October 16, 2008

The Politics of Email cc and bcc

Yesterday I facilitated a panel discussion called Managing When You're Not a Manager for Cultural Connections, a membership organization of Northern California museum professionals. In reality the session was about Managing from the Middle which is true for any position in a non-profit as there are stakeholders surrounding every post.

Our grand conclusion was that diplomacy and disclosure are essential to working across organizations. One comment was that you need to understand how each person wants to communicate (phone, email, face time, memo) and how much communication they want. This leads me to the politics of cc - carbon copy and bcc - blind carbon copy.

Do you ever get that pit-of-the-stomach feeling when crafting an email and thinking that maybe more people need to know about the content... or maybe not? That's the moment of email politics - diplomacy and disclosure. What does the cc offer? More people in the loop, accountability, evidence, covering your butt, making you look smart and busy, positioning you as a thought leader or maybe an over-informer? Do you ever get an email on which you've been cc'ed and think, "huh? Why me?" Too much disclosure?

The ultimate non-disclosure move is bcc. This is the act of sending an email and the recipient may or may not know that one or more people also received the correspondence. This is usually the case when trying to protect the names of many recipients such as in a mass emailing. But it can also be a way to cover your ass, politically and legally when making a bold email move that more likely should have been done in person, and documented on printed paper.

Perhaps we should change cc and bcc to ee and bee - email exposure and blind email exposure (an oxymoron)?