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Sympathy Etiquette for Business Professionals


According to Peggy Post and Peter Post, co-authors of The Etiquette Advantage in Business, the following suggestions will help you to support a colleague who experiences the death of a loved one.


  • When a co-worker loses a loved one, convey your condolences right away. If you are close with your colleague, attending pre-funeral and funeral services will be respectful and comforting.
  • Never make statements such as "It was really a blessing" or "Be thankful that her suffering is over."
  • Read the obituary, or speak to a friend of the family, to find out if the family is accepting flowers where the memorial service will be held, or if they are asking for donations to an organization. Co-workers can go in together on a beautiful bouquet of flowers or a charitable donation (non-profits notify the family of the deceased of gifts made in his or her memory; they share names and addresses but not the amount donated). Even if you send flowers or make a donation, send a sympathy card directly to your co-worker at home.
  • Offer practical help wherever you can. Don't just say, "I'll do whatever you need." Say, "Donna, I'll check your phone messages each day while you're gone and deal with any issues that come up."
  • To give your co-worker's family one fewer thing to worry about, order a gift basket of food and have it sent to the home where the family will be gathering. Or consider asking co-workers to commit to a week-long schedule of delivering dinners to the family.