my coworker cc’s tons of higher-ups whenever he emails me with a problem

A reader writes:

I’m a software developer and often have to work with a lot of internal clients. Most are great, but there’s one guy I’m not sure how to handle.

When something doesn’t work right or I have an issue, my strategy is to deal directly with the person responsible. I only loop in my manager, their manager, or both if I can’t resolve the issue directly with the person responsible Most others at the company are like this. However, when this person has a problem or issue with something I’ve done, he emails my manager, his manager, my manager’s manager, all the way up the chain ON THE FIRST EMAIL. I feel this makes me look like I’m not helpful, which I am. I resolve most issues very quickly.

The last time he sent such an email, it turned out to be the case that he was doing something wrong. I really wanted to hit “reply all” when I told him this, but thought this would make me look unprofessional and I also didn’t want to waste my manager’s time with a small issue. Should I have done “reply all”? Would this make him stop? What’s the best strategy for dealing with someone like this? If I ever have an issue with him, I’ll be tempted to include his manager on the email so he can see what it’s like.

Honestly, I probably would have hit “reply all” in your shoes. He’s the one who pulled other people in — you’re simply letting them know that it’s handled; it’s not your fault that closing the loop in this case happens to include making it clear that he the one doing something wrong. Of course, there’s an argument for being the bigger person and not taking satisfaction in such things. I’m not that bigger person though.

Anyway, this is understandably annoying. By pulling in all these people who don’t need to be cc’d, he’s basically saying “I don’t trust you to handle this on your own and/or I think that people above you need to be aware of the heinous mistake you have committed.”

Of course, before we get too worked up about him, it’s worth asking yourself whether he has any cause for that. If you have a pattern of being unresponsive to him, or if there’s been a pattern of Terrible Errors, it’s possible that he’s justified in cc’ing someone higher up. But I’m betting that’s not the case, because if he were just taking a reasonable action in such a situation, he could just cc your manager or his and be done with it. There’s no reason he’d need to be wildly cc’ing all up the chain of command.

So, assuming that he is in fact not doing this in response to some sort of pattern on your end, your two choices are to (a) ignore it and assume that others on the email chain are rolling their eyes at him too (a pretty good bet), or (b) say something to him, which may or may not be effective. If you choose (b), you could say: “Hey, Fergus, I don’t think we need to cc all these people when it’s a pretty simple matter like X or Y. If you want to just send this stuff to me, I can usually get it fixed.” Alternately, if you have a good relationship with your manager, you could ask her to suggest he cut it out. If she’s willing to say “Fergus, please send these emails directly to Jane and stop cc’ing me and others,” that would probably end it.

But if none of that works, fall back on ignoring it and assuming that others are rolling their eyes too.

{ 166 comments… read them below }

  1. The Cosmic Avenger*

    I’d strongly suggest (a), ignoring them, and once they loop people in you can Reply To All so they know you’re being responsive. Sometimes I narrow down the CC list to eliminate people that just needed to know about the original inquiry, but then I don’t have people like Fergus emailing me like that. In fact, I usually reply directly to one of my clients who is…let’s say not technically adept…to point out to her things on her side that need to be fixed, and she almost always CCs her boss on the reply!

    1. A Bug!*

      Maybe you already know it’s not the case, but that client might have a boss who wants to be cc’ed on all of her e-mails. It’s not generally an efficient way to go but there are lots of reasons it might be the case.

      1. Cucumberzucchini*

        I was going to say the same thing. I’ve worked for people who insisted I CC the whole world and themselves

        1. De Minimis*

          I’ve had trouble adjusting to this lately, I’m told to always “reply all,” and it goes against every fiber of my being!

          1. Miles*

            Just remember the ‘reply all’ function exists for a reason. If it was never appropriate to use it, the folks at google, microsoft, yahoo, and others would have removed the option long ago.

            (Before someone takes issue with this, I invite that person to remember the ‘reply’ button sits next to ‘reply all’ –instead of replacing it– for a reason as well.)

            1. Windchime*

              Yeah, exactly. If I get an email that’s addressed to me and a whole group of people, I assume that the composer had a reason for including those other recipients and it would be rude for me to “reply” instead of “reply all” because I would be effectively cutting the other people out of the communication.

      2. MashaKasha*

        That sounds feasible, but why does he also CC OP’s manager, her manager’s manager and so on up the chain?

        1. Rat in the Sugar*

          That’s the part that seems off to me–I often CC my own boss on things so she can keep track of my progress on various issues, but I wouldn’t usually CC the boss of whoever I’m emailing.

        2. A Bug!*

          My comment was in respect of The Cosmic Avenger’s client who only cc’s her own boss, sorry for being unclear!

        3. Angela*

          I used to work for a manager that wanted multiple levels copied. If I didn’t do it, I’d get reprimanded, even though I knew it was usually 1. not necessary and 2. completely annoying.

          1. TootsNYC*

            I would probably put a parenthetical at the very end of the email:

            (Big Boss and Bigger Boss: Looping you in at My Manager’s request)

            Who knows–maybe there’s context I’m unaware of, and by alerting them -why- they’re getting the email, they might process it faster, mentally.

      1. Anna*

        The client is a coworker and since the OP says this coworker is the ONLY one who does it, I’m willing to bet that’s not the case. And it’s not just the coworker’s boss who’s getting it; it’s the OP’s boss, the boss’s boss, etc. Nope, this is about something else.

        1. Anonymous 123*

          No, I’m referring to: “I usually reply directly to one of my clients … and she almost always CCs her boss on the reply!”

    2. TootsNYC*

      And, since you say she’s not technically adept, it’s possible her boss is monitoring her a little more closely.

    3. LS*

      I recognize I’m replying to a comment from 1.5 years ago, but I recently noticed a coworker doing a smart thing that might be helpful for others in this situation. She moves all the CCed people to BCC and writes in italics at the top of the message: “Moved others to BCC.” It’s perfect because it lets the group that was originally CCed know that she closed the loop, while also gently suggesting that the rest of us don’t keep CCing them on the next 17 emails in our email chain.

  2. Snarkus Aurelius*

    You should have hit reply-all.  It’s not petty either, although I giggle at the thought of “he started it!” because he did.  He initiated that level of contact therefore the solution and subsequent should go to those same people.  By not doing that, you’re allowing him to control who sees that information.

    If I were you, I’d ask him not to do that AND hit reply-all every time he does it.

    P.S. How on earth does this continued behavior not bug the crap out of everyone copied on that email?

    1. afiendishthingy*

      Right? These are the people most likely to already be drowning in emails. Maybe they just have him sent straight to spam.

      1. fposte*

        I think the higher you get, the more emails you’re looped in on that really don’t matter to you. I bet these just get put mentally (and perhaps physically) into that category and the recipients don’t even think about them.

        1. KathyGeiss*

          Bingo! I work with someone who filters his email so those addresses only to him come up first. If others are cc’d he assumes it’s lower priority and that someone else may deal with it.

          This can be irritating but once I learned this was his style, I started sending him requests directly in their own email.

          1. Windchime*

            My boss does it this way, too. If he is CC’d on email, it automatically goes to a different folder.

