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IT Science Technology

CC'ing the Boss on Email Makes Employees Feel Less Trusted, Study Finds (hbr.org) 148

Do you ever loop your boss when having a conversation with a colleague when his or her presence in the thread wasn't really necessary? Turns out, many people do this, and your colleague doesn't find it helpful at all. From an article: My collaborators and I conducted a series of six studies (a combination of experiments and surveys) to see how cc'ing influences organizational trust. While our findings are preliminary and our academic paper is still under review, a first important finding was that the more often you include a supervisor on emails to coworkers, the less trusted those coworkers feel (alternative link). In our experimental studies, in which 594 working adults participated, people read a scenario where they had to imagine that their coworker always, sometimes, or almost never copied the supervisor when emailing them. Participants were then required to respond to items assessing how trusted they would feel by their colleague. ("In this work situation, I would feel that my colleague would trust my 'competence,' 'integrity,' and 'benevolence.'") It was consistently shown that the condition in which the supervisor was "always" included by cc made the recipient of the email feel trusted significantly less than recipients who were randomly allocated to the "sometimes" or "almost never" condition. Organizational surveys of 345 employees replicated this effect by demonstrating that the more often employees perceived that a coworker copied their supervisor, the less they felt trusted by that coworker. To make matters worse, my findings indicated that when the supervisor was copied in often, employees felt less trusted, and this feeling automatically led them to infer that the organizational culture must be low in trust overall, fostering a culture of fear and low psychological safety.

CC'ing the Boss on Email Makes Employees Feel Less Trusted, Study Finds

Comments Filter:
  • by Tesen ( 858022 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @05:23PM (#54272549)

    haha! suck it paranoid bastards!

    • by Paul Fernhout ( 109597 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @06:16PM (#54272847) Homepage

      http://bjk5.com/post/718871964... [bjk5.com]
      "Every team has two email addresses: one for team members and one for the team's "blackhole." [For example: ] analytics-team@khanacademy.org and analytics-blackhole@khanacademy.org.
          The -team@ address is for emailing all members of the team. When you send email to analytics-team@, you expect everyone on the analytics team to read it. Subscribing to analytics-team@ means analytics-related email will land in your priority inbox as soon as it's sent, and you're expected to read it.
          The -blackhole@ address is for anything else that has anything to do with analytics. When you CC:analytics-blackhole@, you don't expect subscribers to immediately read it. Subscribing to analytics-blackhole@ means you'll receive analytics-related email, but it'll get filtered out of your inbox and you're not expected to read it unless you feel like it. ... Anybody in the org can join any of these email lists. analytics-team@ is usually just team members, but analytics-blackhole@ has all sorts of lookie-loo subscribers who're interested in analytics happenings."

      The approach was derived from how Stripe does it: https://stripe.com/blog/email-... [stripe.com]

      So, given the original story, maybe this transparency approach has an extra side effect (perhaps unintended) of maintaining trust in an organization by avoiding the "directly CC-ing the boss" effect?

      It's not quite BCCing the whole company -- like Tesen joked -- as it is more organized. But essentially the whole company could in theory read (almost) anything with that approach.

    • Number One Rule... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by sycodon ( 149926 ) on Friday April 21, 2017 @11:20AM (#54276503)

      ...never let your boss get blindsided by anything you are even remotely related to if you can help it.

      If you have information, reservations, disagreements with anyone, co-workers, customers, no matter, loop your boss in on it. The Boss is there to coordinate and clear obstacles so that you can do your job and so the company can achieve its goals (at least in a healthy, sane organization).

      There are always two sides at least to everything and each "side" will go up the other chain of command. If you don't keep your management involved, they will look like fools when asked about it in their meetings and they have no knowledge or response. That will then come back to you.

      If your colleagues are professionals, they will understand and will do it themselves.

  • Fighting words (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s1d3track3D ( 1504503 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @05:24PM (#54272551)

    Do you ever loop your boss when having a conversation with a colleague when his or her presence in the thread wasn't really necessary?

    Them's fighting words!

    • Re:Fighting words (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, 2017 @05:37PM (#54272607)

      Turns out, many people do this, and your colleague doesn't find it helpful at all.

      Hey Colleague! I'm not CC'ing the boss to help you out.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by networkBoy ( 774728 )

        Anytime I've been on a questionable CC of any boss I quietly and discreetly ask the sender (out of band, verbal if possible) why the boss was CC'd, prompting with is it a CYA thing, or is there a reason you need to look like you're applying extra pressure?

