Software

Office challenge: What to do when Read Receipt requests conflict?

In this week's challenge, test your Outlook skills with a special user request for avoiding messages with an attached Read Receipt request.

One of your Outlook users screens email messages for her boss, and Read Receipt requests pose a problem. The boss doesn't want to refuse the request but doesn't want the sender thinking that she's actually read the message before she has. Can you satisfy both needs? The user needs to screen email and the boss wants to respond to the receipt request only when she's read the email.

Don't make the solution any harder than necessary and a compromise is acceptable (that's your only clue).

About

Susan Sales Harkins is an IT consultant, specializing in desktop solutions. Previously, she was editor in chief for The Cobb Group, the world's largest publisher of technical journals.

16 comments
jbenton
jbenton

Read the e-mail in the preview pane (copying the content if a reply is needed) then delete the original e-mail "unread". This sends a "deleted without being read" receipt (which can be swiftly followed by a reply containing the original text). It is worth noting that a receipt of any sort neither confirms or denies that an item has been read or even delivered.

dhays
dhays

We don't have a "read receipt", it is called a "delivery receipt." I use it to ensure the person I sent it to has received the message. I do not use it on everything. I mainly use it on a weekly email that is a reminder of the items they have that need evaluation (by others) and the completed item returned to me for organizational completion, all with a due date.

DigAPony1969
DigAPony1969

Have you ever run across these people that attach a read receipt to EVERY STINKING EMAIL they send? They even send it for such innocuous notes as "Hey Joe, how are you?" This stuff is maddening. I like many others refuse to send a read receipt on principle, unless the note is from a superior.

elangomatt
elangomatt

My easy solution to the question is just check your mail using the web app for your companies exchange server. For my company anyway, I can read an email message online and there is a link on the page that I'd have to click to send the read receipt. It appears that I can log out and log back in just fine and still have the read receipt option there. Now of course, that isn't taking into account the whole 'to send a read receipt or not to send a read receipt, that is the question' part of this thread. I wonder how many of the frequent users of the read receipt had Novell Groupwise somewhere in their past. We finally moved to Outlook in the last year and I am surprised how many of our users have complained about not having the read/forward/delete trail like they were accustomed to in Groupwise. Generally, I really don't have a problem with read receipts as long as the original sender uses it right. It is not OK to request a read receipt by default on every email (one user that I know about in my company does this). It is also not ok to assume that receiving a read receipt means that I am answering the email right away. I don't really have any users that do this. I might have some research to do or am working on something else at the moment. I usually do try answer emails fairly quickly though. I figure I can't complain about other people taking forever (a couple of hours) to answer an email if I don't make it a habit of answering fairly quickly.

doug
doug

Non-Technical Solution There are too many Cons for Request Read Receipts and not enough Pros. 1. We learned that many prospects are offended by requests of read receipts. They often feel its too intrusive. It was worse when a sales person would call the prospect moments (if not seconds) after receiving the Read Receipt in their in-box. 2. Internally, there was a lot of controversy and spirited debates about using read receipts. We call can come up with examples. 3. Externally, not all email systems have a Request Read Receipt feature. Working with contractors and vendors who are using Google (or Google Apps), Yahoo, etc. etc. Their read receipt requests just does not exist. Therefore, it was a conscious effort to cultivate a culture of email etiquette. As part of this effort, the request read receipts were turned-off. Instead, if someone requested a action item. They would include verbiage asking when the person might be able to get it done. If no action item, they would request (as part of their closing paragraph) the sender to acknowledge the email. As with many things, change was not easy. However, over time, efficiency and productivity increased because communication improved. People were interacting in lieu of "throwing it over the wall."

dougdoyle
dougdoyle

Tom is right. it's my business when I decide to respond to an email. For those that don't manage email well the read receipt is a good tool. Anyone used to responding to all required emails the point becomes mute. I often want to mull over a response before I send it. Instead of a read receipt add a delivery receipt. Then you at least know it's reached the mail server.

RR Flyer
RR Flyer

Outlook 2007: Tools: Options: Email Options: Tracking Options: set "Ask me before sending a response"

tom.marsh
tom.marsh

As a rule, I do not (ever) allow a "read receipt" to be sent to a sender. For one thing, it's none of their business when (or even IF) I choose to read their message. Besides this, there are also boundaries issues to consider. As an example, if you're an insomniac who reads messages at 3am, the absolute LAST thing you want is to set the expectation that you're reading email and ready to respond at 3am, especially if your insomnia is intermittent or, as it does for some sufferers, simply goes away. But let a few read-receipts leak out, and the next thing you know people will EXPECT you to read their emails sent after midnight. Because once the expectation exists in the minds of your superiors, you're stuck with either reading email at 3am or eventually getting chewed out for "I expected you to be checking email," when you "miss" a 3am missive from your boss about some mundane subject. Because you were, you know, asleep. Good luck ever changing that without leaving the company or utterly torpedoing your upward mobility in that company by complaining about it. For another, frequent users of "read-receipts" are often under the (mistaken) notion that email delivery is guaranteed. In fact, unless your company controls the mail-server you're sending to, nobody (anywhere) is required to accept your incoming email. This is especially hard to pound into the heads of marketing types: Just because you send a message to Yahoo that the account owner asked for doesn't mean Yahoo has to deliver it. It also doesn't mean anybody out there is going to read it. ...Or even receive it in the first place.