        2. Miles*

          Any upper-middle manager, and higher, you meet is likely to have practiced their speed-reading skills just for this reason.

          The same is true for lawyers & others in similar positions as well.

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Right, I’m really surprised one or more at the top hasnt passed down to his manager for him to knock it off since he’s wasting important executives’ time.

    3. Jessica (tc)*

      I agree with this. I also think it might have the added benefit of the extraneously copied people getting fed up with it sooner if they are looped in on all aspects of the email. I hate being on email chains that I don’t need to know about and (honestly) don’t care about.

    4. KarenD*

      (P.S. How on earth does this continued behavior not bug the crap out of everyone copied on that email?)

      This is exactly why I would NOT hit reply all. The bosses aren’t going to see “Fergus is being annoying and Esmeralda is trying to teach him a lesson,” they’re going to see “UGH! Now Esmeralda is bombarding us with emails too! I thought she was smarter than that!”

      Using a superior’s else’s time and energy to teach a colleague a passive-aggressive lesson is rarely a good idea, in my experience.

      1. FiveWheels*

        I recently had the joy of an email chain which showed over 500 pages when trying to print. It crashed three separate computers. Reply All is a dangerous tool!

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        ” . . . they’re going to see ‘UGH! Now Esmeralda is bombarding us with emails too! I thought she was smarter than that!’ ”

        It seems that people primarily view these exchanges as twopeople carrying out a petty public spat, and not, unfortunately, as one person being over-the-top and the other person responding as a reasonable person would.

        1. coffee powerrrd*

          I agree. I’d file this one as “petty squabble” – OP, you’d best stay out of it the best you can. I’d liken this scenario to one person shouting at another on the street…It’s the others decision to engage and bring a sliver of validity to the offender’s argument, or walk away. Walk away from this one.

      3. TootsNYC*

        also, even if they do see, ‘Esmeralda is trying to teach him a lesson,” they’re not automatically going to think better of her.

        I wouldn’t.

        I get really annoyed at those sorts of things.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        My way of handling it is usually to reply-all acknowledging receipt and noting that I will work directly with sender to make sure it’s taken care of. If it seems appropriate, I’ll also ask if anyone else needs a status update when it’s resolved.

        Then, I just work with Fergus remove everyone else from CC. Repeatedly, if necessary.

        There were two department heads where I worked that required they be CCed on any emails to their team. One refused to allow the team to move forward without their review/approval. Guess which two department heads got replaced in a re-org?

      5. JessaB*

        I think the problem with never looping them back in on the response, is that the person who sent the original email then gets to control the dialogue about how the OP responded and when, etc. since they do not see the responding email anything can be said about it.

        I wouldn’t do it every time, but I’d certainly loop them in at least once, and then follow that up with a chat to my manager about whether I should continue to do that since Fergus is doing it, or should I go back to cutting them out of the response. I’d probably parse it as wondering if there was a specific reason Fergus was asked to do this, vs Fergus just being annoying about things.

  3. JP*

    I used to work with someone, who was in a different department, who would do that to me. She was the backstabbing type and was constantly trying to get me in trouble (and failed, every time). It was such a toxic work environment.

    1. GreenTeaPot*

      Those types abound, it seems. Each case is different. Sometimes the only person the victim of this sort of thing needs to Cc is his/her direct supervisor. Of course, each situation is different.

      I once hit the ReplyAll key, but only after saying something like, “I’m not sure I see the need to involve so many people in this matter, but in the interests of transparency, I am including them in this response.”

      1. Donna*

        I’m wary of being viewed as a low-level bickering employee, so I use Reply All very sparingly. I think that’s a great comment to use, GreenTeaPot–I’m definitely going to use it in the future. It lets the higher-ups know that you value their time and attention.

    2. Anon Accountant*

      Yes. We had one of those in my company also. She escalated every single thing she thought a coworker did wrong. The ironic part is she was fired in June for poor work quality.

      1. MashaKasha*

        That’s probably not as much the ironic part, as the reason why she was escalating every little thing someone else did. She tried to distract the higher-ups’ attention from herself and her own shoddy work. I had a boss like that, almost cost me my job.

        1. A Bug!*

          Or maybe not even so much as an attempt to distract as an attempt to normalize. I’ve read about studies showing that shoplifters tend to significantly overestimate the percentage of the population that shoplifts; they just assume that most people do it without getting caught.

          So if this woman felt like she was being unfairly singled out for her mistakes, she might have wanted to make sure her mistakes were being considered in the context of the mistakes everyone else was making, too.

        2. Anon Accountant*

          That’s what our bosses thought – she was trying to cover her errors by saying “Oh I found all these errors Jane and Fergus are making.

          She harmed reputations of a few coworkers with the bosses until a pattern of her mistakes had emerged and had tried to cover up.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      Yep, that was my first thought. I know this person because I work with her. If you do use “reply all,” be sure to respond with an extremely polite and helpful explanation of why the problem is actually his fault, along with an offer of help if he needs it.

      1. coffee powerrrd*

        I did this once and the offender exploded with rage because they viewed it as paternalistic and that she thought that I thought she couldn’t do the job, when I was just trying to offer some thought processes for researching and completing important correspondence to stakeholders.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I did it with a person who was very obviously trying to get me in trouble, and had no authority over me, so I couldn’t care less if she exploded in rage. But yeah, you have to be judicious about that. :-)

    4. LCL*

      Someone in my group did this to me once. I had made a mistake, but rather than talking to me directly he stirred up the whole group. I considered it as teaching me something very valuable about him. This one action caused my opinion of him to go from thinking he was a good guy to thinking he was a total backstabbing POS. I used to like him, I hated him (in a professional way, no retaliation!) after that. I was very glad when he transferred out of our group. I also had several people tell me that they knew he was corrupt (their word), and they were surprised that I hadn’t known that about him.

      1. GreenTeaPot*

        Sounds like a professor I worked with as an adjunct. In fact, I could have written your entire post, LCL. And he did leave the college!

  4. CaliCali*

    Sometimes these sorts of things result from someone carrying their prior poor experiences with them — perhaps they used to work in a toxic/unresponsive environment, and this was the only way to get things done. Conversely, he may have come from an extremely hierarchical organization before where you had to get approvals for every single sort of request from all the way up the chain. I’m not saying it’s an OK thing to do, but it may not be personal at all.

    1. Not a Real Giraffe*

      Right. I bet you’re not the only person he does this to. He probably CCs everyone on every email he sends out.

  5. LL*

    You could also hit Reply All to say you’re working on his request and add something in closing like “Janice, Pedro, Lisa — please let me know if you’d like to be copied on the subsequent exchange or if you’d prefer to be removed from these types of email chains moving forward.”

    1. SusanIvanova*

      I’d leave it at “please let me know if you’d like to be copied on the subsequent exchange” – it’s just like the annoyance of opt-out spam; even having to reply to it is more than I want to do when I’ve got things actually relevant to me to deal with.

