is it rude to cc higher-ups when another team is unresponsive?

A reader writes:

I work in a professional school within a very large private university. A colleague of mine had been trying repeatedly to contact one of another department to set up a time-sensitive training for some new employees, without receiving a response. This department is notorious for it being difficult to get their attention. He turned to me for help since I deal with this department more frequently. I did what I usually do to ensure a quick reply: I cc’ed my colleague, his boss, my boss, and my boss’ assistant. You see, my boss and my colleague’s boss are high-level administrators within our school (second only to the dean), and a complaint about non-responsiveness would be taken very seriously from them.

I received a response almost instantly–a response that only included myself and my colleague, so I know they aren’t appreciative of my cc’ing others. But frankly, this is the only way I can get this department’s attention, so I don’t feel too bad about doing it. But I am curious as to what you think. Am I being out of line even though I feel I have no other choice? Their manager already knows about their behavior and hasn’t acted.

You can read my answer to this question over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and often updating/expanding my answers to them).

{ 71 comments… read them below }

  1. Schnauz*

    I know I get caught up in this too, but why didn’t the first coworker just pick up the phone and call someone when their emails went unanswered? If I were the recipient and somehow missed the email, I would wonder why they didn’t call or IM or something else to let me know they were still waiting on a response. Of course, the Ops says they’re known for being non-responsive, so maybe it’s time to rope in higher management more substantively instead of this passive aggressive stuff.

    1. Anonsie*

      I’m guessing either 1) the group email is the only way to contact that department or 2) the phone went unanswered as well, or is answered by someone who tells you they only take requests by the group email and someone will get to it eventually. I have experienced quite a lot of all three of those things.

  2. Steve*

    This one varies *a lot* from workplace to workplace. When I was in academia, CCing higher-ups was seen as a lot more hostile than it is in the private sector workplaces I’ve been in.

    1. HeyNonnyNonny*

      Yeah, my boss frequently tells me to do this, and it’s pretty much the norm here. Sometimes, workers will actually add their managers to email chains, I guess just so that everyone knows all the things.

      1. Fuzzy*

        I tend to do this when I am down to the important part of an email. My boss doesn’t need to have the entie chain–just the bit at the top that has a question or confirmation.

      2. themmases*

        Yeah, when I was having a lot of trouble with another department, if I’d tried everything else within my power my boss would tell me to try emailing them one more time but cc him. This person was a director/administrator and I didn’t really work on projects with him. People knew what was up and responded.

        But I would put my primary investigator/doctor boss on stuff all the time just because she needed to know or would want to add her opinion. This was really normal in my workplace and people definitely got the difference.

      3. _ism_*

        My manager insists I copy her on just about every routine email that’s going to someone who isn’t her. She also insists that I get her approval if I want to add in higher-up management for something out of the ordinary. When I do ask, she’ll just compose the email herself and makes me sit and watch her write it :/

    2. Meg*

      I work for a vice-president in the legal department. Sometimes it takes me ccing my boss for people to understand that the question I’m asking is coming from him as well as me. He has instructed me to cc him when following up with non-responsive people. I rarely copy him initially, but it tends to work like a charm. I dont copy their bosses, however, and my boss generally ignores those emails unless I let him know there is a problem.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      Yes indeed. It’s fairly normal where I work too, although not as a first resort, more like a 2nd or 3rd resort. And sometimes you just can’t call people! They never pick up, or are out in the field. Sometimes it’s so bad that when we have proof reviews, we give a response deadline, as in “If you do not respond with your changes or comments by XX date, we will assume you approve the brochure for printing and proceed accordingly.” And it almost always happens that someone comes back too late too!
      I hate it sometimes, but if you didn’t take this approach nothing would move forward.

  3. AdAgencyChick*

    I think this tactic can be useful sometimes, if you’re not worried about making friends. We had to do this recently when another vendor being used by the same client as ours ignored repeated requests for information. Not only do they not report to us, they’re not even the same company, so they felt free to ignore our requests. (The client wants us sharing information both ways.)

    The client ended up telling us to CC him on any communications with the other vendor. Bingo! We got a response within MINUTES.

