How Would You Handle This Email? June 13, 2010

How Would You Handle This Email?

At the American Humanist Association conference last weekend, Amanda Knief, a cofounder of Iowa Atheists & Freethinkers, presented on the topic of religion and the workplace.

One slide she presented was the following (click to enlarge)… how would you handle it?

Don’t see any issues with that?

Note the Jesus Fish (

Vote in the poll and defend your answer (or offer a different one) in the comments.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Gabriel

    I’d ignore it. It’d be different if he said something like “God bless” or anything else religious, in which case I’d politely ask him not to assume everyone he works with is Christian. I didn’t even notice the fish until I was told to notice it, so I’m not sure it’s worth causing disharmony over. On the other hand, if we are to go the conspiracy theory route, that makes it a subliminal message and those are bad 😉

  • Karmakin

    I’d mostly ignore it, with one aside.

    If I didn’t know the person, I’d probably go and verify what the writer is saying for myself, as his trustworthiness would be a bit more suspect in my eyes.

  • Riff Gaffer

    I’d ignore it.

    It’s a signature, and I have signatures on my emails sometimes – like Gabriel I didn’t even notice the symbol.

    I don’t have a fundamental problem with people of faith, provided they don’t try and ram it down my throat and I don’t think that’s too overboard.

  • i’d ask what the symbol meant.

    if the answer was that it’s a jesus fish, i’d go with the second answer.

  • Trace

    I would probably ignore it.

    Abundant Blessings, Trace. 😉

  • Juno

    I read the email numerous times trying to figure out what was offensive, but got nothing until I read below. I would have never noticed the fish unless someone had pointed it out to me, and even then, I would have just thought it was some error on the email or something. For me, I don’t see anything offensive about it and I believe it isn’t a problem. Things like this is why people seem to think we’re just a bunch of angry people, getting upset about someone’s signature for their emails. Perhaps if the company was really strict about no religion at all in the work place (i.e. not allowing any recognition of it), I would ask him to remove it. It’s not like this person is saying “Hey, hey you! I’m a christian and you better like it! Look at me!” No, this is like wearing a gold cross necklace. Seriously, how many people would even catch this as a christian symbol?

  • Samiimas

    I honestly didn’t notice the fish until it was pointed out, I thought it was just some weird symbol marking the end of the letter.

    And if they let him put that then they better be ready for me to stick Kirbys on every message I send.

  • Bryan

    I’d leave it alone. It’d be the same as if someone got upset over someone else using an emoticon. I mean hey, couldn’t that just be a fun little fish? It doesn’t specify itself as being religious.

  • I noticed it right away. Yes, it’s offensive, and I’d probably talk to him and make sure that he wasn’t sending it out to people outside the company. We live in a multi-cultural society, expressing your religion in a non-religious setting is offensive to many people, and he should be made aware of that.

    I fully understand that he may not understand that he’s being offensive or why that sort of thing is offensive, but that doesn’t make it okay for him to do it.

  • Pony

    Start adding dirty emoticons to the end of my emails.

    (.)(.)

    B===D

  • Jake

    I wouldn’t say anything. To me it wasn’t a big deal.
    ~@@~

  • Carrie

    Considering I had to be told that was what it is, I would ignore it. I’m sure the vast majority of people (religious and nonreligious) would assume that was just some symbols marking the end of the letter.

  • I don’t think I’d make a very big deal out of it – I’d definitely say something if religious messages in his signature began to get more overt (the numbers for bible passages, stuff like that).

    If I were going to forward the email at all, I’d quietly delete those three characters before I hit ‘send’ – as they’ve got nothing to do with the message itself, nor the company platform on religion, I don’t think it’s unethical to alter the original message in that way. Given the situation I think I’d personally be more comfortable not participating in passing on a religious insignia, but I don’t think that one instance requires any actual alarm.

  • Dnl

    Write ahetever email you were going to, and finish it with:

    <

  • Valhar2000

    I’d ignore it. It seems overly sensitive, and silly, to make a fuss over this. I’d wait to see if there is a pattern pushing religion on other people, especially people who work under him, and then I would go on to steps 2 and 3, but, really, if this sort of thing is all the religion pushing he’s going to do, I don’t care.

  • Justin

    I’d ignore it. Lots of people have little quotes or other personal flair in their email signatures. If it were a Bible verse, I’d probably be more annoyed, but this thing seems pretty harmless to me.

  • I wouldn’t worry about it. The text is so poorly written I doubt anyone would make it to the wet fish at the bottom.

  • I would talk to people I could trust (peers) and see what they think. If I could get some allies then I’d talk to someone in authority bringing up the fact that some clients may find the Jesus fish offensive.

  • benjdm

    I never would have caught on that < is a Jesus fish.

  • It’s not a big deal but not really appropriate for a business letter. Now you have me wondering if there is an emoticon for the Flying Spaghetti Monster?
    /| or perhaps :€?

  • Lynne

    I’d ignore it. I have no problem with someone expressing their belief as long as they are not trying to convert anyone, or telling another that their belief/unbelief is wrong.

  • T Ray

    This has the recognizable potential to make someone uncomfortable in the workplace. The title Team Leader suggests a position of authority. This is intended to be a professional communication. Dave is either (mis)representing the business as a christian organization or he is misusing company resources to promote a personal ideology. This small puncture in “maintaining a comfortable working environment” and professional etiquette may have a massive exit wound.