  6. Cambridge Comma*

    I don’t like to waste my manager’s time with unnecessary ccing either, but unfortunately, once someone has added their manager and yours, you can’t take them out again without leaving the impression that the problem continues unresolved, which makes you look even worse. Just make sure that the first line of the e-mail makes it clear that there wasn’t an issue or that it has been solved, and start a new para with the solution. That way, those cced can quickly see that they can delete the mail without taking action.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Or, send the “reply all” with a note that says something like:

      “I can fix that easily. Bob, I’ll email you separately.”

      or “On it. Taking this offline.”

      Then they know they don’t need to worry, but they also don’t have to hear all the nitty-gritty details.

      1. Mockingjay*

        “I can fix that easily. Bob, I’ll email you separately.”

        Now why didn’t I ever think of doing that? I have two coworkers who play the “cc” game. Thank you for a very simple solution!

      2. Cambridge Comma*

        Where I work, that would sometimes make the higher ups even more interested in the solution, or make them start thinking you had something to hide. But it’s nice to think there are workplaces with higher proportions of normal people!

        1. TootsNYC*

          Then perhaps add, ‘No need to bother everyone else.” And if the higher-up ends up interested in the solution, the OP is still on fine footing–she HAS a solution, etc. She looks good!

    2. Stranger than fiction*

      Yeah I would think something like that would make him feel a bit sheepish and not do it again.

    3. themmases*

      I totally agree. These emails put the recipient in an awkward position. You want to take extra people off because it was inappropriate to email them in the first place, but now that this person has basically implied to them that there’s a problem, you don’t want them to think there was no follow-up. I struggled with this a lot at an old job where I was the contact person for an unloved process.

      I like your solution a lot because in many (most?) email interfaces that first line will show up in a preview of the email so anyone not involved doesn’t even have to open it before moving on.

  7. Leah the designer*

    Ooh, I sort of do this and I’m not really sure if I’m in the right for doing this. I always CC our president/general manager (same person) whenever I finish a project or or there is a project revision. I do this because I am the only one in my department and I want him to see that I’m A) completing projects by deadline and B) when there is a revision its because sales finally discussed details with client or client changed mind on graphics. Am I in the right for CCing president/general manager?

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      There’s a world of difference between CCing one big boss on a status update and CCing a bunch of them on a complaint about a coworker. What you’re doing makes perfect sense to me, although you can always ask them if they want to be CCed on those!

    2. TootsNYC*

      yeah, I would absolutely ask.

      Because were I that pres/GM, I would assume that you are completing projects by deadline. For one thing, if you miss the deadline, I’ll certainly notice it!

      And if the details that have changed are minor, and they don’t need me to ACT on that info, I don’t want to know. It’s only if I need to step in and say to the client, “You’re giving us these changes too late,” or tell the salesperson, “Those numbers don’t fit the budget,” that I would want to hear.

      And so in your shoes, I think you should ask when the pres/GM wants to be looped in; are there any guidelines you can follow?

      I never tell people that things they expected have happened the way they thought.
      (When I first got my cell phone, my MIL wanted me to call my DH and hers to tell them we were on our way home from the baby shower and would be there in 10 minutes–which is exactly the time we’d told them we’d be home. I refused. If we were going to be late, and they needed to know so they didn’t worry, I would have called.)

      Not unless they were worried about it for some reason. Or are keeping it on their to-do list in a vague way.
      We sometimes work on late, late teapots, and the person who designed the teapot may leave before us quality-control folks finish. When we finally finish, I’ll email to say, “It’s finally done!” just because I know it makes her feel good to know that it’s all over. And perhaps because she’s trying to stay up in case we suddenly discover a burr or crack that needs her to help us.

  8. Ama*

    The most charitable interpretation I can give this is that he has one of those managers who insists on everyone being kept in the loop at all time (we have one of those here; any issue that involves another department, she cc’s everyone in both her department and the other one, even if she only directly needs an answer from one particular person — and her reports have to do the same because if she realizes they haven’t she will reply and add all the people who were left off). Which would at least mean he isn’t a jerk, but would mean there isn’t anything you can do about it.

    But if you are reasonably sure he’s just doing it as either a power play or because he thinks it gets him a faster response, the only way I’ve found to get those people to stop is to have one of the people higher up the command chain tell him to.

    1. Mike C.*

      I was about to ask about this. I’ve had anxious managers do this to me when requesting stuff from others – say to expedite new accounts or stuff like that. In those cases, I always try to be extra polite and IM them on the side for their help so they know I’m not being a complete jerk.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah, I sit near her direct reports so they tend to give me a heads up about when I’m about to get thrown into an email chain that doesn’t really concern me. The thing the manager doesn’t realize is that a lot of us now just ask the reports in person if they have a minor question so they don’t have to get half the office involved in the answer to “have we scheduled an event in Dallas this year?”

    2. Bwmn*

      This is what I came here to say. In my case there is organization wide anxiety on a variety of things, so it’s pretty common for emails to cc upwards to 10-15 people. And by far, the best way to narrow this down is for someone to announce to their reports “don’t include me on these emails”. So the best way is definitely to continue to hit reply all, regardless of who’s involved or why.

      I will also say that the reason for this may truly just ‘not be about you’. It may be that the management of the cc’abuser has asked for this related to issues related to your department in general involving nothing about your actual work.

      This all being said, the ability to be passive aggressive via email is always open to possibility and interpretation. When you work in a “cc the world” dynamic, once you get that reply just back to you – it’s often not a positive. But who knows……there can always be a legitimate “other” reason.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        You have a point, however, in my experience when the higher ups want to be copied, there’s a group email that employees know to use such as “tech support” that would include all reps plus mgmt, or “accounts receivable” that may include the team members plus whatever mgmt wants to be aware of payment issues with accounts, etc etc. To me, if you’re having to manually choose executives, that just would not feel right.

        1. Bwmn*

          Where I work the process is admittedly laborious and involved – but it’s also just the way the organization works. It’s not particularly personal and it’s also not necessarily a trait that I’d apply to other jobs – but it is how it works here and in other organizations similar to mine.

          I’m definitely not denying that in other contexts that cc’ing senior staff/executives can have an escalating tone – but in a situation like the OP said, it may also not exist. Or may ultimately reflect poorly on the initial email writer and not the OP.

    3. Biff*

      I was coming in to say exactly this. I had this manager, and it annoyed me and everyone I dealt with AND it pissed off customers! Worst of all worlds.

      OP — it’s easy to find out if this is the case. Pick up the phone and ask why they are copying so many people.

      1. TootsNYC*

        That would probably be a good first step.

        Be curious. “Fergus, I see you CC’d the entire org chain. Is there a reason those people needed to be looped in at such an early stage?”
        I might even add, “Normally people loop in someone’s boss only after it’s really clear that she’s not going her job right. But this is the first I’m hearing about your needing this.”

  9. Laurel Gray*

    This type of cc abuse is still a top 3 douchiest thing to do in the working world.

    I too would have replied all to point out his mistake. If you have the type of rapport with your boss or anyone in the chain of command he copies to the emails, I would ask them about what their perception is when they receive an email like that. I’d also let them know that you are timely in response and solution when dealing with this person. When I worked at a smaller firm (50 ish ppl) the CEO did not like to be copied like this and anyone who tried this would receive a “reply all” response from him telling them not to do it. He had a sweet tooth and hated when people would email the entire staff to announce treats in the kitchen and leave him out.