    I don’t think we could have gotten very far by trying to have a conversation with them about nonresponsiveness, because — again, they’re not subordinate to us in any way — they could have ignored attempts to have that conversation just as easily as they ignored the requests for information. I really don’t think anything that didn’t bring the client into it would have worked — and CCing was the way that required the least effort on the part of the client himself.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I’ve been in almost that very situation, and I’ll usually send a last request to the vendor stating “[Client] really wants the TPS report from me, but I can’t produce it until I get the WENUS from you, so please respond, otherwise I’ll have to tell them something about why the TPS report isn’t ready.” Yes, it’s a vague, slightly passive-aggressive threat, but it’s the truth, IMO made as palatable and polite as possible in that kind of situation. Sometimes if that doesn’t work you can go to a supervisor at the vendor, or ask your client to talk to them. I’ve been in that situation. In fact, we eventually took over all of the tasks that that vendor handled for my client, pretty much all because of their lack of responsiveness.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        I’m not sure it is passive-aggressive to let the people know that there are consequences, especially if you have made multiple attempts to get the information. You are being very direct that you can’t perform your job without their inputs. You will not shoulder the blame for their lack of response.
        Let people know when and what you need, and how it plays in to the larger scheme. They will agree or not agree to the date. If they agree then they need to be accountable to it.

  4. De Minimis*

    I’ve had to do this once, basically a situation where I’m working with another department and am depending on their information in order to complete a monthly assignment that is sent to our regional office. The one responsible for getting me the information is the manager of the other department and is sort of known as a slacker. He was always slow to get me what I needed and my managers didn’t seem to understand that I wasn’t the one causing the bottleneck in the reports being filled out on time, so I finally CCd my boss when asking for the information from him. We haven’t had a problem since then.

    It’s not always the best option, but sometimes you have to do it especially if you don’t really have any real authority over the other person.

  5. Zahra*

    Well, to be fair, in this particular case, she didn’t do it from the get-go: her colleague had been repeatedly trying to get a response from the other department. I too would find it exaggerated for an initial contact, but after trying repeatedly, it would be something that would pop in my mind.

  6. TotesMaGoats*

    It burns me up when I have to do this as a last resort to get information or for something to happen. If I have to cc my AVP to get something done, that you are supposed to do and it helps me help you and our students then we have a problem. More than anything I find it disrespectful to me. It’s within my authority to ask you for X and within your purview to give X to me. I hate having to borrow power from my boss mostly because I really don’t like him.

    1. Dan*

      …More than anything I find it disrespectful to me. It’s within my authority to ask you for X and within your purview to give X to me. I hate having to borrow power from my boss…

      This. We have a whole building of people who’ve decided that unless a it’s an active fire, they can ignore it. It drives me crazy.

  7. nm*

    This is the only time I use the “reply all” feature. I’m not a fan, but if you’re going to drag everyone into this, then let it all be open and on the table.

  8. M*

    It’s amazing how many messages and request for actions are lost or missed until one’s boss is copied in writing. I have no problem with copying the supervisor/boss especially if previous request have been ignored. Documentation not only covers you but also provides proof that supervisor/boss was also aware and did not have or enforce previous requests. Once you’ve been on the wrong end of the blame game due to lack of written proof you stop caring about others feelings and learn to CYA especially since those same coworkers don’t seem to care how their actions are affecting you/your department.

    1. TCO*

      Exactly–it’s so annoying to have several calls/emails completely ignored, only to get an immediate response once the supervisor is cc’ed. Yes, you may have been busy, but you just found the time to respond how that it’s somehow more “important.” Had you found those two minutes a week ago when I first asked you, it wouldn’t have had to go down like this.

      I only use cc as a last resort. Last week I had to do it after a person in another department (who others on my team really hate to work with) ignored at least three emails/voicemails about an urgent matter over the course of a week. My department is a client of his, so there’s an expectation he provide decent customer service (like the rest of his department does).

      The only time I’ll use cc for non-urgent matters is if the other supervisor has requested I do so. Sometimes they’re aware of performance issues/weaknesses and request to be kept in the loop. I wish it didn’t need to happen, but I at least appreciate knowing that they want to hear from me when I have trouble.

      1. L Veen*

        “Had you found those two minutes a week ago when I first asked you, it wouldn’t have had to go down like this.”

