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I emailed an inquiry to a Partner in a marketing firm. I received a standardized rote response directly from his email address. It had his name in the email signature.

My name was misspelt in the email. I am wondering if he wrote the response himself, or it was done by his personal assistant. It would give me an idea of how seriously he took my email.

Is it a common business practice to let one's personal assistants manage one's email?

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    Are you asking about the technical possibility that someone could be sending emails on behalf of someone else? Or the legal/ethical ramifications of impersonating someone else's email? Or the potential that the PA could be doing this as part of their duties, with the consent of the partner? – dwizum May 21 '18 at 19:20
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    "Can PAs answer?" It is whatever the PA got assigned to do. Seems like yes. – Sandra K May 21 '18 at 19:21
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    It's totally possible to have multiple people using the same "from" address, with rules and whitelists that control who sees which messages. Is it technically possible? Yes. Is it common practice? Somewhat. Did it happen today, for your specific message? We will probably never know (unless you ask them and they tell you, which is doubtful). – dwizum May 21 '18 at 19:32
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    Voting to close as company specific. There is no way we can know the answer to this. The only people who could know the answer to this are the people you are trying to contact. – David K May 21 '18 at 19:43
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    I would also advise against getting worked up over someone misspelling or mispronouncing your name. Over the course of your career, that is going to happen to you several times. I have worked with Europeans and Americans for a decade now, and the number of times my name has been pronounced correctly can be counted by fingers of one hand. People make mistakes, usually unintentionally, take in your stride and move on. – Masked Man May 22 '18 at 3:44
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While perhaps not as common as it used to be it's not unheard of, certainly in larger organisations where the individual is very senior and receives a large volume of mail.

As pointed out in the comments by Masked Man depending upon the setup of the organisation's e-mail sometimes this will be made explicitly obvious that the e-mail was sent by a delegate, absence of such is not a cast-iron guarantee that it was sent by the person whose name is on it - I've seen setups where the PA logged into the executive's webmail and carried out actions from there for example.

However while I understand that this isn't strictly what you asked but I would suggest you might be over-thinking this. A misspelled name on an e-mail is rarely anything more than that and attempting to read anything significant into that isn't particularly useful I'm afraid.

  • I agree, with one exception. It is fairly common for a lawyer to have someone else read and respond to email. – Keltari May 22 '18 at 21:24
  • @Keltari: Yes, a lot depends on the company culture. With lawyers it's quite common. I have also seen it in non-IT businesses where the owner or boss does not feel comfortable with computers, so delegates email to someone else. – sleske May 23 '18 at 9:20
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The question asked is,

Is it a common business practice to let one's personal assistants manage one's email?

Yes. It is both technically possible, and common, for publicly-visible individuals (CEOs, partners, etc). within a company to have help from an admin assistant or PA answering emails from the public.

The PA role is typically responsible for filtering and focusing: Helping the senior employee provide the most effective input on the most relevant topics/problems. Often, part of this role is handling "easier" tasks as a representative of the senior employee - things like opening mail, managing calendars, and responding to basic questions with pre-approved messages.

From a technical perspective, it's easy in most email systems to set up delegation: The senior employee allows the PA access to their mailbox, for the purpose of performing this role. The messages may still come from the senior employee's address, and there may be no indication that the PA sent the message. This is the modern-day equivalent of an admin assistant typing up a letter and either having the senior employee sign it, or rubber-stamping the signature.

In less-saavy environments, this may be done via sharing the senior employee's password, though this is not exactly best practice.

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You are taking this way too personal.

Would it make you feel better if the partner answered your mail in a hurry on his mobile phone and slipped on his touchscreen? A spelling mistake in an email is not the end of the world. And neither is the use of a template for emails.

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It is common. What is completely uncommon is PAs signing as partners. I don't think I've ever come across anything like this. It is normally very clear if the email was answered by a PA, not a manager/ partner/ CEO. I don't think any manager/ partner/ CEO would accept their PA signing as them either.

But you are overthinking it. It was probably him and I can't see why you would try to find out whether it was him or another person.

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