I had a close relative has died few days ago. My family has a tradition of wearing black ribbon as a symbol of remembrance.

I work at a large (1000+ employees) company in western/northern Europe and don't need to deal with clients on daily basis. The dress-code at the office is casual.

Is it unprofessional to have it on my shirt at the office? Should I expect any problems if I were to wear it with out asking?

  • 4
    I wouldn't say it's unprofessional. That doesn't necessarily make it professional, but I can't see the problem with it.
    – brhans
    Nov 3, 2016 at 20:24
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    How is this something to question? It's neither here nor there.
    – user49733
    Nov 3, 2016 at 21:08
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    This seems like a question that would be overly specific to individual office culture. Has anyone (yourself included) expressed any concern whatsoever with this attire?
    – user30031
    Nov 3, 2016 at 22:02
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    @IDrinkandIKnowThings it is not an issue for me at all. To me you can come naked to work and I will not care. I was just asking should I have a need to wear black ribbon by myself in the future
    – kukis
    Nov 18, 2016 at 9:31
  • @kukis - OK I have edited the quest to bring it more on topic. Questions where you are asking about someone else tend to get a harsher response than those where you are trying to solve your own problem. Nov 18, 2016 at 15:48

4 Answers 4


Just as @brhans mentioned in comment not all things that are not professional are unprofessional, some things just don't fall under this dichotomy.

Just like you've mentioned this person doesn't deal with clients and if dress-code is casual I can not see any reasons to try to deal with it in any way.

So I'd rather leave everything the way it is.

Unless, of course, someone for some reason is offended with the very fact that he/her is wearing black ribbon. Well, not necessarily offended, may it just makes somebody sad.

In that case I'd ask the mourning person whether he wants to work for a while remotely - not because someone is offended but because he is passing through hard times, just to regain emotional stability. Most probably he'll be back without a ribbon.

But again, the best option to just let it go. It will pass.

  • 7
    If someone was offended by the black ribbon in these circumstances, I would push back on them, about why they would be offended, and why they can't be more compassionate.
    – Resigned
    Nov 3, 2016 at 20:53
  • @Resigned sometimes people are not bad - they may be just weak. Imagine that someone else's close relative died recently but for him such black ribbon is not a relief but rather something that reminds him of what he tries to forget.
    – shabunc
    Nov 3, 2016 at 20:55
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    In that case, I would try to mediate.
    – Resigned
    Nov 3, 2016 at 20:58
  • @Resigned well, of course, it's almost always a better option.
    – shabunc
    Nov 3, 2016 at 21:01
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    @kukis We all bring our personal affairs to work. Just because he crosses the door of the office, does not mean the he forgets the person who has died. So I fail to see why a visual personal thing is bad. People have pictures of there children on there desk or other things they enjoy on there desk.
    – Jeroen
    Nov 4, 2016 at 8:50

I would let Bob wear his ribbon. Casual dress, non-customer-facing, what is the harm in it?

If someone did object, I would investigate why. If they object because they have recently lost someone, I would try to find a middle ground acceptable to all. If the objection is that it is unprofessional, or that staff shouldn't bring their personal life to work, I would suggest to the objector that a little compassion for Bob wouldn't hurt office morale.

As for @shabunc's suggestion about working remotely, I would offer that to Bob, but I would also make sure Bob felt free to come to work, too, since staying home, potentially alone, may not be best for Bob. (I speak as someone who went to work the day after my Mom died, because I felt better staying in my routine.)


Strictly speaking it is unprofessional, you shouldn't bring your personal issues to work.

In practical terms though I doubt anyone would mind in this scenario.

  • 1
    It would depend on the culture. Germans, for example do this often. Nov 4, 2016 at 12:38
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    Doesn't matter, it's acceptable to wear an xmas hat at xmas time, but that doesn't mean it's professional.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 4, 2016 at 12:53

I wore a black ribbon for a year until I was told to take it off because it was falling apart.

No one objected to my wearing that ribbon during the entire year.

No, I wasn't customer facing.

The staff and management were likely more put off that I was telling hilarious black humor jokes while wearing that ribbon :) Let's say that I did not quite fit the profile of a devoted, grieving relative.

I have no doubt that my late aunt will give me the smack down of a lifetime when I get to the river Styx :)

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