        Exactly. I use the “cc the supervisor” trick very sparingly, but when I am finally driven to it I feel no remorse whatsoever. At my last job I had to do it after the woman in charge of my payroll file messed up, resulting in me not getting paid. Almost 2 weeks of playing email and phone tag with her didn’t get me anywhere and her emails were so poorly written that I couldn’t understand more than half of what she was trying to say. My supervisor finally told me to cc her own supervisor on my next email. Lo and behold, that simple cc gave the payroll lady the magical ability to resolve my issue within half an hour.

        I refuse to feel sorry for people who can’t be bothered to do their jobs until you make their boss aware of their incompetence.

        1. Sassy Intern*

          Well, if my payroll was messed up and then I got to play phone footsie for two weeks with someone who can’t write passable English, I’d be halfway to her office already set on cracking some skulls.

          Sometimes you really do have to hold a sword over someone’s neck to get their ass into gear.

    2. themmases*

      Eh, although I have been on both sides of this I don’t believe that the immediate reply implies anything in particular.

      I used to own a task that other departments needed from mine, but that none of them paid us for (and they should have), we didn’t have full-time support for it since we weren’t being paid, and it was often a gateway into us taking a *lot* of work off these other departments’ hands, also for free. My department had at least 40 hours of its own work they wanted me to do, in addition to needing someone who could do this one task for everyone else in a somewhat timely way without being a doormat.

      People would sometimes cc their boss or one of my bosses about this task, and sure, sometimes it would get them an email from me faster. But often it was just a response that said “Sorry about the delay, many other people’s tasks are in front of yours! Expect approval in 2 weeks.” From my department’s perspective, there was no problem. I was mostly responding to be courteous to my boss so they wouldn’t be walking around thinking “The Teapot Project still needs approval, I’ll ask Emma if I remember…” On my charitable days, I figured these people were just keeping their own boss informed about their own project’s status. On my less charitable days, I thought, “Wow– these people really don’t understand that I do their same job full-time *plus* being their fairy godmother.”

      1. blu*

        But why not either just respond when you get it letting them know when to expect action or set up an auto-response? If I am in another department and I 1) didn’t make the decision to distribute the workload in this way and 2) Do know what your workload is or what your schedule is like then why wouldn’t I think you were just ignoring me if I continue to not even get an acknowledgement of my request from you? It also sounds like they were depending on you to be able to move forward with their projects.

        It sounds like your frustration with how management split up the work was clouding how you were viewing the requests.

          1. blu*

            You said you were on the other side of someone cc’ing their boss to get a response from someone who had not responded. Did you mean something different?

        1. themmases*

          Also, as I said in my comment, I was handling the work in the way my management wanted me to. It was my management that didn’t consider this task a priority because it was being done for free– not me being frustrated with it and just not responding to people.

          1. blu*

            Yeah I got that your management was fine with your actions. My point was for the people reaching out to you all they know is their management directing them to contact you to complete the task. Your response just came across as being annoyed that they didn’t understand your work load. I totally get that, but sometimes it helps to remember that the person on the other side of the request doesn’t have full visibility into something like that.

            1. themmases*

              Sorry, my response was not meant primarily to express annoyance! It is annoying when someone cc’s your boss (without at least nudging you first, IMO, but I think lots of people have been on both sides at some point), but my point was more that sometimes people are operating as they’ve been told to do, and in that case even responding really quickly doesn’t mean that you’ve gotten them in trouble.

              In the case I’m talking about, I had the exact same responsibilities and title as the cc-ers (and they knew this), and also coordinated an approval process on top. People would submit a bunch of materials with no back and forth required unless something was wrong, and know to expect an approval or request for correction within two weeks. I was just the gatekeeper to this wondrous process and didn’t really do any work except for coordinating. In fact, because I was doing this for free people in my department would sometimes encourage me to respond even slower (I declined). So a lot of times when people cc’d their boss at me, I was in the exact same position– waiting for response! It was kind of rude since I wasn’t the cause of their problem, but it was also pretty harmless for the same reason.

              I don’t necessarily think this situation is similar to a lot of what people are talking about here, but from the perspective of people waiting for a response from my department it probably seemed that way.

