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Over-Sharing Out-of-Office Messages

Over-Sharing Out-of-Office Messages

Alison Green | Ask A Manager

I agree that the reasons you’re going to be away aren’t relevant. What’s relevant is simply that you will be away. And yes, sometimes even that is overkill. As you point out, at least in cultures like yours, a good rule of thumb for people who aren’t regularly looking for you or aren’t your boss is, “If the time you’re out of the office is about as long as a meeting you might be in while at work, you don’t really need to tell anyone your plans.”

Sometimes the over-sharing of plans can even come across as suspect — similar to how when someone’s calling in sick with genuine illness, they usually just say, “I’m going to be out sick,” but fakers will generally give you a long list of overly specific symptoms, like they feel they have to convince you.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s interesting to hear that your colleague is remodeling his kitchen or taking his kid to her first day of school.

But it can become too much. I used to work with a guy who used to all-staff his every move: “I’m running some errands after lunch and will probably be back by 2:30 but it might be 3:00.” “I’m leaving 15 minutes early today, so see Dan with any end-of-the-day questions.” “I’m going to be on a conference call about our new report all morning.” It got to the point where I started to expect to receive, “I’m headed to the bathroom. Probably back in 5 minutes, but it might be 10.”

And then there are the self-aggrandizers. Another guy I used to work with was notorious for messages like this: “I’ll be late today because I pulled an all-nighter getting our new ad ready.” He claimed to have “pulled” so many “all-nighters” that people generally assumed he was either (a) lying in a bizarre attempt to inflate his image or (b) really, really inefficient.

Overall, though, I’d argue that this kind of thing adds entertainment to the day. You’re best off simply appreciating its amusement value and not getting too annoyed by it.

(By the way, for people who enjoy analyzing this sort of minutiae, the Wall Street Journal recently ran a piece about overly-personal auto-replies.)

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