Ping! An email arrives from a colleague, asking you a question - and you notice he's also cc-ed his message to the boss.

Thoughts that spring to mind are perhaps a colleague is trying to cover their back - or possibly even catch you out?

If you brush this off as paranoia, then think again. Copying in the boss can definitely have a negative impact in the workplace, according to David De Cremer, a Management Studies professor at Judge Business School, University of Cambridge.

Professor De Cremer and his collaborators conducted six studies to see how cc'ing affects trust in the workplace, according to Daily Mail.


In one, 594 workers were asked to imagine that their co-worker always, sometimes, or almost never copied in the supervisor in when emailing them.

They were then asked how each scenario made them feel.

The results confirmed what many people have suspected or felt. The more often emails get cc-ed to the boss, the less trusted the recipient will feel.

These findings were backed up by other surveys of 345 employees.

Furthermore, employees who imagined copying in the boss were perfectly aware that this would reduce the level of trust felt by the recipient.

It also suggested that the person writing the email was cc-ing it for strategic reasons of their own.

Result? The recipient felt less trusted, "and this feeling automatically led them to infer that the organisational culture must be low in trust overall, fostering a culture of fear and low psychological safety," wrote Professor De Cremer in the Harvard Business Review.