                1. themmases*

                  I am SO happy not to be that particular gatekeeper anymore, and I am sure it comes across loud and clear when I talk about it! :)

      2. Yessir*

        I’ve been on this side of things too. And my responses varied. Because sometimes when you tell people that you’re not going to do the thing they want you to do right now, to give them a heads up, they respond with persistence, and that takes up a lot of my valuable time. What I can’t stand is when putting off work, saying “I’ll get to it next week,” is blatant stalling when nothing is getting done to help me. And sometimes the person later claims it’s not their job.

    3. Zahra*

      I just had this happen to me (on the receiving end). However, my boss was constantly telling me not to work on this particular person’s request as other stuff was more important. We did answer the same day to the client, but that means that other clients get pushed down the priority line and other people need to help and get their own priorities reworked and their clients get the shaft . And I can’t really tell a client that another client is swamping me with request, can I?

      1. DMented Kitty*

        Maybe just respond back with a short message saying your team is currently focusing on high priority projects but will respond to you in [x] amount of time.

        Then, stick to the promised date, or if you are not able to make it, then send another note apologizing for the delay but that you are still working on high-profile tasks, and/or maybe delegate it to someone who has the time to help (if available)?

        I typically don’t itch all over if I don’t get a response from an email for a couple days (depending on the urgency, of course) — but I do always appreciate if the person lets me know that my request was acknowledged hasn’t fallen through the cracks, and there is a reason why.

    4. Dan*

      …Once you’ve been on the wrong end of the blame game due to lack of written proof you stop caring about others feelings and learn to CYA especially since those same coworkers don’t seem to care how their actions are affecting you/your department…

      I’ll add that those people have demonstrated they’re not your friends. So worrying about “not making any friends” is pointless.

    5. Connie-Lynne*

      I actually used to really appreciate it when people CCed my boss.

      I was in a role that caused me to get literally thousands of messages daily, and only very few of them could legitimately be batched up and dealt with via filters (this was a problem in itself and I’m glad that job is in the past). However, my boss and I had pretty much the same knowledge about things, so if they CCed me, he knew how crummy my workload was and _he_ could answer for me. If he wasn’t sure, he’d ping me on chat.

      I had a filter up to show me stuff he was CCed on so that when he answered I could file that task away as “done!”

  9. voyager1*

    This is one of those things that depends on the workplace and the history of the problem/people involved.

  10. sunny-dee*

    Re: the answer, I think that approach is reasonable in general if you have a person or department that is not responsive — but it actually doesn’t answer this situation. The OP said that the slow department’s manager is aware of the situation and won’t deal with it, her own boss is aware of it since she CC’s him regularly, and (presumably) the people themselves are aware of it since multiple people have to communicate to the multiple times just to get a response.

    I honestly don’t think the OP could reasonable do anything else, especially for a time-sensitive situation.

    1. Ben Around*

      I agree. This particular situation sounds like one of my gigs, in which I edit remotely for a client with a staff of eight writers. Two of the writers have shown that they’ll only respond to queries when their boss is cc’d, so that’s how every single communication with them goes.

      In fact, after several rounds of boss-cc’ing with both of them, I tried returning to the usual practice of only emailing the writers — and both immediately stopped responding to queries again. Lesson learned — they might as well get used to the cc’ing.

  11. Ed*

    This is a major pet peeve of mine. It drives me crazy when people in other departments CC everyone under the sun, especially on the initial request. Like what happened to OP, sometimes I’ll be passive-aggressive and only reply to them. Now, if I have been ignoring them (almost never happens), then I honestly wouldn’t blame them.

  12. ZenCat*

    I like the advice given. I coordinate ‘stuff’ and other people’s people so this is usually the case. I’ve gone to talk in person with their manager as well (and will update mine later) just to let them know an update and include any ‘issues’. Sometimes the manager has reassigned my resource without telling me, or they are sick or something.

    I hate cc’ing everyone and their Mom unless it is a last resort and/or I don’t have time or can’t get a hold of a manager. I get irritated when people do it to me for non-issue issues. I also get irritated being CC’ed on something if it’s from someone who constantly does so. Being late is one thing, trying to prove yourself right or just because you’re trouble bugs me.

