my coworker has a permanent auto-reply implying she’s away — but she’s not

A reader writes:

This question is Not a Big Deal all things considered, but I’m curious about it.

I am a project manager at a small-ish nonprofit (we have about 50 employees spread out across three sites). One employee, who is known for being difficult to communicate with in all ways — in person, on the phone, in writing, in group settings, one-on-one — has a permanent automatic reply set up on her email.

She is in the office regularly, but no matter when you email her, you can be guaranteed to get an out of office response. The message sometimes changes, which shows me she is fully aware that it’s on, but it usually says something along the lines of “I will respond to all emails upon my return. Thank you and be blessed!” That’s the entire message. There’s nothing indicating when her “return” will be. This is her permanent auto-response even though she doesn’t go anywhere. (It’s also written in the Papyrus font, even though we have brand standards, but that’s a whole new issue that probably annoys just me and our marketing staff).

The permanent out of office leaves other staff members feeling uncertain if their emails are getting read, yet because she’s difficult to communicate with even in person, people hesitate to speak to her directly. She often does not reply to emails at all, yet sometimes will reply within minutes of the original message.

She’s not my employee, but her poor communication skills have definitely caused hiccups in projects, and her permanent out of office reply has left multiple team members feeling frustrated and ignored. Not to mention, we’re not sure if she has a similar message set up for external emails!

Is this something worth speaking to her directly about? Or her manager? We have all been hesitant to speak up since she has historically been quick to come to the defensive and can be very passive aggressive, and honestly this just seems like a symptom of a larger problem, but I worry that this email issue will continue to be a growing thorn in the sides of many team members who are often frustrated by this employee’s interactions.

Yeah, that’s a terrible message. And really weird! It implies that she’s out of the office (and thus will “return” at some point), but she’s not, and it doesn’t indicate anything about when this “return” will be.

If she were responsive and easy to communicate with, you could mark this down to just being a weird quirk. Some people do have seemingly permanent auto-replies that say things like “I’m in meetings most of the day but will return your message as soon as I’m able to” or “I’m often away from the computer but check email every morning and will respond no later than the next business day.” Those always feel to me like they’re either overkill or a sign that the person is in a role where people freak out if they don’t get a response in an hour, but they’re not a big deal. But that doesn’t sound like what’s happening here.

So yes, if it’s causing problems or if it’s part of a broader pattern of being difficult to get responses from her, I’d say something. Ideally you’d say something directly to her (“Hey, Jane, I’ve noticed you always have an auto-reply turned on, which makes it hard to know when we’ll hear back from you — if you prefer to use that so often, is there a way to make it more informative about your response time?”). But someone with a track record of being defensive and difficult to deal with has forfeited the right to be spoken to first, and it would be perfectly reasonable to talk to her boss instead — not just about the auto-reply, but about the entire problem with communicating with her.

{ 390 comments… read them below }

  1. Important Moi*

    In my line of work, I know nothing about “brand standards.” Please explain and why is it important? (Yes, this is a serious question.)

    1. K.*

      Brand standards are a set of guidelines that dictate the colors, graphics, logo specs and fonts that make up a company’s brand. This company likely has several fonts they are required to use and it sounds like this employee isn’t using any of them.

      1. Reya*

        I recently found out that my company has been told to use the same voiceover artist for all our audio and video products (some of which are for proper advertising purposes, but many of which aren’t), for ‘brand’ reasons. The crazy part being that though we own the rights to all the rest of our digital materials outright we won’t own any of his voice recordings, and are expected to pay a royalty for the use of them in perpetuity. I’d like to have words with whoever decided to tie us in to that agreement…

    2. Science!*

      Some companies want all their external correspondence to adhere to their brand: types of fonts used or colors and specific icons. My company has no brand standard for email, but has a specific powerpoint template, certain photos and icons to use in introductory or final slides, and VERY specific color combinations. Our brand isn’t important to internal correspondences but important for external.

      1. E*

        For example, my company requires everyone to use the same email signature format, no quotes, no color changes, etc. Keeps all correspondence looking the same.

        1. myswtghst*

          My company has a standard email signature we share via an internal website with all employees, and yet I still get emails from managers with signatures entirely in multi-colored Algerian font, ALL CAPS, and with motivational pictures of animals. Sometimes all I can do is laugh.

          1. MerciMe*

            I now want to get into management so I can add inspirational animals to my sig block.

            More stuffily, one of the reasons my employer encourages branding is that it creates an impression of standardized professionalism, building credibility and client trust.

          2. Queerty*

            Oh my god, I had a co-worker who (despite brand standard for internal comms, a very specific sig template, etc) would append neon pink motivational text with corresponding bitmoji to EVERY SINGLE EMAIL and it was all I could do to not actually spit my coffee out every time I’d get things from her.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          They have locked ours down so you can’t edit it at all. IS has to do it, and they will only approve if HR does. If you want to deviate from standard, you’d better have a compelling business reason, too.

    3. Snark*

      My guess is that it’s like my employer’s branding, which has a standard font, color, and format for email signatures and away messages.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I cannot find the story, but one of the sweeter examples I recall of signs LGBT was becoming more accepted was a guy who came out on his blog (Myspace page? LiveJournal?) and his friends were like “That’s cool, but why are you using that font? And background color?”

          2. FD*

            Even at the time of the original movie, I noticed that! I just about died laughing when I saw the skit. Especially the way Ryan Gosling plays it 100% serious.

        1. Brandy*

          I love some comic sans.
          I had the boss talk to me because I had Calibri 14 instead of Arial 12. Really, whats the difference?

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Umm, Arial is bulkier.

            For some reason Word defaults into Calibri, even though I almost always use Times New Roman or Arial for my documents. WHY?

            1. Goya*

              Set-up a document how you want it. Then save as a “template” and open that one from now on when creating a document. Then it will (almost) always be to your liking.

              1. Optimistic Prime*

                Yeah, they did – it’s part of their ClearType family of fonts, which are supposedly easier to read on LCD screens.

                I just want them to make the default bigger. It’s tiny!

            2. Lexi Lynn*

              Depending on your version of Word, you might have to Google for specific directions, but what you want to change is your The easiest way is usually to type something using the font you want, highlight and then right click to modify the font. You should see something at the bottom of the font box where you can “Set as Default” and select “All Documents based on the Normal template.”

            3. MCMonkeyBean*

              Times New Roman and Arial were the default serif/sans-serif fonts but in the last few years it changed to Cambria and Calibri. Google tells me it’s because the new fonts were designed specifically to work well on computer monitors. I like them! But I think any of those four fonts are generally acceptable in a professional setting. But if your company requires a specific font it’s not hard to change your defaults.

              My Word default issue is the extra spaces between the lines, I hate those.

            1. Koko*

              I love Century Gothic and use it for most of my informal documents because it has cute question marks that look like a baby S over a dot instead of a shepherd’s crook.

          2. AcademiaNut*

            Calibri is a propietary font – if someone doesn’t have Microsoft products on their computer, they have to use a substitute font, which can change the formatting.

          1. Knitting Cat Lady*

            Fun story:

            In my short stint as a PhD student I had to give a talk at a conference.

            Having a mother who worked in publishing and advertising I know a thing or two about what good design should look like.

            So I made my slides with Times New Roman, because I have an easier time reading a seriffed font.

            My thesis supervisor made me change it to Comic Sans.

            And then told me to load up my slides to the collaboration server and ask for comments from the other people in the research group.

            They were fine with the content, but the comments about the font were scathing. My boss saw all those messages, as they were in the open forum. And I changed the font back.

            1. Fleahhhh*

              That’s amazing.

              Although – to be fair, I have read in a few places that Comic Sans is much easier to read for some people with visual impairments or other difficulties reading.

              1. Landshark*

                Comic Sans is a horrid font, but apparently it’s dyslexia-friendly. That’s kind of cool, tbh!

              2. misplacedmidwesterner*

                It’s also really good for young children and early elementary kids who are learning to read. Much easier for them to read and closer to handwriting. In fact, I read once that it was designed for elementary education, but I never fact checked that.

                My mother was watching my three year old recently and they like to practice typing together. Child sits at the computer and with grandma’s help she spells and “reads” word. My mom was switching through fonts to find the easiest one for her to read and was SO EXCITED to discover Comic Sans. She texted me so happily. I didn’t burst her bubble.

                1. zora*

                  My mom used Comic Sans to print things to post in her 1st grade classroom because it was the only font on her computer that has lowercase “a” and “g” the way children are taught to write them instead of the weird ways they look here. I am emphatically anti-comic sans 99% of the time, the ONLY acceptable use of it in my opinion is for young kids.

                  That said, I’ve shared the McSweeney’s Comic Sans article with her and she thinks it’s hilarious. But still, it’s useful for 1st grade.

                2. Optimistic Prime*

                  It was originally designed for children – a Microsoft designer decided to design it when he saw cartoon characters in Microsoft Bob with speech bubbles that had Times New Roman in it. Since Bob was intended to be a more user-friendly shell/interface for Windows, with an intent of teaching younger users how to use computers, he thought that was too stuffy and formal and wanted a typeface that would fit the setting.

              3. irene*

                it seems to be a placebo effect! last spring (? fall maybe?) it was going around about how people should stop ragging on Comic Sans because it’s ablest to do so, and i followed some links to a disability education blog who referenced a study saying that Comic Sans was no better than any other sans serif or blue paper or whatever, and even a specially designed for dyslexia font (with heavily weighted bottoms) wasn’t any better.

                of course i have no idea how to find it again now. google has really become terrible for targeted searches.

                1. Artemesia*

                  Yeah what is that? I used to be really good at finding very detailed things on google and now it is worthless. What has happened?

                2. Optimistic Prime*

                  I can’t find anything on the first part (that Comic Sans is no better), but I did find a paper that found that a specially designed font called “Dyslexie” was no better for children with dyslexia than other fonts.

                  But another interesting thing I found in a Google Scholar search is that not a single paper in the first 3-4 pages of results specifically recommends Comic Sans as being better. What the recommendations say is that using a sans serif typeface is recommended, and Comic Sans is often one of the examples they give (along with Arial).