  10. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    I’ve had family members do this, OP, and don’t worry – everyone who saw it thought bad of the cc-er, not the recipient of the email.

  11. TootsNYC*

    If I were your manager, I’d want for you to come to me and say, “This guy keeps looping everyone in the very first time he has the tiniest problem. Can we talk about this? I’m concerned about others’ perception of me based on his emails, since most people only bring in the entire food chain when the person at the bottom is screwing up.
    “I feel like I don’t make more mistakes than normal–and in fact, that last email, he was the one w/ the problem0–and these mistakes are pretty minor and quickly resolved.
    “I want to be sure where I stand with you, and whether you think I’m doing a good job, because yours is the perception I care most about. And, would you tell me your thoughts on this guy’s emails? Do you think they’re hurting me? Should I worry about it, or respond in some way?”

    Because it’s very, very likely that everyone he cc’d is rolling their eyes at his looping them in. They may easily see that it’s a petty issue, and they may not even really notice that it’s you he’s “complaining” about (he may also do this with everyone), and so the name they associate w/ these emails is his, not yours.

    If your manager believes that’s the case, then maybe the two of you can figure out a perception-building strategy.

    Maybe every now and then, your manager can do a “reply to all” and say, “As usual, OPJane has handled. Thanks, Jane,” so that the higher-ups see that your department has taken care of it and they can ignore; and they know that your manager is aware and is not fashed about it.

    Or you can simply reply-to-all and say “on it,” because they only need to know that they can ignore.

    1. Gandalf the Nude*

      I know it was probably a typo, but I’m really amused by the idea of you telling your boss the other guy had the “problemo”. Like “Boss-man, that other cat’s the one with the problemo this time, daddy-o!”

      Generally agreed on all points, except I wouldn’t open with calling the colleague’s issues “tiniest problems” because that risks irking your boss if she disagrees that the problems are tiny. I’d go with something more like “Is it just me, or does it seem like the issues Colleague’s been emailing about are too small to bother the higher-ups he’s CCing?” That way you’re covered and have a cleaner segue in case it is just you.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I just need to tell you that I was watching the Hobbit the other day, and I kept thinking “Gandalf the Nude” because of your user name here and cracking up.

        1. Gandalf the Nude*

          I am, perhaps, too tickled at the idea of anyone laughing at “Gandalf the Nude” while trying to enjoy LotR. My day has been made!

      2. Father Ribs*

        “Problemo” is one of those tongue in cheek Spanish-English bastardizations that we used in NJ. The odd spelling took some of the heat off; there was a problemo, versus there was a problem. I haven’t heard it since moving out of state.

  12. Chriama*

    I *strongly recommend* replying all when he does. The reason is, he announced to the whole world that you’re doing something wrong. If you don’t reply all, you can’t set the record straight. You don’t want these people who rarely interact with you to just have a vague recollection of a bunch of emails calling you incompetent. I would go that route even before asking him to cut it out, just because it could make it seem like you have something to hide. If he wants to cc the whole world with issues, use that as an opportunity to show how helpful and competent you are. After a few more instances of you pointing out his mistakes I bet he’ll stop on his own. If he doesn’t, I think you can assume he doesn’t understand the “polititics” of cc’ing managers and at that point you can follow Allison’s script to ask him to stop. But I’d start by assuming he knows what he’s doing and work on protecting yourself first.

    1. Laurel Gray*

      I agree. I think the same way one can assume that the higher ups are rolling their eyes at being cc’d, one can also assume the possibility that they are interpreting this behavior as necessary micromanagement of a particular employee. I definitely think the OP should demonstrate her helpfulness and competence as you said.

      1. fposte*

        I think those assumptions are pretty defensive, though; it’s also quite likely that the higher-ups don’t care in the slightest and haven’t paid any attention to it.

        1. Laurel Gray*

          It is a defensive assumption – it’s at the opposite end of assuming that no one cares. I think it is safe to consider, within reason, that some may actually care. Isn’t the best course of action in all of this (if the OP was uncertain and worried about perception) to directly ask her manager about it? In that conversation I think she can demonstrate the helpfulness/competence without being petty.

          1. fposte*

            I think those are possibilities, but I don’t think they’re things people should assume are the case. Asking one’s manager is, of course, a wise course of action in any case.

        2. J-nonymous*

          Exactly. I get CC’d on a lot of emails that I don’t need to get. I skim them for direct requests for input, but if someone is just keeping me in the loop then I figure I’ve been looped in and move on to an email that actually needs some attention from me.

      2. TootsNYC*

        As a higher-up who was cc’d in this sort of instance, I actually would think a little less of an employee who seemed to be trying to make the cc-abuser look bad.

        Fergus is wasting my time in the first place; don’t you do it too! Have the maturity to go deal with the actual work issue directly, and leave me out of the sniping, please.

        So if you want to let everyone know that you’re on the case, that wouldn’t annoy me. But looping me in with something that comes across as attacking or defensive–not making you look good.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          So if Fergus sends several people an email saying “Dang it Bob, you’ve messed this up again,” and Bob responds to all of those people with “It’s fine, everyone, Fergus just forgot to calibrate the teapot tallywhacker,” you’d think less of Bob? Because honestly, I’d think less – a LOT less – of a boss who felt that way.

          1. TootsNYC*

            OK, a direct attack that strongly–yes, I’d expect to see some sort of reply from Bob.

            But I’d also think more of him if his response wasn’t so strongly “attacking back.”

            But that’s not what’s going on here–this is a request for help/a fix that’s only an attack because it was cc’d to so many people.

          2. TootsNYC*

            and, I’d actually think a lot less of Bob that he made his chastisement so public and spread it up the org chart like that.

            You got a problem w/ someone’s work? You take it to them,a nd you take it to their manager. And maybe your manager. And you deal with it directly and somewhat confidentially. You don’t shame them. So Fergus looks like an ass.

            But when I get your email response, I’m going to be irritated anyway, because of Fergus, so don’t you join in the unprofessional behavior. Sure, since he’s attacked so blatantly, defend yourself, but let’s not get into details here. Make sure you look squeaky clean, so you are the one who looks sane, and only Fergus looks like a tattling, unprofessional ass.

            I’m too darned busy to be hearing all this crap in an email.

        2. Laurel Gray*

          So if Fergus sends an email finger pointing at another employee also on the email and copies you on it, you see it as Fergus sniping? This kind of leans toward the point that different managers could have a variety of assumptions on why they are being copied on the email. Not saying you are wrong or right, just pointing out that even though it is good advice to assume that no higher-up really cares, a worker may have considerable worry about how their work is being perceived.

          1. justcourt*

            For me, there is a difference between someone being impatient or dramatic and someone who makes specific allegations.

            In the OP’s case, it sounds like the emailer is getting overzealous with the reply all when he encounters a bump. Hopefully, managers are reasonable enough to distinguish Fergus hitting reply all because he has a question and Fergus hitting reply all because OP’s conduct/work is so horrible it needs management’s attention.