  13. Malissa*

    At my old job I had to rely on someone to do something that I used to be able to do in the name of efficiency. The person in the position when this switch happened was great. Never had a problem. He got promoted over this position (a position to which I also applied) and a new person took over this position. She was not responsive at all. Emails would go unanswered, she never answered her phone. I ended up using the guy to get most of my work done. This worked until he got sick and was gone more than he was there.
    I ended up having to drive over to this other office when I needed to get something done. I’m talking pushing a few button and never more than 5 minutes of work. One day I had enough and copied the boss (an elected official) of both of them in an email expressing my frustration and asking how best to start getting things done in a timely manner. That turned into a fiasco of people thinking I meant something other than I said. Oy.
    Anyway I’m away from that and said problem child recently ran and won the elected position over the whole department. One of her issues was improving the communication between my old department and her department. Sigh.

  14. Cheddar2.0*

    Unfortunately, this happens on occasion at work. There’s a group we rely on to process paperwork so we can continue our work, and we generally give them 4 weeks to do it. At 6 weeks, follow up emails are sent, and phone calls are made. They never respond to emails, and phone calls are auto-directed to the admin staff and never returned. Then, my boss’ boss is informed. She emails and calls, nothing. Last time we dealt with them, it took 13 (!!!!) weeks to get our paperwork back and it took my boss’ boss cc’ing literally their entire department including the highest level guy before we got any response. And then all the paperwork was done in 24 hours.

    1. Ed*

      We had a similar issue and we added that department as users to our helpdesk ticketing system. Now we open a ticket to have things processed and it’s all tracked and can be audited. People are a lot less likely to blow you off when it can be proven when a request was submitted and how long it took to fill it. The key for us was getting buy-in from the top brass who forced everyone into the ticketing system. Previously each department (even within IT) had their own methods of tracking things (free ticketing programs, Access DBs, spreadsheets), if they tracked them at all. But I’ll admit it is a major feat to get non-IT employees to use a ticketing system.

      1. BeenThere*

        The only way to get non-IT to use ticketing is to not do anything unless they use it. Any form of communication trying to get around this should be responded to with “create a ticket, the team will be able to start work on it once you have created the ticket”. That and make it brain dead easy to create a ticket.

        Yes this can be a rude shock for those used to walking over to an IT persons desk and sucking their precious, precious minutes away…. forgive me it’s been a bad week. I need cave time away from noisy users.

  15. HigherEd Admin*

    I don’t see CCing my boss as a problem; I do that to let him know that I’m trying to get something done and if it has the impact of moving the work along faster, then great. That said, I can’t think of a single scenario where I would CC that person’s boss. Occasionally my boss will see that there isn’t any movement on the task and he’ll reach out to that person’s boss himself.

  16. Azalea*

    I really hate the fact that I have to do this whenever I deal with the accounts payable department in my company. Unless I CC several higher bosses, more often than not my e-mails are ignored (sometimes even deleted without reading), and issues are not addressed. It is extremely frustrating.

  17. jen*

    If there is a pattern, this could the way to address it, but in the moment, no. i think you also have to be at a managerial level and speaking for the department, and you have to address it like ‘let’s get on the same page overall for communications’. there is no way that i could get away with saying anything like this at my level. In my office, it would be seen as incredibly and openly hostile to walk over to the other department just to say to their face, ‘you’re not answering my emails, what can we do differently?’; no matter how nicely you think you are putting it, no one wants that and most people are going to react badly.

    if you’re going to be passive aggressive, (and the ‘we’ part makes it very much so) you’re better off with the CC. but not to the chain of emails, unless you really do want your boss or their boss involved. the way to do this and allow someone to save face (if you want to maintain good relations) is to start a new email in which people are CCed. then the recipient has the pressure of their/your boss knowing about it, without the embarrassment that a chain of ‘hey, what’s the status on this’ brings. but they know you know – and they’ll usually be grateful.

  18. Sunflower*

    I’ve been on both ends of this- both being the one who has CC’ed peoples bosses and I’ve had my boss CC’ed on emails to me. I think a CC id valid at a certain point. My communication always consist of at least 1 initial contact, then follow up email(with a timing of when I need something) then always call the person before I CC the boss- at that point I have absolutely no problem doing it and I don’t feel bad about it in the least.

