my manager wants to be cc’d on all my emails

A reader writes:

My manager asks me to copy him on almost any email correspondence I mention to him. (So much so that I avoid mentioning I’m contacting someone; instead I try to report outcomes, not processes.) We’re in a field (maybe this is all fields) where it’s common practice to call colleagues to ask about collaborations—it’s easier to talk about touchy subjects and tends to get better results. He does this too— but often if I mention talking with colleagues, he says, “You should email them and copy me.”

Often, when I do add him to an email, the responders delete him from the string—it’s often the collaborative team I’m working on plus my manager on an email I originate. They delete him, I’m assuming, because it’s odd he’s on an email that will result in nuanced, detailed responses. (I have the embarrassing job of re-adding his name on the response.) Other times, he wants to be copied as a passive aggressive nod to other units that he “knows I’m reaching out to them” or because I’m collaborating with someone a level up from me—his level, not mine. Occasionally, copying him makes sense (in some of the political hot spots around our institution), but I’m just wondering: is this typical and normal? I’m four years into the working world and on my second job, but this practice drives me crazy. I’ve been swearing I won’t do it when I’m a manager.

No, it’s not normal. It’s weird.

It’s a reasonable request when there’s a specific reason for it — for instance, he was the one last talking to Jane about Topic X and so he wants her to know that he’s in the loop on the new direction it’s going in. Or there’s a political sensitivity where Jane is likely to wonder why he’s not in the loop. But doing it as a routine is odd.

Why not ask him about it? You could say something like, “I noticed that you’ve asked to be copied on a lot of emails of this sort. What’s your thinking there — is the concern that they might otherwise not realize you’re in the loop and wonder why I’m contacting them without you being part of the conversation?” You could even say, “It sometimes makes me concerned that people will think I’m cc’ing you so often because I don’t trust them to respond if you’re not visibly in the loop or that I’m trying to borrow your authority in a way that won’t help me build good relationships with them. I wonder if you’d be willing to let me skip it more often unless there’s a specific case where it’ll be particularly helpful?”

(Hat tip: I stole “borrowing authority” from a commenter, and it’s the perfect term for this concept.)

{ 116 comments… read them below }

  1. Celeste

    Does he do it with everyone? It could be some sort of issue with control or anxiety. I don’t really understand how getting a huge volume of email due to CC’s helps his productivity. I also wonder what he does if he figures out he’s been dropped from the string.

    I hope AAM’s suggestion cuts down on it.

    1. AdAgencyChick

      This is exactly what I was wondering — OP, if your manager has more than one direct report, how does he treat them? If the same, it’s a bloody annoying tic of his; if differently, then I would definitely address it with him and ask whether there’s something he feels you need to work on.

  2. Cat

    This seems completely normal to me but I think that may be specific to law firms of a certain type.

  3. Marquis

    What does “I have the embarrassing job of reading his name on the response” mean?

    1. cataloger

      I think “re-adding”; the team writing back deletes the manager from the list of people being cc’d, and the OP adds it back for her response.

  4. Betsy

    In my experience this is really common in the software engineering world. Almost every manager I’ve had has asked to be cc’d on every project-related mail that isn’t between his or her direct reports — QA people, clients, business analysts, user experience people… Really anyone.

    1. Vicki

      Good gods, no.
      I’ve been in the software engineering world for 20+ years and this has NOT been common for me or anyone I know!

      1. Betsy

        That’s really interesting! The teams I’ve joined have had this as a longstanding policy, because otherwise people end up with very different ideas of what we’re doing and working towards. We wind up with scope creep via back-channel casual conversations, or two people end up with different pictures of requirements. My managers usually just lurked in the background quietly, but every so often they join the conversation to say, “no, we won’t be doing that,” or to stop one of the developers from shutting down a suggestion or request or to ask us to bring someone else into the conversation.

        I could believe this is just because I’ve been on dysfunctional teams, but I’ve literally never been on a project of more than 4 people where this wasn’t a team rule.

      2. Neeta(RO)

        I also work in IT and always had to cc my project manager and/or team leader (I have 7 years experience). It was practically the first thing I learned when it came to communicating project-related stuff via e-mail (and this for 3 different companies).

        As far as I’m aware no one’s actually taken offense at having the superior be CC-ed on e-mails. After all they have to be kept in the loop about all these things.
        At my previous company, it’s always been phrased as “this is your safety net should any issues arise”.

        So Betsy, you’re definitely not on your own.

        The only exception I can think of, is internal communication with colleagues, which would generally take place face-to-face or on skype. And yeah, we obviously didn’t add the manager into our conversation.

      3. sam12587

        Vicki, it could depend on the climate of your company or even on the personality type of your boss. if a upper manger is known to cave rather then follow company policy or if someone thinks that just like escalating at the local cable company will get you somewhere…

        I’m in network infrastructure and boss wants to be CC’d on everything that isn’t personal correspondence incase it gets escalated. In my field when people get told “no” they think it means we are just refusing to do something because we don’t want to & that the laws of binary/science/budgets don’t apply to their request or that their request doesn’t negatively impact other departments operations(ripple effect). I have had people go straight to the chief technology officer who then comes to my boss.

        Prev bosses have wanted to be CC’d if it was a customer known to file complaints on anyone who didn’t give them their way, something that I wasn’t getting a response to after a couple attempts or if it was going to make for a good laugh later.