        At least 80% of the time it's more about that person maintaining visibility to their boss that they're working (over there) than it is about trying to apply pressure to me or my team.
        Now, this discounts all the times I already know why the boss was copied,

        • I do have a direct report that just does not do what I say. I just want a weekly status report, and it never arrives. After a late project I wanted a daily status because the director keeps asking me at random times what the status is, and so I cc the boss as proof that I have asked for the status and so that the boss can indeed apply pressure. It's sort of a way of handing the boss some proof that I'm not being listened to.

          The cc is also backup support for when I'm dealing with a person outside of the gro

          • It would make more sense to mail the boss in such cases, or reply to your coworker and add the boss to the list of recipients, and adress him/her directly with two or threesentences and the question how to proceede.

            In teams where I have a leading role, all mails where I am on CC only, get filtered into a seperate mail folder. The chance that I ever read them is basically zero.

            I go over such mails, before a meeting, to catch up what went on last days/weeks.

            • I've rarely done this, but when I did I definitelly wanted to send the message that the worker is not just playing games with me alone. And this was a next-to-last resort, I had already talked to the boss privately, the boss talked to the worker privately, etc.

      • by mjwx ( 966435 )

        Turns out, many people do this, and your colleague doesn't find it helpful at all.

        Hey Colleague! I'm not CC'ing the boss to help you out.

        This.

        Lets face facts... You're doing it because you're an arsehole who thinks that name dropping and going over someone's head will get you anywhere... And the level of smug I generate when it backfires has put me on an EPA watchlist... And it always backfires.

      • I find I have to do it to appeal to authority. My worker is ignoring me, so I cc the boss, and suddenly the work starts. It also helps with emails to project managers and the like who may be badgering me about something and when I cc the boss they become more polite. I also sometimes do this as a way of saying "see, I told you this guy was nuts, here's proof".

    • by Quirkz ( 1206400 )

      Then the boss replies-all, revealing that they were secretly included in the message, and the level of paranoia skyrockets.

  • ... and I might provide some light entertainment for the boss.

  • And in other news... 'Water is WET'. Film at 11.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 20, 2017 @05:34PM (#54272595)

    That's often kind of the point isn't it?

    You don't trust someone to do their job, possibly they've been screwing around or taking their sweet time.
    A swift CC to the boss and a "hey, what's the progress on this?" is one way to get it moving.

    On the other hand, doing it all the time is poor form if it's really a one to one conversation where escalation isn't needed.

    • by msauve ( 701917 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @05:48PM (#54272675)
      Precisely.

      "...more often you include a supervisor on emails to coworkers, the less trusted those coworkers feel..."

      It's probable that the author has reversed the causality - it's the less trusted coworkers who more often find bosses cc:'d on emails.
      • If I can't trust a coworker to do the work, I don't e-mail them at all.
        • When you're working 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, what do you do? If you can't trust the coworker to do the work, he needs to go and be replaced with someone who is going to share the workload with you. This is your job, it's the means by which you feed yourself and your family, it's not yearbook club. Deadbeats can't just hang out, they're soaking up resources that someone else may better utilize.

          • I think the CC makes sense if, as a developer for example, you need resources that have to be set up by someone else. Databases, accounts, VMs etc...
            Probably I could do those things myself, but hey, they are responsible for it so I have to go through them.
            If after a couple of days nothing seems to be moving, it's time for some cc's.
            As for coworkers that you can't trust doing a good job, I'd rather do the job myself than delegating it. Yes, they should be let go, but if management ignores the issue there i
    • by waspleg ( 316038 )

      Doing it at all is going to make you enemies in a hurry.

    • So much this! I don't CC: the boss the first time around. If I have to do it, it's to let you know I'm no longer the only one waiting for you to get your ass in gear.

      I'd hate to have someone do it all the time, though. Similarly putting "request read receipt" on emails. Sometimes necessary, but doing it all the time will get you hated with a passion.

  • Just assume that every single email that you send is eventually being copied to every single person in the company. Problem solved.
  • by uCallHimDrJ0NES ( 2546640 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @05:37PM (#54272615)

    If metrics are poor, cc'ng the boss is the only way he will know what you are working on.

  • by crashumbc ( 1221174 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @05:38PM (#54272625)

    Of course, it isn't meant to make them feel trusted.

    99% of the time I cc' my boss it's because the co-worker is trying to get me involved in something I shouldn't be, or make a "end-round" my boss.

    I don't have time for that shit.

  • >"Do you ever loop your boss when having a conversation with a colleague when his or her presence in the thread wasn't really necessary?"

