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Is it sneaky to use BCc: in business email?

Don't be sneaky when using BCc!

In a recent conversation, one of my clients mentioned that using the BCc: field is not polite and that those who use it are “downright sneaky.”

This client referred to an email in which he was copied in the BCc: field. It was not a mass email, and he didn’t understand why the fact that he received a copy had to be hidden.

This left him wondering who else may have been BCc’d. Commenting that they wouldn’t also not know, he received a copy.

The email was not on a personal or proprietary topic, and it would not warrant “hiding” who was involved or aware of the conversation unless…

BCc: Can be Used Improperly

Here’s where the not-polite, sneaky part comes in.

He asked me, “why wouldn’t you let everyone involved know who you copied if you did not have nefarious motives?” That question caused me to reply with a question. “Was there anything confidential or sensitive in the email? ” He answered with a resounding no and added that everyone who would need to know knew each other.

This situation comes up every so often with varying questions and concerns.

  • Have you found yourself the recipient of email messages where you and possibly other recipients have been listed in the BCc: field?
  • Did you feel left in the dark about who was or was not included in the message?
  • Isn’t this akin to having a phone conversation on speakerphone without telling the person you’re calling who else is in the room?

Then, why was BCc: used?

The best approach to determining the motive behind the sender’s use of BCc: is to run through the following…

  • Is the sender trying to protect the privacy of their contacts by not exposing their email addresses to others receiving the email whom they may not know?
  • Or is the sender quietly letting others know of a conversation with someone else without their knowledge?

The latter could be good or bad depending on motives, while the former is the right thing to do.

However, involving outside parties in conversations they are not part of or don’t need to be in can certainly be construed as questionable. Why else would they do so?

The Primary Use of BCc:

BCc: is best used when emailing a group of folks and you do not want to expose their email addresses. It is also a way of hiding an extremely long list of email addresses for blast emails where it isn’t necessary to know who the email was sent to.

If the others who were BCc’d do not know each other, putting their email addresses in the BCc: field to protect their privacy is the proper thing to do. In business, however, outside of the reasons stated, it is rare that including others in a conversation is something to be hidden.

How to Add Others to the Conversation

Most in business emails do know each other or work together. Or, at the very least, they are going to work together. Hence, they are being brought into the conversation to be informed. In that case, do an intro in your email:

Hey, everyone!

I’m bringing Jane into the conversation because she will be heading up the the meeting next week…

No need to put Jane or anyone else in the BCc:.

The question then remains: What was the sender’s motive? We may never know, but that could ding the trust factor a bit if you make contacts wonder why you are shielding who is in the conversation.

Always think about why you want to BCc: before doing so. The last thing you want to be known for is being sneaky or an “e-Tattler”!

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