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Let's assume that you are working somewhere, a co-worker of yours leaves and someone takes the initiative to buy a "best wishes" card for people to sign.

Is there a specific etiquette regarding who has to sign the "best wishes" card? What should people take into account when deciding if they have to sign or not?

What about:

  • The newcomers?
  • The ones that had never talk to this coworker except for saying hello?
  • The ones that only talked for work but didn't care about each other?
  • The ones that didn't like each other?
  • Etc..

I'm specifically talking about companies in France and I'm interested in every possible size.

10

Is there a specific etiquette regarding who has to sign the "best wishes" card?

In France, AFAIK, no. But there are also "untold rules" one should follow, as it may backfire, anytime, in any possible way. Within a company, you shouldn't be rude, just be professional.

What does that mean? Well, 3 options:

  1. you know the person, and like her.
  2. you know the person, and don't like her.
  3. you don't (really) know the person (just "hi" sometimes, never work with them, or newcomer).

#1: any nice thing you wish to express to her.

#2: any casual/standard thing (or) / you don't sign. This is the tricky part. Better swallow the bitter pill and be nice, even if you don't feel like it, because others will know, and it may backfire. Don't put fuel on the fire. Any pleasantry will do the trick.

#3: any nice thing along the lines of: "we never had a chance to know each other, but still, all the best for your future" (something like that, with your own words), or just your name/ signature. Like point 2, any pleasantry will do the trick.

I have once not signed the card, but we had a loooong (bad) history of arguing, and "hated" each other (we never even talked professionally), so no one was really suprised. All of the other times it happened (5 or 6), I just did that (point 1/3), and never heard anything bad in return.

If I had to say which IPSkill it relies on, I'd say: nice and discreet, no waves. You interact with just what is professionally needed. Nothing personal. And remember that not telling the truth isn't lying, and not being nice isn't being rude.

5

In France, it would generally be seen as rude not to sign this card. No matter in whichever situation you mentioned you're currently in.

In all the jobs I had (in companies from 10 to 10,000+ employees), it happened a couple of times that a coworker would leave the team soon after I arrived (not later than a week after my arrival). I didn't have much time to get to know them before they leave, as my work wasn't even directly related to theirs and I didn't have to interact with them apart from coffee breaks, and it would still be pretty limited. Still, they invited me to their departure event. And I attended it. Because that's an unspoken rule in professional French environments.

For all those cases, you could simply write

Best of luck (i.e. "Bonne continuation")

and sign. It's polite, nice, and enough.

In the case that you don't particularly like that co-worker, please consider this: a card that will be signed by everyone in the team is not the place to express your dislike towards that coworker. Ranting about them in the card is likely to be frowned upon by your other coworkers as well (we have a saying in French regarding that issue: "le linge sale se lave en famille", i.e. "dirty laundry is to be washed at home"). If you have unfinished business with this coworker, deal with it in a one-to-one context.

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I'm not aware of an etiquette that requires every person to sign a card. As a rule of thumb, you should only write positive things in a card. If you don't have anything positive to write, don't write anything at all. It won't even be obvious unless the number of employees is quite small.

From personal experience, the space on a card might fill up very quickly. You should let the best friends of the person leaving sign first to give them the most space to express themselves.

If you were "just colleagues", a few words are enough. You can even write really small to fit your words into a tiny corner, as long as your name is clearly readable.

If you didn't particularily like the person, either don't write anything at all or if you feel your missing signature may cast you in a bad light, write some empty phrase and be done with it.

In the end, it won't be your signature in a card you'll be remembered (or not) by. It's a nice gesture to give a parting friend some parting words, but it's not a requirement to express poetic wishes for a person you didn't like much.

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