How to write a sympathy card for an employee

Here are some guidelines for writing a sympathy card for your employee.

After an employee has suffered a loss, it's generally a good idea for his or her manager or boss to reach out in the form of a sympathy card from the company. Sympathy cards are never easy to write, and when they come from an office or manager rather than a close personal friend, they can be even more difficult to compose. However, it's polite for someone within the company to reach out – if you're writing a sympathy card for an employee, here are a few guidelines for how to craft your condolence message in a genuine and appropriate way:

Be sincere
Sympathy cards are not the place to be formal. That's why the person responsible for writing the card should be a direct manager or boss who works with the employee on a daily basis and has developed a relationship with him or her. In your message, use the employee's first name, and refrain from overly distant language. Be personable and sincere, and if you're having trouble, consider asking one of the employee's co-workers or work friends to write the message instead. 

Focus on them
In many cases, sympathy cards come from people who knew both the deceased and the recipient of the card, but in this case, it's likely you weren't familiar with the person who passed away. If that's the case, leave out a lot of details about the deceased, and instead focus on your employee and any kind words you can say about them or help you can offer during this time. If the employee had mentioned the deceased person a lot, you can mention how important you knew their relationship was and how sorry you are they've lost someone so obviously dear to them.

Avoid platitudes
One of the top ways to sound insincere is to use platitudes or sayings that sound like they're straight from a greeting card. Sympathy cards should be well thought out and genuine, and you should avoid saying anything along the lines of "It was his time" or "He's in a better place." These can make it seem like you're downplaying the employee's grief, even if you're truly trying to offer support. 

Offer help from the company
One of the differences between business sympathy cards and those from a personal friend are that the company may also want to include their bereavement policy in the note as a courtesy or offer to help the employee in another way. Talk to your human resources department about this aspect of the letter, and make sure you aren't offering something that you wouldn't give to everyone who goes through a loss in the future (like days off over and above your bereavement policy, for instance). 

Have everyone sign it
The employee's colleagues or team members may want to purchase and sign their own cards either from the team as a whole or individually, but if that's not the case, have anyone who wants to sign your card. Remember that if multiple people are signing the card, you should craft your message using "we" rather than "I" statements.