    2. BadPlanning

      Yeah, we only CC managers when it’s a Big Thing, like an angry customer, or perhaps if we really need help from a team that wouldn’t normally be motivated to help us or something thorny that you want your manager to see.

      1. Matthew Soffen

        I too have been in IT for 25+ years and I’ve NEVER had a blanket rule of CCing the. I tend to CC managers when:
        1) The Person I’m ACTUALLY emailing has a habit of not responding in a timely manner.
        2) If the manager is actually involved in the topic.

        As for the problems with scope creep/etc. ? That’s a process problem (If its not approved in advance by our PM, it doesn’t get done. PERIOD).

  5. Breezy

    As a manager, I’ve sometimes asked for this if I am getting complaints about someone under me that aren’t specific or are about tone etc.. I could tell them – there was a complaint – but if it isn’t really valid, that will impair an already potentially strained relationship. Another possibility is an issue with someone else in the email stream, perhaps the one who keeps deleting your boss from the discussion…

  6. littlemoose

    I’m curious – does this manager micromanage in other areas as well? I agree that it’s bizarre, and I would hate to think that it undermines your authority with others because your manager is constantly looking over your shoulder via email.

  7. Bryan

    I know you’re four years into the working world but are you new at this job? When I started where I am my boss wanted me to cc her because of an unfamiliarity with me. Side not I’m fairly lower level which I think it’s important as opposed to more senior level people.

  8. LBK

    I’m so glad you stole the”borrowing authority” term! I learned it as a supervisor, but it’s absolutely applicable to non-management roles as well. One of the best pieces of advice I ever got. It really forces you to be clear to yourself and others about your motivations.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I used to tell managers who I managed, “Use your own authority,” meaning that if you say, “Well, (higher level manager) says we have to do it this way” or otherwise paint yourself as just a bystander, you undermine your own authority and also create a subtle us vs them dynamic that can become toxic.

      But I like this version of it better!

      1. Hannah Harriet

        I see your point, but doesn’t “using your own authority” also imply implicit approval of the action involved? What if you really don’t want to be associated with the policy/procedure/whatever?

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Part of being a manager is that you need to buy in to the management decisions of the organization once they’re made. Not in every case, certainly, but in general part your job is to carry out those decisions, and if you distance yourself from them, you won’t be very effective in the way your employer wants you to be effective. It’s fine to say, “I realize this might not be the way our team would have chosen to do it,” but that needs to be followed up with “but the organization is doing it this way because ___.” If you find yourself regularly unable to do that, there’s a problem and it’s probably not the role for you. (Or at least your employer wouldn’t think it was the role for you if they knew.)

          And certainly that doesn’t mean that you can’t push back on decisions you disagree with; you can and should. But once the decision is made, you need to back it, or at least explain it for people.

          1. Anon

            THANK YOU! This is just the language I was looking for! I have a problem supervisor under me and am planning to talk to her on Monday but couldn’t figure out the wording — this is exactly what I need to address with her!

          2. Bea W

            and the “because” should be an actual reason, not “because this is the way we’ve always done it.” That kind of explaination makes you look like an idiot who blindly follows rather than a capable manager with real authority.

      2. Neeta(RO)

        What about people who are not managers? Wouldn’t it make sense to be CC-ed, at least on the e-mail that draws the conclusion of a discussion?

    2. Jamie

      How did I miss this? This is an excellent phrase.

      I don’t know what this boss is thinking, but I spend half my life trying to get people to stop ccing me on stuff that has nothing to do with me.

      The only time I’ll ask to be cced is when it’s a spec thing and does pertain to me and I think they are going down the wrong rabbit hole so I want a feel for the conversion or…

      When the person is hitting a brick wall with not getting responses and I know seeing my name will light a fire under someone’s butt. Which I will always follow up privately asking about the lack of response before my involvement.

      Rarely need to do that with the same people more than once.

      1. AVP

        Oh that last piece is interesting! I’ve occasionally been both people on your side of the exchange (i.e., the person that wasn’t being responded to, and the person who gets cc’ed to ensure a speedy response) but I never thought to follow up with the Non-Responder and ask them about it directly. I can see how that would be a one-time-only conversation though.

        1. Jamie

          You would be amazed at how much crap you can cut through by just asking direct questions. And it’s not combative at all, or a reprimand…it’s a question.

          “Thanks for getting back to Bob on X. Was there a reason you responded when I got involved and not before?”

          And STOP talking and listen.

          When I first started doing this I’d keep talking and ask if it was because they didn’t think Bob had the authority, or they weren’t clear about their role…blah blah…so which I would just get a resounding yes to the least objectionable reason.

          Once I just asked the open ended question and stopped talking …and stopped being bothered by their momentary discomfort, I learned a lot more. Sometimes Bob was sending contradictory emails so they were just ignoring until time to clarify, sometimes they were just swamped and owed Bob an apology for not communicating that, sometimes they just didn’t know who Bob thought he was asking them for X.

          Or just a shrug, a mea culpa, and promise to communicate better going forward.

          People talk about holding people accountable and some thing it always means write ups or disciplinary action, or going over people’s heads. Sometimes just looking someone in the eye and asking why something wasn’t done is enough.

          And I never ask this in email – this a face to face question.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            eople talk about holding people accountable and some thing it always means write ups or disciplinary action, or going over people’s heads. Sometimes just looking someone in the eye and asking why something wasn’t done is enough.

            This needs to be its own post.

