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The signature culture at my company is dangerously close to ridiculous, and this question made me ask about it here.

We're an MS Gold Ultra Colour Plus(tm)(c)(fm)(wtf) Partner which is apparently an important marketing point, and a bunch of my colleagues have a wide array of certifications and other stuff they're very obviously proud of.

The problem is that it overcrowds the actual content in our email correspondence.

Thus, my question:

How do I, as a relatively new hire (5 months), convince the company (and esp. certain heavyweight individuals) to reform the Corporate Email Signature standard?

Below is a sample email that's common enough. The orange box denotes the actual content of the email. The green box denotes the amount of screen real estate typically available for reading email, when I'm not popping the email out into a separate window (which I did only for the screenshot, normally the main window is all I have). Everything below the green box is off-screen and requires scrolling. Take a good look.

Can you imagine scrolling through a long(-ish) discussion full of these signatures? It's difficult to focus on the actual content!

Plus, of course, they're taking up disk space (not so bad in itself, but times a thousand, times their uselessness when used for internal communication...)

enter image description here

Update: Yes, that is an actual (but obfuscated) example. I am delighted to have brightened up your day. I will not be trying to upstage them; on the contrary I use a very simple signature for internal mails, and a slightly less very simple signature for external mails. Frankly, I don't care about all those badges and am happy to see that most of you agree that it's "noise". More updates follow when I have more time.

Update 2: Obfuscated further. And I noticed that I received a close vote.

Update 3: I wish I could accept more than a single answer. Thank you so much. I've (carefully) asked about, and others have noticed the same thing and agree with me. I've talked to my direct manager and she will take it up with management (our org chart is very shallow).

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Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Monica Cellio Feb 21 at 2:55
    
Get a new job. Probably not only their signatures that are unprofessional. – dan-klasson Feb 29 at 10:18
up vote 109 down vote accepted

These remind me of forum signatures from back in the day...

Anyways, in your example, it shows "CTO" as the sender - as a new hire you are going to have minimal influence directly, unless you are a C level executive yourself. A wise perception.

What I would do is ask more indirect questions like:

  • "Do you think we could add more space or a divider between the signature and your name? It's hard to quickly parse the content of the email with such a big signature - but with more space between the email and/or a more clear divider it would help."
  • "Do you think we could make the images in our signatures smaller? It's hard for people to see all them at once - if they were smaller we could put them on the same line. This probably would help other people more reliably see our qualifications."

Your goal isn't to jump to the "wait we do what with our signatures" - but to ask leading questions. It feels less accusational and with signatures like that I'm sure that the C-level folks have at least thought about how ridiculous they are.

Get the CTO and other people to acknowledge how crazy they are by asking related -- but not direct -- questions about it.

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I think that you as a new employee have only one option.

Take this ridiculousness to the next level!

Make it a point to go to a website that will give you "ribbon/certificate" for taking a small elearning at least once a week and keep adding these - of course in vertical orientation to your signature.

Only by seeing it well overdone will management come to their senses. Also make sure that you add your signature to replies too. This can easily be turned on in Outlook.

And to put a cherry on top - and this could not be used in all situations - but I am pretty good natured and a jokester. I would definitely include distant accomplishments in my signature.

  • Kirkland Elementary 4th Grade Spelling Bee runner-up
  • 3rd place in Townstead Potato Sack race
  • Can type on two keyboards at once
  • Voted most likely to get pulled over by cops (senior year high school)

Gustavo in the comments mentions flashy GIFs. You could take your current animations and make them blink or turn them into oldschool flash cartoons. Personally the most obnoxious might be the zoom-in, zoom-out effect. Not only might you get your point across but you can showcase your design skills. (Note that an evil genius CTO might see yours and understand your point but then have you update theirs with the animated gifs and flash.)