    Further, while I took this to me an internal memo (which may not be the case) using this signature to represent the company to outside entities also (mis)represents the company as a christian organization or Dave (and by extension, the company) as unprofessional.

    So no, it’s not a big deal until it becomes a big deal. And the damage done by Dave’s personal whim will likely manifest in a lack of support. Internal support would be morale. External support would be revenue. Few people are going to say they are jealous that Dave is allowed to proselytize via work and they are not. And few clients are going to tell you they had second thoughts about your business because of an email signature. But when choosing between two competitive businesses it doesn’t take much to steer someone the other way.

  • TrogloDyke

    Things like this is why people seem to think we’re just a bunch of angry people, getting upset about someone’s signature for their emails.

    Very true. I’d ignore it unless this person had a history of doing more overt stuff. He’s not preaching at all. He’s just saying, “This is who I am.” And though I get annoyed by things like this in other arenas, I wouldn’t make a fuss over it, especially in a private company (i.e., not government).

    Now, I avoid businesses if they display jesus fish in their logos or on their vehicles. I just don’t want to give them my money. That, to me, is “praying in the open,” and it’s not necessary. If you run your business by so-called “Xtian principles,” well, that should show in the level of work you do. You shouldn’t have to proclaim it to the world.

  • littlebirdie

    There are bigger things to worry about in the world than this. If it was external going to clients and I was his supervisor another thing who has the energy to fight someone on something so little.

  • Jfox

    No big deal BUT I would not pull his ass out of a pit on the sabbath.

  • jose

    It’s none of my business what Dave puts in his email signature. If he were my boss and he required me to include it as well, then I would start to care.

  • I’d be inclined to ignore it. That said, if this became a trend among one’s christian co-workers I could see how it becomes a way for them to identify who is “one of us” and who isn’t. And I could see all sorts of problems potentially emerging from that—from workplace proselytizing to intimidation and violence (unlikely maybe, but I’ve personally been threatened by a coworker because he had heard from someone that I’m an atheist—it does happen).

    For that reason, were I the boss rather than a co-worker or subordinate, I think I’d tell the person to leave religious symbols out of their emails.

  • Chicago John

    Turns out it’s pretty simple to turn a Jesus Fish into a FSM

    ><><

  • idyll

    Is there an atheist emoticon? If so, I’d respond and be sure to include it.

  • mikespeir

    I selected the first choice; but, frankly, it’s not just not a big deal, it’s no deal at all.

  • Craig Hansen

    Would a couple of “L”s turn it into a Darwin fish?

    ><>
    …L L

    No, not really. But some sort of subtle dig in a reply would be my preference. If I couldn't make it clever enough, I'd just let it go.

  • chucke

    I disagree with Jose’s point that it’s nobody’s business what someone puts in a sig (or uses for a background in an HTML e-mail, for example). These communications aren’t personal, they’re professional and, since this was to go to clients as well, reflect upon the whole business. This has nothing to do with the business unless it’s a church or something of a religious nature. How is the use of a contorted ASCII symbol more professional than, e. g., using a rainbow flag or pink triangle background for an e-mail or including Bible or Koran verses (or perhaps even a link to a skeptic or atheist site) in a sig? The time and place for all of that is when you’re not on company time. On company time, it’s very inappropriate.

  • Stephen P

    For an internal e-mail I’d ignore it unless there had already been other issues with proselytisation etc. But for an external mail I would, if I was the person’s manager (or had some other position of responsibility, such as PR manager) politely ask him not to do it again.

  • JohnCW

    I’m glad most votes went to “ignore it”. it’s no different than if I tagged my emails

    (|o)===:::

    it’s slightly unprofessional but it is not offensive in any way. I really don’t understand why atheists would care if people are open with their religion. [so long as you are allowed to be open with your atheism]

  • hitch

    For broad client communication it is unprofessional, which has nothing to do with it having religious undertones.

  • JT

    If it’s going out to clients I’d make it an issue, unless we are working at a company that is expressly religious…in which case, what the hell am I doing working there??

    Though honestly, it looks less like a Jesus fish and more like a tiny virus. AHH he attached a virus to his e-mail!

  • I wouldn’t have even caught that. I skip sig-lines as a matter of course- they’re just meaningless noise. And even if I did notice it, I’d simply conclude that the sender was a jackass. I’d feel no need to force this person to stop being a jackass. I’d just log that for future reference and interactions.

  • As with sigs on forums I barely noticed it. I’ve seen plenty of properly annoying and offensive sigs elsewhere so I couldn’t care about three little angle brackets.

    If anything I thought it was a poorly formed XML document. I guess that’s what you get for being a software dev. 😉

  • Bill

    If he was my boss I’d be more concerned about his misuse of the word ‘assure’
    But I didn’t notice the fish – I like the idea of adding random new emoticons to one’s emails in response though and then acting offended if anyone asks what they are

  • I would reply to the email and switch his to:
    <

    and add one more after my email

  • PT

    “It’s none of my business what Dave puts in his email signature. If he were my boss and he required me to include it as well, then I would start to care.”

    Actually, the last 2 companies I’ve worked for had specific policies on signatures: No personal signatures, period. There is a template w/ the name, organization, title, email, physical address. You can either use it or not, but if you use something else…HR will give you a call. I imagine its for instances such as these. It keeps anything even very slightly offensive out.