            1. Mallory

              Yes! Because sometimes a conversation with someone to understand how they perceived a request is illuminating. It may be that they are at fault, or it may be that communication from the other side is to blame, but I love the idea of just asking them a simple, non-loaded, face-to-face question and seeing what they say.

              If they are at fault, many times they will self-correct after being asked non-smugly about it. If a process is at fault, it can be corrected or cast in a different light for those involved. Nuance means so much, and so many people do not get that.

              1. Mallory

                non-smugly

                How many office dramas could be avoided if we all avoided escalations of smugness?

            2. University admin

              + 1 million!!!!

              I work in a union environment which, clearly, puts major obstacles in the way of terminating low performers. As a result, managers on campus have basically thrown up their hands and given up on managing their staff who need it the most. Sometimes all you need is a conversation, and there’s nothing in the contract that prevents that. Jeez.

          2. Chocolate Lover

            To be honest, it has also helped me to be direct with my managers. Obviously this is a different dynamic and I ask different questions. Plus it has helped my own self confidence to be straightforward.

            I wish more people would just be direct with each other.

            1. Turanga Leela

              Yes. I’m lucky enough right now to have a supervisor who gives clear, immediate critical feedback when there’s an issue with my work: “Hey, I noticed you did X in the meeting this morning. Going forward, I need you to do Y.”

              He gives positive feedback too, but I’m even more grateful for the critical stuff–no passive aggression, no beating around the bush, and no worrying on my end that I’m secretly in trouble for something.

    3. Windchime

      I also used this term after reading it here. We used to have someone (“Tonya”) at work who would always blame others for her decisions: ” says that we need to do it this way”. But CIO hadn’t said that at all! So I told another coworker that Tonya was “borrowing the CIO’s authority”. Such a good way of stating it!

      1. Mallory

        Wow. Maybe that is a more charitable way I could have looked at a previous employee’s shenanigans: she wasn’t lying through her teeth when she said the dean said such-and-such. She was “borrowing” his authority and applying it to her own ends.

        That sounds bitter and cynical. It kind of is, because the situation is still somewhat fresh. But there were times when I felt lied to and tricked when I was told that the dean wanted something a certain way (and when I asked him, he knew nothing about it and didn’t care one way or the other). But maybe his assistant really did think that borrowing his authority was okay? and didn’t see it as a bald-faced lie?

        1. Jessa

          Properly good assistants at that high a level DO borrow the authority of their bosses sometimes to get things done in a uniform manner. Boss may not actually have said “I want x,” but if everyone gave the report in x format except one person and that made the assistant’s job a pain, it’s not unreasonable to say that. Especially since some places don’t give the assistants the actual authority they need to make people do what makes their job and therefore the boss’s job easier. Socially in some companies, it’s often easier for a good assistant to just say “Boss want’s x,” when it really parses out to “I need x to make sure boss’s life is not made a pain in the future. Because my job depends on boss not being in a snit because this is a pain in the keester.” I don’t mean depends in the sort of “will get dismissed,” but in a “this is my actual job, I get paid to make sure the boss is happy and the place runs smoothly to that end,” way.

          On the other hand there are plenty of BAD assistants.

          1. LBK

            I think that might be one context where borrowed authority is acceptable, because most of the time it really is the exec asking the assistant to request something. They’re basically just the messenger passing along the request. That’s not the same as essentially blaming someone else for a request you’re actually making yourself.

          2. Mallory

            Actually, our dean’s assistant before the piece-of-work one borrowed his authority in the proper manner, which I understand is correct and the way high-level assistants are supposed to operate. We could always trust her as a proxy for the dean.

            The problem started with her successor, who borrowed the dean’s authority improperly and used it to send mixed messages and sabotage people. We never could trust that she was acting in good faith as the dean’s proxy.

            So with the good assistant, nobody minded that the dean may not have directly said, “I want such-and-such” because we trusted her judgment. With the bad assistant, we were always asking the dean if he had actually said something, because we had been screwed too many times by his assistant to trust her.

            1. Mallory

              I guess the short way to say that is, people have to be able to trust that the assistant is using her powers for good and not for evil.

  9. Parcae

    My coworkers and I have gone a few rounds with our current manager on this. She’s new, so it’s kind of understandable that she feels like she doesn’t know what’s going on. I’ve settled on a mix of BCC (to keep her looped in without appearing to borrow authority) and forwarding her email chains after the fact. I try to save the actual CCing for when it makes sense. It’s annoying, but I think it will fade with time.

    1. J.B.

      Watch bcc though! If the boss decides to reply to something you’ve bcced her on it is super embarrassing. Maybe have a conversation with her about what you’re doing when and why.

      1. Emily K

        Yes, forwarding is a much better option than BCCing in almost every case, for exactly that reason: if they Reply All they’ll reveal the BCC with potentially negative consequences, and if a direct recipient Replies All the BCC’d recipient doesn’t get those replies anyway, so you might as well just Forward after sending with an “FYI” note.

        The only legitimate use of the BCC that I’m aware of is when you’re protecting the privacy of a group of recipients who don’t need to communicate with each other, only with you, and haven’t agreed to have their email addresses shared with each other.

      2. Parcae

        Oh, totally! Good advice. In this case, Boss and I have already discussed the BCC, and while she’s nosy, she hasn’t shown any signs of butting into email chains without warning. Phew. I’d prefer just forwarding, really, but she finds the forwards “confusing.” IDEK. If I forward, I have to explain a lot more than just typing “FYI,” and when we’re talking about routine emails, ain’t nobody got time for that.

