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Recently, the company I'm currently working for has started to do a re-design on the brand. One of the things to change is the signature in emails.
It looks really cool with a photo!

But, I don't want to use my photo. I don't want my photo to be "spread around" and have my face associated with my name.
I also have self-esteem issues, and takes me over a month just to send the photo to someone. Heck, I haven't updated my Facebook photo in years! I know this is a personal issue that I should keep out of the company, and take care of it myself.

Is there a way to tell him I don't want my face on my email signature? Can he force me to have it? Can I refuse?

  • We use photos in my company, but it doesn't have to be a photo of the persons face, could you use a default icon? – Uciebila Feb 19 at 12:26
  • @Uciebila I can try to push for it, but, at that point, isn't it kinda better to do not have a photo? – Ismael Miguel Feb 19 at 12:33
  • I don't think so. As long as it is professional, then it's okay. I know some with cartoon like versions of themselves, or pictures of their team instead of just them etc. Have a chat with the person who wants this, explain why you would rather not use your own face, and suggest a company logo or something along those lines – Uciebila Feb 19 at 12:35
  • Well, that is a good idea. I can try to talk with the designer and see if my boss agrees. But I'm not holding my breath on that. – Ismael Miguel Feb 19 at 12:48
  • Are the photo email signatures automatically implemented for you, or do they say "hey, you should use a photo in your signature! here's how you do it!", and then you have to do it yourself? – David K Feb 19 at 12:51
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Is there a way to tell him I don't want my face on my email signature?

Yes, just tell them.

Can he force me to have it?

Usually, no. However there may be certain company policies which needs an unified format for e-mail signature, though that is nothing which usually forces an employee for his/her photo. If you are not comfortable (for whatever reasons) supplying the photo, asking the proper authority (your superior, HR) wont hurt.


As an alternative, you can choose to have a template photo in place (which helps to identify you are a "he" or "she"). I had the same idea proposed and accepted in a special interest group inside the organization I work for (internal group, noting external).

Note: This is done with honest intent, not to discriminate, purely for ease of addressing as a third person. The scenario can be avoided altogether, but usually it's not much of a problem. Also, disclaimer, IANAL.

Sample below:

He:

enter image description here

She:

enter image description here

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    Asking the proper authority (your superior, HR) wont hurt. <-- sadly, the authority figure is the one asking. There's no policy regarding that (at least, it isn't set in stone). The company is just me, a few co-workers, my boss and his wife (the owner of the company). – Ismael Miguel Feb 19 at 11:25
  • @IsmaelMiguel Right, but they dont know your side yet, do they? That's what I meant - explain that you're not comfortable adding your photo and let's hear what they have to say. Right now, they are thinking you dont have any problems and they will think that unless and until you express your viewpoint. – Sourav Ghosh Feb 19 at 11:28
  • I actually said I didn't wanted, but I downplyed it :/ And they still want the photo there – Ismael Miguel Feb 19 at 12:10
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IANAL but I'm pretty sure an employer can't force you to have your photo on your signature. Employers are not allowed to take your photo without your permission and if you have no up to date photos then looks like you can get away with it.

Just explain to him, "I don't want to have my photo shown in my email signature for personal reasons."

  • @Ismael, please let us know how they respond, as that will help others in future. – Mawg says reinstate Monica Feb 20 at 8:19
  • @Mawg I will, but I haven't had a change to talk about it, as my boss has been sick and the designer is in vacations. I will say it once the subject is brought again. – Ismael Miguel Feb 20 at 11:35
  • "Employers are not allowed to take your photo without your permission" this may be dependent on the jurisdiction, I certainly have seen many cases where the employer can make photos mandatory (i.e. take them "with permission" as that permission is part of the contract). E.g. requiring employees to wear company-made badges with their photo to even enter the company facilities; surveillance cameras in offices; etc. – Peteris Feb 21 at 1:38
  • @Peteris As tagged in the question, and available in my profile, I'm in Portugal. Going on the legal side, we have the RGPD. You probably heard of it. – Ismael Miguel Feb 21 at 1:43
  • @IsmaelMiguel GDPR provides multiple lawful reasons for processing data, consent is just one of them, and certainly employee-employer situation consent would not be the basis of using private data (in part because it wouldn't be really treated as voluntary freely given consent). Yes, they can't freely take your photo in any situation whatsoever, there needs to be a lawful reason that allows them to do so, but in many cases employers have a reason (that's valid under GDPR) to take such photos without employee's permission. Informing the employee is almost certainly mandatory, though. – Peteris Feb 21 at 15:16
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In general your employer can set guidelines and requirements for email signatures. They can be done to ease communication. When a person who has an email you sent but needs to call you, a well defined signature block gives them everything they need.

