Quick Fix: SharePoint Designer 2013 Workflow Gotcha

I created two 2010 workflows using SPD 2013. One sends emails and the other changes permissions and they both operate on multiple people who are specified in a multi-select person field in SharePoint.  Turns out, the way you specify the return values is different for each scenario (but not how you think). 

Send Email Workflow Action … return values from multi-select as “Email Addresses, Semicolon Delimited”.  Works fine for this action.


Replace permissions on an item … for this action, returning a multi-select as “Email Addresses, Semicolon Delimited” didn’t work.  I changed the return value to “Login Names, Semicolon Delimited” and it appeared to work. (BTW … none of this is documented in the product help or in online documentation for the product, so it’s trial and error all the way). I thought this made sense as setting permissions may be more related to login names than email addresses … BUT NOT SO FAST


it only worked when a just one single person was entered into the form field.  When multiple persons are entered into a multi-select field, the workflow would crash.  What is up?

After some further Googling, and trying various suggestions that didn’t work, I found that someone had gotten around this by setting the Return field as STRING!   This suggestion worked!  I’m sure there’s a reason, but it’s not very intuitive, to say the least.  Not sure why it works, but it does.


Might be worth a try if you need to set permissions using a multi-select person field.

Best regards,



Author: David Remillard

Our best projects are those which become a partnership between our client and FTG. I enjoy learning the details about our client's businesses and what each client wants to achieve with Office 365. Also enjoy brainstorming about client's pain points and business challenges and different ways that SharePoint might be used to help achieve your goals. We help you understand what is easy and what is hard in SharePoint and how to design solutions for maximum value. We create a shared vision, and build it out in increments with frequent project touch points, ensuring high-value business solutions that are closely aligned with your specific business environment (size, culture, budget constraints, tech comfort level, remote offices, etc). We live on repeat business and grow our business with clients who value practical business insight as well as technical skill.

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