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

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21  
Although I think this can get the message through, it's possible that OP will be reprimanded. Anyway, this was fun and if OP is willing to take this route, I suggest adding some flashy GIFs. – GustavoMP Feb 19 at 16:47
63  
I can't decide if I should upvote this, downvote this, or just laugh at this :) – enderland Feb 19 at 17:09
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I feel like people should probably not take this advice, but I would be tempted to do it myself and laughed out loud anyway. However, maybe the company email culture is actually like TGI Friday's - maybe "more flair" will help him out. Or it could just be a case of "my email signature is bigger than yours", in which case things would turn into a dangerous game of one-up-manship that I would love to watch unfold. – BrianDHall Feb 19 at 17:45
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I know exactly TWO people who would do this, both are geniuses and far too valued by their companies to be let go. I would not suggest anyone else attempt such a feat as it could be a career limiting move. – Richard U Feb 19 at 17:49
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Don't forget to add "2006 Time Person of the Year" – zzzzBov Feb 21 at 0:14

As you're a new hire and unless you were hired in a marketing/branding position you won't really be qualified to suggest change or have the political capital to push it through. That signature is so far beyond the reasonable that I don't think you'll have much luck openly campaigning for change.

The only reasonable and safe course of action to take in your situation is to lead by example. Convert that entire mess of banners into a single modestly-sized banner. Find the smaller versions of those logos (i.e. the ones actually meant for inclusion in an email) and convert all of them into a single banner image that's no more than few lines high.

Whenever someone notices or comments on your signature, explain that you preferred a more subtle and cleaner look for your signature. With any luck, this will make its way up the management chain and if there are any reasonable managers left they'll then have an alternative design they can use to convince the maniac who standardised this.

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13  
Lead by example may not be possible in certain similar situations (no idea about the OP) though, since in enough companies that have this "feature" they are so proud of it as to make it mandatory. – PlasmaHH Feb 19 at 16:52
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@Kilisi It does matter from a customer perception standpoint. Personally, if I were a client of OP's company and I received an e-mail like the one shown from one of the company's employees (let alone their CTO,) my perception of the company's professionalism would definitely be negatively affected. – reirab Feb 20 at 6:14
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@reirab Anything more than a persons name and job title and perhaps website is a waste of time to me. So most of them are as bad as each other. – Kilisi Feb 20 at 6:24
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@Kilisi That's not true either. Sometimes you switch your conversation from person A (a salesperson/whatever) to person B (a technically qualified person you have not spoken to before). If you see the signatures, you easily realize: "Ah ok, this is the guy to discuss the technical issues with our XYZ with." So there is a point in having some banners in the signature. (However, I do not advocate for the shown ridicullity.) – yo' Feb 20 at 20:15
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@yo' I don't see the banners, so it makes no difference, I configure my outlook so it doesn't pull any pictures – Kilisi Feb 20 at 20:20

My first instinct when I read this question was to check if there was a way to read emails from a specific group of users in plaintext format. I looked around for a bit, and not surprisingly, it didn't take long to find out that other people have faced this problem before.

This answer on superuser, for example, suggests setting up an Outlook rule to move mails with too much junk to the appropriately named Junk folder, and reading mails in that folder in plaintext mode.

Naturally, that doesn't solve the problem at its source, but considering how Office Politics works typically, you probably don't have much of a chance of success there anyway.

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4  
Even if they were as bad as the example posted in the question, I'm not sure that I'd want e-mails from my company's CTO to go to my junk folder. Well, deep down, I might want them to go there, but it might be a bit counter-productive. – reirab Feb 20 at 5:45
    
@reirab The name of the folder is not really the point here, you could as well create a folder named "CTO" and move them there. Anyway, I understand what you mean. I meant this answer to be somewhat humourous (which I thought was obvious from the tone), but seeing how a number of users agree to it, I should perhaps edit to use a more serious tone. – Masked Man Feb 20 at 13:22

It would be probably safest and most effective if you could demonstrate that this truly horrible email signature they think highlights how impressive they are actually makes them look completely unprofessional and amateurish. Bonus points if you can tie it back to the one thing that really matters to a corporation (money) and come to the table with something better.

I can't imagine it would be difficult for you to get feedback from your friends and colleagues on the topic, nor would it be overly difficult to redesign it so that the worst parts (the very over-sized Microsoft App partner image and the 2015 partner of the year finalist image) are eliminated/changes into simple urls, or sized and placed more appropriately, instead of in the style of a tween who just figured out how to make a MySpace page back in 2003.

"Look, I'm getting a lot of negative feedback about our email signature from potential clients/customers, and I think it's costing us money... for example, [provide some documented examples]."

