The Tangled Email Web

Much of my work life revolves around email.  Email is a great way to communicate, but is also fraught with complications at times.  One such complication is the dreaded “CC” or carbon copy.  This is when you send the same email to more than one address (sometimes three, four, five, etc.).

I will not argue that there is a time and place for “CC,” but I will say that in our office processing it often leads to complications, miscommunication, delays, and duplicate work.  Thus we recommend that you only send an email to one address if you have a question.  Rest assured that we coordinate to try to answer as quickly as possible, but often times the “CC” turns into the classic case of “Who’s on First?”  If you are not familiar with the skit, you can find a video of it at the end of this entry.

Why is the “CC” a problem?   Well if you email me and two other addresses, I might assume that someone else will answer, and they may assume the same thing, and thus no one will answer.

Or, I might have to email everyone who was “CC’d” in order to find out who is going to answer thus giving your original email a multiplier effect.  So if you send the same email to three people, those three people may then reply to everyone else that was copied and before you know it the number of emails has doubled, tripled, quadrupled, etc.

Sometimes I return to my email box with six messages all created by the original “CC” and then I have to wade through them all to make sense of them.  It causes tons of questions to float through my mind and I have to invest time to dig through them.  Did anyone answer?  Who answered?  Was is the right answer?  Do I need to do anything?  Did I miss anything?  Did the applicant get what they needed?

Sometimes after a flurry like this I will have to pick up the phone to call someone because the email chain is out of control.  The person I might need to talk to is in a meeting and then I have to leave them a voice mail or someone has to take a message a place a sticky note on an already crowded desk.  So now the “CC” has led to a voice mail and a Post It Note and the spiral continues to grow out of control.

I hope you understand where I am going with this.  My job and the job of my staff is to get you an answer as quickly as possible.  I know you might think that this is best accomplished with a “CC” but it is actually not.

If you simply email one person or address, the person answering that either will or will not know the answer, and if they do not know the answer they will forwarded it to the person who does – simple as that.  No out of control email chain that leads to delays and time spent researching.  You want an answer quickly and we want to provide an answer quickly so we ask that you choose one email address to help us out.

Now enjoy the video =)