    On emails I’ve CCed bosses on- I do this to our vendors. I only do it when I’m really frustrated and we’re down to the wire for an event. My company does things super last minute so I feel we are way more flexible with timing than other people. For example, an event last month. I emailed the contact 4 weeks in advance(that’s a lifetime of notice of in my office) to work on the event order. No response. 2 weeks later I check in and finally I get a response that shows she completely ignored my first email. The whole week before the event it was like pulling teeth trying to get stuff from her. I had sent emails ‘Please send to me ASAP, by the end of the day’. Called multiple times, left voice mails. The day before the event, it was still not sorted out. I had to start CCing her boss because I really didn’t know what the issue was. I have people to answer to also and if someone is getting in trouble with their boss, its not gonna be me.

    When someone has CCed my boss- Most of the time, this is due to a miscommunication in urgency. What I think is low priority, someone else considers very important. I’ll admit- sometimes I drop the ball and someone CC’s my boss due to lack of response from me. I don’t get pissed off unless 1. You did not send a follow-up email/call and 2. You didn’t clearly state when you needed an answer. Another example- I emailed a contractor and said ‘sorry I don’t have much information and will be in touch later this week once I know more.’ 2 days later I got an email with my boss CCed ‘I haven’t gotten any information from Sunflower.’ Then I’m getting phone calls from my boss asking why I’m not keeping people in the loop and I have to explain everything and it ends up being a huge waste of time. I’m not a mind reader and I trust most people will tell me if they need something by a time/date or pick up the phone if something is that important. Getting my boss involved that early on just makes more trouble for all of us.

  19. brownblack*

    I don’t entirely agree with Allison’s advice. “Why don’t you just address the problem directly?” Well, it is not the LW’s responsibility to fix this other department’s issues, or to instruct her boss to do so. Aggressively cc’ing other people to force a response seems to me to be the most productive course of action for the LW to get her work done. Yes it is arguably hostile, but it is also entirely appropriate, in my opinion.

    1. Kelly O*

      I think this leads down a potentially dangerous path that is fairly close to “that’s not my job.”

      No, it’s not the letter writer’s responsibility to “fix” someone else. But how the individual deals with this problem speaks volumes about everything from general business etiquette, to knowledge of the company’s culture and generally accepted practices, to simply dealing with conflict in a positive, healthy way.

      Sometimes all it takes to resolve a problem is to just start a conversation, and sometimes that conversation will tell you more about what’s really wrong than cc:ing supervisors and leaving something dropped in another person’s lap.

      1. Lindrine*

        Agreed! I also favor the “drive by and hang out” approach. I have to use this with an executive to get sign off sometimes. “Hi Mr. Darcy! Look at this awesome ad! Approve it you must!” This only usually works if both of you are in the same office area at the same time though. It also depends on culture. We all tend to walk around and talk about how a project is going or give status updates instead of just emailing. Still have to update the ticketing system either way though (grumble).

  20. Workfromhome*

    I work on a two strike approach.

    I send an email with a request.

    If it is not responded to in a reasonable time I send a request asking for an update.

    If no update is forthcoming or the update is not reasonable then I CC higher ups on my email stating I have tried twice and wash my hands of it. Everyone misses things from time to time and should get a chance to say hay I missed it. But if they don’t respond or do it habitually I have other tasks than to try to get them to do their jobs. that’s what the higher ups are responsible for. But my workplace culture is pretty toxic so its more about survival than collaboration.

    1. themmases*

      Yeah, I think there is a hierarchy of ways to try to get people to respond and most of the time cc’ing someone’s boss should be at the top of it. My steps were:
      – Name drop the requestor in the email
      – After some time has passed, send my request for follow-up as a response to the original thread so they can see how long ago I asked
      – After some more time has passed, repeat with a clear message about how Dr. Master of the Universe is waiting for a response from me that I can’t give without a response from you
      – Usually after talking to my own boss, start cc’ing people

      If the person is important or generally well-meaning, they also get a few calls or pages in there somewhere.

  21. DMented Kitty*

    I generally don’t CC upper management unless it’s relevant that they know. I do get those people who want everything they request from me (URGENT!!!) provided to them ASAP! And I provide it to them. But when I ask for something from them, they never respond, not even an acknowledgment. Not that they aren’t around — they just developed this sort of one-sided transaction and that made me feel like my needs are inferior to theirs. :-/

    Those people I don’t feel so guilty CC-ing my manager if I haven’t heard back from them after a considerable amount of time.

