How to manage auto replies for retired or dismissed employees?

In various cases, you may encounter a situation when somebody either internally or from outside your organization is trying to contact a person who is no longer with your company. If that happens, your Exchange Server is supposed to send an NDR message to the original sender. But this may not be the best option to deal with automatic replies of ex-employees.

As the possibilities here are limited by Exchange default behavior, you need to check which scenario is your case as this determines the solution. And the scenarios are:

  1. Somebody is trying to contact an employee whose Active Directory account still exists in your Active Directory (even if disabled).
  2. Somebody is trying to contact an employee whose Active Directory account is removed from your Active Directory or never existed.

Auto reply for a former employee

When Active Directory account of a former employee still exists

As long as you have a relevant Active Directory object, you can configure a rule in the program like CodeTwo Exchange Rules Pro to manage emails sent to this account. Firstly, make sure that the object of the user in Active Directory is disabled and the user cannot log in anymore. In this scenario, you are about to configure the software so that every message which is sent to an employee with a disabled AD account is going to generate an auto-reply message, forward it to another email address and finally block the message from being delivered to the original recipient (the one who is disabled in AD).

Important:  The instruction below works if the mailbox of a former employee is not disabled or removed even if their AD account is disabled. The AD account and the mailbox associated with it are different aspects of the system and produce different results.

Set up auto reply for users disabled in AD

To set up an automatic reply in CodeTwo Exchange Rules Pro for disabled recipients, follow these steps:

  1. Open the program, create a new rule and name it.
  2. On the Conditions tab, set Recipient is disabled in AD. This condition makes the rule be executed only for people whose accounts are no longer active. If you need to limit the scope for some groups, you can add another condition of Recipient belongs to AD group.
  3. On the Actions tab,
    Set up actions for messages of retired emploeeys

    1. add the Auto respond action so the sender receives a user-friendly HTML message and not an NDR when sending emails to a former employee. Use the Editor to compose the auto-reply message.
    2. (Optional) add the Forward message action so that you can forward emails sent to the retired employee to another email address in your company.
    3. (Optional) add the Block message action to block messages sent to a former employee so that the messages never reach the recipient. If the original recipient must not ever receive a message after leaving your company, instead of disabling their mailbox, you can block all messages. Keep in mind that this action has to be the very last on the list of actions. Otherwise, the message will be blocked and no other actions will be applied.
  4. On the Options tab, set the rule to If this rule is applied > stop processing next rules.
  5. This is an example of a simple automatic reply message (still it looks more user-friendly than the NDR message):Auto reply

When Active Directory account doesn’t exist anymore or never existed

If the user’s AD account and mailbox no longer exist, you can recreate the account and mailbox and follow the steps from the section above (When AD account exists). However, when you have hundreds of such users, the recreation of deleted accounts can be troublesome.

There are also situations when email addresses that have never existed in your company are used by some people to send emails to for whatever reason. If that happens, you can create a fake disabled AD account and an active mailbox to which you can add all the problematic addresses as aliases. Then, you are free to configure CodeTwo Exchange Rules Pro so that it sends automatic replies using this new mailbox.

Note: To create a new mailbox and add aliases to it, you can use either Exchange admin center or Exchange Management Shell.

Auto reply for terminated employee

Set up auto replies for recreated or new mailboxes

Once you have created a new mailbox and added email addresses of dismissed employees as aliases, you are ready to configure the software. Follow the step below to manage automatic replies for messages sent to these email address:

  1. On the Conditions tab, set Recipient is AD user <user>. The <user> part is the newly created mailbox with aliases.
    Conditions that will trigger automatic reply.
  2. On the Actions tab, set:
    1. The Auto respond action for all dismissed or retired employees – thanks to that all senders sending emails to former users will get an HTML message rather than an NDR. And as the AD user used for this rule is a common account for all email addresses of former employees, you must not use any placeholders while creating the auto reply template.
    2. The Forward action to forward all emails to a different email address. Mostly, if the original recipient is no longer supposed to receive any messages, you may want to forward their emails to another employee.
    3. (Optional) The Block message action to prevent emails from reaching the recipient. If the original recipient must not ever receive emails after leaving the company then, instead of disabling their mailbox, you can set up this action. If you use this option with other actions, make sure the Block message is the last action on the list. Otherwise, all following actions will not take effect.Auto reply for a terminated employee
  3. On the Options tab, set If this rule is applied > stop processing next rules.

Note: The application is not able to intercept messages that are sent to mailboxes (email addresses) of Active Directory accounts not existing in your organization.

See also:

Tools for Exchange Server

4 thoughts on “How to manage auto replies for retired or dismissed employees?

  1. This does not work properly when the retired employe is one of two or more addresses on the recipient list. In such a case the other one on the recipment list, active employe will never received an email. The action “block message” doesnt work OK.
    Tested on Exchange 2016.

    • It seems you’ve turned off message splitting for this rule. With the splitting enabled, the rule should work as expected – the blocked recipient will not receive the message, while other recipients will be unaffected.

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