Google Inbox Won't Fix CYA - InformationWeek

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10/24/2014
11:25 AM
Grumpy IT Guy
Grumpy IT Guy
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Google Inbox Won't Fix CYA

Google Inbox: Because, if we use yet another tool, people won't BLANKET THE PLANET WITH CYA EMAIL.

Cubicle Sins: 10 Coworkers Who Drive You Crazy
Cubicle Sins: 10 Coworkers Who Drive You Crazy
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Google's new Inbox app made headlines: it promises to control everyone's avalanche of email. Of course I am cynical. Gizmodo proved that it can read my mind (note to self: replace tin foil hat) when it posted this headline earlier this week: "Google Can't Fix What's Really Wrong With Email: Us." Exactly! But Gizmodo didn't go far enough.

The Gizmodo article concludes, "Inbox won't stop humans from being dumb about abusing it, ignoring it, relying on it, and letting it distract us while we work. That, sadly, is a problem no algorithm can fix."

You can't fix dumb. But -- most email overload in our company is not about being dumb. It's about the "CYA" factor. Don't want to take responsibility? Shift it to your boss with a cc! Not sure who owns a project? CC EVERYONE!

That is the real reason for email overload.

(Source: Maria Peagler, SocialMediaOnlineClasses.com)
(Source: Maria Peagler, SocialMediaOnlineClasses.com)

What makes gigantic, geographic progression? What makes an avalanche? What makes something go viral? Social media people know. You make something go viral through everyone sharing. Because of CYA we have "unintentional" virality in corporate email. And it is now OK, somehow. It is tolerated because those in charge are clueless.

[Get the inside scoop: Google Inbox: 5 Things To Know.]

Back in the day, IT would cancel someone's email account for sending chain letters TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW. We would scold people new to email: no, don't do that.

Now, it is accepted company procedure to cc all. Email goes viral every day. Except it is not cute and there are no cat pictures. It is all about thoughts like this:

Hm. Should I pick up the phone and resolve this in 30 seconds? Oh, I don't know. So much plausible deniability. The other party could easily say we never agreed to that. I don't want to get in trouble. There needs to be a virtual paper trail. And email. It's so easy. I don't even have to write a memo. I just have to spend 30 seconds jamming out an email. And I might as well cc everyone who has anything to do with it because that's super easy, too. Plus! I don't have to actually face anybody!

Never mind that those emails hit 10 inboxes, generate five replies TO ALL, and go viral in a very bad way, since your other colleagues are also CY'ing their A's.

I have even seen self-abuse: colleagues who cc themselves when sending out anything that they are nervous about. Memo to colleague, never sent: You're not fooling anybody, we know that cc to yourself means "CYA to yourself." Your CYA is showing.

Sure, email overload is partially about being dumb and abusing email for things it wasn't meant for. But the avalanche part is mostly about just being lazy, wimpy, and covering your own rear.

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Grumpy IT Guy avoided historic disasters and clueless people while working his way up the IT ranks, but he retained his keen sense of humor. He now leads an IT organization somewhere in America, as part of the FBI's Grump Protection Program. Need advice? Send questions to ... View Full Bio
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asksqn
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asksqn,
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2014 | 4:21:25 PM
Half Full
Theoretically, Gmail's "Inbox" is supposed to help organize tasks and send reminders accordingly, which will be great for anyone who actually uses tasks, but the reality will be more akin to rounding up all the insipid CYAs that are found in the enterprise.  On the upside, at least all of these kind of memos will be in group that can be safely ignored.  
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2014 | 6:42:46 AM
CC'ed Joy ?

Speaking of needless CC's -  I love the one about the newborn with picture embedded and/or attached.   I wonder how I can possibly survive without this little tidbit ?

 

And for the record: I do like children and babies - just don't need their birth foisted upon me at work.   Should be a law.

Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2014 | 6:36:05 AM
CYA and Knowledge Suck: Security Be Damn

Once again another enjoyable episode of Grumpy IT Guy, who raises many good points about email.   I think there is something to the view that a certain amount of laziness is the problem.   

But what I find much more interesting is the CYA angle.  I have heard of this from other colleagues, they have spoken of the colleague that emails her personal account as a form of CYA.   Breeching security and protocol for the sake of CHA.  I always thought a sent folder served the same purpose.  

 

One thing for certain, individuals that do this type of thing usual need to.

zaious
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zaious,
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2014 | 1:09:58 AM
Free mails
What gets rewarded, gets repeated. If someone was saved once or twice because he kept his boss (or counterpart's boss) in CC, s/he will keep doing it for eternity. Hey, typing a mail is more preferable than having the fear of gettign into trouble. There might not be any real trouble -just the fear. But, who wants to to take the risk? Who would just drop the C from CYA?


PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
10/25/2014 | 4:13:30 PM
Re: So glad
Reply all has always been a pet peve of mine. Some don't realize they are doing it while other are fully aware that everyone will see their reply to him/her.
PaulS681
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PaulS681,
User Rank: Ninja
10/25/2014 | 4:10:53 PM
fix dumb
You may be able to fix dumb... but you cant fix "stupid". I mean no disrespect to anyone in saying that.
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
10/25/2014 | 10:36:36 AM
Re: So glad
Sometimes I imagine replying all to a thank you message sent like this... It's strange to see these kinds of messages in my inbox since I work in a place where everyone has an email storage limit. I tend to be more frugal with my space but these people blast away like they'll never hit that quota. I'm pretty sure they have to archive email every month just to keep from hitting the limit.
Michelle
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Michelle,
User Rank: Ninja
10/25/2014 | 10:32:13 AM
Re: So glad
Agreed! I get a lot of those discussion type emails where the question is directed at one but copied to many. Usually, I'm the last person who needs to see this discussion because I'm not actually part of the decision-making process. I just need the outcome so I can move on with my work.
nasimson
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0%
nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
10/24/2014 | 11:41:00 PM
Re: So glad
> THANKS Bob! << CC 9 PEOPLE

> YOU'RE WELCOME, BILL << CC 9 PEOPLE

@GrumpyITGuy

There is one logical good reason of doing this. At the annual appraisal, you want to pove that you are a team player who values and thank for others contribution.

This is so much Dilbert-like.
GrumpyITGuy
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0%
GrumpyITGuy,
User Rank: Strategist
10/24/2014 | 4:11:41 PM
Re: So glad
Or, my favorite: 

THANKS Bob! << CC 9 PEOPLE

YOU'RE WELCOME, BILL << CC 9 PEOPLE

 
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