I'm enquiring about sending a condolence card or note to my boss, whose parent passed away.

They are quite a private person, and I'm not sure they'd appreciate having such a personal card passed around our team for all the staff to sign. I'm thinking it might be better to have a single member of our team (with whom they're quite close) sign a card on behalf of the whole team instead, but I'm not sure if that's appropriate either.

Any advice appreciated.

  • 2
    Might be better asked in Interpersonal Skills S.E.
    – solarflare
    Oct 9, 2018 at 0:22
  • 1
    Thanks, I'll ask it there. Should I delete this one, or is the same question in 2 SE's okay?
    – Bumpy
    Oct 9, 2018 at 0:26
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    How did you find out your boss' parent passed away? Was this something you were told one-on-one, was an announcement made to the team, or was it something you overheard? Basically what I'm asking is, who is supposed to know at this point?
    – BSMP
    Oct 9, 2018 at 6:12
  • I will bow to your higher rep, but AFAIK from other SE sites, duplicates are definitely A Bad Thing and a question should only be poste don one site. alas, I don't have the time to comb S.W meta fro a reference
    – Mawg
    Oct 9, 2018 at 9:43
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    @Mawg My rep isn't worth the paper it's printed on when it comes to such matters (or any other matter at all, to be honest), so I retract my earlier comment. I may have confused on-topic on multiple sites and actually posting on multiple sites
    – rath
    Oct 9, 2018 at 15:01

3 Answers 3


You know your boss isn't open to a group outpour of emotion, so don't offer a "Team" condolence. Offer a private card, from you to them, without fanfare, mention, or notice to others.

Your boss will appreciate the gesture more, as it is a nicer gesture. It doesn't put them on the spot to make a "team" announcement of what must be a very personal and private matter to them.

Giving your boss more room to acknowledge and deal with the situation on their own terms may be the kindest thing you can do in helping them at this time.

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    Thank you. I'm worried that no "work-related" gesture at all might be offensive/upsetting in its own way, but I'm inferring from your response that's it's not necessarily so.
    – Bumpy
    Oct 9, 2018 at 0:40

Appropriate condolences for boss at work

It's perfectly appropriate for all to sign the card, it's good for everyone to feel involved and show their appreciation and support in this manner. Your boss will not take it badly, and very importantly his family will definitely appreciate it.

Delivering the card should not be intrusive, one person or a select group. But even if the whole team quietly appeared with one spokesperson that would show the boss and his family that everyone feels for him.

Just don't make a drama over it. Get in, get out and leave them to their grief knowing that you have all shared it in a small way and lightened the load.

  • I honestly cannot see why you would think it inappropriate, it's a normal sign of respect and support that is felt and remembered by both the colleague and his family. It's also team building and morale boosting in it's own way for everyone involved.
    – Kilisi
    Oct 9, 2018 at 1:02

Cards expressing condolences, congratulations and best wishes for various "life events" and signed by people in the office are very common at least in the US. There are various ways to appropriately handle death of a co-worker's loved ones (see this question).

To be fair, many people find office-coordinated cards to be awkward-- both for the recipient and the signers. They're not offensive but they're also not particularly genuine. If a card gets passed around with a checkbox-list of names, people will just sign it out of obligation. That said, it is common enough that the recipient won't be surprised and will just consider it an office formality. The card will likely just be tossed in the trash with hardly a glance.

If you really want to express authentic sympathy, your initial gut feeling is correct. Do it with a personal note, or just face-to-face.

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