General Question

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Am I right to be angry at my work for not expressing condolences about my Mom?

Asked by LeavesNoTrace (2534 points ) February 23rd, 2013

I recently completed an overseas contract job with an ad agency and shortly after I returned, my Mom passed away from cancer. (I’m 24, so relatively young) It’s been almost two months and I still haven’t heard anything officially from my boss (who knew me well and knows she’s dead) or my company as a whole. I believe the standard protocol is to send a card or something but even an official email would be appreciated.

I think this is really rude. Am I crazy?

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30 Answers

chyna's avatar

I agree, it is rude. The company should have sent flowers, a basket of fruit or some kind of acknowledgement.
I am sorry for the loss of your mother. I lost mine 2 years ago and it still hurts.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

That is totally rude.

And I’m so sorry you lost your mom. :(

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

@chyna Thanks. I’m sorry for your loss too. It’s been a super shitty couple of months and I have the standard “bad days and good days” thing going on. For some reason, this has been really bugging me today.

Some of my coworkers (those I was closer to) have reached out to me personally but I’m almost thinking about mentioning something to HR because it’s a newer company and they need to get their shit together in terms of their employee-relations protocol. Super rude and goddamn tacky.

Jeruba's avatar

Your disappointment is entirely understandable. I’m sorry for your loss.

There’s probably no policy or standard protocol, especially if they’re new. It would be a matter of thoughtfulness on the part of some individual coworker to bring it up, and who knows why they didn’t? Perhaps it’s not usual to send condolences to anyone, or maybe it was because you were no longer working there when she died.

When my mother died, I received flowers and kind notes and cards from my manager and numerous co-workers. When my father died, years earlier and while I was at another company, one coworker in a distant department sent a card, but nobody I worked closely with did a thing, nor did the company. It still bothers me, but it was probably no one’s responsibility and nobody thought of it.

If your coworkers were very young, they might simply have had too little life experience yet to realize how important such gestures can be to people. Sometimes it takes a while to develop those sensitivities.

glacial's avatar

I’ve never heard of any company that I’ve worked for sending an official message of condolence. I have often experienced or seen coworkers or employers express it directly (i.e., personally), though.

I think my expectations would vary depending on how close I was to the people involved. I wouldn’t expect the company I worked for to offer condolences… how heartfelt could they possibly be? And if the sentiment isn’t felt, why would I want it?

livelaughlove21's avatar

I’m sorry for your loss.

However, I’m not sure if I’d call it “rude” considering it was just a temporary job. It would’ve been nice of them to send something, but I wouldn’t have expected anything. And I’m not sure I’d really care either way, especially if my mom just passed away.

flo's avatar

You are not crazy, you’re just used to it. I just feel there should be no expectation from the workplace people. I see it as personal is personal and business is business. If they happen to express it fine if they don’t fine too.

josie's avatar

It would be nice if people conformed to common standards of social decency. But sometimes they don’t. The sun will come up tomorrow.

SamandMax's avatar

I’m somewhat and unfortunately perhaps of the same opinion as @flo here. There are some companies who appear at best not to care all that much, and at worst really couldn’t give a damn. The problem here is that business is business, and personal lives are not part of the professional circle within that business.
I’m of the mind that a happy team works better than an unhappy one, whilst it’s not possible to keep everyone in the workplace happy under any and all circumstances, there should be at least some modicum of consideration regarding a team member’s life outside of the workplace. This would be one of those circumstances.
I think if I were in your shoes I would be vexed too.

Pachy's avatar

I agree, your boss and co-workers are horribly remiss for not ackknowledging your mother’s passing. My dad died when I was working for an ad agency many years ago, and I was so grateful that my boss and even his boss came to the funeral. But that was then; nowadays, it seems to me that type of kindness is far rarer—certainly in bigger companies (like the one I work for now), where HR often encourges employees and their managers not to “get personal.”

@LeavesNoTrace, please accept my condolences for your loss.

Bellatrix's avatar

I work for a very large organisations with large sections within it. Relatives of staff have died and former colleagues have died while I have been here. Left to their own devices my boss (and his PA) would not think to send flowers, cards etc. I have on a few occasions taken it upon myself to say ‘We need to send flowers”, “You should attend the funeral”, “Can we please send a card”. It isn’t they don’t care. It’s that they don’t think about it. It doesn’t occur to them. There is no rule book so unless they have been mentored/trained by someone who does see these things as important, they might not even consider it part of their role.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

This going to sound cold, and I’m not cold. But work is work. They have no obligation to support you in your grief. It’s up to the individuals to step forward. And if it helps at all, I’m so so sorry for your loss. That’s way too young to lose anyone. I lost my Dad when I was 12. It hurts for a long long time.If you want to PM me feel free.

filmfann's avatar

When both of my parents passed, my company did nothing, other than giving me some time off for grieving. I appreciated that, and it’s okay they didn’t send flowers or a card. Sometimes it’s better not to say anything.

marinelife's avatar

You are confusing personal with corporate. Individuals who knew you well enough could have expressed condolences. The business does not have feelings.