    Yes. It is rare, but does happen. And when it does, I usually will ignore the Email and delete it. It is usually when another Director/VP thinks it will motivate me to do something, and I quietly illustrate to them it has the exact opposite effect. If they later ask me about the Email, I will say something like "well, looked like you were trying to talk to the CEO a

  • by Thelasko ( 1196535 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @05:46PM (#54272667) Journal
    1. The first email is only between the two pertinent parties.
    2. If there is no response, the second email has the other person's supervisor CC'd.
    3. If there is still no response, the supervisor's supervisor is CC'd
    4. Repeat until desired results achieved, or reprimanded. (I've yet to be reprimanded).
    • by waspleg ( 316038 )

      Holy fuck what an asshole. I'm guessing these are all in the span of half an hour too. I hope never work with you =)

    • Heh, that approach doesn't get very far with me. Emails are prioritized by me based on how many top priority tasks I have, followed by how much I like the person requesting, followed by how easy the task is. Someone who does that very quickly gets the "I'm sorry you must submit a ticket for that" cold shoulder. The officially published SLA is 2 weeks for my group's ticket queue.

  • Sometimes, like when there are competent people under him, the boss just wants to be kept in the loop. I work with a bunch of good people. We get things done and make things happen. If we didn't CC him he'd have no clue what we were up to and he'd be way behind real quick. Sometimes it takes a while to get something done and impatient people ask the boss, "What's taking so long?" He just doesn't want to look like an idiot and say, "Uhhhhhh....I have no idea what you're talking about." Makes him look incompe
  • Wrong perspective (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TFlan91 ( 2615727 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @05:49PM (#54272687)

    My boss gives me the freedom to handle clients as needed. He requests being kept in the loop for some of the more wealthy clients, but honestly I cc him most email correspondence.

    CC'ing my boss ensures that my boss sees the ridiculousness from clients I have to deal with everyday.

  • My email etiquette (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ogive17 ( 691899 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @05:51PM (#54272701)
    I only include the "higher ups" if they specifically requested to be part of the update/email chain or if the person I am trying to contact has been unresponsive through multiple channels (email/phone for suppliers, face to face discussions for internal people).
  • The author of an email that cc's their boss should be more worried about the boss's perception than whether the coworker feels less trusted. Copying the boss on an email is often an attempt to create a CYA moment with, "Well, I told you about it," or a passive-aggressive way to tell on a co-worker without taking responsibility or a way of telling a co-worker, "You better do what I'm asking or mommy/daddy are going to come after you."

    I used to get copied on stuff all the time and finally told those reporting

  • If I write you an email and Cc your boss, then you have done something that I believe needs to be corrected.
    You are right to feel less trusted, that is exactly what I am attempting to communicate.

  • I had supervisor who thought I tried to get the last supervisor fired because I documented everything — and refused to stop documenting everything when he told me to do so after he became supervisor. He told me to cc'd him on all emails because he didn't trust me. So I did. Unlike other people in the department, I had a lot of emails going in and out of my inbox. He got a flood of emails. Since he insisted on being cc'd to my emails, I kept deferring to him for decisions on everything. He gave up on t
    • Was he the same guy who fired you for being so awesome at your job (when you were better than 3 employees combined but he fired you because he couldn't handle firing them, but could handle firing you instead?)
      • by creimer ( 824291 )
        I've already answered this question the other day. Why don't you troll someone else?
  • by Curunir_wolf ( 588405 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @06:10PM (#54272813) Homepage Journal
    Where did the money come from for this useless "study"? Everybody knows this. I only CC the boss when either I know he's watching the project, or the person I'm email needs prompting to get their shit done.
  • "Sponsored Links". That box is annoying AF. Dammit! Shrink the whole comments area or something! There's only a tiny vertical space where the comments are visible, because that box covers the whole right side of the comment content.
  • One of the reasons you CC someone up the food chain is because you don't trust the person you're sending the email to to do their job.

  • Bear shits in wood. Pope wears funny hat.
  • This shows the boss you are responsive, but also sends a subtle message (to both your boss and the co-worker) that you are above that game. As a boss, my opinion of any subordinate would go down if they resort to such demoralizing behavior. I don't want people like that destroying the morale on my team.
  • I would rather that I feel trust than you feel trusted, but that's a feeling only you can create by acting in a trustworthy manner and inviting accountability. I welcome the boss being CC'ed on all emails to me if it makes someone feel better about me.

  • Fear and Low Psychological Safety is the the goal of many a corporation. I worked as a temp for many companies and.. sorry, this is the main theme of most. Management, in their twisted and convoluted minds, they think that somehow they will get more work out of you if you are sad and divided up. Maybe they think that brief socializing is "unproductive" and don't understand that friendly bonds that foster true team spirit are important for good mental health and working better together? Or they think that
    • "Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams" explains how supporting true team spirit is a key aspect of a high-performance organization. You can find some good evidence in there for your point.

