It’s Time to Talk about Cc

I’m taking a break from blogging about niche, coating-related issues in favor of a much more universal topic: the humble workplace email.

Email users, assemble. It’s time we have a frank conversation about the Cc function.

Let’s begin with a definition: Cc stands for carbon copy.

If you’ve ever hand-written a receipt out of an old-school receipt book, you’ll remember the top layer on which you wrote the receipt, and the thin underlayer that captured the bleed-through of your pen marks, essentially creating two documents for the work of one. The lower layer is called the carbon copy. Typically, you’d give the customer the top copy, and keep the bottom copy – two parties walked away from the interaction, each with an identical copy of the documentation for their own records.

Something very similar exists in the world of email.

When it’s time for me to let a Kaser customer know that their part is ready for pickup, I open a new email in Outlook, and type in the customer’s email address in the “To” line. Immediately below that, I type the Kaser receptionist’s email in the “Cc” line. I compose my email, and hit “send.”

The customer is informed that their part is ready, and the Kaser receptionist is alerted to the fact that she will be assisting with a pickup in her very near future. Everyone who needs to be in the loop, is in the loop.

Now let’s imagine that, having received my email, the customer replies “Great, thank you! I will stop by at 2 PM today.”

That’s some very useful information – but was it sent to all relevant parties? If the customer hit “reply,” then no. Their email came only to me, and I now have to forward the response to the receptionist. If the customer hit “reply all,” then yes; the Kaser receptionist will have received the reply, and will plan her schedule accordingly.  

Broken down like this, it sounds like a petty distinction, but it really isn’t. Imagine 100 emails a day, circulating between various parties, carrying valuable information. If I have to forward 100 replies to people who really should have been Cc’d or Reply-all’d in the first place, that’s 100 tiny chunks of my day I’m never getting back, and 100 opportunities for key people to be accidentally left out of conversations they should have been a part of.

Workplace email etiquette is every bit as important as any other aspect of workplace communication etiquette, and it’s actually very simple: if you receive an email on which someone has been Cc’d, hit “reply all” when you’re ready to respond. It takes no more time out of your day than replying would.

There are certainly instances in which “reply all” is not advised. Anytime the response sounds something like, “Thanks, Jase! How’s your family doing?”, there is absolutely no need to hit “reply all.” In fact, please don’t.

Efficient business depends on key players being kept in the loop, and that responsibility rests on all of us equally.

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