    In this situation, I might (as an associate) briefly mention it to “Dave”, very informally. Say something like, its not a big deal to me and I don’t really care, but I’d hate for you to get in trouble over something so small. There are other ways to display your beliefs w/out the potential to interfere w/ company policy. As a manager, I’d verbally point to company policy, simply ask for its removal as not being ‘uniform’ to company logos. It’s not something I’d do a formal written discipline on–though in my company if it got to HR, I might be forced to do so if he didn’t comply.

  • Dave

    I’d ignore it – as long as it didn’t get any worse. By any worse I mean bible quotes, proselytizing, etc.

  • Grimalkin

    I work with quite a few older people, and e-mails will frequently include little notes such as the very supportive “I will pray for you,” or “God bless.” At Christmas, we decided that instead of doing a secret Santa, we would pick a charity to all donate to. Two Christian co-workers volunteered to pick the charity, but the one they picked was explicitly religious – a toy gifting program for children in impoverished families run out of a church that referred to the kids as “little angels.” More recently, my boss (an Anglican) won an award with the Anglican Church. As the one who does the layout for our newsletter, I was put in the position of promoting her award – which included an acceptance speech by her thanking God for all the wonderful opportunities in her life.

    None of it is malicious (with the exception of one client who wished the staff a “Merry Christmas – I know that some people in today’s society take objection to the celebration of Christmas, but I’m not going to give in to these people who are trying to hijack our culture. That’s just not the kind of man I am.” – yes, this is an actual paraphrase of what was on his card). For the most part, it’s just Christians living in a dominantly Christian country having absolutely no idea what it really means to have a multi-cultural staff. One staff member was actually surprised when I pointed out that our Muslim co-workers might feel uncomfortable if we went ahead with her idea to use nativity ornaments in our already very Christo-centred “holiday” office decorating.

    So how do I deal with this? If it’s a client, I can’t say anything. Obviously. When staff does it, I just return the favour. I smile and go along with it, as long as it doesn’t cross a line (nativity scenes? Come on!), but then I invite the office to join in with some of my own secular celebrations. For example, I organized a pot-luck office party to celebrate the Winter Solstice. I recognize that they are expressing their beliefs, and I feel that the best way to deal with it is to turn an office into an environment where we can all do the same. As a result, we had a little card exchange for Eid, our American colleague brings in food that is particular to her part of the world, our African colleague brought in some traditional drums from her culture and showed us how to use them properly, and most of them are now even comfortable with me talking about Atheism and sharing bits of what that means culturally.

  • Jasel

    Not that huge of a deal in itself to me. I’d ignore it.

  • Joyfulbaby

    I live in the South. I get wished a Blessed Day all the freakin’ time. Does it bother me? Not as much as it could. I generally thank the person and wish them the same.

    Now, that happens in stores where I am the customer. How would I deal with it if I got that at work? (Shrug) Probably the same way. It’s just not worth dealing with it.

  • Sgstuck

    This is actually a pretty common practice among companies that operate in the South. A short trip through the Carolinas and you will probably pass numerous billboards for motels, car dealerships, and even a few national brands that slip in a Jesus Fish.

    Most of us would view it as highly unprofessional and offensive to some prospective clients, but I suspect that there are a much larger number of people in the South who would be attracted by “Oh hey look we love Jesus, too!”

    It would annoy me if someone I worked with used a < too, but sadly I think he might be helping the company if it operated in certain parts of the US.

  • niroz

    Probably insert into my emails ‘In FSM we trust’

  • BillC

    I have received emails from outside companies with bible quotes attached, which are a bit easier to spot than this, but I’d probably respond the same way. I send a reply with an alternative, though positive, worldview comment or quote. With this one, I’d probably do something like >^^< or whatever. It let's the sender know I saw it, and I can play, too.

  • I’m with everyone who said they didn’t even notice it until they were told to look for it; I would just ignore it. If I forwarded the e-mail it’s likely that I’d remove it, though, just at the risk that someone might indeed find it offensive.

  • mark

    I’d try the passive aggressive approach…I’d hit “reply all” and ask innocently:

    “What does the symbol in your sig mean?”

  • tim

    What I find a bit sad is why is the question even coming up. Its simply a tag line in an e-mail. Its truly a sad state if people are freaking out about this.

  • Liokae

    It isn’t a big deal, and it wouldn’t bother me, but I’d still simply politely ask them to stop. It may not bother me, but it is inappropriate for a work related email that’s to be sent out to clients.

  • WetMogwai

    I’m amazed at the people who would ignore it. If he never communicates with clients, it may not be a huge problem. If he does, imagine someone with a pentagram that has 666 in the middle as their signature. Imagine them sending it to clients in the Bible Belt. Now do you see a problem?

    Unless the business has a religious purpose, such as providing Jebus Biscuits, they should remain religiously neutral or risk losing potential business.

  • hitch

    Context really matters. If this is a multinational company it is unprofessional. If this is a christian book publisher, it may be a good idea.

    In the companies I worked at it would be equally inapproproate as including anything that doesn’t professionally deal with the business at hand. That’d include any personal tag lines or emoticons of any nature.

    In this context emails to clients is the face of the company. Each business has to decide what their public face is though.

  • HDE

    As an information security professional, I think the ASCII representation of his fish looks a lot like a cross-site scripting attack (https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Cross-site_scripting). If you wanted to be funny, you could play dumb and email the company’s infosec department and alert them to this person attempting cross-site scripting attacks through email 🙂

  • I would never have known it was a Jesus fish if you hadn’t told me. I think it would have to be a bit more blatant before I’d do anything about it. But then, I may be numb to the problem given that I get prayer request emails at work almost daily. I work at a publicly-funded state university, BTW.

