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To ‘cc’ or not to ‘cc’ criticism?

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in Admin Pro Forum

Question: "Recently I received an email from a manager reprimanding me for some work I’d done that was 'not the best use of your time.' He pointed to other projects that would be 'a better use' of my time. What upset me was that he also cc’d my direct supervisor. It was demoralizing. What happened to approaching someone directly with criticism? Now I don’t trust this manager. Has this happened to anyone else?" —Deflated by a cc

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Dewoun March 14, 2012 at 10:53 pm

It’s unfortunate that this happened to you, but it is not uncommon. The manager cc’d your supervisor so that a paper trail can be established. I would like to know how you responded. In this case, an effective response would have been ‘reply all’ and thanking him for his suggestions. In situations like this, you want to be the bigger person. If the manager is firm when it comes to time management, I would send him updates (cc’ing the supervisor) on how I am utilizing my time.

Dewoun
Worklife Coach
http://www.adminhotspot.blogspot.com

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Star April 30, 2013 at 3:23 pm

I my self have a similiar situation. Human Resources also cc my direct supervisor, and the CEO of the company. A very nasty email claiming I was very angry, and she needed to calm me down before, I return to work. That I used crude language to describe my resentment toward my other supervisor. I would just go and accept another job offer, etc etc.
She printed my full name, and ccd her gmail for review at home later.
I received my copy after I was fired. She never sent me a copy.

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Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm

I’m sorry. My last comment was meant to be a reply to Anita’s comment. I thought they stacked. LOL!

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Anonymous March 1, 2012 at 4:20 pm

This. Exactly.

“Going and talking to them” doesn’t work in my situation. They made it clear from the time I started with my current group that I’m just wrong. Always.

It’s a really weird group. I just keep my head down, do my work, do it well, and continue to look for another job.

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Sharon February 10, 2012 at 10:31 am

When oh when will people realize the way to build winning organizations is to build people on every level of the organization to do the best they possibly can for the betterment of the whole and the individual?

Beginning now, help everyone see the big picture so that small picture backstabbing, pettiness, bullying and me-myself-and-I thinking extinguishes itself with a move giving approach.

Think of how to help others see their organization as an envelope that needs to be nurtured to expand and grow. Only then will will collective thinking outside of the box be truly effective toward creative new ideas with the potential to first benefit the organization and thus the individual.

I believe this works. Small successes lead to big successes. It will then be possible to lead other organizations toward their own unique successes too that may stimulate your organization great new idea.

Why is it so difficult for people to see we have to look out for each others’ best interest and stop being so selfish at work, at home, at church, in the neighborhood and everywhere else we live and breathe?
People battle with their selfish nature vs. their giving nature. The giving nature is willing to wait to reap positive results. The selfish nature wants it now – right now. I know I have to evaluate which mode I am operating out of every day. How about you?
Breathe in and count 1, 2, 3 before you send any blind cc.

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Experienced Admin February 10, 2012 at 8:30 am

I’ve seen a lot of this type of behavior, and I think the manager was out of line.

If the manager thought the admin should be working on something else, then the manager should have talked to the admin’s supervisor/manager. I wouldn’t listen to a manager I don’t report to, but I would talk to my manger about all this. That’s what I think the admin should do, to make sure she knows who she gets her work from and who she reports to.

Which brings me to another point – this could be something going on between the manager and supervisor. I would guess its a power play on the manager’s part. I lost the best job I ever had because of this kind office politics, and I’ve seen it a lot since then.

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Mark February 9, 2012 at 6:14 pm

That is the required way of doing it here. When any supervisor sees someone doing something they don’t think the person should be doing, they are required to both deal with the situation AND let the person’s supervisor know. CC’ing is the most common way we do this.

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Gloria February 9, 2012 at 5:04 pm

I say your direct supervisor should be the one who says, what’s the best use of your time. Unless your manager has given him/her the permission, this manager was out of line and should be told so. If it were me, I would tell him/her just that. Some managers are such power controllers. Ask yourself do you have anything to apologize for? Then, have a meeting with your direct supervisor to clarify what you should and should not be working on. If it has nothing to do with this manager, then, filter his/her emails.

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Megan Stewart February 9, 2012 at 4:51 pm

Two issues here. Professional communication– It is of the utmost importance that anytime you are communicating with colleagues, representing your employer, performing work duties, you make sure that you phrase your communication clearly. Never say anything that could be taken out of context (if previous email isn’t included, etc.) if your message were to be forewarded on. Second issue. CC versus BCC I would much rather know that my supervisor was copied on something than to not know and find out later. CC is a great way to keep everyone in the loop, I don’t see that as a negative. But the key here is you never know who else is being bcc’d so when communicating you should always assume that your boss and others may read your message. If you find that someone has been copied on an email that puts you in a not so great light..i.e. criticism I do recommend responding as the previous person said. If you made an error be honest, apologize and state what you’ve done to make sure the same thing doesn’t reoccur. If the information presented to your superior was incorrect or inaccurate, present the correct information and be sure to CC everyone to make sure you’re giving the facts to everyone who was involved in the original sending. As for managers who are misrepresenting or otherwise not being up front, let the chips fall where they may.

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Been there February 3, 2012 at 9:39 am

I have been in this situation before with one particular manager over and over. She always copied my supervisor in on everything that she thought I did wrong. I always returned an e-mail in a professional way stating my case, either I did what I was told or apologizing for being a human & making mistakes. After being copied on a few of these e-mails, my supervisor began to think poorly of that manager. She did not feel the manager needed to copy her in on every little complaint and felt the manager was a winer & out to get me. She just stopped listening to the complaints because she knew I was doing the best job I could. That manager ended up digging her own grave instead of mine.

