This post is part of our Weekly Tips series.

Cautionary tales seem to be a theme right now. In last week’s tip, I shared one about how we respond when we feel threatened—as in, when we might lose business. This week, it’s about using the bcc (blind copy) option in email.

I was reminded of the dangers of bcc-ing not long ago when a colleague hit Reply All to an email I had sent a client, not realizing he’d been bcc’d rather than cc’d. The consequences were minor—in fact, I used the three question transparency test to determine whether or not I should say anything to the client, and decided not to.

The incident got me thinking, though. While I do use bcc with some regularity, it has always given me pause.

In my defense, I know better than to bcc as a way to promote a secretive side bar conversation, and I’m grateful that I have tools like Name It and Claim It when I need to confront an issue or raise a difficult topic directly with someone.

Where I get hung up is with matters of efficiency. Sometimes it’s just so much easier and faster to bcc someone—for example, as a quick way of keeping them in the loop. Blind copies can help keep distribution lists streamlined as well.

On the other hand, managing an upset resulting from an accidental Reply All can take a lot of time and effort, and may not have a good outcome.

So … to bcc or not to bcc? Here’s the conclusion I’ve drawn: Before bcc-ing, I’ll pause and ask myself, “What would happen if anyone/everyone who was bcc’d responded by hitting Reply All?” If I break into even the lightest sweat at the thought, then I’ve got my answer.

Make It Real

This week, examine your own bcc policy—informal or otherwise. Are there improvements to be made?

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Speaking of email, get some great advice for how to get your email read, from our friends at Trusted Advisor Associates, or brush up on how to craft a good caveat when you need one in Chapter 9 of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook.

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Andrea Howe

As the founder of The Get Real Project, I am the steward of our vision and our service offerings, as well as a workshop leader and keynote speaker. Above all else, I am an entrepreneur on a mission: to kick conventional business wisdom to the curb and transform how people work together as a result. I am also the co-author, with Charles H. Green, of The Trusted Advisor Fieldbook (Wiley, 2012).