  10. LizNYC

    My boss at OldJob did this to me, both when I was starting out (when it made sense that she wanted to be sure that I knew what I was doing and that office hotspots were not beating up on the new girl) AND after I’d been there for 5+ years. She was the definition of a micromanager. After a while, I just gave in and stopped wondering, because she insisted it was “the way it’s always been.” (She did this with everyone in the department.) It came in handy, though, when she’d accuse me of not following through on something since I could go to my Send folder, forward her the email she was copied on/sent, and just say “FYI.”

  11. Anon333

    I’ll put in a plug that I’m a manager in a multi-transaction-oriented environment, and I’m generally copied on deal-related emails (as are our in-house counsel). Otherwise, it would be really tough for me to stay on top of where deals are. We already do weekly check-in’s but they don’t capture the nitty-gritty of negotiations.

  12. the_scientist

    OP are you in academia or the sciences? Your mention of collaborations makes me think you might be. If that’s the case, it’s pretty typical for principal investigators to be CC’d on almost all emails related to their project, because they need to be in the loop on soo many different areas of work related to that project.

    In my case, the program I work for is large enough to also have a program manager. I CC her on emails pretty frequently because again, she needs to be kept in the loop on certain things, but I certainly don’t add her to every.single.email. I send. Sometimes I’ll also passive-aggressively add her- i.e. if it’s a reminder to someone who hasn’t responded to my previous emails, or if it’s regarding a sensitive topic where there is likely to be blow-back (and in a project with >10 scientists and the corresponding amount of ego, that’s a regular occurrence!).

    1. AcademicAnon

      I do this too, CCing my manager on email when I’m not getting responses from people. Lowly tech people will ignore, tenured faculty not so much. I also CC my manager when emailing a certain coworker about something that needs to be done, because somehow the other person screwing things up was because of a personality conflict with me, even though almost every other person who has worked this person has the same issues with them that I do.

  13. Lisa

    I cc my manager on all client deliverables (attachments) and anything that could be a sep contract or problem.

  14. Tax Nerd

    Ugghh. The “Always cc: me” manager is all to often on their way to being a micromanager, or already well down that path.

    When I started, my boss told me he didn’t like to be cc’d on banal stuff, and to only cc him when necessary. (And I was brand new at the time, so this was very hands off.) When I got a new boss, she wanted to be cc’d (or bcc’d) on everything. I started cc’ing my manager and senior manager because I was told to, even on the most inane requests, so they could track how quickly I responded. (They did this to everyone, not just me.) My clients would start cc’ing a slew of people, and the most inane request for information became A Thing. (I eventually started calling my clients instead of emailing, just to avoid the email strings that got contentious over nothing.)

    Now that I’m a manager, it’s nice to be cc’d on some things by my staff. I know that the email addressed to both of us has been handled, and I don’t need to do anything other than file the email. But if they don’t cc me, I just want them to either forward it to me later, or just let me know that they took care of it, so no one hears from both of us on the same issue.

    1. Jenna in Jersey

      From a client perspective, I had this annoying issue with a company we’d contracted for business services. I really liked to work with the rep who was in charge of our account. Her boss was a pompous jerk, however. I would purposely delete him from correspondence, because he would randomly jump into a thread with information that supremely un-helpful (he didn’t have the very detailed experience “on the ground” that the reps had.) Think Michael Scott x10.

      The actual services and cost are great from them, as are the account reps, but I did not wish to communicate at all with this manager. As a client, his inserting himself into every single communication when completely unnecessary, uncalled for and ultimately inappropriate mad his staff look bad – like he didn’t trust them to be competent in their roles (except not to me, as I understood he was the problem.) It was bad for the staff morale, too.

      1. Tax Nerd

        Ugghh. I had that when I was shiny and new. A client emailed me to say that he was buying a house , and to ask what would be deductible after he bought it. I wrote back, cc’ing my boss, explained that he could deduct mortgage interest, real estate tax, charitable contributions, his state income tax, and perhaps a few others, but those were rare and/or limited based on income. A very basic answer to a very basic question.

        My boss followed up with an email explaining that the mortgage interest deduction was limited if it was going over to be over $1 million dollars, etc. etc. And this was technically correct, but the client made about $40K/year, and wasn’t sitting on a trust fund or pile of stock options, so I knew that these exceptions just didn’t apply. It just confused my client, and made me look like I’d given an incomplete answer and been undercut by my boss.

    2. J.B.

      Yep. Much better to give staff guidelines about what you need to be in the loop on and then trust them to do it. Because cc on everything can often be micromanagement and people find a way to work around it, thus undercutting manager’s authority!

  15. Jubilance

    OMG. I have a micromanager for a boss but he doesn’t go this far. He asks to be CC’ed on things & we’ve learned to include him as a preemptive measure, but not on EVERYTHING. How can they even function? Their email has to be constantly full, between their own emails and being CC’ed on all their direct report’s emails.

    1. Jess

      I had a manager for about a year and a half who made everyone in our department cc her on every single email we sent. There were ten of us, and most of us sent around a hundred emails a day, just in the course of doing our work. She just liked seeing our names pop up every few minutes because it showed her we were really working in our offices instead of, I don’t know, whatever she imagined we’d be doing otherwise. We were a very high performing and understaffed team, so there was no reason for her to believe we weren’t all working like mad, except her own inherent mistrust and paranoia.

