The Art of Carbon Copying


CARBON COPY: a copy of an email or other electronic document that is sent to one or more people in addition to the primary addressee.Abbreviation: cc.*

       If you’re in an office long enough, chances are you’ve been CCed on an email. You may be a supervisor, and you’ve been CCed because a member of your team forgot to do another assignment, or needs to be held accountable for something. You may CC to inform other departments about a project that you’re handling or CC a potential customer/vendor. Ccing secondary individuals that need to be involved in a decision-making process for your business is usually a good thing. I, for example, typically CC my outside sales rep on a follow-up with a prospect that I’d like him to visit. I use CC to coordinate truckloads of material coming in and out of our doors with salesman and transportation combined. I tend to be a fan of sharing information and having good channels of communication with coworkers. I like being able to readily access information that I need, so generally I appreciate the CCed email.

       But there have been some occasional emails that I’ve been CCed on, or saw an email come through to me with my boss CCed on, or forbid it, even saw my competition CCed on. I’m sure you’ve experienced this to. Now, if you are a diligent worker, which I will assume that you are, if you’ve ever experienced an email thread where you’ve felt manipulated, or felt like your boundaries had been crossed, or your work was criticized via CC, chances are you’re not going to be super thrilled to greet that coworker in the hallway anymore. Chances are you’re more likely going to put your head down, create a CYA folder, and do your job “by the book.” We’re living in an office culture that breeds hostility.

In business class, we learn of an idea called transaction costs. Transaction costs, put simply, is the cost of participating in the market. I think we’d all like to believe that we’re a transactional economy. Think of it, you need a plane ticket? You want to get online, find your seat, book it, and get your email confirmation. Click, bang, and done. We want to exchange commodities hassle-free. I need your product, and you want my money. Seems like it can be an even exchange. But in a world of ever increasing automation, I find myself craving authenticity with people, especially with my coworkers not only my customers. We are all bringing our resources to the table, yes, that is true. But we’re also bringing broken relationships, our fears that we’re inadequate, our desire to feel appreciated, our need to feel secure. When I find a person, behind that CCed email, who greets me in the mornings, asks about my friends and family life, when they seem to genuinely care- that person has my loyalty. Suddenly, I find myself prioritizing their email requests (regardless of how non-urgent) over higher priority emails.
            We’re taught in business class, about transactional costs. Transactional Economics. Profit, revenue less expenses. Cut corners, cut costs, build cheaper, better, more efficient and you’ll be successful. We’ve built a culture that expects perfection but there’s a rather large problem with this expectation. Since people are involved, well, it won’t be perfect. It won’t always be hassle-free. People will make mistakes, you will fail on a project, your new widget could bankrupt your company. But in the process of transacting, I want to learn the art of Carbon Copying. I want to build trust, and communicate honestly. I want to say It’s my fault more often, because if I’ve messed up, chances are I’ve tried something new and took a risk.. and that’s what makes a person gutsy. That’s the markings of an entrepreneur, the makings of our heroes, the people who write best-selling books, our cherished mentors.

            We’re taught in business class about transaction costs, but I’d like to remind you about business outside the classroom. What will it cost you when you CC that coworker’s supervisor? What will it cost you to build that CYA folder and do everything “the way you were told.” You may never be wrong, but I promise you’ll never be right. You may have your salary, but you won’t have friends. The cost of playing this game means that you may fail at relationships. But, if you play the game, and you learn the art? If you make it your habit to be generous with your relationships, if you spend time building up your coworkers, if you’re careful to cultivate honesty, integrity, and a willingness to be wrong. What will it cost you? Or rather, what will you profit?

I think, all the things we’re really looking for.


*Courtesy of–copy?s=t



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