My Boss - One of the Good Guys.... Your Boss? Think Charlie's Angels.....
Carnival of Human Resources #13 is Up.....

Does the "Out of Office" Reply Hurt Your Career?

If you haven't gone on vacation in a while, you need to go...

Seriously, I went last week and it felt great.  Took my kids (7 and 4) to the X-Games in LA and had a blast.  But I didn't let completely go - while I never booted the laptop up, the trusty old Blackberry was in my pocket.  I checked emails at least 3-4 times a day while I was out and replied to the hot ones.  Even responded with some detailed notes on a proposal while standing in a line at Disney (cmon, don't tell me standing in a line, the 7th thirty minute line of the day, is quality time).

It felt great.  But do my work/life balance HR friends consider me a sellout?  Maybe.  I think it's just smart to keep the small connection around from a career perspective.Xgames_2

Sales guru Jeff Gitomer agrees with me - from his "Sales Caffeine" newsletter this week:

"Ever send somebody an email and it bounces back, telling you that the person you sent it to is "out of the office"?

How did you feel when you got it?

How about: Why are you telling me this?

How about: I didn't write you to find out what you're doing, I wrote to communicate a message, ask a question, or get information that I require.

Do you stay in touch with your customers and contacts any other time than when you're in the office?

I have three words to tell you how I really feel: Quit doing this. You're making your customers mad at you. And you look like a fool. Okay, that's more than two words. But you get the idea. Stop it. There, that's two words.

Suppose a customer is trying to place an order, and they get your stupid reply that you're "On vacation, please call Mary." And they call Mary and she's "either on her phone or away from her desk." So the customer decides to call the competition because you are unavailable.

Now you have gone from rude to stupid."

I didn't and don't use the Out of Office function on Outlook, because I know I am going to get your message.  I know I'm not in Sales.  But from a career perspective, I can't let go.  I'm not suggesting everyone should bring their Blackberry with them and respond to emails while they are on vacation.

I know a lot of people believe work life balance means you have to totally disconnect when on vacation.  But people don't stop looking for answers.   Is their more balance in dealing with 500 unread emails and a bunch of dropped balls when you get back to work?

For me, the balance is in keeping things rolling so I'm not cringing about what I return to the last 3 days of my vacation....


HR Guy

You've got to be kidding! Personally, if I have a "customer" that cannot understand the meaning of vacation - then let my "competition" have them. Compared to workers anywhere else in the industrialized world, those in the USA work more hours, are more productive, and under more stress than just about anywhere else. France literally shuts down for the month of August each year, and I have to worry about a week away with my family? ALL employees function better after some time off to decompress; how can they do that if they never REALLY stop working. What do you say to your children when they are grown and you missed it all, thanks to your "never away" attitude? How will you feel when they no longer have time for YOU?
My advice to you is: Get a REAL life.

ins sales

If you can't take a vacation without responding to your blackberry its your fault for not assembling a team that can back you up in your absence.

I understand if your self-employed, but if not you're doing yourself and your family a disservice. I now plan an annual 7-day vacation outside of the US so I can disconnect. My clients have 358 other days of the year that they can contact me and they usually do.

Away, but not appearing so

The point is to not broadcast your away-time to the world; not avoidance of R&R. Customers are going to find the solution they need - whether we are there to provide it or they get it from our competition. What sense does it make to tell anyone who may need you that you are not there for them? Out-of-Office announcements do little more than advertise a conspicuous lapse in availability or service. After all, one need only have Outlook forward your email to an appointed staff member so that the customer gets the immediate attention that they want and expect - which is exactly how we earned our ability to pay for our needed-and-well-deserved vacation in the first place.

A REAL life, indeed.

Sam Espinosa

Sales is about service, and service is about responsiveness. At the end of the day, you must have a way to meet your clients' needs quickly whether it is your B-Berry, your client team, your assistant. You can choose, but I'd error on the side of caution. Sometimes clients speak with their feet.

I just turned off my out of office assistant.

Corey Feldman

That is absurd. Unless you stay so connected that you literally will be able to respond to your emails as if you are in your office, you should let people know that it may take longer then normal to reply, or whom they can go to if they need an immediate answer. You don’t have to say you are in Disneyland or vacation, a simple out of the office with limited access to email, please contact xyz for immediate assistance will do.

Michael In California

I agree with Kris. Pick up the darn phone and call your customers and let them know you'll be out of the office and for how long and whether or not you can be reached by email or phone. And don't leave a message, call until you reach them live. If you absolutely can't reach them live, then leave a message. The basics of interpersonal communications skills are human contact. The best sales people are those who communicate effectively and follow up/through with commitments.


You my friend - are an idiot. I'm sure your friends and family appreciate your work-aholic behavior. If you truly think the world will stop if you unplug for a week then you are a self-righteous fool.

Ginnie in Baltimore

In September,I am leaving for a 23 day vacation in Italy. I will not have access to email / blackberry/ phone. (and I don't feel anxious at all!)

I have been very proactive to make sure my clients know that I care enough about them to make sure their concerns / problems / issues will be taken care of during my absence.