      Her inbox quickly became so unmanageable that she couldn’t separate the emails that were actually to her and needed a response for our work to move forward, so she expanded her rule. We still had to cc her on every email we sent, but if we sent an email that required her to respond we also had to print it out in hard copy after we’d sent it, walk the paper to her office, knock and wait for her to be free, and then hand her the paper and stand there while she read it and then hand-wrote a response on the bottom of the sheet. Sometimes we then had to walk the sheet to her assistant, who would type the hand-written response into an email and send it back to us. It was so ridiculous and bizarre.

      We were worried she really didn’t trust us or had reasons for thinking we were goofing off, but then she started demanding that workers in other departments with other managers cc her on all their emails too so she could make sure they were working all day, and we realized she was just a loon. We all just quit the cc thing unless there was a communication where it was actually appropriate, and started looking for new jobs. Her team was gutted of top performers and she was let go soon after. She’d spent all her time sorting through our email and hardly any on her actual work.

      1. CEMgr

        Wow, amazing story and you’re making me feel much better about the use of email at MyJob.

      2. Windchime

        I think this is actually one of the silliest things I’v ever read. Printing emails, getting a hand-written response, and then having the secretary transcribe the answer into an email? Wow!

        1. Jess

          Yeah, and demanding that people in completely different departments who didn’t even report to her cc her on all of their emails so she could keep tabs on what every single person in our company was working on at all times, even if it had nothing to do with her. It was bananas. She never got anything done; she was too busy trying to read every email everyone sent and micromanaging random minor things like whether an employee reception should have 150 or 160 chocolate covered strawberries (a decision for the assistant organizing the party, not for her three levels above, and yet she literally spent two of her workdays making that poor woman call the caterer over and over switching the number back and forth. Like it mattered).

          1. Not Fiona

            People like this are really just sad. They are avoiding their own work (assuming they actually have any) – and they are purposefully inserting themselves in things they should not be. “Hmmm, I don’t want to deal with the big contract…. what should I do instead…. oh yes! 150 chocolate covered strawberries is KEY. Not a strawberry more!!”

        2. Bea W

          I knew of a CEO that did exactly that, printed out emails, handwrote responses then handed them off to her assistant to type and send the response.

    2. Lynn Whitehat

      I had a manger who wanted to be copied on EVERYTHING. I mean everything. And then follow up with me on what was going on. Literally, mundane conversations like “Lynn, where is the Johnson file?” “It’s on the shared drive, in the Clients folder”, and five minutes later, my manager would be in my office wanting to know what was going on with the Johnson file, and I need to talk with him before taking on side projects.

      Uh, you can read as well as I can, Wakeen wanted the Johnson file and I took 10 seconds to point him to it. If he needs my support to the extent that it becomes a legitimate “side project”, I’ll let you know. Stupid to get my manager’s sign-off before sending a 10-second reply. It was otherwise a good job, but man, I don’t miss that guy at all.

      At one point, I looked for a Thunderbird plug-in to always automatically bcc someone, because every once in a while I forgot and he flipped out that I was “going behind his back.” There is no such plug-in, probably because no one else needs it! OP, you can use bcc, your manager won’t get the replies, but you also don’t look weird or like you’re borrowing authority that way.

    3. Marcy

      Sometimes it is needed for the type of work involved. It is necessary where I work and has caused serious problems when someone has forgotten. It is needed in case someone has to suddenly jump in where someone else left off (if the person has to leave work suddenly)- we have very tight deadlines. There is a distribution list on the other side that we have to use because our counterparts also have to be able to quickly jump in if someone is out. Our counterpart’s manager just called me last week to complain that one of my staff forgot to email the whole group and the person he emailed had an emergency and had to leave. No one knew to fill in so the deadline wasn’t met and caused our counterpart to have to pay a fine. It does cause a lot of emails in our inbox but we don’t actually sit and read them all- it is only if something happens and we need to.

  16. Anoners

    I had to make a new hire cc me in all his e-mails when they started out (my boss made me) and I found it awkward. I was kind of weirded out since this person was above me, but my boss wanted me to mentor them. It turned out to be a good call, the first e-mail they send out to the Board had so greeting, no punctuation, and no signature. Like NO punctuation. The person didn’t last long.

    1. Sissa

      Ahh, gotta love the people who refuse to spend 15 seconds saying hello. In our company, the head of Customer Service (I wish I was kidding, but I’m not) usually replies to e-mails with one or two words, and sometimes sends out an attachment in an e-mail with no subject line or other content whatsoever. Just the file. And the kicker is, the file usually comes with a default name (like Untitled1.doc) instead of a helpful name like what the content is.

      Besides basic e-mail etiquette, he also lacks social skills (drawing out conference calls by wanting to tell everyone what HE thinks about a certain subject that has nothing to do with him). How he got to his position is a mystery that has remained unsolved.

  17. myswtghst

    As others mentioned, I’d try to figure out if he does it with everyone, or just you. From there, you can approach him accordingly.

    If it seems to be just you, you might bring it up to him by saying something like “Boss, I’ve noticed you often ask me to cc you on emails. Since I don’t want to clutter up your inbox needlessly, I was hoping to get a better idea of why, so I can ensure you’re copied on the right emails going forward.” Then, if it’s just about being kept in the loop, you could offer to send a summary / update email just to him with details of verbal conversations (instead of copying him on an email you’d rather not send anyhow), and if it’s about something else, you can discuss other strategies.

    If it seems like he does this with everyone, you might have to just get used to it. You still might want to confirm with him the reason why, to see if blind copying him or sending a follow up email might be an option in some scenarios instead.

