with something else. I don't know enough about the specifics of what you're working on or up against, but check out Google Sites and Jira as possibilities.

You're going to have to find the right tool for your context, present it to her, show her how to use it, and be prepared for her to roll it out as "her" idea.

5

Are there any other methods I should consider?

Yes.categorize your emails by creating some good folder structure to work around this issue.

If you get some routine emails from your colleagues which may be less important to you such as:

  1. Daily report
  2. Work relevant articles.
  3. Client weekly meeting discussion.
  4. Emails only relevant to other teams

    You can create separate folders to this work items and apply proper filters (subjects,keywords,From) to work around this issue.More over you are not disturbing your boss also regarding this issue.

    Since this emails not deleted yet you can refer this emails anytime if you want!.

Though you are not able to change your company's CC policy,you can focus on your work by not getting distracted by this items.

Similarly don't forget to categorize email with folders which may be more important to you.!

To categorize emails:

Gmail

Outlook

2

General Answer:

Your boss's goal that nothing get missed or lost deserves respect. A well informed team does the right things at the right times because they know what others are doing and how their work connects to the rest.

Unfortunately, her implementation she has chosen cannot accomplish her goal, and you prove it -- information overload stopped you from even trying to consume information.

For an effective strategy, try proposing a solution which helps achieve the overall goal. Rather than saying, "Listen, Boss, I don't think the CC-everyone plan is good, we should stop," go in and say "Listen, I know how important it is that we keep everyone apprised of what everyone else is doing. I think we can do this really effectively if we [use this alternative to CC-everyone]"

Specific Suggestions:

JIRA has already been mentioned. In general, issue/task tracking tools are great for this. Other good tools to consider: Trello and Todoist.

Also, tell your boss about Slack.

If her goal (wise or otherwise) is to keep everyone informed on all issues, then e-mail is the wrong tool, and a chat client or message board is more appropriate. Slack provides channels for topical conversation, keeps history, and enables integrations with document systems like Google Drive.

1

You need to convince your boss that receiving and reading all these emails is not "free".

There is an actual monetary cost involved. So one thing you could do is keep track of how much time it costs you to read all the mails. And I mean really track it. Then when the discussion comes up you can tell your boss: it costs me 3 hours/day to read all the emails. Then your boss can make an informed decision about this policy.

Because as it is now: if I were your coworker and I put something in an email you also receive in CC I am under the assumption that you know about it.

1

I agree that you should use a more suited tool if available (eg. a bug tracker, a ticketing system for emailing with customers...). However, it is possible that (a) email is indeed the best tool for your specific use case [that you can use] or (b) that politic reasons, need to learn a new workflow, etc. do not allow it to be changed. Thus, I will that you need .

Your problem is to differentiate when someone wants you to read an email and when you are included as part of team. The solution is very simple: Make an email address for team. Typically this would be an address like team-foo@company.com

There are different ways to implement it:

  • As a real mailbox that all of you can open and configure -if desired- in your mail clients (either by a shared password or by giving read permissions to your users). You may read just the normal mail or both (depending on available time, quickly skimming over the subjects...), but you can search there whenever desired.

  • As an email alias that expands to the team. You would implement local rules for moving into a folder the global emails. Has the drawback that a new team member won't be able to read old discussions.

  • As a mailing list. This provides archives (like the mailbox approach) and allows the subscribers to choose how they want delivered (you may choose to receive a digest of the everyone contents, or disable subscription when you go on holiday, for instance).

The most important part is that you immediately clean the CC list. In a conversation between Joe, Jane and Jack, instead of having to copy Alice, Bob, Charlie, Dave, Evelyn... up to 20 people, there would be Joe, Jane, Jack and the team address (even if they are already in that list).

Then everyone can have its own local filters. So you could move mail that isn't specifically addressed to you to a lower-priority folder, except if it is sent by your boss or it contains foo or bar, projects in which you are actively working.

And as a plus, it avoids problems of people dropping inadvertently from the thread (or just not entering into the thread).

0

I think she was inspired by something like someone needing something and not including a person that would have been able to help and that person not being aware and the thing not getting done.

If this is an issue then the root problem is that there is insufficient awareness of:

  • who is working on what, and
  • who has what expertise

If either of these were common knowledge then the person with the knowledge and the person with the task would be able to meet.

The solution to this is not for all emails to be broadcast, because not only does it take up everyone's time it does not solve the problem for situations when you have a problem that you haven't emailed someone about yet.

Instead, regularly update each other on what you are all working on. How regularly and how you do this will depend on team size.

Keep a centralised list that anyone can update and search. People will need reminding to update it (not in general terms but 'I noticed you've done X, could you add it to your expertise list?').

Now, if your boss is setting policy on CCing, you probably don't have the clout on your own to organise these meetings (I may be wrong). Although many bosses prefer to hear solutions, yours may not react well to someone having a worked out plan that's an alternative to THEIR plan. You might even need to talk to your boss' boss (along the lines of "Here's the problem, I'm thinking of telling my boss this, do you think that's a good idea?") What you should do will depend very much on your reading of the situation.

0

This sounds like a knee-jerk reaction to some incident. I don't think telling your boss you're not reading the email is a good strategy. Indicating you only need a small percentage is a start, but how is everyone going to adjust all their email to determine what you need? Not an easy task.

Look for ways to take your 20+ group and form smaller groups. This makes it easier for everyone to learn what email needs to go where. This could be a compromise for your boss to know things aren't falling through the cracks.

An ideal situation would be to get off of email for these purposes. You need some document site, wiki or other place to post this information. Then users can get updates when the content is updated. Users can setup their own notifications for particular threads/conversations/files, etc. What are you going to do when new person is added to the group? I hope they're not going to get bombarded with a year's worth of email.

0

what about simply not following the Policy? It may very well cause other to do so and it will die on its own.

If the boss comes back to enforce it, you can simply say that you are sorry and your old habits kicked in.

Thats what I would do.

Sometimes, stupid ideas should simply be forgotten.

  • 1
    that's a great strategy, as long as it doesn't get me fired – amphibient Aug 14 '15 at 20:36
  • Welcome to the Workplace -- can you expand more on your answer, perhaps giving more detail on how a strategy of not following the policy might work or be effective? – mcknz Aug 14 '15 at 20:52
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I would politely suggest to your manager that it would be a good idea to measure the improvements achieved with the new policy. This way it can be presented to other teams and the benefits can be reaped by the wider organization.

You could capture information like: a) Estimated time saved by the policy b) Overall estimated satisfaction c) more here.

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possible Technical Solution

Categorize new email based on whether it's sent directly to you, or if you're just in the CC line. If you're using MS Outlook, a 'search folder' does this nicely. First read the ones that a human took the time to address to you, and then just skim the rest as you Delete them.

At my workplace, we're big on distribution groups - group aliases - and have lots of automated messages from things like CI and monitoring solutions. I have three 'tiers' of search folders and I can immediately trash

  • 99% of messages that only reached me because of distribution groups,
  • 90% of messages that are only sent to my team's alias,
  • 50% of messages I'm only CC'd on, and
  • almost none of the messages addressed directly to me.

I'll occasionally make a passing mention of how much time I spend deleting useless email, but unfortunately we're big enough and set in our ways enough that one person bragging about achieving Inbox Zero isn't going to change the culture.

Pieter's answer is spot on - if you bring up how much time you're losing to a bad policy then the conversation becomes one of productivity and business value, and that should make your managers sit up and take notice.

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