Boss condolences etiquette

Written by tara m. clapper
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Boss condolences etiquette
Employee drafting a condolence note to a boss. (Image by, courtesy of Caitlin Regan)

When a supervisor loses a loved one, it's appropriate to send condolences. This may seem difficult because employee-to-boss communications typically are strictly business. Words of sympathy should be heartfelt and personal, though, and they may even help your boss to grieve.

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E-mail vs. Card

E-mail condolences are appropriate if you primarily communicate with your supervisor via e-mail. However, a handwritten note should immediately follow the e-mailed correspondence.

Group Messages

Some employees feel more comfortable signing a group sympathy card when a boss has lost a loved one. This lets each employee simply sign a name or include a short note. You may still send a separate note if you wish.


Condolence notes should express sympathy for loss, tender kind words about the deceased (if you were acquainted with him or her), and include specific offers of help for your boss and his or her family. It's appropriate to include work-related duties as an offer of help.


A condolence note doesn't have to be long, but it must be heartfelt and somewhat personal. The note should only reference work in terms of help you may offer or the support of the employees during this difficult time.


Although sympathy cards are appropriate, it's always better to include a note. Hand write the note in black ink if possible. If your handwriting isn't legible, be sure to at least sign the note in ink. Avoid an extremely formal tone.

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