    From my own experiences – I tend to only cc my boss when I need her involved in the conversation. If it’s something she should be aware of but doesn’t need to be there for the whole shebang, I include it in my weekly briefing report email so she’s still aware, or bcc her if appropriate.

  18. Mena

    Manager sounds insecure. Is he a micromanager in others forms too? Perhaps he is new to a management role and you can build trust with him and he won’t feel this necessary (I hope!).

    Asking him about any specific concerns he has about your judgement and/or interaction with others is a place to start.

    Hope you can conquer this one – it would drive me crazy.

  19. Ann Furthermore

    Old Bad Boss did this as a way to micromanage everyone and it drove me nuts. Current Good Boss does this, just so she can be kept in the loop about what’s going on with her direct reports. It makes sense with her though. She spends most of her time in meetings and gets pulled in many different directions so usually the day gets away from her and she doesn’t have time to come by and talk to us.

  20. Anonymous Analyst

    I feel like the odd duck, but this is completely normal to me. Maybe it’s the nature of my work? I work with a lot of clients and we cc our managers so that the manager can field questions or follow up on tasks if we’re sick or otherwise unavailable.

    So to me, the question is: what field are you in? Because I do think this varies by field and job responsibilities.

    1. LBK

      Isn’t that the point of an out-of-office message? And most email systems allow managers to go into someone else’s email if absolutely necessary. I even got access to my coworker’s email when she was going to be out for 2 weeks on her honeymoon. Being cc’d on every single email even when you won’t need to read or act on 90% of them sounds insane and would drive me crazy as the person being cc’d.

      1. Anonymous Analyst

        An out of office message doesn’t inform anyone about the client’s question from last week, my response with accompanying spreadsheets, and the next steps required.

        1. Jamie

          It refers you to the people who will know, though.

          “Jane will be out of the office until April 15th. Please see Bob contact Bob for billing issues and Mary for tea pot shipping information”

          As long as contact info for Bob and Mary is included it does the trick.

            1. Jamie

              They were examples. You simply put the contact information of who is handing your stuff in your absence. And if they need access to your email to do your job it’s easy enough to forward it while you’re away to whomever you designate – as well as give another user access to your email box to reference old emails.

              I think the point LBK is making is that it’s overkill to cc on everything all the time just so it’s habit for the rare instance someone is out of the office.

              1. Anonymous Analyst

                I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be argumentative, but I do feel frustrated that you’re not willing to consider another POV on this matter. I acknowledge that you have a right to not like this system and to think it’s ridiculous. But it works for me and the type of work I do. This is standard at my company, everyone does it. Perhaps we should just agree to disagree?

                1. LBK

                  Well, I also keep pretty detailed notes of critical information in shared systems that my coworkers can access. I just can’t imagine a situation where the only possible way to get background on a situation would be in my emails, with no information about it anywhere else. But I guess it depends on the industry and the info in question.

                2. MR

                  Sadly, other POVs are not considered often here. Alison had a post regarding the comment sections last week and I made this point. It doesn’t look like it was acknowledged by many.

          1. Anonymous Analyst

            “It refers you to the people who will know, though”

            I’m referring to instances where the only person who knows is me, and I’m unavailable. There is no way anyone else would know that information unless the client forwarded the e-mail chain (I’ve learned not to rely on them to do that) or you cc’d a back up.

            That’s why I said earlier that it is dependent on your field and responsibilities. I admit that this is not true for all people, only that it makes sense in certain situations.

            1. Jamie

              Actually it still isn’t necessary because all you have to do is give the boss access to their email – they can find the thread there as easily as in their own.

              1. AcademicAnon

                Hmm, how does that work with gmail? We’re switching over to that sometime soon, and I wonder how IT will deal with it.

                1. LBK

                  It’s actually pretty easy, just Google “Gmail delegation setup” and there’s step-by-step instructions. It’s used specifically for this purpose, so the person doesn’t get access to your password or anything like that, they can just read, send and delete emails in your box. If someone else sends email through your inbox, it also tags it on the outgoing message so the “From:” line reads something like “From: Jane (sent by Bob)”.

                  The account managers at my company all have a few of their coworkers with delegated access to their emails so they’re always covered if they call out sick or go on vacation. It’s a much more effective system than CC’ing so you aren’t flooded with emails 364 days a year just to cover someone on the 1 day they’re out.

        2. Elle

          Anonymous analyst – I’m with you on this. Bosses are going to just read up the chain and see what has happened and respond. I cc my bosses on every communication with the client (I’m a lawyer). My boss can jump in to comment if necessary but often just emails me privately if he thinks an answer is incomplete. We all work fairly flexibly and the idea of people trying to get access to your email to then trawl through and find a particular communication is complete nonsense.

          1. LBK

            That’s why it’s extremely useful to use meaningful subject lines for all your emails – much easier to do a quick search for “Teapot Production Report” than skim through hundreds of emails to find it. Not even for your coworkers, just for yourself. I would lose my mind if I couldn’t find an email thread via search and had to scan through the 4000 emails currently in my box to find it.

          2. Marcy

            “The idea of people trying to get access to your email to then trawl through and find a particular communication is complete nonsense.”
            That is the perfect way to put it. I don’t want access to my employees’ email. They may have something personal in there and they should have their privacy respected. We also use the emails to refer back to if a similar situation comes up in the future so we handle things consistently. It is very helpful for that as well. I think it just depends on the type of work involved.

