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I'm working as PM, we have developers and senior managers working remotely and in-house.

As a project manager, I'm at the center of all communications. The job of managing N lines of communication falls on my shoulders and can get overwhelming at times.

I'm using Microsoft Outlook 2007, it is equipped with cool option "Request a Read Receipt" while sending mails. At receiver's end a popup window will appear upon opening mail, asking whether or not to send read receipt to sender.

It will help me to know whether sender received and opened the mail I sent.

In my office we all use MS Outlook.

My questions is, is this a bad manners or etiquette to add this option while sending mails to Senior Managers and Clients?

Keep in mind that in my role as project manager, it's critical that I get feedback as to whether or not people on my team received my communications. If I worked in a field outside project management, I would not consider using "Request Read Receipt".

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I encourage you to edit your question to make it more specific to project management. Your question could also be asked as a programmer, accountant, professor, publisher, or editor. To keep your question from being closed, you should make sure it meets the guidelines in the FAQ and is specific to project management. It's a good question, but in it's current format, it's not on-topic. –  jmort253 Feb 22 '11 at 5:53
    
@jmort253 - Updated my question as per your suggestion, hope this update is ok. Till now your answer is acceptable, i'm just waiting for some more response. –  Coder Hawk Feb 22 '11 at 6:33
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I just made some edits too, but you would have to approve them (assuming that you can see them. I'm not exactly sure how peer review works on edits). I think that if we make it clear that this question is important to project management because communication is somehow more important or difficult in this role, then we can justify keeping it open. Feel free to modify my edits to match your own words :) Thanks again for helping to make this an awesome question for this site! –  jmort253 Feb 22 '11 at 7:07
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If something is important enough to justify a read receipt, it is probably better to talk to the person directly. –  Magnus Apr 4 '12 at 10:47
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17 Answers 17

Always seems unprofessional to me and can lead to bad project management.

Just because someone received the email

  1. Doesn't absolve you of the responsibility of following-up on any action item in it
  2. Nor does it give you the "out" of saying that the recipient should've known better since you had "informed" them via the email they received.
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I have the same feeling thats why I asked this question. I'm waiting for some more responses, it looks like major response is its unprofessional. –  Coder Hawk Feb 22 '11 at 6:37
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I forgot about these, until the other day when I got a new PC, and outlook prompted me. I promptly went into the options and told outlook to ignore them, as I have done.. always. I have never received grief for this (since effectively I never send read responses, or even know they were requested). I think they are rude and don't mean anything, they certainly don't match my style of handling email, where I often will skim a message to see if my attention should shift or not, then leave it unread so I can deal with it after I'm done whatever I'm working on. –  gregmac Mar 19 '11 at 6:10

Based on my experience, most of the people I work with see it as rude.

It is also unreliable. At the majority of locations where I have been involved in Exchange server design, read-receipts and delivery-receipts were blocked at the server level. Occasionally, this was seen as an anti-spam measure, occasionally as a privacy-protection measure, but mostly as a "Who the hell thought this was a good idea" reaction.

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Well I feel my question is about Project Management, because PM have to consider interpersonal skills too... –  Coder Hawk Feb 21 '11 at 9:51
    
I faced issues and didn't received receipt even after the receiver sends it; with exchange server and other mail server anti-spam policies. –  Coder Hawk Feb 21 '11 at 9:53

The answer to this question depends largely on how you use this "cool option". Request Read Receipt is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used, or it can be abused.

The best way to use a tool such as this is when follow up by you is immediately necessary. For example, a good way to make use of this tool could be to use the "mail read" option to proactively and quickly make a phone call to a client to ask if their issue has been resolved. It can be a tool to know that your manager is actively thinking about a problem you're having that you specifically need their help with.

The advantage you have in these situations is that, for the next few minutes after the read receipt, you know you can call or otherwise drop in on your client or manager and know that you're not interrupting them or taking their thought away from something else.

