Are you spending too much time dealing with cc’d email? Most assistants only need 50% of the email they receive. The rest is generally cc’d email which either they don’t need or is a duplication of what is in their executive’s inbox. First, identify the root cause of the problem. Too much cc’d email is generally symptomatic of one of the following:
- Uncertainty about your job. We live in extraordinary times. In the UK, it is Brexit. In the USA, the trade war with China. Maybe your organization is the focus of a merger, or investigation into misconduct – financial or human (#MeToo).
- Blame culture. Despite all the talk of open and trusting organizational cultures, observations indicate that few people feel this is really true. Consequently, people protect themselves by copying in everyone from the CEO to the receptionist.
- Lack of recognition for one’s efforts. Most organizations have value statements which include something around valuing excellence. Nonetheless, many say praise is rare (no matter how small or large the task). They seek attention through cc’d email; especially to their line manager.
- No clear guidelines on who needs what information. There is a lack of clarity and understanding about who really needs what information. For example, is it clear that board papers or meeting invitations need only be sent to the assistant? When was the last time during a team meeting that your executive discussed with the team what information they really want to see and what should be sent to you as the assistant?
- Micro-management personality. Your inbox is a DNA fingerprint picture of you in every way including your management style. Some people are micro-managers and want to see every email their team sends. If your executive is like this their inbox will be bulging with cc’d email.
- Back to back meetings pervade the culture of many organizations. This means there is no quality time for people to speak to each other either face-to-face or by phone.
Solutions and Case Histories
There are no short-term, easy solutions to reduce cc’d email but here are three steps to start the process
- Audit your inbox. Cluster the incoming emails and look for patterns and to which of the above categories these fall. Repeat the exercise for your executive’s inbox. Look for duplication then agree who really needs which emails.
- Choose which causes you can tackle immediately. Here are two case histories.
- Senior Management Team of a large IT Department. The biggest problem was their back to back meeting culture. By allocating Friday afternoon as meeting free, the volume of cc’d emails dropped dramatically because team members knew they could always find their executive on a Friday afternoon.
- Director of a Local Government Organization. We audited his and his EA’s inbox to identify which emails he actually read, and which were dealt with by his EA. The reality was that he read none of his cc’d email and only those ‘To’ him, to which his assistant drew his attention. The results were fed back to the team with guidelines on how to get things actioned quickly. The volume of cc’d email in both inboxes was reduced substantially.
Decide whether the team or organization culture needs modifying over the long term. There often is a big gap between perception and reality. Initially, people will need subtly reminding quite often about what email behavior is expected before the volume of unnecessary cc’d email drops. In the interim, write a rule to divert all cc’d email automatically to a folder.
About the Author
Dr Monica Seeley is the CEO and founder of Mesmo Consultancy. She is a leading international expert on email best practice. Her acclaimed workshops enable participants to reclaim their lives from the inbox and save up to 45 minutes a day (every working day) through managing their use of email more efficiently. Monica is author of Brilliant Email and The Executive Secretary Guide to Taking Control of Your Inbox.
This article first appeared in Executive Secretary Magazine, a global training publication for administrative professionals. You can get a 30% discount when you subscribe through us. Visit the website at www.executivesecretary.com to find out more or to get your 30% discount email [email protected] and tell them we sent you.