CC is evil

By Niraj

Well not all, but some of it definitely is. To know why we say that, lets dig into why we CC people on emails in the first place:

1) The "You must know this CC" - There is nothing wrong with this one. Example: I direct a question to someone in the To list, and put some people who can answer the question for find the answers immediately helpful in CC. This is done mostly when the people in CC might be able to add to what is being discussed, or might derive immediate benefit from what is being discussed. 

2) The "I just want to cover my back CC" - This is where it starts to get shady.  Example: The support team CCing their Head on every support email they respond to. The Head would probably not look at all the emails unless there is an exception and her attention is required. The people who are receiving the mail because they were in the CC list have nothing to add to the discussion, nor do they derive any direct immediate benefit out of being a part of the discussion.

3) The "You should probably know we talked about this CC" - This is the most evil of all CCs.  Example: In a team of 50 people, every member writing to everyone about what they are working on. People do this because, for good reasons or bad, they want everyone to be on the loop about whats going on. When its a 50 people team, it generates very serious clutter. If you open your work inbox in the morning and go through 50% of the email leaving them unread, you know what we're talking about here.

CC, and its first cousin mailing lists are the prime culprits for a lot of the email clutter and overload we face today. But at the same time, there are reasons why they continue to exist and be heavily used and abused. We need to figure this out and find a solution to this. This would make a lot of people happy about the time the spend with their inbox.

About the author:

Niraj is the Founder of Hiver. Hiver turns Gmail into a powerful collaboration tool by letting you share your Gmail labels. When not working at Hiver on programming or customer support, Niraj likes to play guitar. Niraj can be reached on Twitter at nirajr.


Leave a Reply

  • Vijay Sharma

    May 27, 2011 9:09 am

    So, well - I do agree with mail clogging process, and we definitely need a solution to that, but CC's have been a great way for some of the organizations I have worked with, in terms of teams which are not physically in the same location, virtual organizations get amazing help thanks to CC. But then again, if there is a solution which doesn't harm that then hopefully maybe someone comes out with the same.

  • Gautam Ghosh

    May 27, 2011 9:20 am

    Totally agree. Internal social networks are a great way to communicate within organizations as a solution to email overload

  • avinashraghava

    May 27, 2011 10:03 am

    Good post...any thoughts on Bcc ..?

  • GrexIt

    May 27, 2011 10:10 am

    Avinash - I think BCC is way more innocuous. When I add someone in BCC, its a very conscious decision. And since its way more thought out, probably I've taken care that it makes sense to the recepient. (Of course, in many cases BCC is a degenerated case of CC - as in the support email case. In that case it has the same set of issues I'd say).-Niraj

  • GrexIt

    May 27, 2011 10:47 am

    Gautam, totally, but I think a lot of internal social networks and collaborative workspaces need to play better with email than they currently do. You can never move all communication out of email and into any collaborative workspace. They need to play together better. And from what I have seen with most tools around, they don't.

  • saurabhsahni

    May 27, 2011 1:26 pm

    Great post! Even for case #1 you may not need CC always, a fwd is enough, once the final resolution/answer is there.

  • Gautam Ghosh

    May 27, 2011 1:34 pm

    @grexit - do read this post

  • GrexIt

    May 27, 2011 1:50 pm

    @Gautam, I agree to this. Thats where GrexIt comes in to, to a very large extent.

  • Santosh Panda

    May 27, 2011 3:54 pm

    Excellent post, this article should be referred when people talk about "email etiquette"

  • shivku

    May 28, 2011 5:57 am

    I have done a little bit of all of these myself & have been subjugated to them as well. But dont think it makes "cc" evil. There are just evil people. They are probably doing some of these offline & in other modes of communications.

  • GrexIt

    May 28, 2011 6:06 am

    Okay @Shivku - I meant DOING CC is evil :)

  • GrexIt

    May 30, 2011 11:17 am

    Quoting from: survey of company email use revealed typically that almost one in five emails was cc'ed unnecessarily to staff members other than the main recipient. 13% of received emails were irrelevant or untargeted and a mere 41%, much less than half, of received emails were for information purposes. Less than half of emails (46%) that required an action on the part of the recipient actually stated what the expected action was. 56% of employees remarked that email is used too often instead of telephone or face-to-face. Ironically, almost half of employees (45%) felt that their own emails were easy to read.

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