How exactly should we behave on our work email accounts? Are GIFs unprofessional? What about swearing? And is it ever safe to gossip about that super annoying colleague? It's a minefield.
But thankfully one group of researchers has shed a glimmer of light on the matter. Apparently, one of the worst things you can do is to CC your boss in on emails. Research on the so-called “CC effect” suggests it makes everyone else in the office distrust you.
Writing in the Harvard Business Review, David De Cremer, a professor of management studies at Cambridge University's Judge Business School, said that while you may think copying in a boss or manager fosters transparency, in fact, it actually spawns a “culture of fear and low psychological safety”.
De Cremer and his team carried out a series of experiments on 594 working adults, in which participants read a scenario and were asked to imagine that their colleague always, sometimes or almost never copied in the supervisor when emailing them. Participants were then asked to rate how trusted they would feel by their colleague.
Consistently, participants felt significantly less trusted in the scenarios where the boss was always CCed. Further surveys of 394 employees found similar results – employees felt less trusted by their colleague the more often he or she perceived their colleague copied their boss in emails.
Not only did the employee feel less trusted, they also inferred “that the organisational culture must be low in trust overall, fostering a culture of fear and low psychological safety,” added De Cremer.
Transparency in electronic communications therefore isn't the "holy grail" that will boost workplace efficiency and collaboration, and bosses should consider tackling the "CC effect" if they want to maintain trust within their teams, De Cremer concluded.
Not only does copying people in on emails waste time and mental energy, and clutter up their inbox, then, it could also make your colleagues dislike you as well. You have been warned.