To help get you started, some feedback from a few IT professionals on your company's signature:

enter image description here

The company I currently work for has a ~ 4 KB corporate logo in its email signature. It used to be directly attached to the email itself, until we had a single complaint from a customer that it was clogging up their ticketing system. I was tasked with transforming it into a link that can be loaded/fetched, rather than a direct attachment... it's hard to make a better case for change than complaints from a customer do. (Personally, I find it hard to imagine that customers/clients and potential customers/clients aren't sniggering and complaining about this email signature, so I'd think that you'd be able to gather such feedback from the people who matter to your business passively and with minimal effort.)

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3  
Is the last sentence a subtle recommendation to ask a customer to bring up the topic on your behalf? I hope not! – Alexander Feb 22 at 10:00
    
@Alexander Just a general statement of fact that may or may not be applicable to the OP. – HopelessN00b Feb 22 at 10:08

We're not going to be able to help you navigate the corporate hierarchy, you need to make some judgement calls yourself. But if you want to do this, you'll need to do something like:

  • Determine if there's a standard or if it's a culture thing.
  • If it's a standard, work out who put them there, what they're trying to achieve, and how they think the banners do that.
  • If it's a culture thing, make changes yourself and talk to those you work closely with about it. Chances are you'll get leads like 'X sent this round asking for it to go there', in which case talk to X. Be prepared - if the people closest to the customer who can best judge the business value of these (marketing, sales, etc.) love them you might be fighting a lost cause.
  • Explain the potential harms (e.g. risk of emails ending up in spam filters; difficult to follow conversation; customers may see it as unprofessional; bandwidth and storage costs).
  • Ask if the same goals can be achieved in some other way. (e.g. if it's really important, combine them into a single image, centrally sourced, professionally designed, optimised for email and regularly updated).
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Bandwidth and storage costs are surely not a reason. – yo' Feb 20 at 22:06
    
@yo' you would be surprised how many emails get sent daily in a moderate sized business. – Gusdor Feb 22 at 13:05
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@yo' You'd also be surprised how many companies still enforce unreasonably small limits on mailbox size. If you only have 100 MB to work with, clutter like this fills it up fast. – Lilienthal Feb 22 at 15:19
    
@Lilienthal Things like unreasonably small mailbox sizes, however, tend to be result of technical or financial restrictions, where as there's no similar justification for this insanity. A previous employer of mine had a 74 MB mailbox restriction as recently as 2014, because 74 MB * 1000 (users) = 74 GB, which was the hard limit on the maximum mailstore size for version of Exchange they were running. They were unwilling to do what should have been done ages ago and pay extra for the Enterprise version, but that was the reason - "it costs money." This... well, there just are no words. – HopelessN00b Feb 23 at 8:03

There's ample evidence in various studies and articles to demonstrate that email signatures like your company's are counter-productive. I googled "When do email signatures hurt" and found a bunch of good articles.

I won't repeat the advice of others about getting the message up, except to say that as a new employee, you might have a little more leeway than others to broach the subject. "When I first got an email from us when I was in the hiring process, I noticed the signature and thought it seemed odd. Since then I have done a little looking and wonder if we're hurting more than helping? I assume we have thought about this, but just something we may not have considered."

Or find a way to show them you care, and point them to other answers here :-)

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Depends where you are. Here in Germany an e-mail is an official document, so the footer contains:

My name, position and department, the post address, various telephone numbers and website.

Then a baby logo

Then it contains the official stuff; the registered office, district court, managing directors, etc. This part is mandated by law and is not negotiable.

Then a note about confidentiality.

On the other hand we don't have any header at all. You could persuade them to do without the opulent bit at the top. You can see all that in Outlook or whatever anyway.

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That's content for legal, not marketing reasons. It probably even helps; marketing might not want to touch legally sensitive stuff. – MSalters Feb 22 at 15:18

There's no way that managers who have to read 20+ emails a day are actually wading through all those signatures to see the content. There must be something different about the way they read emails: maybe they don't view threaded conversations (so they never need to scroll past the signature), or their email client hides the signatures.

Maybe you should show them what it looks like on your screen. It might surprise them.

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