APU Careers Careers & Learning

Bad Habit Slimdown, Week 10: Abusing the BCC

blind-copy-emailBy J. Mason
Online Career Tips Editor

Last week we touched on the topic of the bad habit of hitting reply all on mass emails. In keeping with the vein of email this week we’ll be reviewing the hushed use of the blind carbon copy (BCC). Some may view a blind copy in an email as harmless, and think they’re just being informative to people kept out of the loop. The problem with this email feature is that you’re not taking into account the other parties visibly tagged in the email; for all you know it’s a closed subject that only includes the parties listed. If the information you’re sharing is sensitive, it could get you into trouble, and if it’s not there should be a good reason for using the BCC in the first place.

The BCC tool is supposed to be used as an FYI even though by using it you’re not being transparent with your colleagues. Another possible use case would be if you’re emailing a large group of people, both internal and external, about project information or changes to something the group has been working on. By using the BCC in this scenario you’re not giving out what could be someone’s private email address, this would be an acceptable time to use the blind copy feature.

Abusing the blind copy would be when you’re trying to trap someone in an email and you want a silent audience. The problem here is the copied party may feel the need to reach out on their behalf without including you; which would uncover the fact that you blind copied a third party in the first place. This is where your motive is called into question. Every day in the office should be a mission to further build your reputation, and one email hiccup could set you back significantly.

If you’re reeling from the thought of retiring the BCC button then consider the alternatives. When you want to include someone from outside of the email chain then copy them, and give the other readers a reason for the inclusion. It could be as simple as they were working on the same project, or would be participating in the final product and you wanted to give them a heads-up. When you have sensitive information in an email and you’re unsure whether your add-on participant should see it all you have to do is delete that part of the chain. In times of doubt leave it on a need to know basis. There is always the forward feature. If you want to share your response with your boss or co-worker just send it over after you hit send. This way you give yourself more time to consider the people that should see the information, and you can send a separate note explaining your action on the topic.

Try to be transparent with your colleagues. There will always be a weasel or two in your work environment, but it doesn’t mean you should sink to their level. Only use the blind copy for the couple of cases we indicated above. Think of the BCC as tattling. Would you trust a tattler with privileged information?

How did you do with our last bad habit, hitting the reply all? If you need a forum for telling your witty jokes then type them up and leave them in the break room!

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