      The authors also explain better ways to manage email. Here are subheadings from the book chapter:

      Chapter 33: E(vil) Mail 199
      In Days of Yore 199
      Corporate Spam 200
      What Does "FYI" Even Mean? 200
      Is This an Open Organization or a Commune? 201
      Repeal Passive Consent 201
      Building a Spam-less Self-Coordinating Organization 202

      I

  • ... I ever CC'd the boss was like:

    To: asshole@suckycompany.com
    From: Me

    Subject: Your stuff still doesn't work ...

    I know that you want to make my firm happy, and you know I do too.

    So far, I'm the only one making any positive contributions, which results in your company's performance sucking big time.

    Because you are incompetent, I am CC'ing my boss, your boss, and, to get the point across I'm CC'ing YOU.

    Please fix this before end of work day Friday or I will be scheduling a meeting with you, me, my boss, and y

  • At more than one place I've worked, our higher-ups have told us to cc them on just about everything. I keep thinking I only need to pester them if we need their guidance or their resources, but I'm told over and over that management wants to have full awareness, and it's a mistake if I don't include them by cc. So it's not that I don't trust my co-workers, it's that my bosses want to be aware of all our interactions and I get in trouble for being discrete.
  • by buddyglass ( 925859 ) on Thursday April 20, 2017 @07:42PM (#54273229)
    If people would pay attention and respond to emails without my/their boss CC'd then I wouldn't feel the need to CC him/her. Do your job and I don't have to go over your/our head(s).
  • because you're either blowing me off or screwing me over. If you see my Boss on an email chain then congratulations, you done fucked up son, and I'm comin' for ya.
  • I hate having my boss looped in, because then he wants what I'm doing. I tell him, and even if it's exactly the same thing he told me to do last time, I get told "that's not what I want" and then ... it goes down hill. Despite the fact I love working for my boss, despite the fact I love working for this company, I decided earlier today that "it's time to move on". I've been in IT for multiple decades. I don't have any sort of diva pride - I just want to do the job my boss wants me to do, the way he wants it

  • There are two separate things here: CCing the recipient's boss, CCing the sender's boss. When the sender CC's the recipient's boss they are usually trying to apply pressure to the recipient by going over their head. The overwhelming majority of the times people have done this to me it is because they want me to do something which violates my understanding of company policy. Since the majority of the time, my understanding of company policy is the same as my boss', this usually fails. Sometimes my boss sees
  • I haven't seen anyone mention this, but I will typically CC the boss if I'm asking for something that should be questioned. For example, if I'm asking for access to a system or application managed by a different team, or card access to a new building, or creation of a new vlan. Usually simply CC'ing the boss is enough to bypass any questions, but in case they do ask "is there approval for this" the boss is already on the chain to say "yes".

  • And in other news, researchers find ursine mammals typically defaecate in arborial landscapes.
  • Researchers found out that H2O, commonly known as "Water", surprisingly undergoes a phase transition at zero degrees Celsius under normal atmospheric pressure.

    The paper is still under review, but our experimental studies on 594 samples of the substance found that liquid H2O becomes solid when cooled below this temperature. The presence of the solid state was confirmed by probing (poking) the substance with a sophisticated testing device (finger).

    By testing with different temperature ranges, including randomized temperatures, it was confirmed that the transition happens at or close to zero degrees Celsius.

  • Seriously. Nobody knew this?

    I'll go a step further: You're no longer exchanging a view, you are tacitly indicating that the correspondance is now one way: "me (and the boss) to you". Cc'ing any senior means you are at best a 'toady' sucking up to the senior or a 'bully' using the senior's e-presence to quell any discussion.

    The action also has side effects. It can clog a senior's inbox losing useful correspondance in the 'noise' of all the frivolous Cc's.

  • It's SOP with my current boss. I CC him on all of my stuff to keep him in the loop. My previous boss didn't have that policy. And, when I CCd her, it was usually because things weren't getting done, and she could light a much hotter fire under that person's butt than I could.

  • Unless it is a status email or email where the party I'm emailing knows the info has to go to the boss (as he may want say) I don't CC, but frankly over the years, I've done this when, frankly I _DON'T_ trust the person!
    I've had more than one situation over the gasp 40 YEARS I've been working where you'd tell coworker X, and they would deny you did, and you'd have to jump through hoops to make your manager (and sometimes their manager) believe you
    The problem is often solved by "CC:Their Manager, Your Manage

  • I do this a lot actually.

    Its very rare that I do this because I want the boss person to get involved. I do to keep them from swinging by my office and interrupting whatever I'm doing so they can ask how that particular activity is going (at which point I have to dig up that exact email to refresh my own memory). It also keeps them happier with me, which in the long run keeps me happier.

    If I want them to *participate*, I'll add them on the recipient list, not the cc's.

  • Is this from the department "open doors"?

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