A few weeks ago, a (somewhat) seasoned coworker mentioned that some people -- especially higher-ups -- pay notice to the order in which coworkers are listed on email recipient lists. The idea is that, the more important you are, the closer you should be to the front of the list. Also, he mentioned a kind of etiquette when listing people in CC's. He said that people may get offended if they're not "listed properly".

Is the company I'm working for just overly egotistical, or is this actually common knowledge/practice?

How exactly should individuals on an email recipient list be added/prioritized when considering their position in the company and their relevance to the nature of the email?

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    Whether to put someone in the To line or the Cc line could be important, especially if people have inbox rules based on this. But the actual ordering is irrelevant. If anyone complains, tell them to grow up. – Mike Harris Aug 18 '17 at 16:38
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    Alphabetical order usually solves this problem. – mcknz Aug 18 '17 at 16:39
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    I understand -- I am confirming your initial sentiment from my point of view – amphibient Aug 18 '17 at 17:11
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    @Charles: it is an actual concern for you that could cause problems with your career at that firm supposedly. This is something to ask your manager, not here. We can't know if this is some crazy mentality there – smith Aug 18 '17 at 20:09
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    @Charles: when you work and a senior mentions an etiquette it is serious if you are serious with job there. And yes that is not normal mentality. People are usually busy doing their jobs properly not checking the to/cc order of each email to see if someone is disrespectful. How would that work? Would your manager check if you copied him and his boss to the proper order with your other peers? And his boss check if you copied him and your direct manager and the rest in the proper order? And that for all emails and all recipients etc. I would not say that is normal. – smith Aug 18 '17 at 20:17

For most adults, order doesn't matter much. I personally put the people I am most concerned about acting on something in the email first. I also put people who are being informed but not expected to take any action in the CC not the To block.Some people alphabetize, others put people in as they think of them.

However, you have had a coworker mention that this is a problem specifically at your workplace which might well be a personal hang up of his (in which case, putting him ahead of his peers in emails may make him like you more and hurts no one else.) or may be organizational culture. Some companies do things differently than other companies.

As an intern, you need to learn to observe how things are done at your company. Look at various emails you receive and see if people are generally put in order of their seniority. Check with your boss to see if this is something that you should be paying attention to. No need to mention who told you that, just say someone mentioned it and you were unsure if it was truly the case.

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  • Why not mention who told him that? – smith Aug 18 '17 at 20:19
  • Why create an issue with another person when you don;t have to? – HLGEM Aug 18 '17 at 20:57

This I believe strongly depends on the specific way of your current company. There should not be any relevance in the email order. Some emails are event sent automatically by queries or servers (and queries not necessarily return mails ordered in importance).

In some cases, if the message is of high importance (an event or similar) and would be sent to high level personnel a more formal approach would be to send a printed or written invitation.

In any case if your coworker said this you should inquire him on more details about what he meant so you can improve your email etiquette on your current company.

Edit: As mentioned in comments, sorting alphabetically could greatly help prevent problems like this to occur again.

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  • Right, that's exactly what I was thinking, and voiced during our conversation. I mentioned the idea predefined email lists that alphabetize the recipients, etc., and he still insisted that people pay attention. Given this coworker's personality though, it could also be that he was just trying to act superior -- like he has the inside scoop -- and was just blowing smoke up my ... – user75749 Aug 18 '17 at 16:43
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    He may have been messing with you... However, it would be wise to ask him what he meant anyways. This way you will see if he was indeed serious (answer you and tell you guidelines) or if he was only messing with you (probably no straightforward answer or some more blowing smoke...). And yes, alphabetize could do the trick, I am going to edit the question to add that for future users. – DarkCygnus Aug 18 '17 at 16:46

I am a bit old fashioned. In my mind there is no difference between emails and paper letters. The TO list should be restricted to those who are required to act or to those who had asked a question. The CC list are those who have a need to know in order of seniority.

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  • How is seniority relevant to the order in the CC? – smith Aug 18 '17 at 20:20
  • It's just good manners. – Jonathan Rosenne Aug 18 '17 at 20:21
  • In what way does the order indicate this? If it was an order within the contents of the email, I would agree. But in many email clients the cc is not even visible unless someone actually tries to make it visible. Seems highly inefficient for a corporate environment – smith Aug 18 '17 at 20:46
  • Good manners? How odd that I never even heard of this before today and I have been in the work world for 40 years. – HLGEM Aug 18 '17 at 20:55
  • Listing in order of seniority is not practical - what if two or more colleagues are "junior" or "senior", etc. How do you factor in titles vs. years of service? – Brandin Aug 21 '17 at 6:35

I know with my firm, the C levels get listed first, then Managing directors, directors, VP's, Associates and juniors. But, very rarely will I ever see an email in which a junior and a C level exec are included in the same email.

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  • Yeah, I should note that I work for the manager of the department, and that, for me, most of my emails are to mid level management, and below. – user75749 Aug 18 '17 at 16:47
  • I have seen plenty of emails that go from a very senior manager down to someone junior. Unless it is purely informational (HR emails about next year's benefits for instance) it is generally a sign that something bad has happened! – HLGEM Aug 18 '17 at 17:07