  • gc1ceo

    It’s rather silly to assume anything from a tiny icon. I wonder next if someone will sue a co-worker because they mention they are going fishing on the weekend and how a fish is associated with Christianity. Next I’ll start avoiding eating a crossiant in a multi-cultural environment since it might be offensive to Islam.

  • phira

    I didn’t realize it was a Jesus fish either, but if I kept seeing that on future emails from this person, I’d ask, “Hey, why do you keep having weird formatting at the end of your signature?”

    I would probably ignore the fish, except that the email is supposedly going out to clients later that day. That’s an issue, unfortunately. So in that case, I’d still ask what was up with the weird formatting, and then I’d say, “Since this email is going out to clients, it would be more appropriate not to include that. It’s not necessary in the email, and depending on the faith of our clients, they might be offended.” If you frame it as, “You know, I don’t mind it, but our clients might,” that would be easier.

  • Leni

    Absolutely nothing! How do you even know it’s a Jesus fish? I prefer to think of it as a sly reference to the Salmon of Doubt.

  • Don

    It depends. If the company has a Christian business model than of course it should be ignored or maybe even encouraged, but then I wouldn’t be there. A small company that knows it’s clientele is religious it can also be ignored. I work for a large international corporation where it is absolutely inappropriate to send this out to clients.

  • Evilspud

    I don’t understand the issue here. It’s a valid concept:

    <

    No wings < Wings

  • Jim

    Ignore it. Maybe he’s just a guy that likes fishing?

  • defiantnonbeliever

    I don’t know what I’d do, probably ignore it to safeguard my job. I saw it immediately after puzzling for awhile over my brother’s PTL GIG after his name on emails. I find them both offensive but don’t quiet know how to respond. I did add a Dawkins.net and jesusneverexisted.com to my yahoo signature without comment 😛 I’m not sure how that’s been taken by the few other people I email. I saw a new siggy of the cartoon calvin peeing on a fish symbol, should I add it as attachment?

  • Adam

    As an atheist working for a Christian company, I see a LOT more than this on our employees e-mail signatures. In fact, one particular individual has the following email signature (and yes it is actually in ALL CAPS and the exclamation points are included):

    “PRAISE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST!!!!
    HIS PRAISE SHALL CONSTANTLY BE IN MOUTH!!!!”

    So it depends on the company. A company like mine, whose mission is to produce a religion friendly workplace, I just ignore it, but in a normal workplace I would just report it, as its up to their supervisor to handle things like this.

  • Nakor

    I wouldn’t have noticed myself, but now I see that there are people who would have noticed. I’d therefore ask politely to have it removed, as it can cause companies problems to have problems when religion is included in communication, no matter how benign it is. You never know what may offend clients/customers, and it’s just not a good idea. If they refused to remove it, and if there was any chance it would reflect on me personally, I’d mention it to management; otherwise probably not go that far.

  • Franci

    Emoticons in a work email are very unprofessional, religious or not. Anyone using emoticons in an email would come off to me like a 14 year old girl. I’d have to wonder if he’s Team Edward or Team Jacob.

  • Bastian Fromherz

    its just his signature, he’s probably not intentionally adding it in every time to convert people

  • Baconsbud

    To be truthful I never would have even noticed it had you not posted it on the blog here. I doubt very much I would have done anything since I seldom worry about anything beyond the text of any message I receive.

  • Meyli

    I’d ignore it. I wouldn’t have recognized it as a Jesus fish right off – I use that symbol all the time for just a plain old fish >

  • benjdm

    Some pretty good FSM symbols above. I’ll throw my own in the mix:

    ~&&~

  • I have worked in IT Consulting Services for over a decade, so has my husband. This isn’t even an issue of my own atheism to me. I would report it to a supervisor. You cannot take chances with offending a client. That is not why we are there. We are there to provide services. You can’t count on an offended client to come to management and “work it” out, they could simply stop doing business with you. So this kind of non-sense could jeopardize what we call “billable hours”, aka profit.

  • Carol B

    I get wished a Blessed Day all the freakin’ time.

    I get lots of “God Bless You’s” from patients and families, too. I just smile and say “Same to you.” It needles me a little, but it’s meant from the heart. They’re just saying “Thank you” and “We’re grateful.”

    I have to admit that I find myself actually saying “Bless your heart.” It’s kind of a sweet phrase. You know, someone’s telling you a sad story and you say “Bless your heart!” or a story about someone’s loved one doing something stupid, you say “Bless his heart!” In the south, you can say any mean thing you want about someone, as long as it’s preceded by “Bless his heart….”

  • Alice

    Fishes and those little sideways carrots do not offend me. In this situation, where I’m at work and I’m supposed to be doing my job, this is a battle not worth fighting. There are other things that need to be done.

  • Claudia

    Considering the fact that I totally missed it the first time and had to squint to find it when told to, I think I’d ignore it. As far as overt religiosity goes, its about as discreet as you can possibly get. If I were ofended by this I’d have to be offended by people wearing crusifixes or FSM t-shirts or mentioning church in my presence. I simply lack the motivation to be upset all the time. Maybe if it were a Bible quote, but an ascii fish? Nah.

  • vincent

    I would ask if I have to consider the information as beeing fishy 🙂

  • mike

    I voted that I would politely ask them to stop. But in truth, it depends where the coworker is using the symbol or words. I don’t mind if people have something of that nature in their skype profile or equivalent. But I don’t think it belongs in direct replies to customers, like e-mail. The profile is sort of like the workers desk, while the direct reply is in essence work done on behalf of the customer.

