Thirty years ago, you would not have considered writing a memo and copying your whole team, your boss, and all of your co-workers just so that they could be kept up to date. No, you would have figured out who really needs to see that memo and would have physically copied and distributed the memo accordingly. Unfortunately, having the ability to send umpteen copies of an email out to all and sundry is just too easy. In fact it is much easier to send a copy to everyone in sight than it is to figure out exactly who needs to get the email and send it just to him or her. Some organizations have adopted a Cover Your Ass philosophy with regard to emails so that sending multiple copies is seen as the way of ensuring that you can never be blamed for not informing somebody about something. Unfortunately it takes time to think about who really needs to see certain information and since time is at a premium it is much easier now just to fire off an email and copy everyone. In the same camp as the multiple copy is the FYI. Just in case you haven’t received an email in which you have little interest, it is likely that someone on the original distribution list will take it as their responsibility to send it to you For Your Information, so they are seen as a good corporate citizen.

Because they receive too many emails and can’t possibly hope to read all of them thoroughly, I have heard from a number of people that they just don’t even bother to read things that they received as a CC and not as a direct recipient. They can later claim innocence if this is a problem as a result of this overall policy. Unfortunately, knowing this, people will probably stop sending things with CCs but instead put all recipients in the Send To line.