Last month I did a post on who should you To: and Cc: in your business emails. With that a couple folks emailed me asking whether Cc:’ing the original sender is required if you are forwarding their email that was sent just to you. You ask; I answer!
What is the the proper Email Etiquette when forwarding business emails that were sent to you, to a third party? Simply Cc:’ing is not the recommended approach. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that by Cc’ing the original sender that negates asking for permission to do so.
Some think that by virtue of Cc:’ing the sender you are providing the courtesy of letting them know you’ve forwarded their email. But, what if that information is for your eyes only? What if the sender had no intention of you broadcasting their comments?
The answers to these questions will expose and cause problems in your business relationships. Not to mention a potential breach of trust.
Always Ask Before Forwarding
A follow-up question was “I don’t want them to know I am forwarding their email!” Well, that calls into question your motivation for forwarding in the first place.
Could it be the sender may not appreciate why or who you are forwarding to? In that case it indicates you may not have the proper motives for doing so.
Otherwise, why wouldn’t you ask if it is okay to forward and let them know your intentions? A simple email stating “I’ll be forwarding your email to so and so for their comment and review — is that okay?” would suffice. And give the sender the opportunity to say it’s not okay.
It’s their words, sent to you. You don’t own them nor do you have tacit permission to do with them what you may. Well, you could but that most certainly will not be good for your business or reputation.
If you do not feel comfortable asking that question, you are probably being an e-gossip or e-tattler. We all know people who forward other’s emails while adding their own comments. This type of behavior clearly isn’t professional and can easily backfire on you.
It happens all the time. Emails sent specifically to one person, end up getting forwarded to others. Even though it happens all the time, just like many other misconceptions about the online arena and email, that doesn’t mean that it is good practice. Or the right thing to do.
Particularly in business, this may cause others to wonder what else you may not be trusted with. To be safe, consider all emails for your eyes only unless stated otherwise.
No Matter The Intentions
Intentions do not make a difference either. If you are forwarding to help (or to harm) doesn’t make the forwarding in of itself okay. If you feel forwarding an email to another party can help the person who sent it to you, simply ask their permission to do so. Let them know what you hope to accomplish.
Emails are copyright protected by the author at the moment they are created. That’s just how copyright works with written and creative works. To forward, publish or post without the original author’s permission is copyright infringement.
Think about it… When you send an email, you are sending your comments directly to that person. Not to anyone they want to send to or expose your commentary to.
This goes for coworkers in the office too. In the workplace, forwarding coworker’s emails without their knowledge or permission can cause you to be viewed as petty. Or worse, untrustworthy, depending on your motives for doing so. That is called a diminished career path.
That is why, when it comes to business email, you need to be cognizant and communicate as if every email is on company letterhead. I’ve emailed for over 25 years and there isn’t a single email “out there” that can be produced to make me look bad or reflect negatively on my business.
By asking before forwarding you will show you can be trusted and that the sender has your confidence. In business you want to be known as a trustworthy coworker, partner or associate, right?
Without trust; then what do you have?