While von vacation with my family at the home of my sister-in-law and her husband, I tried to disconnect as much as possible. That being said, I found myself checking emails each morning and forwarding things to be handled, etc. in my absence. This routine left the rest of my day to enjoy time away from work.
One morning, while checking his email, my sister-in-law’s husband read me an auto-reply from one of his colleagues, who was also on vacation.
“What of do you think of this auto reply?” he asked.
Since I don’t have the text of the auto-reply, the following is a paraphrase:
“Thank you for your email. I am on vacation this week, and would normally say that I have limited access email. However, since we all have mobile devices and generally have access to email, I will say that I will be checking things on occasion. Since this is a vacation, and my wife says I have to refrain from working, chances are I won’t be responding to your email. If it is absolutely critical that your issue be handled this week, please resend the email, marking it “urgent” and I will attempt to forward it to someone at the office at some point.”
My response was “wow.” I was slightly impressed with this person’s honesty, but was otherwise taken aback. Compounding my displeasure toward this auto reply was learning that it was written by the SALES AND MARKETING vice president of the company.
Giving (and hoping for) the benefit of the doubt, I asked if this was an “internal only” email address, or was it one for that would go to any person, including customers/clients? Apparently, it was the latter.
The need to take a break and “disconnect” is real. In fact, I encourage my team to get away every so often. However, our clients are the reason we even have jobs (and paid vacations). This auto reply (in my opinion) says several things to clients about this person — and by extension — his company.
- Don’t bother me when I am on vacation.
- Just because you are the client doesn’t give you special privileges.
- We have no balance between business and personal lives at this company.
- My family takes a back seat to work, most of the time.
- Your need can wait till I get back (unless you mark it really, really urgent). Then it might get handled — if you are lucky.
- My company endorses my position on this by virtue of the continued existence of this auto reply.
It is a good thing to take a break from work. In fact, good clients understand this, and are generally willing to wait until after a vacation for a resolution to their needs. However, a vacation is not a “right” to ignore a client — or a colleague for that matter.
Such a brazen attitude, like the one illustrated here, can damage or destroy a relationship. Every time we touch a client or colleague, we either build up our relationship, or damage it.
Emails (even auto responders) are but one way to “touch.” However, they still carry the building and/or destroying power of other forms of communications. Be sure you are careful when you use them — even if you are on vacation.