Since April I have been preparing my clients by telling them that I will be on this vacation. I let them know that I have spoken with my office and that very helpful,knowledgeable people will be able to assist with any question or concern they may have. I have also given them a "who to contact" list for any issue.

I've spoken with my acct execs at the various companies who deal with my clients, asking them to, at the least, send an email to introduce themselves, at the most call by phone. I then followed up with a call to make sure all were comfortable with the arrangement.

I feel that my being pro-active, sends the message that although I am taking a much needed vacation, they are being well taken care of by me and my company.

I know too that it is very, very easy to go to the competition, I want to ensure the service they receive from me is something the competition will not provide.

Granted, it takes some extra effort on my part, but the retention of happy clients more than outweighs the work.


Kris, Kris, Kris. Everyone has to disconnect sometime and catch a breath (even if it's panting in the line at Space Mountain). Vacation is about creating not just physical distance from work, but psychic space. And that means unplugging. And using that out-of-office reply, no matter what Guru Jeff says. Just let your recipients know who to call in your absence. No one is indispensable. Would you rather get some practice in leaving your BlackBerry off now, or when you're in the ICU, after that stress-induced heart attack? I guarantee you they don't allow them there.


All workaholism aside, the best reason not to use the out of office is that spammers use it to collect valid email addresses that they use for spoofed addresses when spamming. Don't be surprised if when you come back you see lots of "message undeliverable" notices in your mailbox. That's your email address being used to spam to invalid addresses. And you are now in their spam database. So - turn it off, go on vacation, and relax. It will all be there when you get back. Like the posts above point out, good planning will solve 90% of the issues...

Living Proof

This article is not about unhealthy control-needs, or fear of disconnect, or inability to relax, as some posters have inferred. The article is about the wholly unnecessary pronouncement and appearance of inaccessibility while you relax on vacation.

The OOO response is non-discrimanatory. Every person (or, as Paul points out, machine) that sends an email gets the message; likely 100+'s of them while you are gone. None of these people give a rat's rear what you are doing; they simply want to get something done/answered by you or your staff. There is just no value in that OOO message, whatsoever, if you have made appropriate arrangements for the customer and vendors to receive 100% of the service they expect, albeit from a team member and not you. Nobody cares what you are doing. Nobody cares where you are. They just want a human being to handle their immediate issue. You don't need a Blackberry for this. You simply need to make necessary arrangements with a competent team. Your customers will not even know you were gone and, frankly, don't care. So why draw undue attention to poor planning?

I've never used the OOO-response; mostly because, as a customer, I am irritated when I see it. Not because my vendor is on vacation or relaxing, or even that I am not getting immediate help. I'm irritated because my vendor was not sharp enough or not organized enough to do the simplest thing: make arrangements for their customer's care while they are gone. The exception would be the sole-proprieter who has no staff.


OK - after double digit comments and about 20 emails, I thought I would weigh in as the author of this. Couple of thoughts:

-the Gitomer quote is used to provoke thought about the out of office technology.

-I built on the Gitomer text to wonder if the OOO could hurt you career-wise. It stands to reason if people don't want or need that info, it could hurt people in their careers.

-Everybody has an opinion on that. Still not sure what mine is - I think it depends on a lot of factors.

-I think some of the points about the white noise of the OOO, and the fact that your customers shouldn't have to deal with that are interesting and takes I hadn't fully thought of.

-One factor that isn't mentioned in the comments to this point is your level in your company. The higher your level, the more you are expected to stay connected in case of an emergency.

-In terms of work life balance and using a Blackberry/PDA to keep things moving, I have to emphasize work/life balance means different things to different people. What's balance for you, may not be for me, etc.

-I don't force my view of work/life balance on my team. They are supported if they want to totally disconnect on vacation. I believe my company supports this as well, so that option is there.

-Again, everyone has an opinion on what work life balance means to them, and it's a two-way street. The same technology that enables someone like me to keep the ball rolling a couple of times a day while on vacation also allows individuals to spend time with sick loved ones, leave the office early for a little league baseball game and make calls/answer emails on the way, etc.

-France probably isn't the best comparison to make to get my attention.



This is way after the fact but I found this post today when looking for assistance with my Out of office message and I just had to comment. While I can see both sides of this issue, first of all, I am at a level in my company that my backup is actually my boss so she would rather *not* get all e-mails to me forwarded to her when I am out, just urgent ones (which are never actually marked urgent except in the body of the e-mail). Also, I rarely deal directly with our customers, I'm generally dealing with in-house e-mails only. Secondly, I telecommute and they specifically requested that I put on my OOO message on whenever I am unavailable and even worse to have it reply with an OOO message every time certain people e-mailed me because those people couldn't comprehend the you receive only one automated e-mail reply until I am available again concept. They just thought I was available again when they didn't receive an automated reply the 2nd (or 3rd, etc) time they e-mailed me. So sometimes the OOO message is a necessary evil because it enables some to work from home and not always be available.


Please get a life!

My Name Here

Excellent customer service is the responsibility of the service provider, not the customer. OOO messages force the customer to be REACTIVE and find someone else to help them. If you are unavailable, have your backup parse your e-mail and take PROACTIVE steps to service the customer. If your backup is your boss and they prefer to not read all those messages, remind them who the real boss is for any company.


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