Are you spending too much time dealing with cc’d email? asks Monica Seeley
Too much unnecessary cc’d email has been a constant theme to emerge from the recent Smart Email Management workshops which I’ve run. Most assistants receive 60 or more emails a day in their own inbox, of which they need only about 50%. The rest is generally cc’d email which either they don’t need or is duplication of what’s in their executive’s inbox.
Just deleting all this unnecessary cc’d email (in their own inbox) wastes about 45 minutes a day every working day. Why? For every email you do not need, you waste about 1.5 minutes. 30 unnecessary emails equates to 45 minutes wasted each day. If you manage your executive’s inbox as well, that’s more time wasted whilst you delete all the cc’d email in their inbox too.
The challenge for most assistants is knowing what you can do to reduce all this cc’d email.
First, identify the root cause of the problem. Too much cc’d email is generally symptomatic of one of the following:
1. Uncertainty about your job
We live in extraordinary times. In Europe it is Brexit. In the USA, the trade war with China. Maybe your organisation is the focus of a merger, or investigation into misconduct – financial or human (#MeToo).
2. Blame culture
Despite all the talk of open and trusting organisational 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.
3. Lack of recognition for one’s efforts
Most organisations 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.
4. 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?
5. 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 organisations. 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
1. 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.
2. 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 Organisation.
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 to 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.
3. Decide whether the team or organisation 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 behaviour 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.