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Office Etiquette for Sympathy Cards

Bonds formed in the workplace often create a family environment away from home. When someone in that second family experiences a death, co-workers may not know how to help.

Start by sending a sympathy card to express support during a difficult time.


Office Etiquette for Sympathy Cards



Avoid pre-printed cards or handwritten notes expressing the death as “for the best” or encouraging the recipient to be happy the loved one no longer suffers.

As a co-worker, family dynamics, the circumstances of the death or preceding illness may not be fully known to you. Select messages conveying sympathy and expressions of support instead.



When a card comes collectively from a group of co-workers, avoid slighting an individual who did not see the card passed. Seek out co-workers individually to ensure everyone signs it.

For close relationships, especially when co-workers socialize outside of the workplace, a card sent personally from a co-worker and their spouse, if the spouse is known to the recipient, may be sent in addition to a group card.



Mail or deliver sympathy cards to the home, rather than depositing them at a recipient’s desk if possible, especially if their return date is unknown. Cards may sit for days or weeks when a co-worker takes leave to handle funeral arrangements of a spouse or immediate relative.


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