              4. Kimberly*

                Yes, it weighs mirror-image letters like db qp differently. You don’t have to stop and figure out if bog or dog makes more sense in the text. It also tends to be weighted heavier on the bottom. This can help people with dyslexia, for example. Being heavier/thicker on the bottom creates a visual line and makes the letters sit down and stay put. With some fonts they get up and walk around especially if I’m tired.

                Dyslexie font is more professional looking. It makes my life much easier.

            2. Specialk9*

              I was taught in my MBA class on presenting that slides should always use sans-serif fonts.

              It seemed like a reasonable rule of thumb, but admittedly never checked whether it was true.

              1. BPT*

                Generally things with fewer words (headings, short descriptions, etc) should use sans-serif fonts. Often things 10 words or less. If you have 2+ sentences, it should usually be in serif fonts. Normally, presentation slides shouldn’t have that much writing on them, so you would use sans-serif fonts. (And if you’re writing enough on your slides that you would need a serif font, please reconsider the length!)

      1. B*

        I’m a designer and seldom useful here. Yet this is one I know!

        Consistent visuals are a sign of a company that (hopefully) has internal standards in other ways.

    4. peggy*

      My company employs 20-30k people, has over 200 million customers, and god knows how many external clients, partners, vendors, and other businesses we interact with – hundreds of thousands.

      We have libraries of fonts, colors, icons, and images we’re allowed to use in external communications, templates for email and web marketing, etc. Person to person emails don’t have to adhere to font standards but anything we send externally has to be visually and grammatically consistent with the company’s established Brand guidelines. :)

      1. OhNo*

        The idea of “brand” always struck me as a big-company thing, until the smallish university I work for set out brand standards something like a year and a half ago. Suddenly there were requirements for printed media, email signatures, the whole nine yards. So I get the feeling the idea is spreading and becoming more common as time goes on.

        1. As Close As Breakfast*

          The person with the power to make this happen probably got tired of some coworker sending emails in Papyrus.

        2. Mamunia*

          It’s all about creating a consistent face to the public. Not only can you affect the public’s feeling and trust toward you, but if everything is branded, when they see new materials they make that connection faster in their mind.

    5. rldk*

      I work with a national nonprofit that has local iterations all over the US, and is a fairly recognizable brand. The organization re-branded fairly recently, and so for us especially, having a brand standard helps us all have a cohesive presentation country-wide.

      Branding is also how organizations/corporations convey their internal story – the easy part is the fonts and colors and logos, but branding tends to include language used to describe the organization and its mission, and even how the organization and employees react to scandals or upsets.

      Someone going off-brand isn’t always an issue, but using a very distinctive (and widely-disliked) font like Papyrus on top of your company signature or sign-off means you’re representing the organization in a way that clashes with all other employees, and is a pretty good sign that you’re not being a helpful part of the organizational story in other ways as well.

          1. Jen S. 2.0*

            I think it’s pretty for, say, a baby shower invitation, but it’s a little much for email messages with paying clients, and not least because most plain fonts are easier to read. Similarly, I think Comic Sans is fine for a flyer advertising the circus coming to town, but beyond that, no. Everything has its place.

            1. Anonymous Coward*

              Got a genuine LOL out of me, as I’ve been drafting baby shower invitations and was just thinking, “Hey, I think Papyrus looks pretty.”

          1. Goya*

            It’s not very frivolous to the brand or designers. Fonts help set a tone/mood. Using comic sans in a “you’re fired” email? Using comic sans in a court summons? – just not the same as sticking with a classic like Arial, or Times New Roman.

            1. H.C.*

              Reminded me of a companywide “thoughts and prayers” email for those affected by Harvey/Irma/Maria… in Comic Sans

            1. PersephoneUnderground*

              Yup- we’re weird serif lovers. It’s not something most people think about, but you consume a huge amount of printed text and advertising on a daily basis. Someone had to put that together including choosing the typeface (which someone else DREW at some point in time- and maybe the same person maybe someone else converted those drawings to a digital format- e.g. Adobe Jensen Pro is a digitized version of one of the first typefaces ever created, in ancient Venice by a man named Jensen in metal type (he studied with Gutenberg). Caslon is from a little while later.) and including laying it all out and making it generally look good. When it’s done well the “design” looks obvious because it’s invisible, like how great musicians and artists make it look easy.

              I’m new to graphic design and it’s fascinating – makes you look at things totally differently.

              1. Lurker*

                If you haven’t seen it, I recommend watching Helvetica. It’s quite interesting for a documentary about a typeface!

          2. paul*

            Our CEO. She cares deeply about fonts.

            It’s not something that bothers me beyond an internal eye roll on occasion, but holy cow. Do not use *anything* other than Calibari in email or Times in Word. Powerpoint presentations get a bit more leeway, IIRC, but I don’t do many of those.

          3. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            My last company threatened termination for not adhering to the brand fonts/colors. They were obsessed with branding, including internal communications. So, not always frivolous.

            1. Knitting Cat Lady*

              Quality is a Really Big Deal with my job.

              Style guides, company colour schemes and the like are VERY important.

              It conveys ‘Every little detail matters to us, so you can trust our analyses.’

              Many of our documents and by extensions the analyses they’re based on have to be approved by government regulatory bodies. A consistent look of all our output is extremely important there as well.

              1. Koko*

                Yeah, when I get an email or document from someone and the document uses mixed fonts or font sizes without rhyme or reason, it gives me serious doubts about their professional competence. Like how could you look at a document where sentences in the middle of paragraphs randomly appear larger or smaller or in different font for no reason whatsoever and think to yourself, “This is totally fine to send to an external contact!”??

                All of the possible explanations are troubling to me. Do you have such lack of attention to detail that you literally didn’t notice? Did you notice, but you’re so technically inept that you were incapable of fixing it yourself, or so bad at time management that you couldn’t spare the time to fix it? Were you capable of fixing it, but thought so little of me that you felt no need to present well? Whichever it is, I really don’t want to work with you now.

              2. char*

                I do quality assurance testing on websites, and some of our clients are very picky about the look and style of their sites. (Actual test that I performed last week: checking to make sure that on every page of the site, the header had a slight gradient instead of being a solid color.) And it makes sense – a site with an inconsistent look comes off as sloppy and unprofessional, which may make the customer (consciously or subconsciously) feel that the brand is less trustworthy.

              3. Denise Biscuit*

                Mine too. In fact, brand management is my whole job. Primarily external because its bigger impact, but internal too.

          4. Squeeble*

            People have already noted that designers/typographers care, but also, we all have silly things that we purportedly care way too much about! It’s fine.

          5. Bess*

            Well, is a logo frivolous? Aesthetic choices can convey a lot about a company, a product, an experience, etc. Fonts that are really outside the standard call attention to themselves in an often unflattering way, and sometimes in a way that can make it hard to read the original communication.

          6. Small business owner*

            @KMS1025, it’s absolutely not frivolous, and I’ve dismissed contractors who (despite being asked several times) refuse to comply with my company’s brand standards.

          7. M is for Mulder*

            Lawyers, in some cases. Try to use Disney’s font on your product and see whether you get a cease & desist before it hits the floor.

            1. Denise Biscuit*

              Nbc recently was sued for 4 million over a font. And the spell font in harry potter, called cezanne. Lawsuit.

        1. Specialk9*

          My kid’s school has a director who sends out long emails that are utterly unreadable because it’s some spidery flowy script. I skip every one, and debate every time if I should risk Being That Parent in order to help her out, but no good deed goes unpunished so I don’t.

        2. Feo Takahari*

          If for some reason you want to make a joke about ugly fonts, Papyrus and Conic Sans are the two widely-disliked fonts that are well-known enough for the average person to recognize. There are other disliked fonts like Jokerman or Sand, but you’ll only hear about them from people who know about fonts. (Personally, I think Jokerman is the worst and Sand is okay.)

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          I think it’s just generally considered unprofessional.

          I know for me, I think it’s funny when I see it used at like a big business because it was my favorite font when I was in the sixth grade so to me it feels childish just because it’s something I liked as a child. I know that’s not really logical, there are lots of things I liked as a child that aren’t childish! But that’s just the association my brain has whenever it sees the font.

      1. Bekx*

        It can also create confusion and diminish the brand. I work for a very big brand as a graphic designer. If I were to use a typeface that isn’t an approved one, a customer could be confused as to whether it is really from our brand. It also helps us protect our copyright.

        The brand I represent is often counterfeited and customs agents are trained to spot issues with our logo (and other things) on the product to detect counterfeit…while making our logo pink for Breast Cancer or adding a Santa hat to it might seem like fun and games (true stories), it can have monetary consequences when it muddles our brand.

        Papyrus is just….not professional. It’s regarded the same way as Bleeding Cowboys and Comic Sans in the graphic design world. Overused and not professional. The people working in Brand for my company would murder us if we used those in any official communication.

      2. Witty Nickname*

        Oh, yes on the specific language – we have specific words we are supposed to use (we have clients, not customers, etc). My current company dictates it down to the fact that they (incorrectly – I have VERY STRONG feelings about this) do not use the Oxford comma. (I may ignore that standard as a matter of principle – I don’t create external-facing materials anymore though).

    6. Volunteer Enforcer*

      My current and previous employers (both in the public sector) have a certain image to present to clients and external professionals so text and image style, colour and layout are geared towards promoting this image. In my current employer it only matters for external professionals, in my last it was important for all internal and external people.

    7. Mike C.*

      I’m normally very cynical of marketing and branding and what not, but I’ve learned very quickly that following the guidelines of professional designers about how things should look prevents a whole lot of utterly embarrassing things from being created.

      1. esra (also a Canadian)*

        Everyone seems to be cynical of marketing and branding as a whole, but as soon as I explain to people what I do they’re like “well of course someone needs to do those things.”

        It’s like everyone just thinks of the worst, coke-addled, dirtbag agency guy ever for the entire industry.

        1. Mike C.*

          Well it’s difficult, given the incredible amount of shady and dishonest things that have come out of that industry. It would be like being in pharmaceutical sales – there are the folks that sell cancer drugs and the folks that sell opioids.

