Good use of out of office reply

by Volker Weber

In many cases ooo replies are pretty useless, but today I received a really good one:

I'm no longer working at xxxxx xxxxxx so am not reachable at this email address. Please contact xxxx xxx ( or you can contact our receptionist on +1 212 555 1212. If you need to reach me, please call my cellphone at 212 555 xxxx. My personal email is

Many companies drop mail accounts of people who have left. Or they forward to the next person on the job. Without asking the sender. This company however has an excellent policy.


I doubt it is company policy. More likely, the person concerned had the foresight to set up a useful automatic reply, and the company didn't deactivate his mail account on his last day.

John Keys, 2007-07-12

I too wonder if it's the individual rather than the company...when I left my last (large) company, my ooo message, mail forwarding (to a personal account) *and* "divert on no answer" to my mobile, continued for more than 3 months!

I was working right up to the wire and assumed that the powers that be would cleanse the company of all traces of me as soon as I stepped out of the door. They didn't.

When I was back in the company, some 6 months after leaving, on a consultancy gig, someone asked me if I knew where such and such was...I walked over to a storage cupboard next to where my (old) desk was, lifted the shutters and handed it to him...

There probably is a policy which defines the "employee exit procedure", but while writing it meets a statutory obligation to some regulation of directive, implementing it comes down to running your business effectively.....and *that* is normally regulated (ultimately) by your shareholders, customers, or perceived value in the marketplace...

John Ash, 2007-07-12

While some companies actually have policies regarding termination of accounts when the employee leaves, it often takes many months until the respective IT departments are informed and then actually deactivate or expire accounts.

I'm always amazed why the HR guys who write the pay checks don't have a "Terminate" button in their GUI... :-)

Jan-Piet Mens, 2007-07-12

To my knowledge, that is a common (or at least commonly talked about) issue in account management. Accounts and privileges rarely get deleted. If you are working with your current employer for many years, you will most likely have been going through a number of positions with a number of responsibilities. Associated with these responsibilities, you will have had privileges in your account. Go try whether you still have some that you actually shouldn't have anymore.

E.g. have you headed a department sometime? Try to see whether you can still access some of the functions and systems which should be reserved to the department head (and possibly her deputy). Maybe it's not the department accounting in your SAP or the employee's salaries, but some privileges may still be there. And this just logically continues with employee termination.

Ragnar Schierholz, 2007-07-12

One of the pet projects I did while being responsible for Notes at a manufacturing comapny in a large conglomerate of companies (one of the largest Notes customers worldwide), I implemented a Domino Workflow solution for entry / exit of employees.

HR was responsible for entering data about new employees and terminations and that was routed to the department heads for approval, to the IT responsibles of the department and the different IT groups (SAP, Windows, Notes, Training) who had to do their respective stuff...

This was put in place in the late 90s and is still in use today....

When the SOX auditors came in and asked to see if access rights had been properly removed etc., guess which company was able to document this going back to 1997?


Jens-Christian Fischer, 2007-07-12

I once worked for a company that used Notes (back when the client was V2 & V3!) and was very excited about the changes that brought to the workplace (another story)...but anyway, I was bequeathed a laptop that had belonged to a senior member of staff who had amongst her responsibilities, the HR function.

During my negotiations for the salary for the position, I enquired about support for the costs of commuting by train. It's not uncommon for the cost of a season ticket to London to be assisted by an employer, even if only in the form of an interest free loan. My request was turned down flat - "it's not our policy to assist in such matters".

I was employed as a "Technical Analyst". I was given a laptop that had been used in HR. The notes database for personnel records had been replicated locally.

I was lied to.

I guess this is quite common in HR.

John Ash, 2007-07-12

Worse still, I have repeatedly seen companies who read the incoming (private) email of an ex-employee or use the access to the ex-account to change the ex-employee's accounts and memberships at external sites.

Hanno Zulla, 2007-07-12

This may well be user friendly, but lurking beneath the service are a number of knotty issues.

Firstly, as others have pointed out, this is very likely to have been an individual's initiative and not company policy - the IT folk there probably have no clue that this guy has left. Accounts are still open. Privileges still exist. And doubtless the mail account, which sent the OOO message and which must still be live on a server somewhere, is consuming countless gigabytes which could/should be archived.

Secondly, there is the thorny issue of backscatter. If this chap's old address was the target of a lot of spam or malware, then the OOO could well be firing off messages to the wrong people - or to spamtraps which could lead to blacklisting.

But there are worse abuses of OOO, I suppose ;-)

Chris Linfoot, 2007-07-12

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