  22. HarryV*

    I disagree with AAM on this one. If there are people who do not respond to my e-mailS, I am not going to be politically correct and ask how I can change to accommodate bad behavior.

  23. Tom*

    I’d be livid if someone did that. They’d get a response, but it certainly wouldn’t be related to their initial enquiry. I can’t think of a better way to lose my support in something.

  24. CNW*

    I’ll echo what several other people have said – it depends on the company culture and volume of emails. Generally, if I am having trouble with a response I’ll cc my manager and/or director but not theirs. This will allow my manager/director to jump in if they have to, and also gives them visibility that I am actively working to get the task complete. I also will call to follow up, but I’ll also put on my follow-up email “per my call to you…” for the additional backup. My workplace is extremely large though and with so many meetings, many people are either not at their desks or just ignore their calls when they are at their desk so email is really the best method.

  25. _ism_*

    This is pretty common in my workplace, at least in my role and my manager’s. We’re managing multiple offsite operations primarily by e-mail. It’s my responsibility to trade documents and information with these locations on a daily basis. If they don’t respond, I have to ask my manager first, and then she’ll want to cc the management at the offsites. That’s the only way to get a response when my emails are ignored.

    For internal stuff, like communicating with our corporate office, cc’ing my manager is the norm. In fact she insists I cc her on everything routine, but she won’t let me cc her managers without her permission.

  26. Nervous Accountant*

    Oh gosh this happens all the time at my company!!! I understand if it’s for a very.serious.issue or if someone is unresponsive but a lot of the time it’s not. It just seems like such a passive aggressive move…ugh.

  27. Elizabeth West*

    It definitely depends on the culture, but sometimes it’s the only way to get a response. I had to do it a few times at Exjob, and then I sometimes STILL didn’t get anything back.

    Bullyboss there used to do the exact opposite–he would leave out his favorite victim and copy me when responding to Victim’s customers. The idea was to make it look as if Victim didn’t respond to anything and make him look bad. It backfired because 1) it was really obvious Victim wasn’t on the initial email, and 2) he involved me–a very bad move on his part. I would respond to the customer and include Victim’s contact info, along with a message like, “V is your sales rep. If you have any product questions or would like to request a quote, feel free to contact him. Thank you for choosing XYZ Company.” I would leave Bullyboss off the reply completely, and Victim immediately knew what that meant.

    Those end runs were a small victory, but a satisfying one. Heh heh.

  28. AnonyMiss*

    For us, it’s policy at my agency.

    If you email a department head, no matter why, you have to cc your own unit chief.
    If you don’t get a response within X tries/weeks, you cc the applicable supervisor (e.g., since I mainly deal in law enforcement matters, I usually go to the applicable Lieutenant, or if it’s the Lt. who is the issue, to his/her Captain).
    If you still don’t get a response, you cc both your supervisor, and the department head. That usually yields.

    (If still nothing, we bring in our own department head as the biggest gun… rarely needed though.)

    Needless to say, government.

  29. Edu worker*

    Normally I agree with everything AaM has to say. But in this case, I think she clearly doesn’t know how beaurocratic, slow, and unresponsive a large university setting is.. You can say things should change, everyone will agree things need to change, your boss will do a few things to encourage other departments to make the change, but no change will happen. It’s not like a normal company where you can talk to people and expect any sort of results unless you’re the president. I see it so much and it’s very frustrating but you slowly become kind of resigned to the way things are. At my very large, public university, it’s your standard government agency and rarely do things make logical sense. I have to CC whoever I can sometimes to get people to reply. It’s a different animal.

  30. ixiu*

    My accounting department CCs my supervisor and her supervisor on every matter, even trivial ones, she seems to do this with everyone as well. I find this behavior annoying and am wondering if I should leave it alone and write her off as obnoxious or if I should address this with her next time around. Such as phrasing it as “I see that you like to CC Bob from the get go on every matter, has my response time been a concern?”

  31. Willow Sunstar*

    In one of my former jobs, we were told to do this to the company’s brokers and vendors when they didn’t get the required electronic paperwork in. On the first request, you e-mailed the admin (or the salesperson). If they didn’t get it to you by the deadline, on the second request, you copied your boss and their boss. If they still didn’t do it, your boss was supposed to call their boss. It was standard procedure and if we didn’t do it, and our supervisors found out, we could get in trouble.

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