• Cover Your Ass (CYA) emails can save you from wretched office politics
  • There are different reasons and situations for using CYA emails
  • Sending CYA emails should be done with discretion to achieve the best results
It's 4pm on a Friday afternoon. You’re on the home stretch and you're seriously looking forward to clocking out and going home.

You have a weekend trip planned with your family plus Monday is your day off so… more time to partay!

Nothing can ruin this moment for you.



That your boss is furiously stomping towards you at this very moment and you know that look on their face.

It's the look they get when they're pissed off and expect whatever made them angry to be done away with. Very. Quickly.

They come over and the following conversation ensues and with each second, you're boiling with anger, sadness, disappointment, disbelief, and loathing. But mostly disbelief.

[Boss]: “What am I hearing about you not coming to work on Monday?”

[You]: “It's my day off. I told you last week and yesterday that I’m taking the day off.”

[Boss]: “No, you definitely did not. I would have remembered. Don't you know we have that important meeting on Monday? I thought you were better than this.”

On and on and on they drone and you just stand there, shaking your head with disbelief.

A true WTF moment.

You can swear on your life that you told them you're taking Monday off.

Let's not even talk about how you fucking deserve that day off. Do they not remember you putting out all those fires at work last week?

What happens to your trip now?

What will you tell your family?

What are you gonna do?

If you've been here before, we get you. In fact, we're rooting for you.

This is why we have just the thing to prevent this wretched display from ever happening to you.

What Are CYA Emails And Why You Need ‘Em

CYA simply stands for Cover Your Ass. And it means just that - well, maybe not literally.

You see, there are usually unavoidable situations where you just have to prevent yourself from getting burned at work - and that's why you need CYA emails.

Ideally, you shouldn't have to tell full-grown men and women what they said the other day so they don't forget - and worse, blame you for it. They need to grow up and be an adult at work.

Neither should you be cc'ing everyone on your team about an idea you had just so that those lying thieving backstabbers don't steal your ideas.

But we're not in Wonderland or even kindergarten where we could just hug it out.


We're in an environment that involves egos so it always gets fucking messy. This brings us to why people use CYA emails in the first place.

In An Untrustworthy Environment

Sometimes these things can't be helped. There may be that one office asshole in your department who's just dodgy as fuck and seems like they’ll do anything and everything to get ahead.

It could even be your boss.

Or worse, your boss’s boss.

So you have to remember that above all else, YOU COME FIRST.

That's why CYA emails definitely come to the rescue here.

To Ensure Accountability

Writing CYA emails prevents cases of “he said, she said” finger-pointing when things start going sideways.

Sending these emails ensures that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and has no excuse to not do what they should.

It also ensures that whatever you need people to know is properly sent across, with the right people copied in them.

To Serve As A Documentation

Usually, meeting minutes are shared and sent out. But there are times when this is not done or even neglected.

So, putting out a quick email summary to the group is best.

It's quicker to just search your email and bring up a summary of the last meeting and key points discussed by who and to who than rummaging through your digital clutter.

Plus, you get the added bonus of every other thing this documentation requires.

When CYA Emails Are Absolutely Necessary

To be fair, there are industries where CYA emails are not common. The usual handshake and word of mouth are enough.

But as reputations grow ever more important and the corporate world getting even more cutthroat, people just seem more inclined to throw others under the bus, especially in toxic workplaces.

The best solution for this situation could be quitting your job and moving elsewhere, but sometimes, these things can be remedied.

Maybe the job is the most interesting you've ever had and the people are nice except for a control freak boss or bitchy colleague.

Maybe it's true you can't have it all, but what if you have some of it… and then some?

Here are some situations where CYA insurance helps.

To Prevent Your Boss Blaming You For Stuff You Didn't Do

There is nothing more satisfying than bringing up proof showing you're innocent when someone is blaming you.

It's very satisfying, especially when your boss is pointing their finger at you.

However, we don't want you to get too carried away and make your boss even angrier at you. That can turn a small victory into an all-out war in the blink of an eye.

Let's assume you were given a responsibility to do together with a teammate and you’re in the zone with work and kicking ass but they’re slacking off.

So you write the following email to your boss and cc your coworker:

Hi [Boss],,

Here’s a quick update on what I've done so far.

I finished the analysis this morning, the presentation is all done and the research and planning can start tomorrow.

