Avoid the Nightmare of the Email Blind Carbon Copy (BCC).

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.

“Trust is built with consistency.” -Lincoln Chafee

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

 

“Men trust their ears less than their eyes.” -Herodotus

 

DANGER: WASTED TIME

How to Get Through Your Writing Faster

This is a guest post by Laura Brown, PhD, author of How to Write Anything: A Complete Guide. It is a terrific guide full of everything from writing apologies, thank you notes, and even fighting parking tickets. Dr. Brown has taught composition at Columbia University and has more than 25 years experience coaching business writing. More info.

 

Fact: we spend 28% of our time at work reading and writing email.

 

According to a 2012 study from the McKinsey Global Institute, we now spend an average of 28% of our time at work reading and writing e-mails.  That’s a total of 81 days a year spent on e-mail alone.  Another study, from the Radicati Group, found that the average corporate worker processes an average of 105 e-mails every day.  Any way you look at it, that’s an extraordinary investment of time and brainpower, and these numbers cover only e-mail, not the other kinds of writing we do at work.  What would it be like to get some of that time and energy back to devote to other projects, or just to take a deep breath once in a while?

Writing is likely to remain an important part of the average workday, but there are ways to streamline your writing process so that you can get through your writing tasks in less time. These tips can help.

 

Discover Your Process

In my consulting practice, I find many people think they’re doing writing “wrong.”  They have some notion from a high school or college writing class — or from business writing training at some point — that there is a “correct” way to approach a writing task, and they’re sure they’re doing it wrong.  The fact is that there are many different successful ways to get your writing done.  One of the keys to success in writing, and to accelerating your writing process, is to discover the process that works best for you.

Writing is typically taught as a linear process: first you consider your purpose and your reader, then you brainstorm content, then you create an outline, then you write a draft, and finally you revise that draft.  There’s nothing wrong with that process, unless it doesn’t work for you.  Many people find that a less linear approach feels more natural.  You can start to discover your own best process by simply observing how you typically start a writing project.  Do you like to have an outline before you start?  Do you jump right in and write a draft?  Do you consider your objectives before you start to write?  These are all potentially excellent ways to get started on a writing task.

Once you understand the writing process that works best for you, run with it.  Stop beating yourself up about doing it “wrong,” and find ways to work with your own approach. Becoming more conscious of your writing habits and embracing your own preferred style will accelerate your writing, no matter the task at hand.

 

To Speed Up, Slow Down

One of the best ways to speed up your writing is often to slow down a little.  Taking a minute to think before you write can save you a lot of time over the long run.  This trick can be especially useful with e-mail.  Before you compose an e-mail, ask yourself these two questions: “What am I trying to achieve with this message?” and “Who is my reader and what do they expect from me?”  This simple, time-saving matrix will force you to isolate and refine your message before you even start writing it.  Your e-mail will be more concise, and you’ll be less likely to omit important content (and less likely to have to follow up because of it).  You can use the same kind of matrix when you read and reply to e-mails: ask yourself “What is the purpose of this message?” and “What is my reader asking of me?”  Slowing down just long enough to ask and answer these questions will speed up your e-mail processing overall.

10 Email Productivity Myths

Like you, I receive my share of email.  I have multiple email accounts.  It is especially difficult to manage as I travel the globe, working across time zones.

Over the years, I have heard my share of advice about email.  I call them “email productivity myths” because they are widely shared in leadership and productivity classes.  The problem is that some are not true.  Others work for some but not all.

Here are a few:

1. Email is one of the biggest time wasters.

 

Why:  This is one I hear all the time.  It seems a given that everyone sees it as a nuisance, as a time waster, as taking too much time.

Why it’s a myth:  More often, email is saving time. It allows quick communication with people all over the world. What takes a few minutes to write and to read would have required scheduling a conference call, preparing, and having an unneeded long conversation.  How to use email properly is an important skill, but don’t fall into the false belief that all email is a waste of your day.

 

2. Never reply all because you are filling up everyone’s email box unnecessarily.

 

Why: Carelessly hitting reply all adds an email to everyone’s inbox.

Why to do it: There are times when replying all is important. You are sending a message where everyone needs to stay in the conversation.  The important reminder is to think about where it is going.

 

3. Don’t respond.

 

Why: Say you receive an email sent to a few people, and you have an opinion and decide not to respond.

Why you may need to respond:  Depending on the culture of your organization, silence may be read to equal agreement.  If you have a point of view, you may need to share it either via email or in-person.

 

4. Use the blind cc: feature to copy people.

 

Why:  You are using the blind carbon copy to let someone know you are handling a situation, but you don’t want the receiver to know.

Why you should rarely, if ever use it:  It feels slimy.  It’s like you are hearing a one-sided conversation, and don’t get to hear the response.  If you receive a blind cc, you have to keep track of what you are supposed to know, and what you aren’t. Worst of all, we have all seen someone who was blind carbon copied respond, embarrassing the sender.