    2. AVP

      I’m more curious about the actual logistics of this…do the managers have separate email addresses for cc’s? Or do they automatically go into folders and only get consulted when needed?

      Mainly asking because I’m trying to imagine people following a few dozen conversations at once all day and, whew. I can see how it works but definitely not for me.

      1. Annona Miss

        My boss has asked that we put her on the cc: line if it’s just FYI/so she has it, and no action is required of her. She has an Outlook rule set up that if it comes from the team members, and she’s on the cc: line, it automatically goes into a CC folder instead of her Inbox. She can peruse/review it later, or if something comes up and she needs it now, but it’s not clogging up her Inbox.

        The hard part is training people not to cc: you when they expect an action or a response, and you should be on the To: line.

      2. Emily K

        We do a modest amount of CCing at my job. It’s usually that the bulk of the conversation will be between just the 2-3 principals making decisions at the current stage of the project, but you CC the additional 3-4 people who will be touching the project at some point just so they have all the information to reference in the future and are generally aware of the project’s movement.

        I see a lot of inbox rules and color-coding in most of my coworkers’ and bosses’ emails–the higher you are in the chain, the more colorful your Outlook inbox looks, it seems. Personally, when I’m CC’d on a thread that I don’t really need to reply to, I spend very little time on them. I ignore most of them as they’re coming in when I see that it’s a subject line for a thread I’m CC’d instead of Addressed, and a few times a day I use subject-sorting to collect those threads, quickly scan to make sure my name wasn’t mentioned anywhere with any requests or questions, and then move all the messages to my archive folder for future reference.

      3. MinB

        My manager also has me CC her on everything but she doesn’t have a separate email or folder sorting or any of that. Last time she left her email logged in on my computer, she had 2000+ unread messages in her inbox. So I’m CCing things but she’s not reading them.

        When she does have a question about how a particular project/customer interaction turned out, she can’t ever find that thread in her inbox. So I have to verbally explain everything that happened to her, find the relevant thread in my inbox, and forward it to her, making the CCing pointless to begin with.

  21. LQ

    I think it is very worth examining your environment. My workplace not only do you cc people’s bosses but their boss’s bosses and about 7 other people. An “appropriately” addressed email usually had 15-19 people in the cc line. (As a caveat this isn’t for everything but about 75% of emails) People not only think this is acceptable but also get antsy that you’re doing something behind their back if you don’t do it. My boss on the other hand only asks for it when I go to him with a politically touchy situation and he wants the person I’m sending the message to knowing that he’s aware and backing me up when I send the message. (I have none of my own authority technically since I’m rank wise one of the lowest on the totem pole, generally I manage to do fine but once I’ve hit 4-5 levels up I want to make sure I have some support when pushing back.

    But if you’re in a workplace where everyone is cced on everything then I’d suggest letting it go.

  22. MF

    The office manager I work with – who, thankfully, is not my boss – not only demands to be included on every email, she often inserts herself into the discussion inappropriately (e.g. she doesn’t just read to keep apprised, she’ll jump the gun on something I’m working on or hijack the process entirely and won’t let me just do my job). To top it off she’s pedantic and when she interrupts she must lay out every. single. picayune. detail. I always include her when she should be, but the snarky comments about not getting every single email never stop.

    1. Jamie

      Is your boss okay with her requiring you to do this? This is definitely something I’d have a conversation with my boss about because it’s interfering with your ability with your work (and has to be driving you crazy, but I’d stick to the facts with the boss.)

  23. manager anonymous

    I inherited an employee in my department. I have been her supervisor for a year and half . If anyone told me I would ever ask an employee to cc me on every email, I would have said you were crazy. Six months in, angry clients whose requests were not responded to, projects not completed, employee blaming other employees for delays, projects completed inaccurately and other employees blamed for the ensuing problems. Employee under a performance improvement plan.

    Every directive I give, every request no matter how small is given in an email.

    I require a cc on all of her emails so that in 3 weeks when she says, Dave told me to do it that way, I have the email chain that Dave did not say that at all.

    When I ask about something and she says oh Dave said he doesn’t need that until Friday.
    I say, is that in an email?
    She says yes. I say please forward it to me.

    9 times out of 10, no email is forwarded.

    I have another employee who every time I get a cc, I think, why is she sending me this? And then I remember that for the documentation, I have to have the same requirements of all of my staff.

      1. manager anonymous

        Union position. Following HR recommendations. She has one more round of documentation, investigation until possible termination.

  24. Mints

    My manager does this, asking to be CC’ed on every email to certain people. It’s a symptom of micro management and ego.
    It’s like he wants the other person to know I’m allowed to help them with something (not huge projects, either, just like, here’s the invoice you asked for). His email is totally flooded btw
    It’s really inefficient

    (I am job hunting)

    1. Linda

      Exact same situation for me. I am a project manager and CC my boss on everything. What annoys me the most is that sometimes she responds to emails directed to me, without even giving me a chance to respond myself. Hello, the email was sent TO ME.

      Secondly, I think that the influx of me being on CC (along with her 3 other direct reports) is just too much email for one person to receive in a day. I send and receive on average 200 emails a day. She does NOT need all that information if she were to do proper weekly one-on-ones and better manage HER time, really.

  25. Miss C

    My boss used to also insist that all her direct reports (all management level, with direct reports of their own) cc her on every email. It added up to an insane number of emails that she could never stay on top of. I was more than once reprimanded for not cc’ing her on an INCOMING email after cc’ing her on the response, and would have to remind her that I have no control over who other people (outside the organization) choose to send their emails to. Let’s just say, she micromanaged in more ways than one.