My portion is completed.

Dave - can you please reply with your status too?


See what we did there?

Not only did you keep your boss updated, but you also managed to let them know that your teammate will be reporting separately to them and whatever shit the teammate does has nothing to do with you.

Now, we're not saying to throw anyone under the bus. Team spirit and collaboration are still very important.

We just want you to do what you have to do and be safe.

So now, if or when your teammate doesn't do their part which in turn gets your boss mad, they can’t blame you. You can simply show them the email update.

Mind you, we don't mean you should fire back with a rude-ass email. A polite conversation and forwarding of the email in question should do the trick.

To Prevent Coworkers From Stealing Your Work

Let's say that the slacker teammate from the example above doesn't know what's good for them and tries to take credit for what you did.

You not only have proof that you did all that and they didn't do shit, but also pure hard evidence that they are a conniving, no-good, double-faced, backstabbing, kleptomaniac.

Oh, how rewarding it will be to just sit there and smile while they get thoroughly roasted by your boss.

Maybe you should feel sorry for them, but that might have been you!

To Save Yourself When Shit Hits The Fan

You may have been faithfully storing these CYA emails more for documentation than anything else, but you've been doing it correctly.

Suddenly, a bomb drops and shit hits the fan at work. Your boss may be in trouble for a financial crime and may tie you up in it.

Your firm may be getting a bad rep and it looks like you're involved in it.

Or some other “it only happens in movies until it happens to me” type shit comes up.

But you're prepared.

You have filed documentation of your emails that show you're completely innocent. You even color-coded them to boot.

Aren't you grateful you didn't delete those emails?

To Serve As The Meeting Minutes

Who the hell wants to scan 200 plus pages of a book searching for one line when they can just search the word up?

CYA emails are good for quick summaries and minutes as well. It all comes down to taking better notes, a key skill for CYA strategies.

If you don't feel like writing the whole minutes down in the body of the email - which we absolutely advise against - simply attach it to the email or attach a link if it's saved in the cloud.

Simple, effective, and able to cover your ass when called upon.

To Document Decisions Or Directions

If there's one thing we're 100% sure of, it's that your gut is right.

If you feel like a meeting just left you more confused or you think there's somebody or something shady there, you should definitely send a CYA email immediately after the meeting.

This is no longer about appearances unless you look good in orange (not that we think it could go that far).

But just to be safe a quick email can do the trick. For example:

Dear all,

Thanks for taking the time to attend the meeting today.

I'm happy we were able to conclude on [item X] and [item Y]. The group decision is to go with [item Z].

Please let me know if there's anything you'd like to add. I'm happy to take any questions.


Remember to only copy the right people into the email and not overdo it. There are etiquette and tactics to using cc in emails.

To Confirm Responsibilities

The template in the previous example can easily be used for this purpose as well.

You want to make sure you get the responsibilities of each person involved and that they know it beforehand.

Here, you should be direct and state what you think should be. If anybody feels something needs to be corrected, they need only reply, giving your email more responsibility.

An example could be writing this after the necessary introduction.

Based on what was agreed, Mary and I will be in charge of portion X, Dave and Sandy will take the lead on portion Y and Jack will handle portion Z.

It should all be ready by 2 pm.

Thank you.

To Ensure You Get Credit. Every. Single. Time.

We can't emphasize this enough.

If you've ever thought, “well maybe they just forgot that I did it and I have no proof that I did, maybe next time” then you need to reevaluate your career choices.

What you do is important that nobody else should steal it. Even if it’s grunt work - ‘cause that matters too.

And you should definitely have evidence for it. Because why not?

So before you speak with Sally about this brilliant idea you have, consider sending a quick note to her first in an email explaining that you have a brilliant idea about the new project and if she's available for a chat.

If you don't want to put the whole thing in an email, you should at least be specific enough about what the idea is about and for which project so that if Sally decides to be shady, everyone can see the idea came from you.

What NOT To Do In CYA Emails

So we've told you just how important CYA emails are and why you must use them.

We also must tell you never to abuse it.

It could instantly backfire and cause the person on the receiving end to be instantly irritated, annoyed and at worst, pissed off angry at you. And having coworkers mad at you won’t make managing work stress any easier.

Here are some of the things to avoid.

Constantly Copying Everyone

Everyone is busy. They're so busy that they don't need to be bombarded all day with emails that don't relate to them in the slightest.