      2. paul*

        as much as I think our CEO is overkill about it, I can’t help but remember some of the crap I used to see in coworker’s signatures, and the utterly unreadable fonts some of them would use…IDK enough about fonts to know the names, but they were legitimately hard to read because they looked like old time cursive.

        1. BookishMiss*

          My boss uses bright pink comic sans, so…I hear you. Sounds like your co-workers were using freestyle script. Pretty, but not useful at all.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I’m a fan of email standards because people can get pretty ridiculous about it. Our new admin sent out an email once that had a colorful patterned background with white font on top. It was impossible to read. I don’t know if she instantly realized that was a mistake or if someone told her not to do it again, but I never got another email like that.

          Also, the bible quotes and other “motivational” things people like to stick at the end of their signature drives me crazy.

    8. Else*

      In addition to the preference by most companies for uniformity – it’s an ADA/readability issue. Papyrus isn’t very readable, especially if they make bad color choices. For some reason, a high percentage of the admin assistants in my experience have been drawn to awful colorful backgrounds and fonts that make their emails barely legible, they generally frequently needed to send emails, and they never responded positively to being asked not to use those backgrounds for me. Ugh. I don’t always love the limited brand allowable colors and designs that my company uses for our website, but it makes email much easier for me.

    9. Witty Nickname*

      Brand standards can be important in helping a company protect their intellectual property. My former company had specific colors (I had all of the approved colors’ RGB codes posted permanently on my whiteboard since I created a lot of presentations), fonts, and a specific look & feel we were required to use for all external-facing materials (including emails and email signatures) and for our internal materials too. We had a company name that wasn’t able to be trademarked, but we could trademark the logo, and by maintaining our brand standards, we could provide ourselves some protection against anyone who wanted to try to capitalize our name.

    10. nacho*

      Some fonts look ugly and/or unprofessional.

      Extreme example: You wouldn’t email a client in comic sans, size 15, green text.

    11. Say what, now?*

      Part of what this does is help prevent fraudulent use of company logos and name. For instance say your company is using green #5843 out of the color catalogue, people trying to duplicate your letterhead to solicit information may use an approximate green but not 5843 and although the layman won’t necessarily catch it, an employee who looks at it all the time may say, “hmm, that doesn’t look quite right. I’d better double-check the veracity of this request.” Ideally, that’s how that would work.

      Format, font and wording can also be a part of this. You know that everyone in your office refers to process x as “digitizing the media” (or some equally chunky phrase), but suddenly you’re getting an email from your “CEO” saying that he wants you to send him the records for the last month of all of the media uploads it seems out of sync, both because of the CEO emailing you directly instead of your manager but also the wording isn’t quite right.

  2. Snark*

    The lede got buried. LW, the major problem is that her communications are poor and inconsistent, not that she’s got an auto-reply. Totally agreed with Alison that you need to take the whole package to her boss, not to her.

    1. LiterallyPapyrus*

      I agree with this, too! I think the auto-response has been an easier thing to focus on for our team than the broader context of her communication skills, but I will definitely be bringing this to her manager the next time it interferes with the project work I oversee.

      1. Artemesia*

        Auto respond is the easy part though — and fixing that doesn’t fix the problem of a slacker who is not getting it done. I’d lead with the communication lack of follow through and use the auto respond as a simple example that supports the main message.

    2. Hills to Die on*

      Many people would think her boss would handle this once s/he is alerted, but those of us who are regular reader of AAM know that in reality, anything is possible…

      1. Brandy*

        How do these people keep their jobs? I don’t understand. Im gonna come to work and have a bad attitude and not do what im supposed to and stay here for years and chase good workers off.

        1. London Calling*

          Come and work where I work. Two recent hires who have nothing but positive feedback considering how long they will be there because management won’t deal with the entitled ones with the attitude. In the end we’ll go, they’ll have to replace us and start building up the team again because no-one will grasp the nettle and tell certain people to shape up or ship out – and that’s before the cost of replacing us.

  3. Berry*

    Just to sympathize, Papyrus font hatred is strong (and common). Seeing it in email is the equivalent of hearing styrofoam squeak.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            Huh, I actually kind of like it–the Papyrus effect makes it look like it’s just Comic Sans written in a crayon, which actually works with the childish feel of the font.

            (Though not in office emails)

    1. GumptionIndeed*

      Okay, this is a new one for me. I was still under the impression that Comic Sans was the most hated font out there! Going to check this out.

      1. Liane*

        Me too. But her Papyrus obsession and OOO auto-response are the least of OP’s problems with her.

        1. WinStark*

          My previous MANAGER used purple Comic Sans in ALL correspondence…even to higher ups. It drove me mad to open her email.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      Awww, poor Papyrus! I like it. That being said, I certainly don’t use it in anything related to work or business. I save it for things like my daughter’s birthday party invitations.

    3. kittymommy*

      I never get the dislike of fonts, as long as I can read it I don’t really care. Of course, I also like comic sans and papyrus (after I just looked at them).

      1. SusanIvanova*

        It’s not their style so much as them being used in inappropriate places. They’re very casual, so using them for business gives an impression of being unprofessional.

      2. Astor*

        In addition to setting the tone of the material, different fonts can also make a really big difference in reading comprehension for people whose primary language uses a different alphabet or whose brains process letters differently.

        1. Artemesia*

          Age makes us sensitive to fonts too. Some hot shot teenager showed how much money could be saved by using fonts that used much less ink. The problem of course is that people with old eyes often can’t read those fonts and if they have significant visual impairment on top of that, forget it. My personal favorite is the guy who though a beige menu with light orange font would be a good idea or the brown menu with red font. For the darkened restaurant.

      3. 42*

        Fonts convey a look and feel. Much of it is probably subconscious. But I know I’m pretty sensitive to fonts (and that’s so weird to say).

        1. Cherith Ponsonby*

          My people!

          I have a kind of synaesthesia when it comes to fonts. There’s this one sign in particular that I’m compelled to look at whenever I drive into town – it’s just the company name in a script font – and I can hear and feel the smugness emanating from it. It’s like the font is smirking at me.

      4. Stinky Socks*

        Papyrus is great for kids’ school projects– Ancient Egypt report? Hanging Gardens of Babylon model? Go for it.

  4. Observer*

    Send her an email from an external address and tell her that you are testing the emails system. I actually have a gmail account I use for this purpose – not to catch people’s auto-responders, but to trouble shoot problems. But, it would work for this as well.

    1. LiterallyPapyrus*

      This would be out of my area to do and would definitely raise some red flags if I did, but her auto-response (external and internal) will be something I bring to her manager the next time her communication causes disruption to the project work I oversee.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      Not to get too o/t, but I was in an advisory board meeting last week where a full professor and post-doc were giving a brief, informal presentation on some research findings. The PowerPoint they showed was all Comic Sans, and otherwise, a very 4th-grade-looking presentation. It was weird and distracting. I could not help but think about whether they are going to conferences and presenting this way, and why no one is helping them make it look professional.

      1. Blank*

        It could be an accessibility issue – that’s apparently a very readable font for some people with dyslexia.

        1. Goya*

          That’s a great thought about the dyslexia, but usually it’s just advised to stick with sans-serif fonts in general.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          It couldn’t possibly be the only readable choice, and given that it’s become kind of a joke, its readability isn’t enough of a reason to use it if you’re presenting to tweens and older.

          1. OhNo*

            Just in case anyone’s wondering, you’re right, it isn’t the only choice. Most sans-serif, bottom-heavy fonts will tend to be more readable for folks with dyslexia. There are even a bunch you can download specially.

        3. Mike C.*

          As someone with dyslexia, if I need to change a font it’s usually really easy to do so. Also, I never use Papyrus.

        4. Else*

          Really? I don’t have dyslexia, but I have other vision problems – all of that sketchy scratchy inconsistency of the lines makes it a really difficult font for me, especially if it is not black on white.

      2. many bells down*

        I had a biology professor who did PowerPoints in Comic Sans. PURPLE Comic Sans. Although that seemed less annoying and difficult to read after I saw some of the PPs the students came up with. I still have one saved where my lab mates thought a solid page of neon green cursive font over a watermarked background image was a good idea.

        1. Geoffrey B*

          Just today I got a “we have sent your technical paper to peer review” email from a senior researcher, in Comic Sans.

    2. sammybluejay*

      I used to have such a hate-on for Comic Sans and I found out recently that it was created to be the font easiest to read for people with visual disabilities or dyslexia, and even though it still makes me grit my teeth, I’m a little more tolerant of it now.

      1. Em*

        I like comic sans. When I was teaching primary school, the other teachers advised me to use it for student worksheets — partly because the a and the g looked like the a & g the students were learning to print and not like the squiggly ones that this message has.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Yup. It was created because it kerned well in old-school highly-pixelated displays. And even then IIRC it was created for kids’ programs.

      2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

        It was invented to mimic the type of lettering you see in comics (hence the “comic”). That’s why it comes across as juvenile. It is easier to read for people with visual/print disabilities, but that’s mostly because it’s a sans-serif font (hence the “sans”). Most sans-serif fonts at 12 pt. or higher will be fine for accessibility.

    1. Drew*

      It’s possible the autoresponder includes a whitelist of addresses that always get put through immediately. In that case, the manager might have never seen the OOO message.

      1. Karen K*

        Is this really possible? Because all my emails come through to my inbox whether or not my autoreply is on.

    2. LiterallyPapyrus*

      She does, and I believe she’s seen the auto-responses as well. I’m guessing it’s never been a large enough issue for her manager to bring up either?

      1. Changed*

        If the manager sees it but thinks it’s not an issue, I’d be tempted to make it an issue in an innocent-seeming way:

        FW: Auto-response

        Hey boss, it looks like Co-worker is out today and I need an update on Project. Do you know when she’s back or who her proxy is? The details aren’t in her auto-response.

        You’re not making a big deal of it, but It migth be interesting to see how many of those your boss will take before this stops.

        1. zora*

          oooo YES!!! This is diabolical and I love it.

          Do this every single time, seriously. And recruit other people to do it, too. Make it the boss’s problem, darnit!

      2. Jen S. 2.0*

        I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she responds promptly to her boss, so the boss doesn’t think the auto-reply — or, in related news, her response time — is an issue. She’s just managing expectations (and taking her sweet time with responses) for anyone who’s not her boss. So, to the boss, the auto-reply is just a quirk, because there’s no other problem.