    Now I’m in a new job and I’ve had to totally retrain myself on the proper and appropriate use of the “cc” button!

  26. Not using my name for this

    My boss (a Director) goes through varying levels of micromanagement tendencies… at its worst point, Boss wanted to have a “better handle” on what the team were doing- all requests to any of us had to go through Boss, via the corresponding boss in requester’s department.
    So Bob would need report x from Wakeen every week, Bob would have to request the report from Bob’s boss Joe (another Director), then Joe could request the report from Boss who would ask Wakeen to send Boss report x. The whole thing would reverse to get the report back to Bob. And Bob was not supposed to know that Wakeen produced report x, and Wakeen was not supposed to know that Bob needed or received report x. No emails forwarded or cc’ed. Boss was the source of all information and apparently did all the work and all the reports. The levels of absurdity increased exponentially if there were any questions about report x.
    This was abandondoned (mostly, but not entirely) when there would be delays of 2 weeks or more in Bob getting the weekly report x because a request was sitting in Boss’ email. And I won’t even go into the one off requests that were always a panicked *need it yesterday* because a request was just found by Boss that was already overdue.
    We have different types and levels of crazy now, but thank goodness that madness has mostly ended, other departments refuse to go along anymore.

  27. Callie

    I hate “cc me on everything”. I’m a graduate teaching assistant and my professor wants me to cc them on all emails. And I mean ALL. All emails to students, no matter how banal. All emails to industry professionals where we place students for practicum and internship. All emails on everything. I understood it when I first started working with them, because they didn’t know me and didn’t really know if I was reliable or not, but I’ve been here three years and have never given them a reason to think I’m not doing my work.

    (Then when I need them to reply to an email, they can never find it because their email box is full of a billion ccs from me.)

    1. ZSD

      Wow. I think most professors would do anything to keep from receiving *more* emails to/from grade-grubbers. I can’t believe yours actually wants to be included on that!

      1. Callie

        I know! I kind of thought I was supposed to do that kind of grunt work on my own so she wouldn’t have to be bothered with it… that seemed to me to be the point of having a graduate assistant!

  28. Ben

    I had a manager like this too.

    Firstly he wanted to be copied into “relevant emails”, which I was doing anyway, but he then wanted to be copied into “All emails”.
    I just agreed to this and copied him into every single email I sent or received, including short acknowledgements.

    He never bothered me again, could never keep up with his emails and quit, so I found myself promoted and turned around the aspect of the business I handled.

    Turns out he was not meeting any of his targets and wanted to find a scapegoat.

  29. Bea W

    The last place I worked, the head of the department was a micromanager to the point where she would micromanage middle management into micromanaging their reports. Part of this required that all a managers tell their reports to cc them on everything, whether they liked it or not. (They didn’t like it)

    I couldn’t get out of their fast enough.

  30. Neeta(RO)

    To me most of this seems pretty normal, as I’ve also had to do it. Basically, e-mail is considered the most important “proof” that a discussion even took place, and since the manager has to be kept in the loop, we’d cc him/her.

    The only exception I can think of, is for internal communication. Say, when you’re discussing some organizational details.
    Would it be possible to only include the the manager in the conclusion e-mail?

    Eg: X, Y, Z and myself discussed A,B,C and have reached the following conclusions. Unless there are any issues, we shall proceed with [insert relevant actions here].

  31. Danielle

    I’ve been in a situation similar to this before… The solution that ended up working for us was setting a “status updates” meeting for the last 15 minutes of the work day, every day. That way I could keep her updated without everyone else knowing that she didn’t trust me. It’s not really a practical solution, but might work for a few weeks until your supervisor can see that you can clearly handle the work load. (My manager was eventually relieved of her managerial duties when it became clear that she had trust and delegation issues, so much so that it was holding up all of our projects!)

  32. Marcy

    Sometimes it is needed for the type of work involved. It is necessary where I work and has caused serious problems when someone has forgotten.

  33. NotMyRealName

    I had exactly this happen to me earlier this year. I was working at home with a sick kid when I received the request and had a few moments of heart stopping panic – is this a prelude to getting fired?

    The frustrating part was that I’d been working independently, receiving good feedback from people around me, and then this just felt like a slap in the face.

    And I was concerned about all those things – how it looks – but more that it looks like it’s undermining my authority and ability to interact than that people would think I was borrowing his. Especially since I was the only one in the office or associated offices that did this at the time – since then a couple other managers have started doing it.

    I talked to him a few days later, asking if he was okay with the volume of emails he was receiving and he said I understood correctly and to keep it up. He said he’d realized he didn’t know all I was doing and didn’t like being asked about projects and not being able to answer.

    It got normal quickly and he didn’t try to micromanage and has made some helpful suggestions.
    I still don’t like it though, because I still feel that if it was about communication he’d let me choose. Ah, well.

  34. Persephone

    A manager I had used CCing just to make themselves look involved. I’d send something and then they’d follow-up with the same abbreviated message. I am sure the recipients were like WTF….That and they’d used to control: I see and know all.

    I just did it- I used it as an FYI when they invariably failed to do something.

  35. Lindrine

    We’ve been using smartsheets at my office – that helps a lot with project status. And when time is critical, sometimes I do cc my manager or ask that my direct report do it as well if someone needs to be in the loop so nothing get’s missed.

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