When you send an email using Outlook, you typically use the “To” field for primary recipients and the “Cc” field for secondary recipients. (The primary recipients are the main individuals who need to receive the email. The secondary recipients are those who need to be kept in the loop.)
If you want to send a copy of the email to someone else, and you don’t want the primary and secondary recipients to know that you are sending a copy to this person, you can use the Bcc field (blind carbon copy).
By default, the Bcc field is not displayed at the top of a new message form. To turn it on, you must click on the Options tab and then click on the Bcc button in the Show Fields group. Once you have turned it on, it will be displayed on all of your new message forms until you turn it off.
The Bcc field is a great tool and can be used to protect the recipients or the sender of an email. One good example of this is the way that my organization uses the Bcc field when we cancel workshops. If we want to let a group of workshop enrollees know that a session has been cancelled, we put all email addresses in the Bcc field. We do it this way so that each recipient will only be able to see his or her own email address on the message that they receive, even though we sent it to a group.
It is also quite common for employees to Bcc their boss or other superior in order to keep everyone informed about the progress of a project or the needs of a client. Most people wouldn’t object to someone using the Bcc field in this way.
However, some people use the Bcc field in unethical ways. For example, spammers like to use the Bcc field to send messages to large numbers of people when they don’t want those recipients to know where an email came from.
It is also a common occurrence for people to Bcc others when there is a conflict or disagreement and one person wants to strengthen their own position in the case. For example, if my colleague and I are arguing about the best way to accomplish a task, and I send a Bcc of the latest heated message to my boss, I am going behind my colleague’s back. While some people might not see anything wrong with this, it is not very professional. It would actually be more ethical to schedule a face to face meeting with both parties to discuss the situation.
In most cases, you should not include a Bcc if you know that one of the recipients of the message would object, or be upset, if they knew what you were doing. While there are exceptions to this rule, it is usually better to be overly cautious when it comes to using this Outlook feature.
When using the Bcc field, Outlook users often have questions about how it works. Listed below are the questions I hear most often.
- If John sends a message to Debbie, and he sends a blind carbon copy of this same message to his boss, when Debbie replies to the message, does her reply automatically go back to the boss, too?
No, the message will only go to John.
- In this same scenario, what if the boss sends a reply from the blind carbon copy he receives. Does his reply go to everyone or just the original sender?
The message only goes to the original sender, which in this case is John.
- What if the boss, who received the blind carbon copy, hits the “reply to everyone” button? Will the reply go back to everyone, even though Debbie was not supposed to know that the boss was being sent a copy of this email?
Yes, the boss’s message would go back to everyone, even Debbie.
So, as you can see, the Bcc field is a useful feature in Outlook, but it should be used carefully.