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Email can be a great way to communicate at work, but it’s not without its flaws. While being able to reach multiple people at once is great, the option to cc people can lead to trust issues within your team, research has found.
David De Cremer, head of the department of organisational leadership and decision-making at University of Cambridge, conducted a series of six studies to see how cc’ing influences organisational trust. While the academic paper is still under review, De Cremer and his colleagues have shared one of their preliminary findings.
According to the research “the more often you include a supervisor on emails to coworkers, the less trusted those coworkers feel”. While you may be cc’ing your supervisor to keep them informed, or to give them the opportunity to contribute to a discussion, your colleague might think you’re doing it because you don’t trust them or their work.
Aside from teammates distrusting each other, another consequence could be an overall culture of fear in the company, since those employees who felt less trusted automatically inferred that the whole organisational culture must be low in trust.
Interestingly, while some employees may copy in the boss without thinking anything of it, the majority of the research participants were aware that cc’ing a supervisor could be seen as a potentially threatening move.
De Cremer suggests that companies should realise that complete transparency in email communications is not the “Holy Grail”, and recommends that supervisors take note of rampant cc’ing as not just a time management issue but also a cultural issue.
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