by E-WRITE's Leslie O'Flahavan

February 10, 2011

"Thank you for your message; however, I'm not going to read it."

This out-of-office e-mail landed in my inbox a few days ago. I don't know "Bob" personally; he's a member of a Yahoo! group I follow. (To preserve privacy, I have changed all identifying info in the e-mail.)

I think Bob's e-mail is one of a kind, and I've been following the out-of-office genre for a while. (See my earlier post: Out-of-Office E-Mails: T.M.I. or too little?)

I'd like to know your opinion. Do you think this a practical and polite out-of-office e-mail?

Subject: Thank you for your message; however, I'm not going to read it. See important contact information below
 
I will be out of the office starting 02/07/2011 and will not return until 02/16/2011.
I am away on vacation and will not be answering e-mails received during this time.
For research grants please contact John Smith, johns@aabbcc.com, (800)123-4567 x 11223
For research agreements and intellectual property please contact Jane Doe, janed@aabbcc.com, (800)123-4567 x 22334
For ABA, BCB, CDD please contact Susan Brown, sbrown@aabbcc.com, (800)123-4567 x 55588
For knowledge mobilization please contact Fred White, whitef@aabbcc.com, (800)123-4567 x 99887
For all other matters or if you need immediate assistance please contact Ann Johnson, johnsona@aabbcc.com, (800)123-4567 x58258

In order to manage e-mail, I will not be reading e-mails received during my absence. If your e-mail is still urgent upon my return on February 16, please send it to me again.

Thanks for helping manage e-mail insanity.

Bob

In my earlier post, I listed these four items as required information for an out-of-office e-mail:

  • How long you'll be gone. Use calendar dates, not just day of the week.
  • How often or whether you'll respond to e-mail or voice mails at all while you're gone. Knowing whether you'll respond at all during your time out of the office will help you colleagues and customers decide what to do in case of a work emergency, for example.
  • Who to contact for what while you're away. Provide specific names, e-mails, and phone numbers.
  • How soon you'll respond to e-mails when you've returned.

Bob has supplied all the required information, but has he gone around the bend in asking people to resend their e-mails to him upon his return? In your opinion, is it OK to announce that you won't be reading any of the e-mails sent to you while you're away. Let me know what you think. (I will read your e-mails.)

-- Leslie O'Flahavan


Categories: , ,
Digg This | Save to del.icio.us

Comments

This post and this person's out-of-office message amuses me so much that I'm commenting for the first time. I LOVE his message. It's blatant honesty. Many of us may never get through the mass of e-mails in our inboxes upon return from a trip, and he admits it. His boundaries are clear, his conduct upon return is clear, and if it's still important, e-mail him later. I think it's BRILLIANT... although I'm not certain I'd have the audacity to do the same. But I'd consider it.

Posted by: MicheleUALR | February 11, 2011 at 08:29:03am

This makes me think of Lawrence Lessig's famous email of 2004: http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2004/06/63733 An oldie, but a goodie. Running my own business, of course, I can't get away with this, but I appreciate the honesty. dbk

Posted by: David Kay | February 11, 2011 at 04:48:27pm

Judy Woods' comments (posted with her permission): "His intro says to me, 'You’re not really all that important to me and I really don’t care what you have to say.' I would prefer to read, 'I’m going to be out of the office without access to email (give dates). The following contacts will be able to help you while I’m away. If you still have an unresolved problem, please contact me when I return.'

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | February 16, 2011 at 08:11:51am

Colleen Blessing's comments (posted with her permission): "No, I don’t agree with not reading emails that were sent while you are gone. Hey, does he not check up on meetings and decisions that happened while he was gone either? Work goes on while you are away from the office, and professional people have a responsibility to at least scan their email inbox for important messages that arrived while they were out. Responding in this I-don’t-care-what-you-sent-I-am in-the-Caribbean kind of way probably ensures that he will be out of the loop on some things, not included in others."

