Dear Lucy

Last updated: July 18, 2012 12:18 am

How do I reply to ‘lots of love’?

The way my manager ended his email has left me with creeping doubts

I’ve just received an email from my manager vaguely reprimanding me about something pretty trivial. The odd thing wasn’t the message itself but the way he finished it, signing off with “lots of love”. Perhaps this was his way of trying to soften the message, but it has left me with two creeping doubts. Is it ever OK for a line manager to sign off messages to staff in this way? And if he insists on ending his emails like that, how am I meant to reply? I can’t bring myself to write “lots of love” back, but to write “best” looks a bit chilly.

Media researcher, female, 33

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Lucy’s answer

The problem with “best” is not that it looks chilly. It’s that it makes no sense. Best what? Best of luck? Best wishes? Best buy? Best man?

Nor must you consider writing “Lots of love”. To slavishly mirror the sign-off of the boss achieves one thing only: it makes you look weak.

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Dear Lucy

Instead, what you must do is perfectly easy – not sign off at all. This is always the best, quickest and safest way of ending emails to colleagues. If you insist, you can write your name at the bottom, but as everyone can see that it is from you, such elucidation isn’t strictly necessary.

As for whether it is ever acceptable for a boss to sign himself off with “Lots of love”, the answer is that it might be. Email is a strange form – even though we all spend our lives sending and receiving emails, there is still no agreement on the rules of how to start or end them and all sorts of things are permissible, depending on the circumstances.

If your boss signs himself off “lots of love” there are two possibilities. The first is that he was too quick to press send, and made a mistake. I’ve just sent a message to a reader who had taken issue with something I’d written and I carelessly signed it with three kisses. Fortunately, he ignored it: his subsequent reply ended with a more fitting “best wishes”.

More likely, though, your boss’s sign-off shows that he is trying to create an informal, we’re-all-great-chums culture. This approach doesn’t begin to work for me, but is perfectly fine if you like that sort of thing.

However, I fear you may have a bigger problem than how to sign off your reply. In particular, I fear it may cause offence long before the end of it. You say your boss was reprimanding you over something “pretty trivial”, but in my experience minor transgressions tend not to attract reprimanding emails at all. Most people don’t like telling others off, and your boss – who wants to be seen as a lovable kinda guy – may like it less than most.

I suspect that you have in fact made a major transgression. In which case you should stop dithering, get cracking at once, and start your reply with a big, fat apology.

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