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My question is more regarding career etiquette and maybe "social / emotional quotient", but for me it is a matter of "personal productivity" and I think it would be a great fit here. Sorry also if the question title isn't precise, I'm no Native speaker, please don't hesitate to edit it.

Recently, I often received "Out of office" auto-replies. And these drive me crazy. Though - to their professional defense - those emails in almost all cases do include an alternative contact person, which is recommended to be contacted "in urgent cases" or "if the matter is urgent".

We have got a problem here though: When is a matter truly urgent? As we are all human and inherently subjective and "self-involved", I dare to say that we all like to assume that our personal / professional matter delivered to the "out of office" recipient is of urgency or such importance that it can't wait.

While I am aware of this tendency, I can't claim that a certain impatience, tension and maybe even anxiety builds up at the prospect of ones matter not being addressed at all for the next 10-14 days. But for me it is very important to be respectful, reasonable and act adequately in my response, thus I try to not just forward the issue at hand right away. But it is hard for to define objective and fair criteria on which I should measure and decide if my issue should better be processed by the colleague of my recipient or not. Because I know that, if I'd never forward my e-mail, I'd also often do myself a big disservice, as such delays may objectively impact my ability to proceed or act on information that is thus yet withheld from me.

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I think it is a matter of my priorities:

  1. Have I been given a deadline by a boss or client?
  2. Am I unable to reschedule this task? e.g. Can't wait until next week because I'm at a conference.
  3. There is no negative history of contacting this other person. I'd be less inclined to automatically call, but it is something to think about.

A big problem in many places is another name is given, but that person has not been informed about any existing problems or they have little understanding about what the "forwarder" does. If that's the case, it's just a waste of time, but someone needs to know that this alternate person is not the best solution.

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