Killing the BCC

Luke, I can sense that you want to blind copy someoneIn my work experience I’ve been in all different spots in companies – I’ve worked in sales, marketing, customer service, and engineering – managed others for five years and been managed for eight. All of that to say that I have been in a lot of interesting and challenging positions with people I reported to, peers, and people who reported to me.

During that time I have run across many coworkers who I admire because they communicate in a candid, genuine way and are as transparent as possible with others. I think this is something we all try to do – but no one is perfect and sticking to it isn’t always easy. There are always temptations to go over to the “dark side,” to find yourself unwittingly sucked into a political battle or accidentally complicit in working around or over others.

Of course, I’m not talking about doing things that are clearly unethical here, like lying or concealing things deliberately for your own gain – that’s the very dark end of the dark side. I’m talking about the gray area in working with others that we all have to negotiate daily, and it is mostly around maintaining the appropriate flow of information through your own inbox to others that balances your desire look out for them personally, look out for the best interests of your company, and look out for yourself.

To that end, one of the guidelines I follow is the no-BCC rule. In my mind, using BCC at work is like getting $300 out of an ATM at 3 in the morning. You may have a legitimate reason to do it every once in awhile, but it is likely that the reason you are doing it is something you should rethink.* Not that the BCC itself is the problem, that’s actually a useful little tool when you are doing things like sending out mass contact information updates. it’s more of an indicator of where you’re starting to go mentally – kind of like a dark side canary-in-the-coal-mine. So when you see yourself hit that BCC button, stop for a second and check yourself.

*I have to credit Chris Rock for that one: “Why the #$%^ is an ATM open 24 hours a day?”

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3 thoughts on “Killing the BCC

  1. Hillarious. I think even worse (and much deeper into the dark side) is the use of just plain old “c” (copy). People LOVE to copy others on emails, and it’s generally not an innocent means of keeping them informed. It’s usually a not-so-subtle way of reaming someone’s ass in front of their boss…

  2. Great point. I think email in general is a great way to communicate with someone in a non-intrusive way, but let’s be honest, it is so easy to misuse. So many communications would be better as a phone call or in person.

  3. I gotta agree that the CC may be worse than the BCC. When someone CC’s their (or, less often) your boss, you end up feeling obligated to respond and CC whomever they didn’t. And, by respond I mean respond in kind in order to defend yourself. It can quickly lead to a ridiculous amount of email and way to many people involved in the airing of dirty laundry.

    Personally, as soon as I sense a sly BCC or overt CC, I take the conversation offline and engage directly. Email trails are counter-active at that point.

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