        1. LiterallyPapyrus*

          I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right. Her boss has no reason to think that she’s not responding equally as quickly to everyone else, so I’m going to take Alison’s advice and discuss this with her manager (after trying one more time myself to discuss directly with the employee) to explain the frustration and disruption it can cause.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Honestly, I would go straight to her boss at this point. There’s no reason to keep dancing around it. I’d be horrified if people weren’t telling me this about one of my reports.

          2. Jen S. 2.0*

            I often open my mailbox, sort through the detrius therein, snap, “Ugh. If it’s not a check, I don’t care,” and shove everything back in (note that I work in a W-2, 9:00-5:00 government job with mandatory direct deposit. I seldom get checks in the mail and have no reason to expect them).

            Bea Blessed is doing the same thing with her email. If it’s not someone who’s affecting her bank account or signing her performance review, she doesn’t care.

            1. happy hannah*

              “Bea Blessed” – just want to say, I love this as a coworker pseud, and invite Bea to join Wakeen and Jane on the Rice Sculpting Logistics team.

            2. Witty Nickname*

              The best improvement my landlord ever made in our apartment complex was the trash can underneath the mailboxes. I don’t put anything that might have identifying personal info in there, but I get very little of that. All those stupid circulars and cable offers addressed to “resident” and political postcards go straight from the mailbox to the trash. It means I don’t have to keep shoving it back into the mailbox, or try to carry it up the stairs to my apartment along with the computer bag for work, my purse, my daughter’s lunch box, and whatever groceries I stopped for on the way home (because it is impossible to make multiple trips. Did I mention there are stairs involved?).

        2. Julia*

          I had a co-worker like that. Only ever did stuff the big boss wanted her to do, but ignored our sub-boss and requests from colleagues (which were part of our jobs!)

        3. irene*

          I discovered a few years ago when the head of security was consistently not emailing me with the monthly staff entrance access code that you can set your out of office on Outlook to only respond to certain people. It’s possible (but is it likely?) that she has it set to NOT send the autoreply to her manager.

          1. irene*

            wow i started a story about how i discovered that and then completely forgot to add the story. i am so out of it.

            basically it turns out that when i emailed her each month to ask for the code, i would get an automated and not very professional response – but i didn’t realize it was targeted at me specifically until i had to send her an email mid-month about something unrelated and saw the autoresponse and asked around about it.

            1. fun fact*

              wait so she was deliberately keeping that info from you & targetting you with an unprofessional autoresponse? what happened?

              1. irene*

                ha ha like anything happened!
                management at the time was terrible. apparently *everyone except me* knew that she was targeting me for specific harassment and gossip. since we were in different but linked roles and i was there several years before her, i took Miss Manners’s advice and was aggressively polite and helpful and made a point of only communicating with her about specific job-related duties and always CC’d someone else with my rare email requests (I did start emailing more often to begin keeping a record of how often she wasn’t performing her duties specifically to make things harder for me). eventually i got a promotion and she backed off, but i’m not sure if it’s because i suddenly didn’t need to interact with her as much or if it’s because i had gained political power and my own master key to the building.

                and then after a year or so i got a much better job with a 30% pay raise in the larger organization where i’m not feuding with anyone and i’m told on a regular basis Thank You and how glad they are that I transferred in, so yay for me.

    1. LiterallyPapyrus*

      I will! I’m going to take Alison’s advice and speak to her manager about the communication issues the next time they interrupt project work I oversee, and I’ll let you know how this pans out!

      1. Antilles*

        When you have that conversation, make sure to focus on the impact on your work / the company. Bring specific examples if you can.
        Based on your other comments, it seems like her manager is aware of the communication issues, but either wrote it off as a personal quirk and/or isn’t really understanding just how it’s affecting you. So being able to clearly show just how much it’s messing up things will be *far* more beneficial to addressing the situation than a generic description of “it delays our work and it’s causing issues in project timelines”.

        1. LiterallyPapyrus*

          Yes, absolutely. I’m new to the project management role (but not the company) so I haven’t been keeping records of the specific disruptions this has caused. But I’m going to start and bring it up once I have those concrete discussion points.

  5. The Other Dawn*

    Seems to me like this is the employee’s way of picking and choosing what she actually wants to respond to, while letting everyone else fall by the wayside until she decides she wants to deal with it. Or maybe she someone who needs a lot of time to digest things and this is her (misguided) way of doing that. I don’t know. Weird.

    1. LiterallyPapyrus*

      This is my sense, too. Historically she’s been avoidant of work she doesn’t want to do, so I think she’s just lumped emails into this mode of behavior as well, which would explain why she returns some emails but not others. I think she’s seeing all of them, just picking and choosing what to respond to.

      1. Brandy*

        I wish the rest of the world could get by with picking and choosing their job tasks. How do these people keep their jobs?

        1. Jen S. 2.0*

          Because they keep the boss happy and subtly intimidate everyone else, so no one complains to the boss (who is happy with what they see). It’s a finely honed art.

        2. Mephyle*

          And coworkers who complain and/or aren’t on the ball picking up their slack suffer because they’re branded as ‘not team players.’

      2. JulieBulie*

        Thing is, if I got an autoreply that basically says “I’m not going to answer you now, won’t tell you when I might answer, and won’t refer you to someone else,” I would read that as “nobody cares about your issue and if it’s urgent, then it sucks to be you.” That might be acceptable to coworkers who know that she isn’t really away and can corner her if they need an answer sooner, but it looks really terrible if this is also being seen by clients, vendors, or anyone else whose goodwill matters to your organization.

  6. beanie beans*

    I can’t imagine how much time this wastes for the rest of the employees!

    Usually if I get an out-of-office autoreply from someone and I need an urgent response, or even just a “in the next week” response, I start calling/emailing other people. If the person is actually at work, that’s such a poor use of everyone’s time!

    1. LiterallyPapyrus*

      YES. It’s definitely frustrating to us. We end up copying her boss on a lot of things, which makes us feel petty, but is our way of getting help from SOMEONE in the department because we never know if she’ll reply.

      1. Cobol*

        You shouldn’t feel weird about cc’ing her boss. It sounds like she is extremely difficult to work with, and causing trouble. That’s her boss’ issue to address, and figure out a solution to.

        1. Samiratou*

          Yes, keep cc’ing her boss and don’t feel guilty. You have a very legitimate reason to believe that she’s not seeing or planning to respond, so it is not petty at all to cc her boss.

          1. zora*

            I wouldn’t cc, necessarily, but everytime I got an Auto reply, I would forward it to the boss asking her what I should do.

    2. ThatGirl*

      At my new job we have a newer version of Outlook than I used at my last one, and one small but really useful improvement it has is that if someone in my org has an out of office reply, it shows it to me in the header when I put their name in the To: line – so I can see right away if I’m not going to get a reply or who else I might want to contact.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah, my job has that also and I find it helpful. Rather than sending an email, getting an out of office, and then having to send it to someone else, you can just straight off send it to the someone else.

  7. Nope.*

    How is no one talking about that “be blessed” part of the away message? It’s inappropriate for work communications and seems to be an increasing trend in letters lately.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        While true, I did ruminate for a while on how this is why you shouldn’t give people happy instructions about their day in your generic auto-replies, of any form. “I need the third quarter figures on Alpacas by 4 pm! What do you mean be blessed?!!!”

        1. SarahKay*

          Four years ago payroll messed up my payrise so it didn’t get processed in time. This was December’s pay, and at the bottom of the on-line payslip showing my old salary it said ‘Happy Holidays!’ The entire (open-plan) office heard me say (ahem shriek) “Happy Holidays?!? Happy HOLIDAYS?!?! I’ll give you Happy Holidays!!!” when I read that.
          It may be well-meant, but it’s such a bad idea.

    1. Infinity Anon*

      Prioritizing. When the house is burning down you focus on putting out the fire, not the type of matches used.

    2. LiterallyPapyrus*

      Haha! Lots of reasons this doesn’t even phase me anymore: 1) we’re a nonprofit, 2) in the Bible Belt, 3) that was founded as a Christian organization, and 4) that’s not even the most inappropriate thing that gets said on the regular around here.

    3. Cobol*

      It’s common enough even out of the Bible Belt. It comes across weird to me, but it’s innocuous enough.

      1. Else*

        I don’t think it is. I really don’t think the increase in reflexive, unthinking, un-nuanced religiosity in this country that this is an expression of is at ALL minor, but that’s another issue…

    4. Maya Elena*

      It’s not the main issue being asked about, ans ia really mot that big a deal on its own, methinks.

    5. London Calling*

      I once worked for a very large PR compnay where on Fridays some people would start EVERY EMAIL with ‘Happy Friday!’ and smileys. After a while the urge to message back ‘Sorry, but I have other plans,’ had to be sternly resisted. People would come up to you and say it as well, and I never came up with a better response than ‘Duh, thanks.’

    6. Iris Eyes*

      Be blessed isn’t particularly religious, sure it has strong tones but things other than deities or cosmic energy or what have you can bless. I mean do you take issues with someone saying “Bless you” when you sneeze? Do you see that as unprofessional?

      I’d say its less inappropriate and more quirky.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I have an atheist friend who always says “gesundheit” instead of bless you. He doesn’t pitch a fit if others do, but that’s his purposeful thing.

        1. Tongue Cluckin' Grammarian*

          I always say “gesundheit” too, and it started partly out of a desire to be more purposeful in my speech (also atheist) and partly because for awhile I was proficient in German (I’ve since lost most of it, due to lack of practice. Sadness.)

          The bit that I have the most trouble excising is the variants on “Oh my god!” simply due to the ubiquitous nature of it’s use around me my whole life. It’s been hard to come up with someone equally satisfying to say (in terms of consonants and mouthfeels, and how it easily rolls off the tongue), but in general, I sub “god” with “cat”. Though usually “Holy cats!” vs “Oh my god!” (“Oh my cat” just isn’t the same :\ )

          1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

            We Utah Mormons say “oh my heck.” I never knew it was weird until the internet told me so.

          2. justsomeone*

            Mine is “oh my gourd” which is particularly amusing to me around Halloween and Thanksgiving.