  • Something else:

    The e-mail itself is atrociously written in Orwellian corporate-speak, so I’d want to re-write it.

    After that, I’d ask myself who owns & runs the company. Do I already know that I work for people who are open and, say, outwardly dynamic about their Christianity? Then complaining would accomplish nothing, and the desire to complain is a sign that I need another job.

    Otherwise…I’d ignore it. Unless maybe there was something about the context that made the Jesus-fish not just weird but offensively unprofessional.

  • Alex

    So where does it end? There is something to be said for zero tolerance. How about a little prayer before a business lunch? Been there done that! Why not add a little fish symbol to your business card? Personal and secular business activities should remain separate

  • i would add ? ??? ???? (sanskrit for “Aum Namah Sivaya”, but apparently your blog doesn’t display UTF-8, so you’ll have to imagine it) to my signature and wait for the reprocussions.

  • Icaarus

    I would be worried that it got out to the outside world. If my company was in direct dealings with a temple or mosque, then we would instantly loose that business. Especially if they were a more traditional group. So since this comment has 0 potential good and is a serious detriment under certain (I will admit rare) circumstances, I would make sure it was not ever used. It’s just bad business.

  • JD

    Usually “zero tolerance” means zero brains. I don’t want to expand zero tolerance to cover a benign emoticon in an internal memo.

    If it were me, I would think it’s something way too petty to worry about, unless you’re aiming to be a petty person. I do think it’s inappropriate to use religious symbols in a secular workplace, that’s pretty tiny and subtle. They aren’t doing things like dropping in bible verses or mention of religious practice. I know some people seem to see religious symbols on the level of swastikas, I think there are more important things to worry about, so I think the response should be proportional, this one isn’t worth the effort.

    Or are we offended that we don’t have a widely understood emoticon that tells people our beliefs contradict theirs? I know you can’t just drop in an italic “A” in there without being asked if you made a mistake and left out your favorite quote or made a stray typo.

  • TychaBrahe

    @Troglodyke – you contradict yourself. You say it’s no big deal and you wouldn’t do anything, but then you say that you do not patronize businesses with such symbols. Why risk the fact that your customers have similar feelings and don’t want to do business with you if your coworkers are using this–or any other–religious or political symbol.

  • Gaian

    One thing us atheists (my wife tells me to use Humanists) need to consider is that unlike our beliefs the religious believers of the world are instructed to proselytize their faiths. It comes straight from their sacred texts, and is a test of their faith.

    At least the person above has a simple emoticon (subtle even). He could be out on the corner on a soapbox waving the bible in our faces. I think it is a decent way for him to exercise his faith.

    I would definitely instruct him however that any email leaving the company should not include his religious beliefs.

  • HDE, that’s exactly what I thought of at first, too…

    Honestly, it doesn’t bother me that much. People at work send internal e-mails all the time with silly stuff in their signatures, like little animated clip art images of polar bears skiing. I just group this into that category.

    I suppose the fact that it’s from a senior employee and it’s meant to be sent to a client later does make a difference, though. If it’s internal, I don’t complain, but this sort of thing just makes you seem unprofessional. It paints the company in a bad light. Unless, of course, the client is also a devout Christian…

    I worry more about the fact that I work at a nuclear research laboratory, and yet I see people with bumper stickers saying things like “Exposure to the SON may prevent burning” and with the “Truth fish eating Darwin fish” logo on their car.

  • SickoftheUS

    I answered that I would talk to the coworker, to force the coworker to clarify what it means; then I would probably escalate it to management if it continued. Some points in response to other commenters:

    1. What the hell is a “Christian company”? Is that a legal concept? Is it in the company charter? Does the boss being overtly Christian make it more ok for the employees to express their Christianity?

    2. Small displays of religious faith worn on one’s person, such as a crucifix necklace, have a long tradition, and they are confined to that person and carry a message about that specific person’s faith. The innocuous looking jesus fish email tag is the beginning of mission creep. As someone else pointed out, where does it end? Should you, as an atheist or Muslim, put up with Christian prayers at a company that has a secular purpose?

    3. Start putting “friendlyatheist.com” in your work signatures in response – see what happens. Is the response even-handed and fair? Why does an abstract symbol – which nevertheless carries a specific and intended meaning – get a pass, and why are you willing to put up with that logic? Imagine if there were a simple abstract symbol to denote atheism – would you get away with including it in your signatures? If not, why doesn’t that poke your unfairness detector?

    There are real principles here, people. And yes, I understand that religious bigotry from people in power can still trump in the workplace, having been the victim of lots of workplace idiocy myself.

    As always, we can choose to go through life biting our tongues and rationalizing away unfairness, or we can do things that align with our principles and make us feel good about ourselves. I usually choose the latter.

  • I would alert him that there seems to be some invalid HTML markup in his email signature that could trigger spam filters.

  • I’d politely ask to remove that symbol in the next e-mails for one reason: what if the symbol used was this?
    ——|……|
    —–+—–
    |……|__
    I’m sure a lot of Jewish clients would be extremely annoying to see this at the bottom of an e-mail. We’re not suppose to profess your beliefs (religious or not) in the workplace. You can offend a co-worker and, more important, you can offend a client!