Only copy others in emails when absolutely necessary. Examples include after a meeting where everyone copied was involved or an update about a joint project.

Your teammate working on a different project doesn't need to know what’s going on with yours.

Even this study done by The Business and Professional Communication Quarterly Journal acknowledges the importance of emails but shows how cc'ing can change the tone and intention of an email through shifted responsibility.

Sending Petty Stupid CYA Emails 

CYA emails are used for just that - to cover your ass. So when you have to send a CYA email just because Martha forgot to close the microwave after nuking her fish makes CYA emails lose their validity.

We get that the whole floor stank of fish for the rest of the day and it may have even been absorbed by your clothes but that doesn't mean you should send a CYA email.

It’s too petty to be complaining about it and it just makes you look stupid. Also, it won’t do any favors for your personal brand and rep at work.

It's an office mishap that doesn’t affect you (maybe your clothes, though). So if you keep sending these emails, then people will get irritated and learn to ignore or delete your emails.

Being Too Obvious About It

The goal of a CYA email is not to get the other person all riled up.

It should show that you know your stuff, confident in your abilities and are pleasant enough that nobody should try messing around with you.

But when you're over the top about it, it won't serve its purpose and may leave you more exposed than before.

The key here is discretion.

Other Ways To Cover Your Ass

While we are primarily focused on CYA emails, we understand that there are times when using an email may not be possible.

Maybe you didn't have your phone or laptop with you at that point in time to write an email or you've found that some people blatantly ignore the emails.

Maybe your boss, client or vendor has told you outright that they don't like to be emailed (unlikely but who knows?) or you just want to start to build a trustworthy environment with an email as a last resort.

Here are some other options.

Shared Online Notepad

This option is a great way to bypass all the copying that goes with sending out emails. It’s shared notes and it can actually help you take better notes for group projects.

Microsoft Onenote or apps like Slack and Trello are great ways to get everyone accountable and organized without worrying about if the email was received or if they saw it or not.

It also serves as a double reminder because some of these options come with an automatic email reminder for those involved.

Email but no email. How's that for multitasking?

Personal Notepad

Sometimes, you may need to take down some things during a meeting or conversation and it'd be faster and easier with a paper and pen than your phone or laptop (so much for the digital age).

It’s the whole digital notepad versus pen and paper thing.

A notepad can serve you well. Not only in the primary sense of jotting down notes, but also because it exercises your brain’s memory function too.

Just make sure to have the date and time ‘cause that’s the thing most people forget about.

Text Messages

We kind of love texts and messaging because they offer a more informal style of communication than email.

Using text messages mostly depends on the level of CYA to be done.

It's usually more appropriate as a reminder or follow-up for something - a meeting, project, or work to be done.

Most of the heavy communications may still be needed as an email. Don't underestimate text messages though, especially when you're on the receiving end.

Those ten words from your boss in the form of a text could change how the next project could go. Why not use this to your advantage?


It may seem that we're contradicting ourselves when we just asked you to put a summary of all one-on-ones, but hear us out first.

If you want to build enough trust, you need accountability and visibility.

Telling as many trustworthy people as you can about something can make your story even more solid and reliable.

We're not talking (or writing) about telling everyone your ideas.

We mean things that can be general knowledge such as something relating to a project, client or meeting.

It's always great to have it in writing, but don't skip the camaraderie that visibility and speaking face-to-face brings. 

Kiss Your Uncovered Ass Goodbye

So while your boss was busy ranting and screaming about how you're not a team player and all that bullshit, you calmly went to your email folder and pulled up a message.

When there was a break in this cursed rant, you very politely but firmly showed them the email detailing how you’re taking Monday off and that they replied with their approval.

Boo-yah! Slam dunk!

You then explained that you will definitely tend to whatever comes up after your day off.

You're careful to be professional but you sure as hell aren't a pushover. But you don't rub it in because it could hurt their egos and make it worse.

They look through the email and confirm it. And then they apologize.

Mental fist pumps ensue.

You accept their apology graciously and decide that you've had enough of this damn day in general. So you disconnect from work and take the rest of the day off - because why the hell not after that little escapade?

For a minute, your boss was tempted to stop you from leaving a bit early but who knows where you'll bring the next CYA email from. 😉

Feel Better,

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