          3. Alienor*

            My husband used to say “Oh my grod,” and I have a friend who says “Oh my dog,” both of which feel pretty similar.

        2. Hellanon*

          I do that, and for that reason. Gets me weird looks from students but I flat out refuse to bless people.

      2. Agatha_31*

        “do you take issues with someone saying “Bless you” when you sneeze? Do you see that as unprofessional?”

        Different situation, different usage of the word. As a better comparison, “bless you” would be equally inappropriate in professional communications. In the case of OP it sounds like they’re in an area where that is normal, but yeah, there are plenty of places it’d be seen as both unprofessional, and a very weird choice. It’s not like there’s a lack of perfectly usable closings for business correspondence.

      3. 5 Leaf Clover*

        It can make us non-religious people feel uncomfortable, as if the baseline assumption is that everyone’s religious and we’re the outsiders. P.S. I just got a “have a bless day” email (sic), and the whole dang thing is in some font called Californian.

      4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Uh.. it’s pretty problematic to tell people to “be blessed,” and it’s absolutely religious.

    7. Kate*

      I was really surprised no one had mentioned it either! It would really shit me to get an email like that

    8. Denise Biscuit*

      Right now i have a client (a 1000+ employee organization, not a mom and pop shop) whose mission statement that they plaster everywhere ends with “through biblical principles”. Its weird.

    9. AKchic*

      One of my working pet peeves as a gov’t contractor is emails I get from soldiers and civilian employees (career soldiers/civilian employees, who have been working in their fields for 15-20 years) who write biblical quotes as their “inspirational tag” in an email signature. Makes me want to have a special tagline praising FSM or Cthulu, or referencing Ezekial 23:20 and see if anyone gets it (but I would end up losing my job over *that* one), or references to separation of church and state from our founding fathers.

      I’ve refrained. But on my bad days, my jimmies are severely rustled.

  8. Jesmlet*

    I had to go back and rewatch the bit with Ryan Gosling from SNL on the Papyrus font.

    Not exactly related but I have a coworker who uses the following away message. Not sure if it’s just internal or external as well:

    If you are reading this, the train wasn’t able to push the Delorian up to 88 miles per hour, and I’m stuck in 1885. I wont be able to respond to emails until exactly 8:00am on Monday, October 9th in the year 2017.

    Cracks me up every time, not because it’s super funny, but it’s just so out of place for what we do. Certainly not on brand…

    1. Emmie*

      How odd. The 1st sentence reads to me a bit like she doesn’t know how to use technology, but it ended up becoming her out message.

        1. Emmie*

          Even being a fan of the movie and reference, my mind went to no technology knowledge. Perhaps I’m jaded b/c I am in the middle of tech related projects! :)

    2. Agatha_31*

      In my line of work I see out of office messages regularly. I have to say, seeing this one would make the rest of my day just for providing me a bit of unexpected silliness and amusement in the middle of my work day.

      “Be blessed”, otoh… ugh.

      1. Jesmlet*

        Externally, off brand but provides some levity. Internally, it’s every time she’s away so it becomes a bit tiresome. It’s creative and quirky, I’ll give her that.

      1. Jesmlet*

        I feel like such a grump now. Honestly if I knew for sure it was just internal, I probably would find it more hilarious. It’s just been there for so long that it’d be weird of me to ask if it was or not.

    3. Anna*

      My friend frequently comes up with very creative OOO messages, to the point that coworkers will email her when they know she’s out so they can see what she set up.

      1. nonegiven*

        I had an answering machine message like that. People would call to let someone listen to it and be disappointed if we answered.

  9. Bagpuss*

    Yes, I agree that you should raise it with her line manager and highlight the fact that this is part of a larger pattern of poor communication.

    1. beanie beans*

      I’m not usually a proponent of passive-aggressive solutions, but I wonder if OP could forward one of the out-of-office responses to the manager with something like, “since Bea Blessed is out of the office, who should I be working with to get the answer I need?” Might not apply to every scenario, but it seems like a reasonable ask if she *were* out of the office.

      1. CatCat*

        Is this passive aggressive? That’s what I would have been doing this whole time.

        If I have something time sensitive and get an out of office message, I just contact the named contact while the person is out of office, or, if no contact is name named, I contact the person’s supervisor. This seems like a normal and not passive aggressive thing to do.

        1. Antilles*

          Correct. Forwarding the email to someone else at the company asking for help is the 100% business standard response when you get an out-of-office reply. Especially if the out-of-office reply doesn’t include a date/time of return; after all, for all I know, you could be out of the country and totally unreachable for months.
          In this case, we know she’s actually working…but by making out-of-office a permanent response, you can’t really be sure that THIS TIME isn’t the one time she truly is out of office. Therefore, the only appropriate course of action is to always contact someone else.

      2. LiterallyPapyrus*

        We have been doing this for sure. Actually, most of us now just copy the manager automatically on the most important emails (certainly not all of them), because we just aren’t ever sure which ones will get a response.

        1. beanie beans*

          Oh man, even more depressing if your manager is already aware of the issue and not doing anything about it!

          I guess I was feeling it was passive-aggressive because the intent is to make them aware of the situation without actually saying “hey, Blessed is obviously at work but has these autoreplies!” But if you’re truly trying to get a response to a question, then yeah, it’s not so much being passive-aggressive since you’re just trying to get your work done.

      3. The Supreme Troll*

        Not at all; this is actually a great idea! If this employee that the OP has no choice but to work with is copied on that email, then maybe (just maybe) it might knock some sense into her and get her to actually be a team player for a change. (One can only hope!)

      4. Matilda Jefferies*

        Agreed, that’s not passive-aggressive at all, and in fact it might be the most efficient and professional solution.

        But what I really want to note is that “Bea Blessed” is a perfect name for this coworker. Thank you for that!

  10. Allypopx*

    I’m on a marketing team, so I’m biased, but not adhering to brand standards kind of matters? Writing in blue font instead of black (like my boss…………………………) is a little forgivable, but in general brand standards exist to create a cohesive, professional image for the company. Out of office messages get read by people who work outside the company, right? Not only disregarding brand standards but doing it with big ugly papyrus messages on a vague unhelpful permanent message? As a boss I’d call that a big no-no.

    1. seejay*

      You can set OOO messages for either internal or external, or both. And they can have different messaging and formatting as well. She might not have them turned on for external clients, or she might and they might be formatted differently. The OP doesn’t know since she’s only emailing from internally. The only way to test would be to send an email from an external source, such as through gmail, and see what comes back.

    2. Jesmlet*

      We slightly changed the color blue we use for our names in our signature and it was a whole thing about making sure everyone went in and modified the numbers so it exactly matched. If god forbid someone changed the font to something less professional, it would give our marketing people a conniption.

      1. Witty Nickname*

        We have an email signature generator – you fill in the specific info it asks for, and it creates a signature that you can copy & paste into Outlook. I had to modify mine a bit, because I have two departments I need to list on my signature, so I’m just waiting for the Brand Police to come find me.

    3. WellRed*

      I will notice an unprofessional font, but will never ever notice or care if your email uses times and your brand standard is Helvetica.

    1. LiterallyPapyrus*

      She’s a program manager at our nonprofit. Her day-to-day activities include managing her program internally and with external participants in the program (sorry for the vague response but I wish to protect her and our NPO’s privacy).

        1. LiterallyPapyrus*

          oh, haha! Yes, she does. Her work itself is fine. She’s organized and consistent, if a bit unwilling to think creatively and take risks. Her professional weaknesses are almost all interpersonal skills.

          1. Else*

            But she does interact with external partners and participants? Does she throw up these same weird barriers with them, I wonder? Because there is no reason why she can’t respond to emails the day after she reads them, or even ignore them, without having an “i’m not here; don’t bother me” message.

            1. LiterallyPapyrus*

              I can’t speak to this, as I’m not her supervisor, but to my knowledge she is at least acceptably responsive to external partners. I feel like if she had been as unresponsive to our external partners as she is to the internal staff we would have heard about it by now, surely.

  11. Yorick*

    I hate auto-replies, especially when the person is out for a short time. I’d rather wait until Thursday for your response than get a quick response, think you’ve answered, and learn that you haven’t.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I don’t know, I think it depends on your office. We are officially meant to turn ours on when not at work and I find them useful – it’s more annoying not to know if the person is there or not. But because we use outlook you can see if someone has one switched on, and read it, as soon as you put them in the ‘to’ field – no sending and getting a bogus reply needed.

      1. Yorick*

        In my work, things usually aren’t so urgent that I’d go to someone else. I have to send this thing to this person, and I may not even need a response.

        I especially get annoyed when I have to send a report to several people. Usually none of them respond. But a couple of people will have an auto-reply set up, so I come back to the computer thinking there is a flurry of activity about my report only to find that it’s nothing.

        At a previous job, the email system would show the auto-reply message when they were added in the ‘to’ field and I could acknowledge it and not have to get the actual email. I miss that.

  12. 5 Leaf Clover*

    Sort of evil but… What if you start an officewide campaign where every time someone gets an OOO reply from her, they go down to her desk to check whether she’s away? You could all say something cheery like, “Oh, you’re here! Good, I got your out of office and I wanted to make sure you were in.”

    1. Ann Furthermore*

      That is ingenious. If her goal is to blow off working and avoid having to deal with people, this approach would blow it out of the water.

    2. LiterallyPapyrus*

      haha, I did this a couple of times but it led to a defensive “Yes, of course I’m here, where else would I be?” It just got tiring so I quit trying.

      1. Emi.*

        Is it possible that she changes it when she *is* out, and doesn’t realize it’s actually on all the time? (This sounds like a stretch to me, but I know people who google for everything instead of typing in the URL, so nothing would really surprise me.)

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          but I know people who google for everything instead of typing in the URL

          Hey, don’t trash-talk my mom.

      2. London Calling*

        “Well if you don’t want people coming to your desk and asking where you are turn off your out of office and answer emails, then!”

        Duh. How stupid are some people? at some point this is going to irritate her manager enough to do something about it. Oh, I dunno though…(based on where I work, which seems to have limitless tolerance for people doing what they want).

