E is for Etiquette

Many old folk believe that basic good manners are on their way out of today’s modern world. If the out-of-office replies I receive are typical, they’re right…

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By  Matthew Wade Published  December 5, 2005

The fortnightly electronic edition of Windows Middle East – the one you clicked through to get to this piece – is sent out under the guise of my own work e-mail address. This in turn means that any replies come directly to me. Generally of course, people don’t reply to e-newsletters, but their out-of-office messages do. And when you’re sending out such a document to over 23,000 recipients, there are a fair number of these. Let’s consider what’s required from an out-of-office message then. It’s not rocket science; it’s not even playschool-level made-from-a-washing-up-liquid-bottle science. Your message should simply give the basic facts its receiver needs. Namely: how long are you away for? When will you return? Are you contactable on your travels? If so, how? If not, is there a colleague that can be contacted instead? Done and dusted. Now I’m not going to name names, but the message ‘I am not in Alex’ just doesn’t cut it. I receive this little gem in response to e-Windows each and every fortnight. Come on, I mean really, it’s not even ‘I am not in. Alex’, which would at least let me know that the person I’d again failed to reach was, in fact, called Alex. But as it stands (I’ll remind you again: ‘I am not in Alex’) - well, who is Alex? And why is his/her e-mail friend never, I mean NEVER in? Perhaps they subscribed to e-Windows by accident and they detest my rants so much that they leave the office every other Tuesday just to avoid them? I’ve tried writing back to explain that I am, in fact, not called Alex, but to no avail (other than receiving the same reply, again, which is merely taunting me and should be against the law). Slightly less surreal but equally common are responses that tell you the person you e-mailed has left the company (I’m not making this up). ‘Xxxxx is no longer employed at Xxxxx’. Why thank you. Does that mean no-one else there is answering e-mails? Do they have an e-mail address? Might I be permitted to know it? Jeez people, don’t make me beg. All of which leads me to action, and thus begins my ‘Campaign for accurate and polite out-of-office communications’. First things first then - education (do feel free to forward this article on to those who are ‘not in Alex’). If you’re out of the office, consider the guidelines above and include in your Outlook message the facts that anyone trying to mail you needs. Nothing more, nothing less. Secondly, in a concerted effort to gauge the no-doubt-huge groundswell of support that this campaign of mine is set to generate, I urge you to contact me and let me know you too agree with my niggles. Persuade me that I’m not alone and help me in this worthy struggle. To do this, head to the Feedback section of the e-Windows mail (it’s to the left), type ‘Ahhhhh!’ and hit Submit. That should do it for starters. I await the droves of responses with baited breath. Of course, seriously, any other comments are also appreciated, but the more specific the better please, as last month one inspired individual hit me back with the interestingly spelt ‘fruitty loops’, which I’m still trying to decipher.

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