Does the “Out of Office” Reply Hurt Your Career?

Kris Dunn Culture, Engagement and Satisfaction, HR Technology, Kris Dunn

If you haven't gone on vacation in a while, you need to go…  After all, it's the holiday season…

Seriously, I went last month and it felt great. Took my kids (8 and 5) on a long trip and had a blast. But IOut of office 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.

Sales guru Jeff Gitomer agrees with me – from his "Sales Caffeine" newsletter last year:

"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….