  • It’s in the .sig at the end, and I wouldn’t be too concerned about anything in there. Unless that person discriminates against non-Christians, I don’t see anything that needs doing. It’s not very professional, true, but if anyone’s going to express themselves in an email, that’s the place for it.

    http://stereoroid.files.wordpress.com/2007/04/sashimi.jpg

  • Jen

    I would remake it to include DARWIN between those fish ends, if I like them and we had a friendly relationship.

  • fritzy

    I didn’t notice it until it was pointed out–I doubt most people would. I think it’s a little unprofessional but hey, it’s his career neck on the line here, not mine. I would personally never add those little bits of “flare” in any kind of professional correspondence but to each their own.

    Yeah, I would leave it alone (if I even noticed it.) I would probably keep an eye on him though–if he started with the scripture quoting or “gawd bless” non-sense, I would feel compelled to take action.

  • Revyloution

    Id start replying with the FSM signature.

    \ //
    ~~ O O ~~
    // \

    darn edditing wont let me add spaces.

  • Sellers_as_Quilty

    I’m going to concur with some of what’s been said, and clarify a legal issue here:

    It’s not the same as wearing a gold cross around one’s neck. Nor is it the same as wearing a yamulke or a hijab. There are laws protecting workers’ rights to wear such things.

    This, on the other hand, would be considered correspondence with a client. In such situations, the worker is representing the company, not his or her self. Does this company send out stationary with Jesus fishes printed all over it? When customers call, does the receptionist say “Please hold—and Jesus loves you!”?

    No, probably not. That’s because companies want everyone to be their customer. They want to signal that they’re welcoming to ALL. Has it ever occurred to this worker that the person who receives the e-mail might be, oh I don’t know, JEWISH (let alone an atheist)?

    Bottom Line #1: If the worker is representing his or her self, then it’s fine, obviously. But if the worker is corresponding on behalf of her employer, then it’s not appropriate—and you can bet that employer would prefer she did not do that.

    Bottom Line #2: It’s LEGAL for the employer to ask its employee to refrain from making overt (or even coded) religious expressions when dealing with customers.

  • sc0tt

    I noticed it right away, but then I was looking for it.

    There was a guy I worked with who started using JCIL in his sig… I brought it up to him and our common supervisor at the same time, he agreed to stop doing it.

    More recently, we had a company directive not to include anything but the approved signature in e-mails – I don’t think anything in particular brought it up, just in the name of professionalism and protecting the brand because no two people were doing it the same way. I like it.

    I also like :€

  • Eh, I couldn’t care less. It’s harmless unless or until it becomes a mandatory identifier.

  • jenn

    I voted to do something else entirely, and by that I just meant that I would add an FSM or crawling fish or other of the like. The real question, of course, is how the office would react if someone put (and please forgive the phonetic spelling) “A Salaam Alay come” as their tag line on an interoffice memo. If that were okay, and if I can put my little FSM logo, then I would just ignore it.

  • Gabriel

    I ignore this type of thing all the time. As long as I’m not required to do it I don’t care. They have their freedom of speech as much as I do. If it doesn’t violate company policy it doesn’t matter.

  • coyotenose

    It would be nice to ignore it, because it is harmless *in itself*, but I’ll go with the second option of asking them to not do it.

    If the team member is not made aware of the inappropriateness, things can escalate fairly quickly into a workplace clique and create a hostile environment. It wouldn’t be deliberate, but it would be there.

    This also depends on my relationship with the team member and their general reasonableness. If they show signs of passive-aggressive behavior, authoritarianism or what have you, then ask a superior to handle it. My job description probably does not include “putting up with his attitude because he can’t Logic”.

  • mac

    “no gang signs please”

  • Abigail

    If this was part of a pattern (constantly saying “God Bless”, prayer requests, etc) then I would ask them to stop. But by itself I don’t think it’s a huge deal.

  • Carl_Showalter

    Reading over the comments again, I have to say another word here for what I think is and is not at issue.

    I don’t think the question should be “would this bother you?” Most of us like to think we’re not uptight and easy to get along with. That’s part of why (in my opinion) so many people are saying it’s “no big deal” or “I wouldn’t care.” The religious people are supposed to be the uptight ones, not us. So we try to play it cool.

    But ask yourself: If I were running a company, would I want my employees to be including religious signifiers in official company correspondence? (Some commenters seem unclear as to whether or not this was an internal e-mail: the slide makes EXPLICITLY clear that the text was being circulated internally—presumably for editorial suggestions?—and would indeed be sent out to clients later.) Ask yourself: When my employees are communicating with clients on behalf of this company, do I want them making religious statements in their e-mails—or should they represent the company in a religiously neutral way, so as to not put off customers of other faiths, or of no faith? These, I say, are the key questions—not whether or not it “bothers” someone as an individual. That would be a horrible standard: a lot of things might not “bother” people, but they are nonetheless inappropriate. Certain kinds of sexism often don’t “bother” many of us men, but that doesn’t make them OK.

    And the fact that this does, indeed, happen a lot in the South doesn’t make it right. The company has a compelling interest in making sure its correspondence with clients is religiously neutral. Period.

  • spacestudent

    If I had noticed the markings (which I did not), I would have replied:

    text
    signature
    A

    And let the “A” stand for Atheist – I find that about as offensive as the fish (none whatsoever) and since the guy clearly thinks including religion in an email is fine when communicating during work-time, then lets play. It’s a good way to get to know your co-workers so it might be good to play these games in the long run.