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Patty February 3, 2012 at 8:25 am

Dear Deflated:

I would not be so much upset over the fact that he copied my supervisor, but the fact that he did it in an email. When I was supervising a team of admins, I would, from time to time, have a manager come to my cubicle and talk to me about something that a member of my team did that was inappropriate.

Then I would have a private discussion in an office or boardroom with the individual, one-on-one. I would then follow up with the manager to say that the situation had been taken care of.

On the other end of the spectrum, if a manager had something really nice to say about a task performed by one of my team members, he/she would send them an email and copy me on it.

Having said all this, in your case, I would talk to my supervisor and the “complainer”, and admit to the mistake (or whatever the case) and learn from the situation.

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Anne February 2, 2012 at 4:41 pm

Deflated by a cc did not say it was constructive criticism – they said it was “reprimanding me”. It all depends where you are in the organization and how comfortable you feel in handling situations on your own. I report to the executive director of a large agency and therefore would feel very comfortable in approaching any manager and discussing the situation with them directly.

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JoAnn Paules February 2, 2012 at 4:33 pm

I would “reply to all”, thanking him for his constructive criticism and in the same email, ask my direct supervisor for a meeting to discuss workload priorities to avoid any confusion in the future.

This allows you to address everyone, acknowledge that you have heard the complaint and that you are willing to do what it takes to avoid the issue in the future.

This takes the wind out of the complaining manager’s sails and will diffuse any discussion of your unwillingness to improve. It also puts the ball in your direct supervisor’s court to provide guidance.

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Mary February 2, 2012 at 4:32 pm

How is this a trick? This is not something “new” per se, but I don’t see it as a trick.

Sometimes managers/supervisors will cc another employees direct supervisor to make them aware of a possible situation. Has this happened to me? Yes. Did I like it? Heck no! I was proactive and talked to my boss and offered a solution.

If you feel that strongly that the other manager/supervisor was out of line or their email portrayed you in an unfair light, go to your direct supervisor and request a meeting between you, your boss and the person that sent the email. Either that or if you did screw up, admit your mistake, offer a solution and move on.

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Karen Loughman February 2, 2012 at 4:27 pm

Using the cc to a supervisor is a common and encouraged practice in my workplace. It’s just a heads up to the supervisor that the employee will be doing something not a part of their job, or perhaps its a nice thank you! In the example given, the email should have gone to the supervisor only, not the employee. If used appropriately, I like the supervosor getting the cc.

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Joyce February 2, 2012 at 4:26 pm

This is not necessarily a negative–”cc” is better than a “bcc”…at least you get to see who it went to. If it went to your manager, speak to your manager. Use the opportunity to grow your relationship with your supervisor — you get an opportunity to clarify, you can ask for advise, and also give your boss the opportunity to know what you do. And/or thank the “offending” manager for their input, and ask for a meeting so that both of you can share information and compare prioritization (cc: your boss). This person was “in your face” not “behind your back” so don’t give up on the trust. So, they included your boss – you don’t hide things from your boss do you? You handling this challenge in a positive way is what will make you shine.

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Anita February 2, 2012 at 4:25 pm

Deflated by a cc – Yes, this happens to me more often than I care to think about and unfortunately, they go above my manager to our directors. As much as I would like to, I don’t confront them because I think it is not worth the effort since I already know from past experience that nothing is going to change. I get angry but I use the energy to complete something positive. It’s a shame that some managers have to act like that, it certainly doesn’t help improve anything.

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Mitch February 2, 2012 at 4:25 pm

I agree with Ann. Make sure you get directly to the point, but in a kind and gentle way…be professional with the approach.

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Sharon February 2, 2012 at 4:23 pm

It has often happened to me after I filed an EEOC complaint, except it was my boss going to the highest executive.

He gives me more work than one person can possibly do and I work from a priority list he receives each week. I cannot second guess my boss as I am not a mind reader.

It is especially frustrating because he takes items out of context to paint a false picture. It would be like reading the Old Testament and having someone say David slew thousands. Unless you read everything in association with that sentence, it would make David look pretty bad.

I don’t know how to defend myself from retaliatory attacks.

It is very demoralizing when you are treated poorly.

Fortunately I have had experience working for a director at Ford Motor and senior engineers. I know the difference between a good boss and a bad boss.

Just keep doing the best you can and always look for ways to improve what you are doing.

Try to improve proactive communications with people and let them know you see constructive criticism as a positive thing. I always want to know how I can improve. There is, however, a difference between an abusive boss and one who knows how to manage by leading.

Good luck.

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Marty February 2, 2012 at 4:22 pm

I feel the manager overstepped some boundaries. This is something that should have been taken up with your direct supervisor, not you. I’m guessing you didn’t work on this project behind anyone’s back. Were the projects he pointed to his projects? How did the manager know that your direct supervisor didn’t approve you working on the project in question?

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ABM February 2, 2012 at 4:20 pm

This is also a trick that is used when managers have discussed personnel issues and the email recepient does not respect the sender. Now the recepient knows there is a record of being “warned” of which others are aware.

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Anne February 2, 2012 at 4:11 pm

This is an age-old trick and usually happens when the sender gets some kind of satisfaction from possibly getting you into hot water with your boss. I would confront this person, and ask them in the future, to come directly to you if they have something negative to say.

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