From 'hero' to 'traitor' over blind copying an e-mail
One may often overlook the risk of the Bcc-ed recipient reaching out to the colleague or service provider individually
The practice of blind copying an e-mail puts the credibility and honesty of the professional at risk
Adil Sharma is a team leader in an international outsourcing company. While Adil is recognised as a professional with credible technical knowledge and an amiable temperament in the organisation, his colleagues and direct reports exercise a great deal of caution when they interact with him. Despite his soft-spoken personality and cordial disposition, many in his team do not consider Adil as a trustworthy colleague. In fact, he is often picked up as the subject of ridicule and lunch-hour gossip.
While Adil is aware of this fact, he is clueless about why he no longer enjoys the trust of his colleagues. A closer look at Adil’s working style reveals a striking fact: He was in the habit of blind copying (Bcc) an individual’s manager in his e-mail interactions. Bcc is a mechanism to hide the identity of people copied on a particular message.
While Adil considers it as a way of keeping an individual’s manager informed about events and developments, his colleagues and direct reports consider it as a breach of trust. There were instances in the past where the individual’s manager inadvertently hit a “Reply All” while responding to Adil and soon it became a source of contention. On other occasions, Adil’s act of Bcc-ing was revealed over casual discussions between an individual and his/her trusted manager. Both situations have left Adil red-faced on many occasions.
Roee Adler, Chief Product Officer, at IT solutions company Soluto, shares an experience with a boss in his previous professional stint, in an article. “One of the first things my boss advised me against,” reveals Adler “was to Bcc someone in all forms of e-mail communications — professional or personal.” Adler said his boss reasoned, “When someone sends you an e-mail where you are Bcc-ed, your brain tags that person as someone who Bcc-s people in e-mails. So the next time he sends you an email where you’re NOT Bcc-ed, your brain will wonder whether he Bcc-ed anyone on this email that he doesn’t want you to know about. As a consequence, your brain will automatically tag this person as someone who may have something to hide, and you’ll develop a concern for the level of honesty and transparency of that person.With time, you may grow not to trust him.” Adler reveals that he has not Bcc-ed anyone ever since.
Career advisory and training company Onlinecareertips.com published an article arguing why Bcc-ing is never a good idea. The article reveals that while a professional may use the Bcc function to trap a colleague or service provider, one may often overlook the risk of the Bcc-ed recipient reaching out to the colleague or service provider individually. On such occasions, the professional loses credibility and such setbacks are difficult to bounce back from as they are tied by perceptions.
Experts, however, believe that there are two situations where an individual can Bcc recipients without losing credibility.
Interactions with direct and indirect stakeholders: There are instances when both internal and external stakeholders of a project with rigid communication channel protocols may need to be provided with developments and updates. It is acceptable to Bcc all such stakeholders of the project to maintain confidentiality of personal details.
Mass mailing: Communication experts reveal that a person tends to ignore or postpone reading e-mails that are not personalised. A recipient of an e-mail considers an e-mail as non-personalised if s/he receives an e-mail that explicitly displays a large recipient list. While there are no gold-standards available, communication experts believe that if the number of recipients exceed 30, it may be a good idea to include the recipients in the Bcc field, rather than the “To” field.
While the instances are limited, the practice of Bcc-ing is more widespread in the modern day professional world than previously thought. The practice leads colleagues to lose faith in an individual and creates an environment of mistrust. As many believe, Bcc-ing is a sure fire way of falling from the ladder of trust into an abyss of mistrust in no time.