When dealing with clients, this will wow them. Instead of expecting them to respond to the email, you take the burden away and also appear more responsive. When dealing with managers, this may show you as being organized, proactive, and on the ball.

On the other hand, if you use this tool to keep tabs on people and don't follow the receipt up with a phone call or a visit, then you do run the risk of coming off as rude.

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I agree, mainly I'm looking for receipts to follow up. –  Coder Hawk Feb 21 '11 at 9:56
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This is the most sensible way to think about "read receipts" I've read in my entire live. Thanks for make me think "different". –  Huibert Gill Apr 4 '12 at 8:48

I can't stand that option. Several people in our office have it turned on for all messages, and whenever you get an email from them, there is a popup that says "So-and-so has requested a Read Receipt. Would you like to send a Read Receipt?" So keep in mind that your recipient can say "no", and also, you might be annoying them.

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Some people from mine office feels the same. We can set send receipt for all received an opened mails, then there won't be annoying popups. –  Coder Hawk Feb 21 '11 at 13:18
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+1 @Marcie. Its unreliable and can be very annoying. –  Mark Phillips Feb 21 '11 at 16:08
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I see it as Rude, as well as conveys a message of not trusting/empowering the people you are working with. –  Yuval Feb 28 '11 at 6:33
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I find it annoying to communicate with people that ALWAYS sends receipts. I never approve the send back when outlook asks. –  nwill Apr 3 '12 at 15:40

This is only triggered when someone opens the message. I tend to read everything in the reading pane in Outlook 2007/2010, so I never open any messages per se.

I have also selected "No" when prompted because I have thought it was rude, but that is just my $0.02.

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It would be better to use only the Delivery receipt feature then you know your email was delivered to the destination.

I don't know exactly, but a think the mail server answers automatically the delivery receipt confirmation.

Unless you need to use the Read receipt feature as jmort253 stated you should not use it.

I always use the Delivery receipt feature because I had some problems in the past with the mail server and couldn't know the destination wasn't receiving my mails. So it caused an misunderstanding about my collaboration which took much more effort to solve.

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I think 'Delivery Receipt' only is a good suggestion. –  Coder Hawk Feb 22 '11 at 6:38

Not sure if it rates as "bad manners", but most people in senior management are busy. They may have lots of direct reports and their subordinates copying them on dozens of emails per day in order to "keep them in the loop". Combine that with communications they initiated, meeting invitations and spam, the number of emails can easily run into the hundreds per day.

If you were one of these managers, how would you view an employee who routinely turned a one click operation (open message) into a two-click operation (open, answer question about receipt). Eventually, people will either:

  1. Learn how to disable read receipt notifications.
  2. Learn how to create a mail rule shunting all your mail to their junk folder.

Regarding clients: just because you use Outlook, it's not reasonable to assume your clients will. Many others have indicated that mail receipts in general is a feature left over from the more innocent (less spam) days of the 80's and 90's. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but was so abused by spammers as a tracking device, that most mail systems and clients turn these notifications off by default.

I also think Mark's answer is great: asking for a receipt doesn't absolve you responsibility to follow up.

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I see it as Rude, as well as conveys a message of not trusting/empowering the people you are working with.

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It's bad practice ... it doesn't make sense in this modern era of automation. You're making an assumption that the recipient bothered to read your email while forgotting that email systems can automatically send read receipts.

enter image description here

As you can see in this image Outlook could automatically be sending you a read receipt. In my settings, I have this set to Never send a receipt.

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If someone turns on "request read receipt" then I set up a rule to route all their messages to a sub folder with their name. I then only check the stuff once per day, setting aside a block of time (usually an hour) each day for them, rather than click on their email every time it arrives. While this comes across as "passive agressive" on both our parts (the read receipt, as well as the rule), I find that the folks who are always demanding receipts are also asking complicated questions that require research and long responses.