bethernet
bethernet

The user could screen the e-mails in the Reading Pane without triggering the Read Receipt (by going into reading pane options and uncheck 'mark item as read when viewed in the reading pane') and the boss can read emails "normally" and trigger the Read Receipt as she actually reads the emails. I am not advocating the use of read receipts, I am simply answering the question.

elangomatt
elangomatt

Yep, there is one person in my organization that does that. She thinks she is much more important than she really is too. I usually only give her the satisfaction of getting a read receipt if it is an email that I am not going to answer right away or is actually important. Thankfully, most of the emails from her are just wanting acknowledgement that I received a certain email so I usually deny the read receipt and say "Yes I got that email".

dogknees
dogknees

You're right, it's up to you to decide when you read it. All I'm saying is that I have a right, in a commercial environment, to know that you have done so. Frankly, I would not usually care or take note of when you happened to read it, all I care about is that you have, and that I can therefore move onto another task. An example. A colleague emails a request for information. I respond. He then later claims to have not received the information. A read-receipt is evidence that this is not the case. I have no problem with you ignoring it, but claiming to have not received it is just dishonest. Something that has no place in a business setting.

dogknees
dogknees

In your final paragraph, you rightly point out that you can't rely on email reaching it's destination. A read receipt gives me confirmation that it has. In a business setting, some people will deny receiving emails. Read receipts are the cure for this "disease". In a corporate environment, it is the senders business if and when a person reads emails they've sent. Particularly when all employees sign an agreement to the effect that email is commercial correspondence with all the requirements for style and usage that implies.

Marguerite13
Marguerite13

We also have a few people that send read receipt requests. I have my options set to choose or not choose to send a read receipt. I like these, because it means I don't need to respond to an email when the sender only needs to know if I read it. I also send read receipts to busy departments when I don't need a response, but do need to know it was acknowledged.

VPerkins2
VPerkins2

I don't know what sort of mail environment you have but at my office we're running Exchange and almost everyone has a company BlackBerry. It is possible for my users to accidentally delete an e-mail from their BB without having read it -- if their BB is set to 'Delete Confirmation = No'. I'm just saying that sometimes the issue isn't a matter of honesty. However, whenever I run into people such as you describe, my co-worker and I have an agreement to copy each other on the e-mail (or reply). This does two things for us: It let's the recipient know that someone else knows about the (non-confidential) matter; and it keeps my co-worker and I in sync on the issue. This has the added benefit of keeping both of us from working on the same requests/issues.

flotsam70
flotsam70

The "read" receipt should never have been invented exactly because of schmucks like you. You don't need the meddlesome read receipt to determine whether your message was delivered. That's the purpose of the delivery receipt.

tom.marsh
tom.marsh

I've seen "Read Receipts" Abused too Many times the other way to agree with you. Once a complainer has that read-receipt in hand you are then instantly painted into a corner defined by the other person's (undefined, possibly unreasonable) expectations. There's a clock ticking, but you have no idea how much time is on it. Loaded down with the standard 200% IT workload? Too bad: When the sender perceives that "enough" time has passed after seeing the read receipt they start complaining. "Why isn't this done yet? You read it yesterday!" as if there are no other priorities in the entire universe except that person's email. And yes, I could drop everything to look at the calendar and schedule whatever work they want immediately, and write them a reply immediately, but that defeats 100% of the convenience of e-mail as opposed to an IM or face-to-face conversation. The whole point of an email is that I have time to read their message, give it thoughtful contemplation, and reply intelligently. If I can't, the email becomes a time burglar instead of a communications device. Another intrusion on productivity instead of a mechanism of it. If you need an instant response, send an IM, call me, walk over, or raise a ticket--don't send an email with a "Read Receipt" and use that as the baseline for unreasonable expectations. "Read Receipts" don't really cure lying in the workplace, they just lead to people searching Google for "How to disable the sending of read receipts in Outlook." One of the other posters posted a very good methodology for dealing with "Didn't receive it" liars: Copy your boss or co-worker on messages to "problem" people. Finally, Exchange administrators can easily pull logs and tell you (down to the second) when a message got delivered to somebody's mailbox. If somebody is consistently lying about not receiving messages that's an issue for H.R., and your Exchange admin can easily forward logs or whatever you need for that investigation.

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