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          ^^This! LP, have you asked her directly why she has her OOO on all the time? I think 5LC’s idea is brilliant, especially if you get many people on board. (Not that I’d personally have the guts to do it but it’d be hilarious/evil.)

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        “Yes, of course I’m here, where else would I be?”

        “Your OOO makes it sound like you’re not in the office.” Repeat, every single time.

      4. Rick Tq*

        Something doesn’t add up here on how the auto-replies are generated. We have Outlook and the out of office responder only sends the OO message once to each sender, all other messages are ignored. The only way new messages would be sent is if the responder gets reset for another day.

        I have to wonder if Bea has set up inbox filters and rules that only send her “Go away, I’m busy” message to peers, subordinates, and her ‘ignore list’ but never to anyone above her…

        1. 5 Leaf Clover*

          Some email programs (e.g. Gmail) allow you to choose whether the reply is sent once or repeatedly

  13. London Calling*

    That would give me the rage. If I need to get hold of someone to authorise something and they are apparently permanently out of the office and I can’t get my work done, I’d be making a list of the times I’d emailed her and not got a reply, the problems it caused, and then escalating. It’s like saying her time is too important for her to respond to you minions – and if she has that set up for external clients, even worse.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      It’s kind of like marking all your emails “Urgent.” If you make everything stand out, then nothing stands out.

      Whether the message is “Everything I send is TOP PRIORITY!” or “Everything YOU send is low priority, and I’ll get to it when I get to it,” the impact is the same – the person on the other end of the email is left to make their own decisions about how to prioritize it.

      And it’s especially irritating if it’s not actually true. Not actually urgent, or actually in the office – either way, knock it off!

      1. Agatha_31*

        Death to all those who mark EVERY email they send out (even one work “thanks!” or “okay!” emails) as “request receipt”. DEATH, I SAY.

        1. London Calling*

          I don’t mind the ‘request receipt’ – hey, just because it’s important to them doesn’t mean I have to agree. It’s the one person who without fail asks ‘please confirm receipt’ AND has a request receipt.

          So I don’t reply. Petty I know, but small victories.

          1. Agatha_31*

            The automated “request receipt” gets REALLY annoying REALLY fast when you’ve got a few people in your contacts who clearly just have it turned on by default, particularly if you’re just trying to have a quick email exchange with them that doesn’t in the least require a long, pointless digital paper trail of “yup, she definitely read the ten emails I sent her in the last ten minutes, which I could definitely not have told by the ten responses she sent within a minute or two of my sending those emails”. I just decline the request every time from people who do that because no. But yeah, an auto-request AND a written request in the email body is even more “what is actually wrong with you nobody is this evil outside of television shows that are about games and thrones” levels of aggravating.

            1. London Calling*

              Actually she’s more irritating than that because her template says ‘please may you confirm receipt’ instead of ‘please can you confirm’ and I think every time, nope, not only I may not, I’m definitely not going to. Luckily for my BP I don’t hear from her very often.

      2. Anion*

        UGH! I once hired an assistant, and said assistant would freak out if I didn’t reply to her emails right away (usually these emails were about issues months in the future, which did not even need to be considered yet) and would start sending multiple emails asking if everything was okay and why wasn’t I replying. I finally came up with what I thought was the clever idea of telling her that if it was something she needed an immediate response to, she could put a row of stars and all-caps the subject line.

        Big mistake. You guessed it, she immediately started starring and all-capsing every email she sent, and then further freaking out if she didn’t get an immediate reply because now I *knew* she considered it urgent.

        She did not remain my assistant for long (there was a lot of other stuff, too, it wasn’t just an annoying email habit).

    2. LiterallyPapyrus*

      This is basically how we all feel. The email issue in particular is not as disruptive as some of her other communication issues, but it does fall into a pattern, one that I’ll be taking Alison’s advice on and speaking to her manager about the next time project work is disrupted.

  14. Kiki*

    My past job was full of stakeholders and vendors who would freak out if emails weren’t returned within 30 minutes. They’d call, come to my desk, search around the office for me…but my role included frequent travel and long meetings. I had a similar auto reply up to let people know if I was on an airplane with spotty wifi or in a 3-hour long meeting so people wouldn’t come looking for me.

    But this doesn’t sound like that. Maybe she’s trying to use it as an excuse to procrastinate?

    1. LiterallyPapyrus*

      I’m not sure what the motivation is. Maybe she had a few people who did freak out at a slow response at one point and now she just does this out of habit? Maybe it’s to avoid work she doesn’t want to do? Maybe it’s so she can ignore meeting invites? I honestly don’t get it either.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I had what could be considered the opposite response: a coworker once freaked out on me because my OOO reply was still on at 9:30 the day I was returning to work from a vacation. I was like, yeah, the OOO reply was still on BECAUSE I WAS STILL OUT OF THE OFFICE (I had very flexible hours at that job and they didn’t much care when I started as long as I got my work done). And it wasn’t like he had anything vital he needed me to do or anything, he just liked to nitpick (or nag, as I prefer to put it). He was pretty annoying, I gotta say.

      He also would write emails using all-caps wayyyyyyy more often than necessary, even when I asked him nicely to please stop doing it because it seemed like he was yelling. Didn’t make any difference, he continued to do so and that was also pretty annoying.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        My manager always forgets to update hers so it sends out of date info. I have bitten my lip thus far and not told her as I can sound a bit too Hermione when I try to point out things like that.

      2. Someone else*

        I have this problem sometimes, not because my hours are flexible but because I’m in a different timezone than most of my colleagues and clients. I very intentionally set my OOO to turn off when my business day starts. So no Fergus, it wasn’t a mistake when you got my OOO at what was 5am in my time zone on the day I said I’d be back. I wasn’t even awake then.
        But I digress.

  15. jenniferthebillionth*

    After I read this letter, I had to double-check that my out-of-office replies were turned off! They were, thank goodness, as I last updated them in May.

    1. AMPG*

      I had a coworker who would re-record her outgoing voicemail message either every day or every week because she was often working remotely. But half the time she’d forget to keep it current, so you’d call at the end of October and hear, “Hi, this is Michelle, and this is the week of September 15th. I’ll be working remotely on Tuesday afternoon, Wednesday morning, and all day Friday, but will be checking messages regularly.” So instead of being helpful and making her look organized, it had the opposite effect.

  16. BRR*

    I wonder if the LW could pretend the away message must have been left up by accident and let Jane know that way. My hunch is it won’t change anything though.

    1. k.k*

      That would totally be my approach. And if/when she responds by saying she knows it’s on, act very confused, “Oh….are you going somewhere soon? Are you going to be in a meeting all day?” But I tend to be passive aggressive, so my gut instinct probably shouldn’t be advising.

      1. BRR*

        I see it going like
        LW: Hey I wanted to let you know your auto-reply is on, I’ve done that too after coming back, it can be hard to notice.
        Jane: Oh yeah I know. I want it up
        LW: But you’re not away…
        Jane: …
        LW: …
        Jane: …

    2. Evan Þ*

      Who knows, there’s a tiny chance it might even be a real accident. A couple of my coworkers have left their autoresponses on for a day or two too long.

      Though, you’d think she would’ve noticed after the first couple of communication hiccups OP mentioned.

      1. Jesmlet*

        Yeah depends on how tech savvy she is, though it’s really not complicated to put a start and end date on these things.

        1. Evan Þ*

          Do you normally do that? I usually don’t put on the end date, because I keep thinking “What if a flight gets cancelled / I get sick / whatever and I don’t actually come back to work on time? I’ll still want the autoresponse up!”

          And then I just leave myself a note to turn it off first thing when I get back to the office.

          1. Rainy*

            I always put an end date on. If something happens and I’m not actually back I just go into the system on my phone and extend it.

          2. Karo*

            Without at least an end date, an OOO can lose its effectiveness. If I email you today needing something by Friday and receive a response that just says “I’m out of the office and will answer emails when I return,” I have no way of knowing whether you’ll be back in time to actually handle my request or if I need to escalate it.

            I get what you’re saying about wanting to be covered in case you’re late returning from your leave, but from my perspective as the requester, that’s much easier to handle. If I get an OOO saying you’ll be back by the 25th and it’s now the 26th, I can find a way to determine whether you’re actually out and handle my request appropriately (like a call, or even an email saying “Hey, I just received your OOO – I’m not sure if it’s still up by accident, so unless I hear back by noon I’m going to escalate this request.”)

            1. SarahKay*

              You’re at slight cross-purposes, I think.
              You’re talking about including in your message a date for your return, which yes, this should absolutely be done.
              Jesmlet and Rainy are talking about setting a date when the system stops sending the OOO responses, which is an option in more recent versions of Outlook – probably other mail programs, but we use Outlook here.

  17. DevAssist*

    UGH UGH UGH. Out of 200 staff members, I honestly feel like at least a solid quarter of our staff does this! It’s mostly people on the admin team, but they have an “out of office” or “delayed response” automated message on at all times. It drives me crazy because:

    A) It isn’t thruthful
    B) I have very time-sensitive work and I communicate with clients directly but often need admin approval. When an admin doesn’t respond for an extended period of time, I am the one yelled at by a client (sometimes literally).
    C) The admin expect that whatever they need will be addressed immediately, regardless of any other pressing issues
    D) Our employee handbook states all emails are to be returned within 24 business hours

    1. NoMoreMrFixit*

      It amazes me how few places have rules regarding use of email. Worse is that even fewer places enforce what rules do exist regarding email. Having things laid out clearly in the employee handbook is fantastic. I really wish more places did that.

    2. Why did I tell so many of my colleagues that I read this blog?*

      I’m dying to ask – is rule D enforced?

      This might be specific to the kind of work you do, but I can’t imagine having to respond to every (substantive) email within a day.

      (For me, a lot of times responses require some thought, or some spreadsheet work, or I’m in meetings, or I’m just buried under an avalanche of requests, or I have better things to do which aren’t responding to that email promptly. Generally – if the email wasn’t especially urgent – I’d chase after a week or so, as a sender. But we’re not the fastest-moving of organisations.)

      1. DevAssist*

        No, the 24-hour email rule isn’t usually enforced, but it is brought up every staff training (which happen twice a year). Plus, I think when it is enforced, it is only enforced for lower-level staff members.

