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Is Signing Emails “XOXO” Appropriate for the Office?

Career Advice |

People exchanging digital hugs and kisses is nothing new, particularly in the age of Twitter and texting. But the “xoxo” sign-off once reserved for friends or family who you would actually hug and kiss is now appearing in work emails. A recent article for The Atlantic explores the distinctly female trend, asking whether X’s and O’s are feminizing the workplace or undermining women’s professionalism.

 

On the one hand, workplace etiquette for women is already complicated enough. We have to worry about everything from our heels and hemlines to how we give commands and feedback. Why bother with worrying about when to reciprocate an inter-office “xo,” or what happens if you “xo” a male colleague, to say nothing of your boss? At best, a misplaced sign-off may end in a humorous misunderstanding. At worst, they can cause discomfort or the belief that you are trying to kindle an office romance. More important, as the Atlantic article asks, “Why, after all the strides we’ve made to be taken seriously at work, must we end our emails with the digital equivalent of a pink Gelly Roll pen?”

Yet power players like Arianna Huffington, Wendy Williams and Diane Sawyer all “xo.” Norah Ephron‘s effusive “xo”-ing matched her effusive personality. In You Just Don’t Understand, socio-linguist Deborah Tannen points out that for men, conversation is about negotiating status, while for women, conversation is about negotiating closeness and intimacy. If communication is how women bond, a preference for ending emails to female colleagues with a more intimate “xoxo” instead of a relatively icy “regards” makes a lot of sense. Perhaps “xo”-ing isn’t unprofessional then, but part of a new type of professionalism being created by women who finally have offices of their own?

While there are valid points for and against hugs and kisses in the office, professionalism is mission critical to young women climbing career ladders. Frankly, it’s just not worth risking. Yes, context matters a lot: finance norms are not the same as fashion norms, and hugs and kisses to a close female colleague or peer are very different than hugs and kisses to your older male boss. If you must “xo,” whether you would actually hug and kiss the recipient is probably a good litmus test. But there is never anything wrong with best,” “thanksor regards.”

Do you “xo” your co-workers? Do they “xo” you? Or do you think that digital hugs and kisses at work are equally inappropriate as real ones? Tell us in the comments. 

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Topics

relationships 2 email community etiquette

8 Comments

Only use this type of regards/sign off on personal emails via gmail!

3y

"for men, conversation is about negotiating status, while for women, conversation is about negotiating closeness and intimacy." really interesting insight from sociologist Deborah Tannen

3y

I don't "xo" with co-workers and they don't "xo" me...thank goodness. Even if well intentioned, it can begin to blur the lines of professional with personal and that's a line that should never be blurred, especially by women who are looking to climb in their careers.

3y
cat_fuentes

Depends on industry -- I communicate with lots of music publicists, and the females at smaller shops largely sign emails with "xo." I wouldn't do it in my own office since it's so male dominated -- in fact, I don't really sign off with ANYTHING in inter-office emails, since that's not the norm of my company. I see it a lot, but wouldn't feel comfortable using it unless it was in a conversation where someone already brought it out (esp. if I have a working closeness with that rep).

4y
Marian Hogan

Thank you for giving me more fresh information.

Everything 5 Pounds

4y
Harmeet Gill-Sethy

It may depend on the industry. But I think it is always best to be safe than sorry. There are so many other ways to end emails that convey emotions towards your female - and male- colleagues ranging from respect ("Many regards") to friendship ("Cheers!" or just "Hugs
") that "XOXO" doesn't seem necessary.

I enjoy separating my private life from my personal life and how I may dress, speak, and communicate a little differently in the two.

4y
Kate Eckhoff

My job is very conservative, I use either 'Best Regards' or my informal alternative is 'Best'. Only in my private life do I sign e-mails with 'xoxo'.

4y
Carly Heitlinger

Eep.... guilty!

4y
Kirsten Murray

Kirsten holds a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth College and a master's degree from the London School of Economics in Gender, Development & Globalization. She managed a daily research publication for a large hedge fund in the New York area but has since traded in her city slicker status for life on an Indiana farm, where she is pursuing her goal of being a writer. You can follow her rural mishaps and adventures on her blog, www.dupontdiaries.com.