When I left university and started work, I was naive and desperate to please. I was a lamb skipping off to my career slaughter and I didn’t realize it at the time.
My first audit job was intense. The client shoved us into a windowless boardroom that looked a lot like an air raid bunker. The work was mind numbing and I had some sick, icy moments, when I wondered what on earth I had got myself into. My colleagues kept me going. We had fun and deep conversations as we sifted through dusty old invoices and tapped at our calculators. We connected in a way I imagine prisoners of war bond by encouraging each other and dreaming of a better life beyond their current hellhole.
After the job was over, I sent a chatty, personal email to a more senior co-worker. I signed it off, ‘Love Julie’. That’s how I signed off all private correspondence in those days – With Love – and I did it without analyzing anything at all. My colleague pulled me aside later and said (very sweetly), ‘Julie, a word of advice for the future. Don’t sign off any work email, personal or not, with ‘love’. It is unprofessional and could be misunderstood.’ I flushed, deeply embarrassed. That criticism of a harmless, perfunctory sign-off has scarred me for life.
I’m now self-conscious so when I end off an email to someone who is not family or a close friend, I pause. I wonder ‘How should I end this thing off?’ and I consider various options.
Have you noticed that it is rare for people to sign an email off with ‘love’? When I (rarely) receive an email signed off ‘love XYZ’, I know it doesn’t mean the person has a romantic crush on me or that they want to jump my bones. In fact, it doesn’t even mean they literally love me. Why are people so protective of their ‘love’? What’s the big deal?
Of course I never sign off formal emails to the estate agent, the plumber, the electrician etc with love. I use ‘yours faithfully’ or ‘regards’ for that. With my close friends and family, I always say ‘lots of love’ but there is a grey area for personal acquaintances and people who are not my big mate but whom I like very much.
Here in Switzerland, none of the expats use love and I have started signing off emails ‘J xxx’ or ‘Thanks!’. Some people say ‘Best Wishes’, ‘Take Care’, ‘Best, Julie’, ‘God bless’, ‘xxx’ or ‘Cheers’. Some people don’t sign off at all, which sometimes I do too. I end the email in mid-air and hope they won’t notice.
It drives me insane when people simply use names as the greeting and sign-off. My old boss used to do that. He would send me emails along the lines of:
Please change the font on your Powerpoint slides…bla bla…Next time, please don’t use your initiative. You know that is not required in this job…bla bla…
I hate clipped intros and sign offs like that. The tone feels like an attack and it puts me on the defensive. When someone addresses me in that way (and uses ‘hope this email finds you well’), I want to smash metal dustbins lids against the wall, in sheer frustration.
In French, they often say ‘bisous’ to end off casual, friendly emails. It means kisses. Alastair got one of those as part of a group email from a male French friend. I think it is lovely to get an electronic kiss, especially from a man. I like it when people break with convention.
Not all French emails are that relaxed. Formal emails bow and scrape and are more formal than I have ever seen in my life. I got an email from our notary that ended, ‘En vous souhaitant bonne réception des présentes, je vous prie de croire, Mesdames, Messieurs, à l’assurance de mes sentiments distingués.’ Roughly translated, it says that he wishes us good reception of this letter and begs us to believe, ladies and gentlemen, in the assurance of his highest consideration. Blimey.
When I lived in London and reached the doldrums of my career when no one would hire me, God did. I was part of a staff of about 250 people at my local church. In hindsight, I realize it was one of the best jobs I ever had. All emails, to people of all levels, were generally signed off with love or lots of love. It was not a rule to do it like that; it was just the ‘corporate’ culture. I found my tribe. It was my kind of place. The ethos was that we are all human beings so we should conduct our business with a foundation of love, with our best intentions and no hidden agenda. It was liberating. And people were productive and they weren’t doormats, which is what one would expect with such lovey-dovey email sign-offs.
My 12 year-old nephew has sent me emails which he signed off ‘Lots of love’. Warms my heart, I tell you. I know it won’t last for long and this makes me sad. I’m just waiting for the day when someone crushes the lots of love out of him and says it is not manly to send all that love in an email. I value the purity, the innocence in his emails. I know no should-I, shouldn’t-I thought has gone into the ending. It is a pure heart response, real and unedited.
Bring back love. Love from Julie. Love from Bob. Love from Mary. Love from Joe Soap. Let’s stop messing around with these neutral, non-committal email endings. Just say love and be done with it, dammit.
Anyway, I’m rambling. Let’s end this thing now.
Lots of love