      2. Marmite*

        We have a similar rule – 24 hours to respond to clients, 48 hours to reply to others. The response can be “I’ve got your email, I’m working on your request, I’ll get back to you on Friday.”

        It’s not enforced as such but it forms part of our mandatory goals for the year which we are assessed against in our performance reviews. I don’t think anyone actually tracks e-mail response times as a matter of course but if there were concerns about your performance they might.

      3. bridget*

        Really? We have no prescribed time period (that I know of) but I have a personal turnaround time of 3 hours maximum unless I’m in an airplane or it comes in when I’m sleeping (and if I was in the air, I have an auto response :) ) If it’s too substantive to address immediately, it gets at the very least “I am looking into this and will get back to you by X time.”

        I think this is pretty standard in my law firm. If I asked someone a substantive question and it was crickets for 24 hours, I would get a little nervous. What if they missed it, and by the time it’s 24 hours it’s too late to start over with someone else?

    3. College Admin*

      Yes, I also used to work in an office where about half the staff would turn on their auto-reply during busy periods (so like half the year) warning people to expect longer response times. Every time you emailed the office staff, you’d immediately get 25 auto-replies.

    4. Elsewhere1010*

      “24 business hours” is a major peeve of mine. If you mean three days, say three days. If you’re a business that crosses time zones and conceivably be open for business 24 hours a day, does it then mean one day? Why come up with a new, “improved, and more confusing way of saying something that was always pretty well understood?

  18. K.*

    I work with someone whose voicemail says she’ll be out of the office until a date in May that obviously already passed and then disconnects so you can’t leave a message. I was like ” … Okay?” when I called her. I feel your pain, OP! (She responds via email though, and if you call her and she’s there, she answers.)

    1. SRB*

      I can understand this on the phone/VM. My desk phone is this newfangled piece of arcane equipment. You need to conduct some complex secret ritual of button pushing at a time when the stars are aligned just so in order to set your VM message. I learned how to set it exactly once and then promptly forgot. And of course since the secret ritual to set your VM message is secret, it’s not documented literally anywhere. And no one calls me ever anyways… So basically, this could easily be me.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I hate voicemail. Seriously. Just. Email. I think this person is an evil genius. I’d do this too if I could get away with it…

      1. LJP*

        My Fortune 500 company just sent us all an email saying few people used voicemail, it’s expensive to maintain, and we are encouraged to disconnect our voicemail accounts :) I don’t think I’ve gotten a non-solicitation voicemail in 2 years.

  19. apparently not the only fashion designer here*

    Could someone suggest how you might phrase what you would say directly to her boss, if the person decided to go that route?

    1. London Calling*

      I’d be pointing out quite calmly the times I’ve messaged her asking for x and y, the reply or lack of and the problems it has caused – all fully documented. Like a poster upthread, I’m in the firing line with customers and I don’t take kindly to being made even more of a target by someone who isn’t doing their job.

      1. LiterallyPapyrus*

        This is great advice, thank you!! So far I haven’t been documenting the disruptions, because I’m fairly new to my project management role (but not the company), but this is a good practice to begin putting into place now for when if/when it becomes an issue again later.

        1. London Calling*

          I’ve been in the workforce for 4 decades, and if there is one thing I have learned it’s CYA. Along with don’t get mad, get even – both of which philosophies it occurs to me you can usefully use here. Be really evil and have a dedicated email folder for her so all you need to do is print out all the emails you have sent and her replies.

          1. AKchic*

            This. 100% This. 10,000% This.

            If you can show where projects have been disrupted, you’ve had delays due to her lack of communication, or had clients angry at you because of her dropping the ball, and it’s in writing – save copies of that into the folder, or create a subfolder and scan/email copies of the evidence and save them there too.
            Keep notes. A word document or excel spreadsheet detailing dates, times, and a quick synopsis of the action you took (emailing her regarding X topic, for example); next line would be the update of a follow-up email, or in-person conversation and a brief overview of the conversation (use quotes if you can, or feel they might be pertinent); etc.

            It sucks, but it builds your case that you have done your due diligence and have continued to try to work within the parameters Bea Blessed has given you, and you aren’t at fault. Will her manager do anything about it? Who knows. They’ve allowed her to keep that vaguely-worded away message this long.

            1. London Calling*

              Oh yeah. Start costing the company money or annoying sponsors and watch the sh*t hit the fan. Second the idea of a spreadsheet, as well.

        2. Close Bracket*

          Documenting problems for discussion with a manager/HR/whoever is pretty much the first step in any persistent problem.

  20. Competent Commenter*

    As someone who feels so burdened by the practical and emotional weight of all the email I receive, all I can say is “Where can I sign up for the sweet, sweet deal this person has fashioned for herself!”

    I want a permanent out of office auto reply! Waaaah!

      1. AKchic*

        Reply with a very solemn “and Ezekiel 23:20 to you too”.

        Wait. Don’t. You want to keep your job.

        Ignore me.

    1. NaoNao*

      It’s like the tooth-grinding-ly sweet “have a blessed day!” It means “Be Blessed [BUT ONLY BY THE CHRISTIAN GOD].”

      1. Else*

        It’s the pettiness of it that gets me. These are the people who think that God will actually give them a good parking spot, or have them win over someone else in a field race, if they pray enough using the right forms/words/etc. It’s not really prayer. It’s magic.

  21. nnn*

    If you’re in the market for passive-aggressive approaches, a few occurred to me while reading the post:

    1. Next time she replies promptly while her autoreply is on, you could respond with a quick “Thanks! BTW, your Out of Office message is still on.”
    2. When you get an autoreply suggesting she’s not in the office, work as though she’s not in the office. For example, email your manager asking how you should proceed with the teapot report in Jane’s absence.
    3. Request read receipts for emails you send to her.

    If I were her manager, my first step would be to send her a link to the corporate standards for out-of-office messages and instruct her to make her messages comply with standards. That would at least address the less-than-professional content.

    In my organization, corporate standards for out-of-office messages also require you to indicate a contact person for when you’re out of office (most often your team leader or manager). That would help route the workflow around the obstacle while providing tangible evidence to her superior of the impacts of her unresponsiveness (and thereby making it easier to introduce any disciplinary action)

    1. LiterallyPapyrus*

      I’ve done #1 and #2 before, with no response, but maybe it’s time to try again?

      If still nothing changes, I’m going to begin documenting how her communication issues disrupt the project work I supervise so I can take it to her manager the next time it’s a significant problem.

      1. JulieBulie*

        I don’t think you need to try those tactics again. They didn’t work before, and unless something has changed in your coworker’s head, they won’t work now. It’s time to talk to the boss.

        I’d show the autoreply to the boss and explain that it signals to people (both inside and outside the org) that their concern/request/issue is not a priority. People who work with Bea may be used to it by now, but it will project a crummy and dismissive attitude to people who are new to your org and seeing it for the first time. (In spite of that deeply heartfelt blessing.) I mean, an out of office should at least refer people to someone else in case the issue is urgent. Of course Bea can’t do that because then she’d be outright delegating her work to others, but right now she’s passively delegating it, and I don’t know why her boss isn’t irritated by that.

  22. DevAssist*

    Has anyone called her out directly?

    “Jane, your ‘out of office’ email response is on at all times, even when you’re present. Is there a reason for this? This causes a lot of confusion.”

    1. LiterallyPapyrus*

      I have in the past, and I believe others have, as well. But maybe it’s time to try again?

  23. Just Snarky Today*

    I had an report who not only did not reply to e-mails, she had the calendar set so that any meeting that was scheduled on the google calendar had an auto reply that meetings before 10 am and after 3:00pm were not during her scheduled hours. When I disagreed she told me that she had no idea why that was happening. yes these where her hours.

    1. The New Wanderer*

      “Had” meaning this report no longer works for you? Because… unless they were officially part time with those specific hours, that’s pretty gutsy to decide just not to attend any meetings in the morning or afternoon.

      1. Alienor*

        To a point I can understand it. I’m a single parent, and when my daughter was still in elementary school and I had strict drop-off and pick-up times, I had my Outlook calendar perma-blocked before 8:30 am and after 4:30 pm, because I was not going to be able to make meetings at those times under any circumstances. But, that still allowed a full eight hours when people could book me for meetings (although I went to a lot of later afternoon ones with my computer shut down and my bag already packed so I could pick up and leave on the dot of 4:30 without having to go back to my desk). Blocking off all but five hours a day is a pretty cheeky move.

  24. Turquoisecow*

    My previous job had a very small satellite office with, I think, three people in it? A guy who worked in said office had a permanent auto reply that said something like “I am in the office, but I’m Very Busy, so I only check email two or three times a day. I’ll respond to you later.”

    My boss had to work sort of on a dotted line for the guy and they butted heads a little bit, so boss delegated some of the stuff to me. I was fully expecting him to be a complete jerk, but I guess he liked me because, despite that message, he’d usually reply to me pretty quickly, even if it was just to say thanks.

    At some point they gave him a blackberry (that was the thing at the time), so he couldn’t use the “I only check email x times a day” excuse, and then the satellite office closed and people could just talk to him in person. My boss figured some VP or something got the auto reply and put an end to that, but I don’t know for sure.

      1. Turquoisecow*

        It might not have been a bad idea, but it was definitely against the company culture, and against my boss’s “ready every email the second it arrives even if you’re in the middle of an important conversation, resulting in you missing half of what’s been said,” ideal.

        I kind of don’t expect people to drop everything and respond to my email over the 7k they have at any given point, but I don’t need to be reminded that I’m at the bottom of the hierarchy as far as being replied to.

      2. Ramona Flowers*

        I don’t know anyone who can get away with ignoring their inbox this much.

        I LOOK at my email plenty but only reply in batches.

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          PS this is the kind of tip I only hear from people who are less productive and more flappy than I am.

      3. WillowSunstar*

        I had a job where all my work came through a special work account. I checked my e-mail once an hour, on the dot. No sooner, no lesser. It worked.

  25. Anon Accountant*

    In general I think it’s best to talk to the person first. Only take straight to their boss if they have a history of being difficult or very rude or if it’s a major issue. A major issue such as evidence of fraud, someone told off a customer, theft, etc.