Look for comfort from friends and family.

Haleth's avatar

My mom died when I was fifteen, and I agree with @Adirondackwannabe and @marinelife. “The business does not have feelings” is a good way to put it. Comforting someone for the loss of a loved one is a personal gesture, and it’s more meaningful when it’s genuine. A card or flowers from the H.R. department would be empty and hollow.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it’s odd for your direct boss not to say anything to acknowledge your loss. I personally would not care whether it was verbal or written down in a card or email. Higher up than that I would not expect anything from my company except a few days off. Probably expectations vary depending on the size of the company.

gondwanalon's avatar

I do know how you feel. It doesn’t surprise me that you received no official condolences from your boss. And that is just wrong.

“Oh, I sorry about that” and “ Take the rest of the day off” was what I got from my boss. I thought, “What good would it do to take a half day off from work?” So I just stayed at work. My world had just taken a huge turn for the worse and no one at work really cared.

Good health to you.

burntbonez's avatar

It seems pretty unfeeling. Someone at work should have thought to send a condolence card. But I don’t think it is up to the employer to do anything. You’re just an employee. You don’t count for much. You’re replaceable. Or that’s how most employers treat people.

Hopefully you will find future work at an employer who does care, and who treats people like people. They do exist. But are few and far between. The only people most employers care about are the higher up ones. They’re the ones who get cards and parties when alive, and people at the funerals when dead.

I’m sorry for your loss and sorry that your loss is made harder by the lack of concern from people at work. However, I don’t think this is unusual. People don’t care at work. Only your real friends will do something for you. To the rest, nobody else matters.

antimatter's avatar

Sorry about the loss of your mother.
But I think that’s a bit cold what your boss did.
It may be a bit out place to say this but sometimes bosses prefer not to show sympathy to their employees even if you think they like you. I think from a bosses point of view they see us only as a number and it’s easier to strip emotion from a number and not from a person with feelings to improve productivity and of course should any instructions be issued to an employee.

dabbler's avatar

@marinelife makes a good point, that a company does not have feelings.
Personally I’m never surprised when a corporation behaves in a heartless manner.

On the other hand, it is far more common for there to be some acknowledgement of your loss from your management. At least to show that they know you may be having some bad days and are willing to treat you like a real human being, with reasonable feelings.

The company where my sister worked, sent me a plant and a kind note when she passed away, and several of her coworkers and her managers attended the service. Class act.

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hearkat's avatar

It seems it might be a cultural thing. Perhaps Americans are in the habit of expecting personal things from a business, because we are told that corporations are equal to persons.

I never got an ‘official’ expression of condolences from the company when my father died 3 years ago. I didn’t expect one, either. I told my immediate supervisor and the practice manager, and they replied with condolences. I got angry, however, when coworkers (from different office locations) whom I hadn’t told about my day’s passing sent condolence cards to my home address which I had never given them. We used to have a spreadsheet with everyone’s address and phone numbers on it for emergency contact purposes, and they took it upon themselves to use that info. I complained about lack of privacy, and that information is now confidential.

flo's avatar

@hearkat I agree it was not necessary to send them to your house. The people you told, could have just presented it at work, at lunch time or at the end of the day or something, but not the people you didn’t tell.

Jeruba's avatar

Doesn’t anybody else give weight to the fact that the contract was over when @LeavesNoTrace‘s mother passed away? As I interpret that, she was no longer working for them. Former employees don’t usually expect personal gestures to come from the workplace, and former contractors even less so.

A feeling of disappointment seems natural if some of these people had become friends, but I see no rudeness or failure of obligation.

JLeslie's avatar

@Jeruba I guess I didn’t understand she doesn’t work for the company at all anymore, if that is the case I agree, it would be unlikely for a coworker to reach out to her, certainly not expected. Maybe depending how long she worked with them might determine being a little dissappointed, but not angry, and I would not have an expectation of someone from the company making any sort of extra effort.

Jeruba's avatar

Well, my reading may be wrong, but I’ve reread the first sentence of the details several times and don’t see another interpretation. Without additional clarification from the OP, we’re left to make guesses.

glacial's avatar

@Jeruba Hmm. I was convinced that @LeavesNoTrace was still associated with the company, and was about to say that I thought so… but I’ve read it over twice now from your perspective, and I think you may be right.

livelaughlove21's avatar

@Jeruba Good point. “Completed a contract job” would indicate she doesn’t even work there anymore. I didn’t think there was any obligation for them to send something in the first place, but in this case that’s certainly true.

seekingwolf's avatar

Yeah it sounds like her job there ended and she returned home, and then her mom passed away. Why is she expecting condolences from a company that she no longer works for? I’m confused.

I’m of the mindset that personal is personal, business is business. It’s easier that way. Too many people want to nose their way to others’ business and I honestly think it should be separate.

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