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Thursday, March 19, 2009

The Tyranny of the Blind Carbon Copy

I read from somewhere that Albert Einstein regretted his participation in a project that lead to the invention and eventual use of the Atomic bomb. He must have realized the terror of the weapon of mass destruction after its effect became real.

I don't know if the person who invented the BCC email feature realized how people are using this to terrorize other employees in many organizations and to promote some of the most destructive of office politics.

No, the atomic bomb and the BCC are not comparable. I'm exaggerating, but I'm not exaggerating when I talk about how destructively office people are using this email feature.
My first encounter with an office terrorist was when I was HR Manager in a software development company. Our head of marketing who declared himself to be the eyes and ears of the owners would send stinging emails to target individuals (I was not exempted) and BCC the big boss. We learned of his dastardly deeds because the secretary who hates him just as much as everybody did (except the boss) would leak his covert activities to us. In another company, it has become the default action to secretly involve the boss in the mud slinging activities by sending her BCCs of the exchanges. Because the emails were sent in confidence, the boss would keep her silence, thereby allowing the ninja-like character assassination to proliferate. In another office, someone would BCC an office friend just to show how she told another office mate off or to show how she responded to a nasty email from another employee. Outside of the virtual world these people are nice to each other. There is no trace of the covert attacks going on and carried out via email.

Because blind copies are not untraceable, people eventually find out and when they do, they form an opinion that their office mates and sometimes even their bosses cannot be trusted. There is no telling how much (mis)information has been shared and how bad the boss has been influenced that they become more "careful" and scheming of how they can redeem themselves at the expense of others hence, bad office politics.

I'm not techno-savvy enough to know if this thing can be turned off but if there is a way to do so, I will turn it off. The better measure however is to talk to the team as a leader and agree on some emailing norms. I'd recommend the following:

1. Using BCC for internal communication is sneaky and serves absolutely no good purpose. Don't use it.

2. Emails are devoid of vocal tones. Your email message can be misinterpreted. Read your email before sending. If you feel that the limitation of the email will affect clarity, lift the phone or better yet, go to the person and talk

3. If you've gone back and forth with your email responses to clarify an issue or to make sure that you get to say the last word, you are wasting time and disk space. Go to the other person and argue in person. I assure you, it will improve your relationship.

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