Beware the BCC
I’m not sure exactly when or why the blind carbon copy (BCC) was invented, but I have seen it misused, misunderstood, and misfired too many times to count. The BCC allows you to write an email TO some people and BCC others. The people you send it TO don’t know that others are secretly on the BCC line.
Most email problems with the BCC start when an email is written to a few people, but others are blind carbon copied.
DANGER: REPLY ALL
The first and most visible problem with the blind carbon copy is when someone who was BCC’d hits reply all. Now the people who were on the email (in the TO or CC lines) are alerted to the fact that they were not the only recipients. I’ve seen this backfire more times than I can tell you.
Unlike most email mistakes, this one is bigger than most people think. Why?
DANGER: REPUTATION RISK
It reduces trust.
It diminishes your brand.
It raises unnecessary questions.
It makes others question your motives.
Let me share a few examples.
- A few years ago, I received an email from a colleague. I was on the cc line with two other executives. The email was addressed to a single person on the TO line. Two hours after receiving the email, someone hit reply all and made a comment. Now I wondered why this person was blind carbon copied on the note. It made me question the motives of the sender. If someone has to pause and question your motives, that enough is reason to not use the BCC.
- A lawyer is BCC’d on a contractual question with a supplier and mistakenly hits reply all with a question. All of a sudden it escalates an issue to serious status when it may have been a minor disagreement. The recipient now believes that there is a major legal issue at stake. Instead of working through the issue, it was held up with that person’s legal counsel. The entire matter became embroiled in a legal dispute that was unnecessary. Yes, this happened.
- A salesperson sends an article out about an industry trend and BCC’s someone who works for a competitor. The person was an old friend, and the sales representative meant nothing by it. But now everyone wonders why you would send something to the competition. Yes, this happened.