The Dilbert® Life Series: The Carbon Copy, Blind Carbon Copy e-mail Pandemic

Disclaimer: The Dilbert® Life series is a string of post on corporate culture from hell and dysfunctional organizations running wild. This can be quite shocking and sobering. A sense of humor will help when reading this. If you need to live in a sugar coated world were all is well and bliss and think all you do is close to godliness, stop reading right now and forget about the blog entries. It’s going to be dark. Pitch black at times actually, with a twist of humor, if you can laugh at yourself.

Have you ever worked in an office where no one ever takes responsibility and all communication is CC’d and BCC’d to an absurd number of people? There are corporate “cultures” that act very different from our own style. Size often has nothing to do with it. But this habit is just another symptom and indication of blatant management failure.

These are organizations where no one feels like they can make decisions or take actions without involving half of the company in some form of meeting or committee. CYA (Cover Your Ass) in action. One of the symptoms is the fact that just about anyone who has (or thinks they have) some important or urgent information sends all mail with some managers in CC or even BCC. Often the middle management acts the same way and before you know it more CC & BCC recipients are involved making the entire mail flow a mess and proving without any doubt that you’re in kinder garden. Decisions are postponed or never made. No one is going to take responsibility for a decision, that much is for sure. So when a decision is finally made it often by the wrong person, too late and probably not the best one. Basically you have a management structure where no one knows who’s responsible and is utterly dysfunctional

This is also a symptom of another issue: managers without authority. Yes, they are not very good at their area of expertise; they can’t delegate or organize and lack real people skills. These are often found in middle management where they can be used by the upper level. After all there needs to be someone between the hammer (management) and the anvil (employees). You see authority does not come from your rank or pay grade. It comes from what you know and can do and the support you get from other well respected managers or leaders. If you need to CC all your bosses and all bosses of the people you’re mailing that indicates that you’re a whining kid that can’t hack it. And no, simply not using CC or BCC anymore won’t solve that problem. I thought I’d mention this as they tend to think and act rather simplistic. We have a saying: “You salute the rank, not the man. You respect the man, not the rank.”

Anyway, the mail process is as most people in the mail are not involved, don’t care, don’t need and shouldn’t care and hopefully don’t want to care. Once it got so out of control I added some more people to the CC list and wrote sarcastically at the top of the mail body that we really should make an effort to senselessly involve as many people as we possibly could. Not very nice, I know. Shouldn’t do that, I know. Some got the message, some didn’t. Another solution is to ignore the mail. Really if so many people, including a bunch of managers above and way above me are in the CC list I would not have the arrogance to assume I have anything to say in the matter and thus I await their proposals or decisions.

The best employee a manager can have is Vanilla Ice. Really “…If there was a problem yo I’ll solve it …”, that’s what a good manager needs and wants. You see your boss has better things to do than micro manage the details of your incompetence. You know your end state, so all you need to do is figure out what you need and how you’ll achieve it. Results, that’s what your boss really needs, not details and moaning about how hard middle management is. I know shit flows down and gripes flow up but try to maintain a balance or you’ll find yourself holding a pink slip or being promoted to where you can do the least damage and annoy the least amount of people. I secretly think some people have that as a cunning plan I don't know smile.

But if you’re stuck with a couple of micro managers, do not despair. You can work around them, unless they surround you. In the latter case, break out and run! They deal with urgent and very pseudo important problems that are actually just details which are benign in nature and are not negatively affected by all that overzealous attention. So the trick is to keep it that way. You have to treat them like mushrooms: keep them in the dark and feed ‘m shit. As long as they don’t know any better and keep getting their “data” fix they are lovable. Whatever you do, don’t give ‘m real information or show them the real problems. Micromanagers really can’t handle them. Ambitious ones that get into the light and get gourmet food can become very dangerous. Both to themselves and the organization. Now you do need ‘m to keep ‘m involved and they need to sign and approve work and proposals. So give ‘m finished work, solutions that are ready to go. Forget about involving them in the details or the decision making process, they’ll just get lost. And guess what, this is like a good boss should work and act so we have a win-win situation for the entire company!

Now you know how to help prevent that e-mail becomes a burden instead of a useful tool. No CC or BCC unless really needed. Go practice it.

1 thought on “The Dilbert® Life Series: The Carbon Copy, Blind Carbon Copy e-mail Pandemic

  1. Pingback: The Art of Corporate Deflection - Blogging4Jobs HR, Recruiting, Social Media Policies, Human Resources, HR Technology Blogging4Jobs

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