    I think it is OK of him to include “<" if he wants to – I mean it's an unimportant signature to me and anyone else who can't get what it stands for. If, on the other hand, someone gets offended by it, they should of course ask to get it removed from future e-mails.

  • fritzy

    I guess I had interpretted this as an inter-office memo. Yeah, if it was something to be sent out to a client, the Jebus fish should be removed, even if it does seem innocuous. It’s inappropriate for one employee to represent his employer to a client in this way–better safe than sorry.

  • I assumed it was a typing error or some stray text and would have pointed out the error. If they explained that it was a fish I would have told them to remove it unless the company sells fish or something. If they explained that it was a religious symbol and they were using company resources to proselytise I would fire them. No, I’d take them out back and shoot them. It is the right thing to do. OK I wouldn’t go that far but I would refer it to HR to provide training on appropriate email use. Emoticons and such are great for forums and informal discussions but I don’t believe they belong on company communications. The religious aspect is just irritating, it is the use of emoticons that is cause for concern. It seems frivolous to me.

    That or I’d not even notice and not care because the company is covered by the standard disclaimer that indicates that the email is the work of the individual and the company accepts no liability for comments contained therein.

  • jose

    “When my employees are communicating with clients on behalf of this company, do I want them making religious statements in their e-mails—or should they represent the company in a religiously neutral way, so as to not put off customers of other faiths, or of no faith?”

    He’s not a company, he’s Dave. If he were writing from officialdepartmentname(at)mycompany.com then I might consider asking him to correct a few things, starting by removing his name from the email and replacing “I” with “We”. Probably the little fish would be one of the last changes I’d make.

    The clients should notice they’re talking to a person (dave.jennings(at)mycompany.com), an actual person who visit granny on weekends and goes to White Castle every once in a while. As a person, he has the right to put littles fishes in his email signature.

    If someone stop coming to my store because my employee sent him and email with a fish in the signature, then I’m glad to lose that client.

  • Ham Nox

    I’d also thought it was within the office… I don’t think it’s something that anyone should take offense to, any more than people should blow each other up over this drawing that may or may not be muhammed: O+<

    but it is remarkably unprofessional. Even if it has a more innocuous meaning than appears, such as "I like the little fishy!!", there is still no valid reason for it to be there and does not do anything but detract from the purpose of the memo.

  • darlingtonia

    If this is from a religiously neutral company, then I think it is probably inappropriate. It is basically like adding “P.S. I’m a Christian” to the end of the email, except in a special coded way.
    The fact that a lot of people on this forum didn’t notice it is probably intentional: a means of tipping off strongly Christian readers, but going under the radar of everyone else.
    How should a client who notices, take this message? “If you’re not Christian we don’t want your business?” Or, more likely, “If you’re Christian, too, then maybe I can help you out a little bit. Step up to the front of the line.”
    Even if the author meant it innocently, these are potential interpretations, and should probably be avoided.

  • Gib

    Definitely every email to him would contain a Darwin fish at the end.

  • Stagamancer

    All it is is an unoffensive symbol that identifies the sender as christian. If he that’s how he wants to be identified, that’s fine. I agree with whoever said it was the same as wearing a fish or cross necklace. There’s no proselytizing in this.

  • I use random signatures in my email client (Kmail), but I’d write a shell script to generate random non-alpha-numeric ASCII strings to append to my future emails to that particular individual… just to evoke a “huh?” response.

  • Jessy

    I would ignore it – if that is all it is. I worked for a Bank for a while in a Midwestern town where they were overtly christian. They would pray at all training seminars etc. It was a local bank and the CEO was quite christian I guess. I actually met him at a couple of luncheons and liked him a lot – he didn’t appear to be religious at all maybe it was someone else at the bank or added all the extra “touches”. It was quite offense to me but I never said anything. There was one other women there who would always meet my eyes during the prayers and give me a little laugh. But I needed the job so I kept my mouth shut. I would guess that it is completely legal for them to be like that as long as being another religion doesn’t affect your pay or anything.

  • Sarah TX

    Silently fume. Because I am passive-aggressive like that.

    This isn’t an academic issue for me – I have a few coworkers that have religious or political signature lines. It’s really annoying and unprofessional, so I blank out those sections when forwarding emails and ensure that they do not contact clients/subcontractors using that account.

  • JB Tait

    Except that the email was content-free, which would make me distrust the sender as being more likely to issue bafflegab than actually get any work done, I saw the symbols < as a tear and a squint which would represent a pained grimace or oncoming right side migraine.

    Thanks for the heads up on the other possible meaning.

  • June

    I’d delete the fish in any forwards, just as I’d delete any unnecessary attachments. That’s a no-brainer.

    Regarding the original sender, that would depend on whether he has regular contact with people outside his team. If so, I’d express discomfort about someone using the company mail server on company time to make religious statements to clients.

    If not, I wouldn’t say anything, but I’d continue deleting his signature when I saw it (including when replying to his e-mails) and hope that the employee notices.

  • Sellers_as_Quilty

    The law says it is not the same as wearing religious jewelry or attire. (There are instances in which employers have the right to limit that, too, actually.)

    The law is very clear on this: Employers have a compelling interest in deciding how employees communicate with clients. That means employers get to set reasonable standards. Asking your employee to refrain from religious symbolism or language when corresponding with clients does NOT encroach upon that employees right to free exercise of religion.

    If someone stop coming to my store because my employee sent him and email with a fish in the signature, then I’m glad to lose that client.

