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Over-Sharing Out-of-Office Messages

Over-Sharing Out-of-Office Messages

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

A reader writes:

I work in R&D for the computer industry, where technical staff have few meetings with customers and generally are given a fairly flexible schedule. It’s not uncommon for people to send to a broad team mailing list (~20-50 people) messages like:

“I’ll be in around 10:30. The contractors are just starting to pour the new foundation this morning.” or “Leaving early at 4. I need to take my kid to the dentist.”

Now first, I really don’t think the details of why you’re going to be away from the office are important. We’re all adults here. We trust you to make good decisions on what constitutes a good reason to be gone. Besides, work hours are flex. If you take off a couple hours in the morning or evening one day, maybe you do some more work later that day, or sometime in the next week.

But what I take the biggest exception to is the lack of discretion when deciding on what to send in a mass email to the team. Sure, you should let your direct manager know, and any core people that you work with very closely who might be looking for you. But to send it to the entire team seems overkill. Seriously, what are the odds that someone other than your manager or your closest co-workers will need you while you’re out? Especially in the era of smartphones.

Back when I managed people, I used to tell my employees to just block the time off on their calendar and make sure that at least I had their cell number. Seriously, you don’t see people sending messages like “I’m going to be in a 2 hour strategy meeting this morning, but I’ll be out by 10:30 if anyone needs me.” If the time you’re out of the office is about as long as a meeting you might be in while at work, I don’t think you really need to tell anyone your plans.

Ok, so it’s not really a question. More of a recurring situation that I’ve seen at every company I work at. What are your thoughts on this situation?

Before anyone complains that this is too nitpicky, let me say: Nitpicky stuff can be fascinating, and I think this is a perfect example of it. No, you don’t want your company to issue policies and directives about things at this micro of a level, but it’s interesting to dissect nonetheless, especially when you enjoy over-thinking things (as many of us do).

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