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February 10, 2011



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.

David Kay

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

Leslie O'Flahavan

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.'

Leslie O'Flahavan

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."

Leslie O'Flahavan

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."

Leslie O'Flahavan

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.


1. Dates of absence were provided.
2. Valuable contact information for immediate assistance was supplied.


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.

Leslie O'Flahavan

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!"

Leslie O'Flahavan

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!

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