            Sending a reply all response to the first example isn’t necessary for reasonable managers, and runs the risk of OP looking like he’s trying to suck management into his drama. If I were to follow up with my management at all, it would just be to let them know I addressed the issue with Fergus.

            If someone makes a specific allegation, though, I think it’s fair to clear your reputation either through a reply all or through an email to your manager specifically.

        3. Chriama*

          Really? Even if the responding employee were matter of fact about it? If Fergus says “Hey, Joe your program sucks and it can’t do this thing I need to do!” and Joe responds “Hi Joe, based on your email I think you need to do x. Have you tried that? If so, can you provide more detail about how you’re getting the problem?” would you think less of Joe? I don’t think Joe should respond with Fergus’s tone, but he absolutely should say “actually, the program here is fine, there must be a misunderstanding.” The implication that Fergus is a moron should remain unspoken.

          1. fposte*

            Toots didn’t say she’d think ill of anybody who cc:ed the response, though, just if it looked like they were doing to to make the original emailer look bad.

    2. GreenTeaPot*

      This approach has lots of merit. It is akin to the crisis management strategy of “telling it all and telling it fast.”


  13. AndersonDarling*

    I’ve done it. I’ve replied-all when I get a snarky request and responded with the equivalent of “you need to plug in the computer for it to work”. Every time it happens, I get a response from the initial requestor without all the CC’s and an apology.
    If someone is going to attack with a list of CC’s, then they should do their due diligence before hitting send. It’s out of my hands at that point.

    1. Ama*

      My favorites were a couple that happened when I was still in academic administration. At the time I helped arrange a series of special lectures, and then we sent out emails to the entire faculty advertising them. One of our guest lecturers responded, cc’ing his dean and my boss, that his title was incorrect. My boss, after double checking with me, replied to politely point out that his own department website used the incorrect title in three different places and didn’t have the correct one listed at all.

      Second place was the person who pretty snottily responded to one of the announcement emails (cc’ing my boss) that all our dates listed the incorrect day of the week. I got to politely write back to her that seeing as it was just now January, perhaps she had forgotten to flip her calendar over to the following year.

        1. esra*

          Same. I imagine most people who do things like this take those reply all corrections like water off a duck.

        2. Ama*

          The guest lecturer one yes, since we still had to work with that person and he was at least big enough to admit he hadn’t realized the updates weren’t on the website yet (which is why my boss handled it so I didn’t have to be the entry level admin correcting a tenured faculty member and a dean). Date lady I never heard back from.

    2. Analyst*

      I’ve done it too, a few times, when someone from a different department told me I did something wrong and looped in the chain of command just short of the exec team. Can’t even begin to tell how awesome sending my super-professional response emails detailing whose fault it really was were (spoiler alert: it was him both times). Always replied-all. CYA, people.

    3. A Bug!*

      Haha, that seems so strange to me. The idea that you’d want all the managers to know that you wrongly accused someone of incompetence but not that you owned up to it and apologized? But then, I guess it’s a little strange to me to go straight for the mass cc in the first place, so it’s no surprise I’m befuddled by the whole thing.

      1. TootsNYC*

        I wonder if that’s got two motivations behind it.

        You already look bad, and adding another worthless cc: to the higher-ups’ inboxes is going to make you look bad too.

        Reminding them that you overreacted is not smart–try to just slink away.

        And taking the hit to your rep as a penance.

  14. Kassy*

    Ooh, I had this situation just yesterday! We had been emailing all morning just between me and her, but when she thought she had found a mistake, she CC’d my supervisor without addressing me about it first. When I responded to tell her that she was incorrect, I definitely hit “reply all.” It is kind of a CYA move in my case, I admit it. But I’m an admin and so I don’t necessarily have quantifiable performance goals – it’s all dependent on whether the people I support feel as though they are getting what they need from me. I can’t have it look like I’m slacking as I don’t have much contact with my sup (maybe once a month face-to-face meetings) and email conversations like this are really all she has to go on.

    1. Kassy*

      Also, slightly OT, but we have a bad case of reply-all abuse in my agency. It’ll be like, everyone in our region of the state will get announcements that Jane is retiring after 37 years of wonderful service, and we will get 20 more “Congratulations, Jane!” emails from people who hit reply all for reasons I cannot fathom.

      1. Doriana Gray*

        Ugh same here. I’m like, “Stop filling my inbox with this nonsense! I’m not Jane! I don’t care!”

        1. Daisy Steiner*

          If you use Outlook, ‘Ignore’ is your friend here! It’ll send all future replies straight to Deleted Items.

          1. Kassy*

            We do! I didn’t know about the “ignore” button. And now that I look it’s right in front of my face! Thank you!!

  15. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I think Alison’s advice is correct, but I just wanted to say that if I was his manager I’d talk to him about this and probably ask him to stop. I’d at least ask him to stop CC’ing anyone above his and your managers because it’s not necessary. I’m sure your managers are perfectly capable of looping their bosses in when and if it’s necessary.

    1. Sunshine*

      This. I know I’d be P to the O’d if one of my reports copied my boss on an unimportant issue with a colleague. Not only is he implying that the OP can’t/won’t handle it appropriately, he’s implying the same for his own manager and the OPs manager. Not a good career move.

    2. S.I. Newhouse*

      I second this. We’re assuming the OP has not already asked his coworker to stop and that he/she doesn’t have a good reason not to talk to the coworker first. It may just be a matter of simple communication to the coworker to make the problem go away. Maybe the coworker is accustomed to a different work culture where the manager is looped into EVERY small detail; I’ve worked at workplaces like this.

      As for replying, everyone’s mileage may vary here but I’d “reply all” to give those higher-ups who might have (unnecessarily) read the thread confirmation that the problem has been/is being solved.

  16. Ilf*

    I would have absolutely have replied all, and not to get back to him or anything. He deemed proper, for whatever reason, to copy all these people, and they did not ask to be removed, so why would I make the judgement that it’s not necessary, and what does it say when I remove them?

    I work in a multinational headquartered in Asia, with business on four continents. If I worry about anything, is being out of the loop when things happen, and not being able to chime in when decisions are being made elsewhere, that affect our region. And yes, as a rule, if no one specifically asked to be removed, they all stay on the distro. If anything, I find it a much bigger waste of time to go through distribution lists, and make judgement about who needs, and who doesn’t need to see this.

    So, question to the community here: how much email do you feel is unbearable, to the point that you need to filter out anything that’s not addressed solely to you?

    1. Sunshine*

      It is tough at times to manage a large distribution list. I had a recent exchange with a customer that had around 20 people on copy. I recognized about 5 of them. I had to assume that the originator of the email chain had reason to include them and they were pertinent to the conversation. I had nothing else to go on, so they remained in copy until they asked to be removed.

  17. HR Recruiter*

    I’m curious to know what OP’s manager thinks. I might suggest a conversation with him/her. By cc-ing their boss its kind of like pointing a finger at the manager that they can’t get their employee to fix the problem. Its also a huge waste of time for higher ups who I’m sure already have plenty of email to go through.

  18. Phoenix*

    On at least one team in my workplace, this kind of cc abuse would definitely be because one particular team leader insists on being cc’ed on EVERYTHING, and gets cranky when they find out they weren’t – even if it’s not actually relevant to them.