    Sorry it’s my pet peeve when people want to jump straight to management. Nothing against the OP! Just venting in general.

    1. Anon Accountant*

      And I’ll admit to skimming quickly. This software program is being very slow to open so I checked this site.

    2. LiterallyPapyrus*

      She has a history of being defensive and willfully obstinate. It’s not all the time but often enough that people are leery of bringing issues like this directly to her. A couple of commenters up have suggested a simple “hey your auto reponse is still on, did you know?” message, which I’ve done in the past but will try again before bringing this to her manager.

      1. London Calling*

        And that of course is something else you can use. ‘Hey, we’ve pointed this out to her a lot of times and that it means we have to go and see her and interrupt her day and ours but it still happens.’

        She’s making you run around after her and beg for her to pay attention to your emails and can you answer them if you’d be so kind, Bea Blessed?

      2. Adlib*

        Sorry to hear that, OP. It sounds like you’ve done everything and more short of bringing it to the boss. I wonder why it hasn’t gotten through to her when you and others have gone to her multiple times about the auto-response. I’d think that multiple people bringing it up would at least be annoying. Some people are just like that though. Good luck in the future when it comes up!

        1. LiterallyPapyrus*

          I think it probably *has* gotten through to her, she just doesn’t seem to care. Thanks for the well wishes!

      3. Anon Accountant*

        That is a time to go to a manager when someone gets so defensive and rude. I think when people are actually avoiding her because of her behavior her manager should be addressing her behavior.

  26. Eye rolls forever*

    I had a coworker today set one of those up that I have no idea what to do with! It said (edited)

    “Thanks for the email! I will respond to your message as promptly as I can, but if you should need a more immediate response or if you are following up on a request, please do me the favor of either IMing me or calling/texting as I respond most immediately to those types of communications. Even if it’s a reminder to respond to your email. I want to be sure I am providing you all with what you need in the most timely fashion possible, but as you all are acutely aware, items can become buried in email inboxes, so this system will help me to get you what you need.”

    It drives me crazy because it’s essentially saying ‘my time is more important than yours, please take more of your time to remind me to do my job’ grr…..

    1. SusanIvanova*

      To me it just says “I get several hundred emails a day, if this is urgent please use another method of communication.”

      But then I’ve had work accounts that got several hundred emails a day, and I did sometimes overlook things :)

      1. JulieBulie*

        Yes. People might not have time to read a whole book about how busy she is!

        “Thanks for your email. If your request is urgent, or if you are following up on a request, please IM, call, or text so that I can help you more quickly. “

    2. Lurker*

      There is an external vendor that I need a report from once a year. I normally email her about a month before I need it and she always replies with something along the lines of, “Please send me a reminder email on XX date .” I want to respond and say, “Set up your own reminder in your email that this report is due!” Instead, I just set up an email reminder for myself to remind her to do something I already reminded her about. I don’t why, but it really annoys me.

      1. JulieBulie*

        OMG, that drives me insane. I have a coworker who does that. Er, did that. A few years ago, when asked to provide feedback for my annual review, he told my manager that I should send him more frequent reminders for things that he owes me. (For the record, he deleted or ignored reminders anyway.)

        Apparently, he provided that feedback for a few other people as well. It must have pissed off the wrong person, because rather suddenly, he totally stopped asking people to remind him of things.

        1. The New Wanderer*

          Hopefully that wrong person was his manager, who told him to figure out his own system for reminding himself more to get his work done instead of trying to force others to do so.

          The thing at my former job was to have reminders sent as outlook meeting notices, with whatever recurrence was needed already set in the notice and availability set to “free” so it didn’t appear as a real meeting. Worked pretty well, IMO.

      2. WillowSunstar*

        She can’t just use Outlook herself to set a reminder? It takes less than 5 minutes to do so.

      3. Turquoisecow*

        We used to get biweekly email reminders from the office manager to submit our time sheets. I found it annoying as i was perfectly capable of setting my own reminders.

        My most recent job the HR person told me how the time sheet process worked. “Do you send reminder emails?” I asked. She looked shocked and confused, and said no, she expected people to remind themselves.

        1. Lurker*

          I have to do this too. We have internal reports that are due at the end of the month, every month. I send out a reminder email a week before they are due, then a reminder the day before, then again day of. Overdue reports get a phone call. I don’t understand it…but if I don’t send the reminders I’d be waiting for weeks for something that literally takes about 5 minutes for them to do. I set up a reminder for myself to send out the email and follow up – I don’t know why others can’t do that. (Or when my s.o. is like, “can you remind me to…?” and I suggest that they put a reminder in their phone, but they don’t want to.)

      4. AKchic*

        I had a boss that expected me to send out reminders for meetings. At one point, I was taking minutes for 6-8 meetings a week for him, and he wanted calendar invites for him for each meeting (which he ignored), calendar invites for each person for each meeting (no biggie), email reminders one month out, 2 weeks out, one week out (with agenda, depending on when the last meeting was), the day before (with agenda and minutes from the last meeting) and the day of (with agenda and minutes from last meeting). The hand-holding involved was ridiculous.

    3. Marmite*

      I used to have a manager whose internal out of office said something similar (although less waffle-y) but what it actually translated to was “I frequently exceed my e-mail storage allowance and am therefore not able to send any e-mails until I sort it out, which is not a priority for me.”

  27. John Ames Boughton*

    I honestly wonder if she even realizes auto-reply is on – I could imagine her turning it on and forgetting to turn it off. Partly this may be my implicit bias against people who use Papyrus, though.

  28. Else*

    Also, LiterallyPapyrus, this is actually is a “big deal” – it is more than annoying; it is having a negative impact on your ability to do your work and on your team’s ability to communicate. I’d be thinking words about her all the time. LOTS of words. And not very nice ones. Good luck on getting her to function like a co-worker.

  29. Marmite*

    I work with someone who does this too (minus the ‘be blessed’ part)! We’re both full-time work from home and I think my coworker has the permanent auto-reply on as she’s more flexible with her working hours than she’s really supposed to be. I guess the theory is getting the auto-reply makes the e-mailer feel like my colleague is present and busy even if she’s not.

    I also used to work with a lawyer who had a permanent auto-reply on stating her unconventional office hours and I once asked her why she didn’t just put her hours in her e-mail signature. She said she’d tried that and people didn’t notice it.

  30. WillowSunstar*

    In my office, if we are really busy, we can put an auto-reply stating we are busy working on urgent projects, but will get back to you in 24 hours. I would recommend something like that if that’s the reason why she does it. If there is no necessary response time to a question, and she’s not really busy, I think it is overdone.

    I would wonder if perhaps there was OCD involved. I dealt once with a co-worker who was very OCD about replying to e-mails, even e-mails that were totally unnecessary for him to reply to.

  31. Kate*

    Why not just cc the boss every time you get the out of office? Or forward the request to the boss with something along the lines of: “in Jane’s absence….” that should solve the issue pretty quickly.

  32. LadyCop*

    Doesn’t communicate well in any medium, passive aggressive, and defensive? And uses Papyrus?? I have seen people fired for far less!

  33. Chickaletta*

    I have a similar coworker – difficult to communicate with in any medium, often doesn’t reply or when she does it’s curt, she’s highly defensive even about something harmless, etc. My department uses Skype often for IM because we have quite a few remote workers, she’s one of them, and her status is always set to busy. I always thought that was weird, like did she think we think she’s not working if it’s set to available? It’s just makes her look aggressive and distant, but like I said, it goes with her overall communication style.

  34. Museuologist*

    Ack, people who do not follow specific brand guidelines are one of my biggest work pet peeves! You always get one or two that take it beyond the wrong colour or size font and it is SO noticeable when there is inconsistency. My previous employer had a programme that determined our signatures for us (save for phone number, name and title) so we couldn’t edit what the marketing team wanted to say.

    In slight defensive of the permanent out of office, said previous job involved me up and down throughout the museum all day long, often in ridiculously long meetings or cover admissions without access to computers. Having a regular out of office on days when I knew I would rarely be sat down was certainly useful, but I always made sure my colleagues could find me or external emailers knew I wouldn’t get back right away.

  35. Belle*

    I know we don’t work in the same office, but we might as well! My boss has us all set auto-replies that say we will get to their message as soon as we are able. It drives me ABSOLUTELY BONKERS to have an auto-reply on my email when I’m in the office but you gotta do what the boss says!

  36. KH*

    You’re the PM right? You are responsible for the outcome of the project, and have a duty to correct or call to attention issues that impact the positive outcome to the project.

    As PM, usually nobody reports to you, but the employees do work for you, in a sense.
    For smaller stuff, you just bring it up through the day to day work. Stuff like asking employees to show up to meetings on time, let you when they will be out office, complete work on time, contribute in meetings, etc. For bigger stuff, you should work with their manager(s) to set expectations/boundaries for working on your project. If there are any questions about responsibility/task breakdown/desired or undesired behavior, you talk to that person’s manager first, and talk to the employee after reaching consensus. Usually the employee’s manager would speak to the employee.

    In this case I’d talk to the manager first. You might agree that you will ask the employee to stop, or they might do it. You might find that the manager asks their subordinates to do this (for whatever strange reason).

  37. Lindsey*

    I recently had a problem where my employee never had his out of office reply on, even when out of the office, and even after I reminded him several times. Turns out, he thought that he just needed to fill it out (the text) but didn’t realize he needed to check the box saying to actually send the message. He’s a recent grad and just assumed that since he was putting out of office appointments on his calendar so Outlook would just link it up and figure it out. Once I learned this, I told him he needed to select the option to turn the message on. The next day, he was in the office, but I got an autotreply. After asking him why, turns out he still assumed that Outlook figured out when he was out of office from his calendar. He turned it on, but he didn’t select a date range – he didn’t realize he’d need to turn it on/off, and still just thought it would do it automatically. It’s actually not a crazy thought, if you’ve never used Outlook before (even though I don’t think it’s that complicated). And he’d been working here a year at this point, but only recently started reporting to me. Under his old manager, he’d never had the away message on.

    Just mentioning because it’s possible she doesn’t know, as crazy as that sounds. Point it out!

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