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Letters to the Editor: The ex-employee e-mail debate

What do you do with an ex-employee's e-mail account? Let us count the ways. We've received a ton of e-mail from members about a series of tips we published on how to handle the time and space-consuming problem of mail addressed to employees who no longer work at your company. Here are some new solutions and comments.

What do you do with an ex-employee's e-mail account? Let us count the ways. We've received a ton of e-mail from members about a series of tips we published on how to handle the time and space-consuming problem of mail addressed to employees who no longer work at your company. Here are some new solutions and comments. Additional suggestions are always welcome. Send them to

Phillip Vong wrote:

I read your recent tip on handling ex-employee e-mail. I think it would be easier to create a catch-all group:

  • Create a group called Old Employees.
  • DO NOT add anyone to the group.
  • E-mail-enable this group.
  • Assign this group to accept e-mails for all old accounts.
  • It may take awhile to list all the ex-employees' e-mails, but it's worth it. The group will accept all their e-mails, but since there's no one in the group, it just drops the e-mail. No NDR, no bad mail, no maintenance -- and, you can add up to 200 e-mails per group (I think).

    Ken Mallinson wrote:

    Two recent articles on handling ex-employee e-mail, "Handling a former employee's e-mail" part 1 and part 2 touched on two things.

    With the first option, someone with the correct permissions to the ex-employee's e-mail account had to have access to it; most of the time you would have to show that person exactly how to get in there, or it is yourself using your own time to simply check e-mail.

    With the second option, you send all e-mails back out to the ex-employee, thereby losing any potential gathering of customer wishes and requests that should go to the company. Plus, if the ex-employee is staying anywhere in the same industry, they might or might not be considered a competitor now.

    I have been using the "Delivery Options" feature to forward mail to the ex-employee's own manager; this acts as a reminder in some ways. The manager will continue to get e-mail for the ex-employee, and when they feel they are tired of the junk mail or a set length of time has pasted, the account can be removed.

    Arnold Lane wrote:

    The problem with the previous tips, "Handle a former employee's mail," part 1 and part 2, is that customer contact with the ex-employee is lost.

    My tip maintains that contact and removes the ex-employee from Exchange. Also, the ex-employee may go on to subscribe to newsletters or spam lists giving his/her old company e-mail address. Better if no e-mails are forwarded to an ex-employee (do you forward his/her post mail or phone calls?).

    So, what you want to do is: set up an unused e-mail account hidden from the address book, give yourself user access to it and add the ex-employees e-mail address to its list of e-mail addresses (recipient properties/e-mail addresses).

    You have to check every day, but all you have to do is see if the e-mail is from a customer or not. E-mail from a customer can be forwarded to the relevant person who has taken over for your ex-employee, and then just delete all personal e-mail. In a short while the e-mail stops, as customers start e-mailing the new employee.

    Stratis Narliotis wrote:

    I read your recent tips on how to handle former employee e-mails. I agree with the third tip, because you would not want company information forwarded to an ex-employee. You also need to be able to have e-mails from customers dealt with on a timely basis. If you forward e-mails from the old employee to his/her manager, they are not always sure where the e-mail is from. And if you set up a dummy box, you have to remember to check it every day or risk missing important client e-mails.

    My preferred method for dealing with this is to give the manager rights to the old employee's mailbox and have them open that mailbox from their own desktop in Outlook.

    Once you set it up properly, it looks like a new mailbox complete with the Outlook warnings for new pending messages. This way, the manager does not have to remember to check the mailbox -- they know exactly where the messages are coming from and can deal with business-related messages appropriately.

    After some time, or when the e-mails coming in are only junk, remove the permissions and mailbox from the manager's Outlook setup.

    Steven Teiger wrote:

    I've been reading all the tips that members have been sending in recently about how to deal with ex-employee e-mail. This is how I would do it.

    Create a public folder of ex-employees (and departments under that, if the organization is big enough).

    Give the appropriate managers access to the relevant folders when an employee leaves, then delete the ex-employee's mailbox and add that e-mail address to the relevant public folder.

    Set an appropriate age limit on the folder (e.g. 30 days). This should give managers enough time to pick out any important company mail, let the administrator unsubscribe any further mail lists, and not clog up the server with old mail, since it is deleted automatically after a set time.

    Tim Fenner wrote:

    The issue with this tip is that you have to clear out the user's mailbox periodically, which takes up time and effort. This way, you do not have to:

    1. Open Active Directory Users and Computers on the Exchange server (or on a system that has the Exchange admin tools installed).
    2. Select the organizational unit that stores the ex-employee's account. From the action menu at the top, choose New -> Contact. This will start the Create a New Contact wizard.
    3. Give the contact any name you wish, typically one that references the ex-employee's external address. Then click next.
    4. On the e-mail portion of the wizard, click the modify button and choose SMTP address.
    5. On the general tab, enter in the ex-employee's external/home e-mail address and click OK.
    6. Click Next to continue the wizard, then Finish to complete the contact.
    7. Next, open the Properties sheet of the ex-employee's main account (right click on account, choose Properties).
    8. Choose the Exchange General tab from the Properties sheet.
    9. Click on the Delivery Options button.
    10. Under the Forwarding Address section, bullet Forward To: and select the modify button.
    11. Find the contact that you just created as the account to forward to and choose OK.
    12. If you do not want to have to clean out this user's mailbox, uncheck the deliver messages to both the forwarding address and mailbox. (This will take any message to that mailbox and forward it to the contact specified, without leaving a message in the mailbox that retrieved the message.)
    13. If you wish to hide the main account and contact, do the following:

      Open Active Directory Users and Computers.
      From the View menu, choose Advanced Features.
      Navigate to the user you wish to hide and open that user's properties sheet (right click, choose properties).
      On the Exchange Advance tab, choose to hide from exchange address lists.

    Editor's note: We always appreciate feedback from our members about If you have suggestions or comments, please let us know. is not responsible for the validity or workability of these tips. These tips are contributed by our members as their opinions.

    Do you have questions or comments to contribute? Let us know what you think.

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