    I wonder if OP has enough knowledge of that team/reporting chain to know if there might be something similar at play here?

  19. Lily in NYC*

    Our incompetent bully of a payroll manager does this and it’s maddening! But I always “reply all” because every single time he’s the one who made a mistake so I take joy in my overly polite response to everyone calling him out on it. And of course, he then replies and takes everyone off cc. I have a feeling he’s about to get fired, cross your fingers!

  20. Anon for this*

    I’d definitely hit reply all. But, I suspect that most people who are being cc’d into the email know that this person is copying everyone for either dramatic effect or because they are being passive aggressive (there is a chance they’ve been asked to do this, but I think that tends to be unusual). I’m assuming that the OP’s co-worker does this to everyone?

    I have a more senior co-worker who loves to cc my boss and our CEO into her emails when she’s unhappy. Sometimes I remove our CEO when I reply, but I always keep my boss in the email loop. At least in my case the senior co-worker it’s a passive aggressive move. She also cc’s our CEO into email to my boss (who is also her boss) when she doesn’t like something she’s being asked. Everyone in the office knows that this is her tactic, and so it’s not a big deal. Because she does it to everyone when she doesn’t like something. The problem now is when there is an actual issue she gets ignored because everyone has been conditioned to her crying wolf every time she’s unhappy. But, that’s her problem not mine.

  21. Sharkey*

    I’d just talk to my manager about it and say that you’re concerned it’s giving others in the organization the impression that you’re not doing or are unable to do your job by “escalating” the issue. Your own manager has a vested interest in not making it appear to those higher up that her people are incompetent or that she’s unable to manage problems directly. If your manager states to you not to be worried about it, my guess is that she’s already determined that these emails are producing eye rolls. Also, people who engage in that kind of behavior typically develop a reputation as the problem, not the people they drag along with them into the fray but I’d start with a discussion with my manager if only to alleviate my own concerns about what it might be doing to my reputation. Good luck!

  22. JJ*

    Something like this happened to me recently at my current org, which has a strange technology culture.

    Prior to my arrival, my department had been telling a large number of people who we needed files from to pick up flash drives and then deliver those flash drives to us with the data on them after everyone in their division had uploaded their stuff. These files are not large at all, and are not security-sensitive documents. However, this method often led to problems (people losing their division’s flash drive, someone holding up the process because they forgot to pass it along to the next person, people just not wanting to walk to our department to deliver them, etc.).

    So, I suggested that we use Dropbox (only for file transfer purposes, not file storage purposes) and set up several training sessions for people unfamiliar with how to use Dropbox. Someone in the tech division saw my room reservations for the training, and CC’ed her boss in an email to me chastising the use of Dropbox, reminding me that the internet is a scary place, and basically implying that I was breaching a serious org policy. The boss even sealed the deal by writing that he “simply can’t recommend use of Dropbox, period.” (By the way, I’ve used Dropbox for several years. I don’t doubt that people have had problems with Dropbox, but I never have and the documents I would have asked for were, again, harmless in the grand scheme.)

    When I asked about this–and mentioned that I wanted to know what proper course I should take instead that could still meet my needs–they said that they actually can’t, and won’t, stop me from using Dropbox; they just wanted me to know. Um…..OK. Thanks for CCing your boss on that one, then! That doesn’t come across as weirdly adversarial at all!

    1. Anonymous Educator*

      Ugh. Not using Dropbox because the Internet is a scary place? Horrible! Do they use email there? Do they ever go to any website? They’re using the Internet, then. Honestly, even if those were sensitive documents, you can encrypt them. Thumb drives are not more secure, especially if people can lose them. Yikes!

      1. JJ*

        Ha, right? The tech management here is ridiculous. I know that if I asked them to install Skype for professional conference calls, they’d probably become suspicious of me wanting to call my family and friends during the work day or something (except that I already could with Google Hangouts if I was stupid enough to do that, so…..I guess we just shouldn’t have internet access; that’ll solve the problem!).

        1. The Cosmic Avenger*

          That’s funny, I use Skype and Dropbox at work, for work. Most of our IT department prefers Skype to Lync, so I have 3 messaging programs running right now. :/

      2. Kyrielle*

        Yep. I worked with files where that would absolutely not be acceptable without prior written authorization (that you likely wouldn’t get), but no one is going to describe those as “not security-sensitive” nor would handing them around on a flash drive be considered a secure alternative. If the documents are that scary and precious, then you put up secure servers for file transfer that are accessible from the points you need to transfer from/to (and as few other places as you can humanly manage).

          1. SusanIvanova*

            I hope you’re just using “ftp” as a shortcut term (I sometimes do that myself), and not actually using real original ftp – it has major security problems.

            1. hermit crab*

              We recently got a secure FTP system set up and (in addition to actually being able to transfer large to/from clients now) the best part is that now I can say “sftp!” all the time. Sfffftp! Sssffffftp! :)

        1. JJ*

          Yeah, agreed. The tech people countered by saying that they’re working on what basically sounds like a Dropbox dupe (and that it “is actually secure”) that I was welcome to use and that it would be ready for me to try….3 months ago. It’s still not ready. I’m basically collecting flash drives at this point to be a “good citizen”, but if this isn’t ready by the end of this month, I’m moving on to some scandalous web-based program as planned. They’d simply be leaving me with very little time to design a competent training materials and start preparing people before I need them to start using it.

          1. LQ*

            I assume you’re not in a government or agency that has a lot of private or confidential data?

            People in my agency are often shocked when I show them all the things that are private. I have a lot of problems with people standing in the way of progress for standing in the way’s sake, but security is different.

  23. Anonymous Educator*

    Not that this solves the problem, but if he’s the only one doing this mass-Cc’ing behavior, I would say it’s likely—if your manager is reasonable and his manager is reasonable—that these emails, rather than making you look incompetent, make him look wildly out of touch. If your manager and/or his manager don’t talk to him and say “I get enough emails. Please don’t escalate to me unless absolutely necessary,” then the problem isn’t really this guy (I mean, it is this guy to a certain extent but not fully) but really your manager and/or his manager.

    Another option (maybe not ideal, but I’ll throw it out there, since no one else has mentioned it) is the Bcc.

    So if he does an email to you Cc’ing your manager and his manager, and it’s really nothing, then reply back to him and then Bcc your manager and his manager. That way, they know you’ve responded, but then that’s the end of it. Any “reply all” from him will go to just you and not to the managers again (re-flooding their inboxes).

    1. Feralcatt*

      I know it’s been well over a year since you posted this, but I started using it roughly a week ago, and it’s made a HUGE dent in my inbox.

      I just hit reply all, move the folks that don’t need to be in the email to the BCC line, then start off with something like this: “I’ll be glad to help you out on this, Frank, and I’m assuming you’ll be my point of contact on this project. I’ve moved [the list of people] over to the BCC line on this so that they are aware that you and I are moving forward on this issue. We’ll be sure to loop them in if we need to consult them or give an update.” Then I continue with the rest of the email as normal.

