How To Respond When A Coworker Adds Your Boss To An Email

How To Respond When A Coworker Adds Your Boss To An Email

At some point or another, we’ve all had the misfortune of working with a passive-aggressive coworker. You know, that guy who is bringing your project down but somehow thinks all the issues are someone else’s fault, so much so that he makes a point to tell anyone and everyone that will listen, including your boss, but won’t chat with you directly.

Chances are good your coworkers already have a good idea that he (or she!) is actually the problem, but the same might not be true of your boss, your boss whom that person is going to try and somehow involve in any conflict you have by tattling like they’re in elementary school. This week Inc made a great suggestion for when that happens via email: Just ask your boss if they want to be involved. Chances are they don’t.

The idea here is pretty simple: Typically Mr. Passive Aggressive is copying your boss on an email because they want to appear to be the bosses ally in the situation, and ultimately also your boss.

Yes, there are perfectly reasonable reasons to include your boss in an email chain as well, we’re not talking about those. We’re talking about the email chains where there’s absolutely no reason for your boss to be included except to tattle about some “wrong” you did or for your coworker to make himself look like the hero of a project.

When you get one of those emails you have the choice of either continuing to CC everyone, essentially proving their point, or to not CC your boss, which if your coworker CC’s them again makes it look like you were trying to hide something. Neither are great.

The elusive third option is perfect: Forward the CC’d email to your boss, CC your coworker, and then ask “Do you want to be looped in on this?”

Maybe they do, but they probably do not, and sending an email like this give your boss an out in the situation. It also points the blame for including them in the first place on your coworker and highlights the potential absurdity of your coworker trying to bring them into the situation in the first place.

It’s obviously not the best solution for every situation, but for the ones that it is, it’s brilliant.


  • If your coworker adds the boss to an email chain it’s definitely worth trying to step back and consider the situation in a more unbiased manner. Maybe YTA, or maybe YNTA but your communication skills aren’t as good as you think and the coworker is getting the wrong message from you. Sure it could be that your coworker sucks, but maybe that’s not actually the case and you should definitely try to make sure you’re in the right.

  • I have only included my boss in an email for one fellow employee.
    He was the IT guy in the early days of emails etc..
    He rarely responded to anyone’s requests. Until I started including my boss on mine.
    No problem afterwards in getting things done 😉

Log in to comment on this story!