Why the BCC Field Can Harm Your Career and Your Business

Last Updated Jan 9, 2011 11:49 PM EST

The BCC field -- a digital version of the old "blind carbon copy" from the Mad Men era -- can be a powerful way to control e-mail distribution and protect a recipients' privacy. But more and more, I see it being misused in a very dangerous way that has the potential to do grave damage to your business and to your career.

First, a refresher for those of you who might be unaware: When you enter an addressee in the BCC field of an e-mail, that person gets the message, but everyone in the To and CC lines is unaware. Hence, the "blind" in BCC.

These days, I'm seeing people use the BCC as a way to hide recipients behind a curtain so those folks can see messages it's perhaps not entirely polite or ethical to share with them. An extreme example: BCC'ing other people on a disciplinary e-mail that you're sending to one of your employees. Or BCCing a potential vendor on an e-mail in which you're discussing their bid with your finance guy.

In either of those woefully misguided cases, you might have the best of intentions, but imagine what happens if one of the cloaked folks on the BCC line clicks Reply All, either intentionally or by accident. The cloaking device gets turned off, and everyone can see you had included secret recipients in the original e-mail. Trust me: You don't want to be standing in that particular poop storm.

Photo courtesy Flickr user lara604