      It works great. The managers/coworkers are clued in that the work is being done, the parties responsible for the task are clearly identified, and mailboxes are freed up. And I even noticed one of my employees using it today.

  24. A.S*

    Ask your manager what to do. It’s good for them to a) know this is happening and b) have some input on how to respond. They may agree that you should keep everyone Reply All-ed on the email chain, and they may tell you not to bother.

    I had a coworker with a habit of doing this, very very much in the vein of “I think that people above you need to be aware of the heinous mistake you have committed.” (This coworker would also go to our managers in private to complain about how poorly we were doing our jobs whenever we made a small mistake in filing a form, etc. I think it was really all about this person’s desire to feel powerful and influential within the workplace, but that’s just my armchair psychologizing.) I explained the situation to my manager in a check-in, my manager confirmed that this person had a well-known habit of cc-ing everyone all the way up to the executive level in order to make sure the whole world knew how bad we all supposedly were at our jobs, that no one anywhere in that chain of command had any doubts about my performance whatsoever, and that we didn’t need to bother cc-ing them as they knew exactly what was going on and that it wasn’t important.

  25. Rat in the Sugar*

    I would just ask your coworker. It’s possible he’s being insecure or a jerk, or there could be reasons. Sometimes, a problem that I’m emailing an employee about might be small peanuts to the employee in question, but because it has to do with our Huge-Contract, I have to CC the heads of both Teapot Design and Teapot Contracts (their request that they both be CC’d on anything to do with that client), the PM of Huge-Contract because it is affecting his work, and of course I’ll CC my own boss, the company controller, because she and I discussed it earlier and I want her to see that I’m working on it (I know she’ll toss the email in another folder and save it for when she needs the info).

    Since I have various people that want to know every time a single teapot starts to steam on this particular contract, it probably looks to the employee like I’m being excessive. Really, though, I’m not trying to get them in trouble, just keeping everyone aware of what’s happening. Various people quite senior to me have insisted, and I would gladly explain to any employee who asked why I was CCing so many people so high up the chain.

  26. Argh!*

    Don’t take it personally. Some people just do this, and their higher ups and whoever else they habitually cc: take it for what it’s worth. It’s a reflection on him, not on you.

    Or…. he has a habit of whining about things when he hasn’t in fact contacted the person responsible to work it out, in which case the higher-ups may want documentation that he’s done something about it before they take his whining seriously.

    Either way… it’s his problem, not yours!

  27. J-nonymous*

    Hm. Is this guy newer to your organization? It sounds like culturally CCing higher ups equates to being escalated in your organization, and this guy is escalating the first time an issue is raised.

    It’s possible he isn’t aware that his email practices are seen as escalating. It’s also possible, as Alison suggests, that you’re not as responsive as you think you are (or at least he perceives you as not being as responsive as he needs you to be). There are a lot of possible reasons behind this, so it almost doesn’t matter.

    Have you tried leveling with him (in a non-confrontational and professional way)? Saying something to the effect of, “Typically when I loop in upper management on issues, it’s because I’m having a hard time getting a matter resolved with the person I’ve been working with. Have I been responding slower than you need me to when you report issues?”

    It’s possible that this alone might open up a good conversation you can have. Maybe he just thinks he needs to loop in all levels of management on issues so they’re not caught off-guard. Maybe he’s a jerk. Maybe he thinks that you don’t respond quickly unless your management chain is notified. Maybe he worked/works in a terrible environment where no one actually gets things done unless their manager has been pulled in. It’s really hard to say – but talking to him and getting a better understanding of why he’s doing this could help you.

  28. AnotherHRPro*

    Generally I fall into the “ignore it” camp on issues like this. But you may also try to figure out why your colleague is doing this. In my experience the reason for over-cc’ing tends to be one of the following:

    – Person does not trust you
    – Person thinks issues are much bigger than they really are
    – Person is afraid due to their own performance issues
    – Person’s boss has instructed them to “keep them in the loop”

    With the last three, the person will be doing the cc-ing thing to others as well, whereas with the first one they are doing it more selectively with just certain folks.

    And for what it is worth, if someone starts cc-ing everyone I do hit the reply all so that everyone hears my side of the situation. But I can be petty like that. :)

  29. Rusty Shackelford*

    It sounds like the guy only CCs higher ups when he thinks the LW has done something wrong, so I think the speculation that this is a cultural thing, or his boss wants to be kept in the loop, is probably off the mark.

  30. stazatup*

    This is a pet peeve of mine as well. I handle it by hitting reply and not reply all. Some of the commenters above stated that perhaps this person’s manager had requested all these CC’s. If that’s the case, you’ll find out pretty quickly.

    For what it’s worth, I try to remind myself that the other person feels the need to CYA and s/he is most likely doing it with everyone and it has nothing to do with me.

  31. justcourt*

    As much as I hate getting these kinds of emails, I don’t hit reply all just because I have so much hatred for that button.

    The only exception is if someone outright accuses me of screwing something up. Example: a coworker emailed me and CC’d my boss and accused me of not doing my job. After I investigated the issue, I found out that he was the one who dropped the ball and was desperately trying to cover his behind by shifting blame. This was pretty standard for him, and I knew it, but he had never tried it with me. When I responded to him and my boss, I laid out exactly what happened and offered to help him resolve the issue. I never heard anything from my boss, but I’m assuming she talked to him because the next day I got several ridiculous emails telling me I misunderstood him, he was sorry, he just wanted to make the boss aware of the problem, and finally he ask me to sit down with the boss with him to explain it was all a misunderstanding. I told him the issue was resolved as far as I was concerned and asked him to stop email me.

    My reason for including my boss in my response was because this guy made a specific, unambiguous allegation against me, and I wanted to clear my name. In my opinion, responding to anything less concrete than that risks making you look as unprofessional as the emailer.

  32. 2 Cents*

    Never failed: when my direct manager thought I’d forgotten to finish a project, she’d CC her boss on an email to me demanding to know where it was. And every single time, I’d be able to reply all, and forward the email I’d sent two weeks’ prior with the project she’d just accused me of not doing. Then, I’d get a sheepish “thanks” without her boss on that email.

    1. TootsNYC*

      boy, does that make her look like a bad manager.

      She’s your boss; she can “get you in trouble” all she wants–why does she need to run to her boss to have leverage over you?

  33. LQ*

    I’m going to throw out the possibility that …well he’s in trouble. And he has been told to do this because he needs to be micromanaged and so he got told to copy the supervisor and this was what he did.

    I had someone who was several steps above me do this, through her chain of command and mine. I was kind of horrified, it was her initial request for me to do something. I talked to my boss and he basically said, it’s not you it’s her. We all know you do your job great, no one is going to question that. You don’t need to reply all, your work isn’t in doubt. Over the couple years since she always does the ccing up the full chain of command (and she requests things from me pretty often), she does it to others, she is always doing it. I don’t know that she’s in trouble. I just know it is the way she operates. And I know it doesn’t reflect on me.

  34. Socal Tech*

    Could it be that he is the type that always CC’s his boss and such? If he is, then him doing the same to your bosses may not have anything to do with you.

