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My manager, a colleague and I received an email in which we're asked about participating at a workshop (it seems to be pretty important that at least I or my colleague take part).

While we'd both be interested in going it's not a decision that's up to us. It's up to our manager who is currently on holiday.

The person who sent the email is part of our company and way above my current position but I think in a different division.

My questions is should I reply with something like

We would love to take part but we can't give an answer until our manager comes back from vacation.

Or should I just leave it for my manager to answer when he comes back in a few days ?

My manager has an out of office reply so the sender knows that he's currently unavailable

Time may actually be pretty important here.

  • 1
    The main risk is that this delay is not final. What if the manager comes back and says "I got to clarify on this project, I'll let you know the next week." Are you going to delay the answer even more? Or are you going to write "sorry, I delayed answer because I expected to be able to answer today, but..."? It's safer to just give info on the situation instantly. – Džuris Aug 3 '17 at 18:49
  • @Džuris If you are not in the position to take the decision you just shouldn't, even if that delays it. – EpicKip Aug 4 '17 at 7:33
89

Simply ignoring the email could lead the sender to think you're not interested. That's not a big deal, assuming your manager answers quickly on return to the office. Sending one of you will make your interest clear. But - the deadline could be before the manager returns - or before the manager wades through the thousands of emails that accumulated. Therefore, you should reply, to find out whether time is of the essence or not. I suggest something like:

Thanks for the invitation, the workshop sounds excellent. The decision about who to send is up to [manager name], who is away until [date.] What is the deadline for registering?

CC your manager on it and keep it SHORT so your manager will not spot the first few lines and think you've taken care of the whole thing. When you get a reply, if the deadline is very close to the manager's return, forward it with a comment like:

As you can see the deadline for this is the Monday you come back from vacation. Can you approve [me, or me and coworker, or one of us] to go on this please? We would really benefit from [thing in the workshop.]

Make it as smooth and easy as possible for your manager to give the go-ahead.

If the deadline is a week or more after the manager returns, just leave it and discuss it a day or two after the return, allowing some time for dealing with urgent things.

If the deadline is while your manager is still away, take a look at that out of office mail (or go by what your manager told you when announcing the vacation) to see if there's someone else who could approve the request. But it probably won't be.

  • Also, it doesn't hurt to reply, and it's generally a good rule of thumb to reply if at all unsure about whether you should (but of course the contents of the reply could be important). – Dukeling Aug 3 '17 at 13:12
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    Your last paragraph doesn't quite make sense to me. I wouldn't look at my manager's out of office to see if it tells me who to talk to about line management issues in his absence (as you say, it wouldn't anyway), I would just go to my manager's manager. Every employee should know the chain of command at least that far. – AndyT Aug 3 '17 at 14:39
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    @AndyT In some situations the boss doesn't have you go to his manager. In my case, the IT department is split in two. If one manager is out, you go to the other manager. While I may know this, our new hires don't, so he adds it to the email Out Of Office notifications. Also, sometimes he DOES want us to go to his direct manager with issues, so he'll include that. Always helpful to check. – SliderBlackrose Aug 3 '17 at 15:38
  • Assuming the manager on vacation may be contacted, is it ever inappropriate to do so, if their absence would lead to an opportunity like in this instance to be missed? – user1997744 Aug 3 '17 at 19:57
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    @AndyT It isn't uncommon for an out of office email to include something along the lines of "I am currently out of the office until (date). If there are any pressing issues, you may reach out to (contact) in my stead, they should be able to help with anything you need. Otherwise, I will reply as soon as I have an opportunity when I get back." – Doc Aug 3 '17 at 20:28
4

Your suggested answer is perfectly fine. Put yourself in the shoes of the sender. She needs to know what will happen next. She may have no idea that this is up to your manager or whether you do not want to go at all. Getting no reply could mean anything.

4

If your manager is on vacation and can't make this decision. Just go talk to your manager's boss and discuss how you should handle this. See if he can make the decision about who can/cannot go to the workshop, and then inform your manager by email.

I don't think your company will stop working just because someone is on vacation. Someone should be in charge of your manager functions while he is gone.

  • "go and talk to your manager boss" This. – Neolisk Aug 3 '17 at 18:58
  • I'd be very careful to skip my boss. First, your boss' boss may not want to deal with stuff 2 levels below him, and why should he? That's what the hierarchy is for. By going to him you imply that your workshop is more important than your boss' boss time. Second, it makes your boss look bad and (s)he may feel cut out of the discussion. You're questioning your boss' authority / competence. If you boss should have taken care of this before vacation, you're throwing your boss under the bus. – Robert Aug 3 '17 at 22:50
  • @Robert You are overreacting. Where I work we are a team. If something need to be done you work as a team to try to solve it. For what I read this workshop wasnt in schedule before so isnt like his boss fail on doing his work. And if your boss's boss is such a diva and cant help a coworker because is "two levels" down then that is another problem. – Juan Carlos Oropeza Aug 4 '17 at 14:07
2

I don't think it's necessary to respond. The sender followed the proper protocols by including your manager in the email, so your manager is aware. Assuming that this person understands that your manager is the one who will be making the decision, the out-of-office reminder from your manager has told them that they shouldn't expect a reply immediately. If they do need something sooner, they can go to whoever is covering for your manager.

However, I would say that if your manager didn't have an out-of-office reply set up or the out-of-office reply was incorrect (perhaps he decided to extend the vacation, didn't put when he would be back in the office, or didn't include an alternate contact for things that require immediate attention), then I would recommend replying to give this information to the sender and allow them to make a determination on what to do - go to someone else or wait for your manager to return.

  • Key word: assuming. I don't think it's safe to assume.... – cale_b Aug 3 '17 at 14:15
  • @cale_b Normally, I'd agree with you. But a person who is a level or two above your manager, especially one that you don't know well or interact with regularly should be treated with additional respect. Informing them of organizational policies that they likely know about would not be respectful and may rub them the wrong way. Or they could appreciate it. Or they could ignore it. I'd err on the side of caution. – Thomas Owens Aug 3 '17 at 14:23

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