Personally, I am bothered by people who put read receipts on everything. It smacks of being unable to decide what is important (and what isn't) by claiming everything is a number one priority. I have also worked in places were read receipts were used as part of the documentation used to show that someone wasn't doing their job, in order to get them fired. So I have some bad memories left over from some petty machiavellians.

Managing goes both ways: from your boss to you, and from you to your boss.

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A much better option in Office 2010 is "Request Delivery Receipt". That way you have confirmation that your email was sent, and hit their server (for the most part), but do not appear unprofessional to the client.

enter image description here

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I don't see how this answers the question. "it's critical that I get feedback as to whether or not people on my team received my communications" - Delivery receipt simply means it got to their mailbox. It doesn't tell you if the recipient laid eyes on it. It may be in their junk folder. –  flem Dec 27 '12 at 19:37

Any policy must have a reason and must be communicated to the team that these policies apply. It would be highly desirable that the team agrees with the policy or at least doesn't feel uncomfortable being ruled by it, what is easier is if the policy is properly communicated including reasons and benefits. It's some kind of virtuous cycle.

Related to that, @Mark C. Wallace has made very good points about how this feature is used and understood by the team. Internally, it has shown to be useful.

The problem with this kind of policy in the way it is implemented by MS Exchange, is that it is not possible to differentiate between mails sent internally to a team, inside the company, and to external customers or providers. Given that the original question was about use of this setting for "all" emails, I must answer no. I would instead use it in a more limited environment and building on top of other answers given in the thread combine it with "Request Delivery Receipt" as it better serves you.

My personal experience, is that the problem of using this "Read Receipt" comes from misuse. It is understood that if a "Read receipt" is received, what could have been sent automatically as has also been said, the message has been fully read, understood (as it was mean to be understood, extra point) and agreed to any points included what doesn´t need to be the case as the receiver have not even the time to read the mail (for a variety of reasons). And the top problem I have found is that some bully coworkers understand that there are SLA's that apply to mail response (sometimes the time starting even before you open the mail).

As an additional alternatives to the ones provided, in my team, we add to the subject some "tags" to identify the email, easing sorting and clarifying what kind of email is and what is expected:(info)(urgent)(ActReq)(customer1)(project2) are combined so that only the necessary people hurry up to read and reply to the email while the rest will read it when the rest of their tasks permits. And then, the cherry of the cake is to use properly To: and Cc:(Bcc:). In summary, the "read receipt" is a good idea if used properly, but the implementation doesn't help to make a good use of it.

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I'll take the contrarian view. I (and my team) request read receipt.

[Aside: some people have complained that it is unreasonable to ask the principal to respond to each email message. All of us have set "read receipt" to automatic. The system responds without our awareness. My system then automatically files all read receipts in a special folder where they are available, but effectively invisible.)

We're widely geographically separated, we're bureaucratic (meaning decisions are slow) and we're contractors (which means we have no decision making power).

There is however a work pattern that happens not infrequently. We can't continue work until we've documented certain things for our principal. If we have a read receipt from the principal, then that is evidence that we have communicated to the principal and that the principal has had a chance to object. The read receipt is evidence of our due diligence. If on the other hand we don't have a read receipt, then we need to make an effort to find out if the principal has been informed.

The side benefit is that the read receipts serve as an indicator that the principal is actually at work that day. There are other situations where we'd like to reach the principal, but it isn't necessary. If by mid-morning we have no read receipts, then we can conclude that the principal is offsite/sick/annual leave/. That allows us to reschedule.

A third work pattern occurs when we're trying to contact someone new. Read receipt means that they're aware of our attempt to contact. Absence of a read receipt means that we probably have the wrong email address.

Summary: If you set read receipts to automatic, and if the participants are aware of the conventions, then read-receipt can be useful.