    I would first talk to him directly and ask if he is doing that because he feels that you do not provide the correct answers or that you do not reply fast enough. Ask him to please stop CC’ing you boss and his boss.

    If he doesn’t ask your boss to handle it. Tell your boss that you are worried that the other managers will think that you have issues due to this.

  35. Rebecca Z*

    Had a guy do this – emailed me asking when I would be done with his project, stating it was overdue, and cc’d my manager and her manager (my director). Gave me great satisfaction to forward back to him the email I’d sent an entire week earlier (way before the deadline) with his completed project – cc’ing my manager, my director, and HIS manager and director. And then I told him when he walked by that in the future, he should just speak to me directly. Not cool.

  36. TotesMaGoats*

    I absolutely would’ve hit reply all and in the most professional way possible explained exactly how wrong he was. In fact, I’ve done that a couple of times and it was glorious. Even though it’s entirely possible that his boss is making him do it, I tend to think not. If I thought that I could remove all the cc’d people with some of the great suggestions above, I would but if my abilities are called into question then I”m addressing it.

  37. Colin*

    I also do software development and tend to see this kind of a thing a lot. If the person is doing it does it universally with other co-workers, then you have nothing to worry about. This tends to be a pro-active way of covering one’s butt. Even in the case where he is the one that caused the problem, there is at least a formal record that management can see indicating that he at least was communicating that there was a known issue.

    Knowing how big the egos in the world of Information Technology can be like, I can’t ignore the possibility that this guy is at least implicitly trying to get you in trouble. I’ve been working with a show-off like this for close to 8 years now. The funny thing is that he is completely clueless as to how bad it makes him look to management. What’s this guy’s reputation like? If he’s known to be the kind of person that can never be satisfied and can never provide constructive feedback, then once again, you have nothing to worry about.

    Next time this happens, remove one or two of the higher ups from the email chain, but continue to include your boss and possibly their boss depending on the nature of the issue.

  38. Workfromhome*

    I’m of the mind to give the person one chance to expain (my boss is making me do it) or change his ways. As per other’s advice a quick “CC all these people creates a lot of confusion and noise in the process. If you can please communicate directly to me I think things can get done for you more quickly and efficiently. Can we agree to move forward like that?”

    If they change great problem solved.

    If not “under the bu they go”. Next time they do it and its actually their mistake you hit reply all and very matter of factly expose their mistake. I’ve done it (much like others) by attaching previous emails that I sent to them where I responded and either solved the issue or highlighted their action items to correct their mistake”.

    I even had someone come to me spluttering “why did you reply made me look bad in front of my boss”. My answer “Well we agreed that you would come directly to me going forward so I just assumed that I can hit reply all to your emails since it would be direct to you.”

    Yes the satisfaction was a bit juvenile on my part but if you give someone a chance to correct the issue and they keep trying to CC everyone they deserve what they get.

  39. Bananas*

    Don’t be too hard on him. It could be he’s used to a culture of reply all. People at my company reply all quite a bit, and my manager actually asked me a couple times to link her in on small issues because she wants to feel like she’s in the loop. In that scenario though, I would still have hit reply all, just to close the loop for everyone so no one is left hanging on what happened.

  40. Big McLargeHuge*

    I have coworkers that do this. We’re a relatively flat organization with our executives trying to get out of the detail and really focus on our growth efforts. The last time this occurred with something relatively minor that I could easily handle, I replied to the person that sent the email directly and removed the executives from the email. I then sent them a separate email informing them that I removed them from the original email, I was handling the situation, and that I would be happy to follow up with information if they wanted some more detail down the road.

    I was surprised to receive follow up from both executives that were originally copied that they were thankful that I removed them to reduce the clutter in their inboxes and not bother them with detail that didn’t matter to the big picture.

    One thing I always try to keep in mind is the thought of “does this issue require the attention of X at this time?” If so, loop them in. If not, don’t bother them. They have better things to be doing.

  41. Ife*

    Ugh, OP, I have been there. I kept getting emails from a coworker in another department that basically had the tone of “your code sucks and is not working,” (he was also cc’ing the project manager and other devs) but he was not set up right for testing. I told him how to set himself up and test, and all of a sudden it worked. Silence.

    It is frustrating, but I think responding to the question, and not the tone, is the best way to go. “Reply All” seems totally reasonable to me in your case, because he already added those people. (Although, my company has a habit of always Replying-All and including everyone and their brother in email chains, so take my perspective with a grain of salt ;)

  42. Chris*

    Another vote for going ahead and hitting reply all. He’s the one who turned it into a group conversation, and it risks impacting your appearance if they think issues are unresolved. Not to mention that I don’t think this will seem petty or vindictive to the CC recipients. It will seem totally natural.

  43. Ann Furthermore*

    In my experience there is only one reason people do stuff like this: to make themselves look good by making everyone else look bad. These people are jerks.

    In situations like this, hit Reply All, and do it with relish. A sneaky, smarmy little weasel did this to me once. Emailed me and copied everyone up to the CFO about an issue he said was my team’s fault, and went on and on about how incompetent they and I were. It turned out my team couldn’t do what they needed to, because people on HIS team had not done what they were supposed to do first. I hit Reply All, laid out the facts for him, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never experienced a more satisfying click of the Send button.

    If that pompous windbag had gotten up off his ass, walked the 50 feet from his office to my cube to talk to me in person, we could have gotten things sorted out in about 30 seconds. But no, he had to be a tattle tale and point the finger. I was only too happy to return the favor.

  44. Mena*

    My boss’s boss will email an employee and copy that person’s boss – on everything … no matter what the mundane content of the mail, that person’s boss is copied. No need for escalation, no need for others to step in. Now my boss does it too. I realize that boss’s boss is setting the tone here but it is seriously annoying and rather immature, not to mention time consuming.

  45. Narise*

    I would reply all the next time to answer the question. Then I would forward that email to my manager and ask ‘Is it policy to copy everyone on all emails? Can you let me know when I should cc Tom Dick and Harry?

  46. Glasskey*

    Fantasy Microsoft Outlook, Section 1: Email thread removal

    File –> Settings –> Out of Patience Assistant –> Click all that apply. Generates the following automated message to the sender:

    The following recipient(s) of your recent email have manually removed themselves from this email thread and will no longer see responses on this subject no matter what you do, so drop it already and do something productive for a change.

  47. Zoogie2*

    This happened to me with an awful coworker of mine a few years ago. Anytime I made a mistake or was perceived as having made a mistake she would cc every manager she could to blame me. I tried talking to her about it, ignoring it, not making mistakes…nothing worked. I worried that my reputation would suffer, especially among management.

    Finally I moved to a new role and another coworker took over supporting her. The first time she tried to pull her cc shit with him, he realized it was her fault (40% of the time it was her fault) and did the same thing to her that she had done to him and pointed out her mistakes and wrote a scathing email about her wasting everyone’s time with her mistakes. He cc’d people up to the C-Level!

    She immediately called him and confronted him, but he pointed out that he thought that was the way we should react to mistakes since that’s what she had done. She apologized and never pulled that crap with him again.

    I wouldn’t recommend reacting that way every time, but sometimes giving someone a taste of their own medicine is a good thing.

Comments are closed.