Signature block requirements can also enforce uniformity of messaging. But photos without requirements can end up with non-professional photos being included in the email signatures.

I am surprised that the company wants photos. I have worked with some organizations that automatically added your badge photo to the email address book. But that presence in the address book didn't result in the photo being sent to external customers.

The presence of a photo in an email signature block just adds unnecessary size to each message. They may also find that if they are sending emails to many corporate users the receiving email system may automatically convert the messages to non-html thus losing the impact of the photo. It can also be frustrating if every email from a person with a complex signature block results in a paperclip icon that implies an attachment. That makes it hard to find the emails that really do have attachments.

Now it is true that for some business it is typical to see a photo on a business card. If your company is in a business like that then it makes some sense to consider adding a photo to a signature block, but I would suggest that the full version with the picture not be the default version, thus keeping down the size of the average email chain.

But if they insist on going forward with this. Ask a co-worker to snap a picture against a plain wall, and then send it in.

If you don't supply one, I doubt you would get fired but why push it over this issue. Note that I don't have any photo associated with my stack exchange account. why? becasue it isn't required. But I do have a badge photo at work, becasue it is required.

  • That is an interesting point of view. The business cards don't have anyone's photo. Just text and symbols. The email signature will be an image. The photo would just take a small area. – Ismael Miguel Feb 19 at 12:20
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I've been places where profile photos have been highly encouraged but never required.

From a historical perspective, I would be very, very surprised of they required using a photo. Even then, I would fully expect them to be open to alternatives such as a fabulously gorgeous avatar like the one I use here on SE. :)

I was one place where your security photo was automatically uploaded to Office 365. People hated this because security photos are always terrible. But, you were allowed to change your Office 365 photo yourself.

  • Seems like it will be a requirement, but maybe I can offer that alternative. (It was already suggested in a comment, but, comments aren't answers). – Ismael Miguel Feb 19 at 15:30
  • @PascLeRasc Thanks, but I've been here a long time and you will find many Answers based on experience since no one can definitively answer such question without having the employee manual in hand. Related anecdotes are for perspective and to describe similar scenarios. – Johns-305 Feb 19 at 22:46
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    Your answer is a good start, but you don't clearly recommend what course of action OP should take. You should edit it to clearly suggest to OP how they bring up your suggested solution. – V2Blast Feb 20 at 4:56
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In all the years I've worked, at several different IT companies, I've received numerous requests from various HR/Corporate communications to "please now use the following signature" or "please add this ... to your signature". I've ignored every one of them. No one has ever followed up with a message saying "Nick, you must use the signature" or something like that, nor even followed up informally over coffee.

To this day, I still sign off with "Regards, Nick"; though I will add a little more (like my surname, job title, and company name) if I'm making a new contact with someone outside the company.

Also, like mhoran_psprep suggested, the signature can get mishandled by some mail systems. One customer I dealt with recently had a complex signature that got broken down into several separate image attachments - the company logo, the regulatory body logo, the Facebook logo, the Twitter logo, and so on. After it had been round several different persons, a mail would arrive in my inbox with about 20 attachments, many of them multiple copies of the same logo! Pretty annoying when they also attached something important and relevant to the purpose of the mail.

So...

I think you should just try ignoring the request. If really forced into a corner on this, offer an anonymous, generic image like suggested in other replies, or take ages picking the 'right' photo and hope they forget all about it.

  • Your answer is a good start, but you don't clearly recommend what course of action OP should take. You should edit it to clearly suggest to OP what your suggested solution is and how OP should bring it up. – V2Blast Feb 20 at 4:56
  • @V2Blast. I preferred the implied message of 'just ignore it', but I have edited my reply to be more explicit in my suggested solution per your comment. Please consider removing your downvote. – Nick Feb 20 at 16:30
  • I didn't downvote it in the first place, so it's hard to remove a vote I didn't cast... – V2Blast Feb 20 at 16:53

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