When is it appropriate to use the Cc: (Carbon Copy – now better known as Courtesy Copy) feature in your business e-mail? From what I can tell that’s a discretionary call that some are unable to properly make. Specifically when I notice that sometimes politics or wanting to “CYA” can come into play when using this feature.
Using the Cc: field is up to one’s better judgment based on the specific situation at hand. What is “appropriate” seems to be subjective. As I am sure you know, the most common use is to keep folks involved in a particular issue on the same page. By Cc’ing them they are then considered informed but are not required to reply.
What you do not do is Cc: contacts on an e-mail sent to you alone unless they need to be brought into or made aware of the current conversation — and the original Sender will understand why you did so. You Cc: after the fact only because those you Cc: need to be involved.
Cc: should not be overused or abused as a way to FYI everyone and their brother simply because you want to FYI. Unless they are specifically involved in that particular conversation, event or issue and it is important that they be informed, do not Cc: them.
If during an ongoing conversation you down-edit your reply and bring in third parties after the fact by Cc’ing them, you risk the original Sender’s message being misinterpreted. It is situations like this that a conference call or in-person meeting may be the better alternative. E-mail is not supposed to replace all other communications!
If you Cc: for political reasons alone, trying to make points with your boss/supervisor or by “e-tattling” you may not get the response you desire. Taking this approach is not one of a team player. (Don’t be surprised when the others involved do the same to you.) You could end up looking petty and unprofessional. Always stop and consider if Cc’ing certain parties will be received positively before doing so.
With the above in mind, also use your discretion by not hitting “Reply to All” if “all” do not need to be involved in the reply. It is always prudent to remove any recipients that are not necessary to, or interested in, the ongoing conversation and review all addresses (To: Cc: BCc:) that your reply will be sent to.
Courtesy is not clogging others inboxes with irrelevant, petty or CYA e-mail that does not apply to them.