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | February 18, 2011 at 11:18:57am

Judith Plumb's comments (posted with her permission): "I love Bob’s out-of-office message – it does, indeed, contain all the information required. Is he out of line in saying he won’t answer e-mails sent during his absence? I don’t think so – after all, it’s a work e-mail address and he has provided information on how people can handle work issues while he’s away. Anything that’s still important and hasn’t been taken care of by the time he gets back should be re-sent, with notification that this is a duplicate. Note that Bob doesn’t say he won’t read those e-mails, although that’s the implication – and I know that in similar circumstances I’d still read all my e-mail on my return just so I could get an idea of what had happened during my absence."

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | February 18, 2011 at 11:31:39am

Drew Foell's comments (posted with his permission): The message was certainly unique, and I can understand the author's position; however, blatantly stating said position at the end of his message was over-the-top. Positives 1. Dates of absence were provided. 2. Valuable contact information for immediate assistance was supplied. Negatives 1. The author stated his position that he would not read e-mail upon return. 2. The message was far too long for an "out-of-office" reply. 3. Asking the recipient to "resend [her] message" is an affront! Further Thoughts When I receive an out-of-office response, I expect it to be brief. The only information I either expect to read or want to read is that the individual is out and when that individual will return. Once I have received that response, I am aware that the individual will not respond until he or she returns. If a matter is urgent, I will take the matter to someone else. While I do understand the writer's concern with receiving an overabundance of e-mail while on vacation, and I also agree with the author's noble intention to leave work behind while relaxing, the writer errs on the side of TMI when he flatly states his position. The statement comes across as brash and even rude. Additionally, as above stated, the writer provides too much information for the recipient of the out-of-office reply. For example, if this individual does not wish to spend his time catching up on e-mail after his vacation, why has he written such a lengthy out-of-office reply that wastes the recipient's time--should the recipient subject herself to suffer through the lengthy message? I do not think it is fair to expect an employee (in most situations) to be tethered to work while vacationing. That said, any employee who takes vacation or is away from the office on a weekend or holiday should expect to catch up on work and messages missed while out of the office. I think the clincher in this circumstance is to ask oneself, "What would I say in a phone message?" No prudent employee would state in a phone message that he or she would not listen to missed phone calls. Such a statement is dismissive of the recipient caller as an individual! Likewise, the referenced auto-response is over-the-top and dismissive of the value of the recipient's time.

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | February 27, 2011 at 09:32:29am

Susan Farr's comments (posted with her permission): Many people, including myself, alert senders that while away from the office "I will have limited access to email." Being away from the office for a long weekend, but having a palm device makes it a little difficult to ignore senders. However, being on vacation, or "out-of the-office" for an extended period of time, i.e. one week or more, should alert the sender that the email will sit in the in-box. My out-of-office rule would inform the sender that their message will be addressed when I return. We have enough trouble with users not maintaining their mailboxes for them to say 'resend'! But sometimes I would love to say "I'm away - leave me alone!"

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | March 3, 2011 at 07:29:06am

Christine Calvert's comments (posted with permission: I actually wrote an e-mail just like that a few years ago. I was hired in to manage a communication department (on two days a week!). I knew that after my summer vacation, I would spend about a month just answering the e-mails I recieved during the summer. I wrote an auto-reply, stating: "I am on summer vacation. All e-mails I receive will be DELETED without being read. Please resend after 1. August." Only ONE person choose to resend her email (a lawyer). She even wrote, "Since it is now August, and not July, I choose to resend this e-mail regarding...". Of course I peeked through my inbox. About 600 e-mails that I didn't touch. Not one. The best of all - everything still got done, the department survived, I avoided all the copycopy-e-mails, and I could get right to work after my vacation. Lots of people, in my experience, shoot off loads of e-mail before a vacation, and think that their job is done. In this way, I placed the responsibility on the senders, instead of myself. And, yep, I would do the same thing all over again!

Posted by: Leslie O'Flahavan | March 3, 2011 at 01:20:06pm

Add your comment