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I don't see this necessarily as contrarian. What I do see is a niche setting where a tool is being thoughtfully and subtly used. –  gef05 Aug 8 '12 at 2:36
    
Interesting usage, but it doesn't really answer the question. –  Andrew Clear Aug 20 '12 at 19:55
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Granted - I caveated the answer. OTOH, since the question can't be answered objectively, ("Good Manners" is subjective), I think any adequate answer must include opinions from both sides. I hope I added some value. –  Mark C. Wallace Aug 21 '12 at 10:45

Yes. Not only is it bad manners, it doesn't provide you any useful information as there is no indication as to whether or not the email was actually read.

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Hi aclear, do you think you could expand on this? It seems more like a helpful comment to the question than an answer. See How to Answer for guidance, as adding more detail and explaining why you think your answer is correct may help you get more upvotes and add more value for future visitors. Good luck! :) –  jmort253 Aug 21 '12 at 0:33
    
No. Expansion would simply be fluff. This is a complete answer to a specific question. Writing paragraph does not always imply a superior answer. –  Andrew Clear Aug 21 '12 at 5:35
    
I tend to disagree that it's rude though, since it can be used as a tool to facilitate strategic follow-up conversations. –  jmort253 Aug 21 '12 at 5:51
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Ah, the joys of an unanswerable, and completely subjective question. –  Andrew Clear Aug 21 '12 at 5:53

I don't see it as being bad manners. I also don't see it being a safe way to track whether or not somebody actually read the email. Personally, when I get the message asking "send read receipt" I always click no. I do this because regardless of whether or not I've read the email, I may not have fully digested it, prepared a response, or set tasks based on the content of the email. I don't want the sender to think I've done all that just because I've opened the email.

If it's critical that the recipients read the email, drop a line on the bottom something like this:

May I kindly ask that you confirm receipt of this email and provide feedback where appropriate.

This way, the recipient proves they've read the email by replying, and you're also putting the metaphoric ball in their court.

When I receive an email with a line as such, I flag it, task it, prioritize it, whatever it, before I reply.

Additionally, If I'm the client, I'm even less inclined to return a read receipt, especially if the email has been sat in my inbox for hours (or days). Do I really want the sender to realize I don't read their emails instantly?

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My concern with receipts is with my company provided Android that is sync'd to our corporate server. Unlike my Outlook 2010 client I do not see the return receipt request when reading emails on the droid and a return receipt is automatically sent without my knowledge. I have turned off the setting "Never send a return reciept" in my Outlook 2010 client and while that works for emails read in Outlook a return receipt is still sent when read on my Android. I agree with the majority of folks that this is bad manners and has an air of untrusting...I have one individual at my work that is on my level, that is neither a subordinate nor supervisor/manager that requests a return receipt for every message from all employees. I have discussed the use of this feature with other employees who are also aggravated by this. But then again the individual is untrusting...every email sent is cc'd to both their manager as well as mine whether this is the first email about a topic or an email deep into a topic. I mention this because I find the attitude of the employee is synonomous with the employees need to cya.

I think occasional use of this feature demonstrates a specific need rather than bad manners when used for every email sent. I hope this explanation aids your inquiry.

I'll be unchecking the setting "Never send a return receipt" because I don't to be part of the problem. After all if you argue with a fool how can anyone watching from afar tell the difference?

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Agree with the majority here. Requesting a read receipt on EVERYTHING smacks of paranoia and "control" issues. I NEVER send a read receipt for precisely this reason. I will not feed this neurosis. Sorry.

I have NEVER been asked why I don't send them.

That should tell you that they really ARE NOT important.

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Hello Joe and welcome to PM.SE. Can you elaborate your answer? StackExchange works differently than chat boards: "I agree" does not count to be constructive. Please edit your answer by adding constructive details, why you think it is correct. Care not to duplicate what others said before. It will give upvotes to you and valuable information to those who will read it in the future. See How to Answer for guidelines. –  bytebuster Oct 8 '12 at 21:50

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