    Fair enough, I have take you at your word. But most CEOs would prefer not to lose that client. Suppose it’s not a small store; suppose it’s a larger business and the customer is a multi-million dollar account?—say 5% of your annual gross? Would you really be OK losing a major account like that just because your fatuous, annoyingly-religious employee can’t save the fishies for his bumper? At big companies, with a shit-ton of money on the line, people have been fired for less.

    It’s not just about grumpy atheists not liking Jesus fishes. There are perfectly sober, sensible reasons why an employer would (and should) discourage this kind of thing. And, my point is, those reasons are not just grounded in smart business practices—they’re also grounded in law.

  • Carl_Showalter

    I would guess that it is completely legal for them to be like that as long as being another religion doesn’t affect your pay or anything.

    Indeed. It’s legal to be yourself. It is also legal for an employer to set reasonable standards concerning how its employees interact with clientele. Asking employees to interact with clientele in a religiously neutral way, is pretty standard.

  • I’m interested in the question of whether or not this constitutes proselytizing. It’s not proselytizing in the strict sense, but I’ve always felt this sort of stuff is a subtle, watered down form of proselytizing. Maybe it just feels that way.

    I’m always amazed by how those who are supposedly the most “spiritual” and ethereal among us—the religious—are so often the most kitschy. The Jesus fishes, the WWJD bracelets, the “purity” rings they put on the fingers of girls as young 10—it’s all so disturbingly kitsch.

  • The clients should notice they’re talking to a person (dave.jennings(at)mycompany.com), an actual person who visit granny on weekends and goes to White Castle every once in a while. As a person, he has the right to put littles fishes in his email signature. If someone stop coming to my store because my employee sent him and email with a fish in the signature, then I’m glad to lose that client.

    @jose

    This situation described by you is an utopia, in my opinion.

    In a perfect world the client would separate the employee and the company but this is not how it happens. If the employee Dave does something that annoys a client then this client will stop making business with the company because Dave is doing everything carrying the company’s name and reputation.

    When I hear my friends complaing about a bad customer experience, they never say: employee X is horrible or employee Y didn’t deliver what I’ve requested. Customers ALWAYS mention the company when they are complaining about something, not the employee, and this is how it’ll be remembered: a bad company, not a bad employee.

    As I said before, the symbol is harmless for me but I’m sure there are people out there that would be offended with that. Employees are not supposed to express any belief in the workplace to avoid this type of problem.

  • Aj

    I have a strong reaction to ignore. However, after reading these comments, perhaps I may ask what it’s for. It does seem to be exactly like adding “p.s. I’m a Christian” to the end of your emails. Knowing why someone wants to do that probably is worth asking.

  • SickoftheUS

    The disgusting truth, assuming this is the US, is that we can complain about the coworker’s behavior, but the law would probably back whatever whim of the fatcat(s) running the company. There might be a difference in unionized workplaces, which are fewer and fewer. Such is the nature of the power gap between management and employee.

  • Sandra

    I would ignore it. In fact, until it was pointed out, I didn’t even see it. No doubt, it’s probably a tag-line that the originator of the email stuck on at the beginning of making his profile, and probably doesn’t even remember it himself.

  • staceyjw

    I wouldn’t have known it was a jesus fish if you hadn’t pointed it out. I think most people wouldn’t notice.
    And I just don’t care.

  • plutosdad

    I think the key here is “sending it out to clients later”, something I missed at first. Definitely NO religious or political or any message that might be controversial should be put in the signature. in fact, many companies have standards for signatures, and if you are client facing frown on personalization of any sort. You are not speaking for yourself, you are speaking for the company.

    Even for internal emails, if he regularly sends messages out to clients, to have a separate sig for clients or to type it out each time seems like it’s asking for trouble: it would only be a matter of time before he accidentally sent his personalized sig to a client.

    So I guess the right answer would be other: “tell him not to, then create a standard for everyone to follow from then on.” My company has a standard sig setup with an Exchange Group Rule.

  • matt

    I would never have recognized it as a jesus-fish. If it’s that subtle, I really don’t care.

    Nor am I completely sure that it was intended to be jesus-fish.

  • Blessings and christian symbols in e mails anoy me because the people who send them are asuming that I am like them.

  • Well, assuring that your service will not be impacted is like religion – it means squat. Ensuring that your service will not be impacted is much better, it means they have the skills and resources to see the issue and resolve it, ideally before you notice there is a problem.

    Just saying that some basic English wouldn’t go amiss.

  • Chelsea Spaulding

    Honestly, I didn’t notice it until it was pointed out. I never read my entire e-mail messages…once I get to the “sincerely” parts I just continue on. I would have never noticed that and if I did I wouldn’t have thought it was a jesus fish…just some kind of coding method used for computers or what not. (Yeah, I may be stupid for saying that, but I am just trying to be honest.)

  • Would a Darwin fishie on one’s business card be good for business? Maybe in certain niche markets. I see wearing membership in the majority religion on one’s shirt sleeve as a form of majoritarian privilege, and as usual, there is no effective recourse.

  • casey

    Like someone else said, I would change my sig to this, and wait for him to contact me.

    _°°_
    /><\ Ramen
    /| |\

  • Dan W

    I’d ignore it. To be honest, I didn’t even realize it was a Jesus fish until you mentioned it, Hemant, so I probably wouldn’t have recognized it as a Jesus fish at work either. If it were something that looked more obviously like a Jesus fish, or some signature that was a religous quote, I might be inclined to ask them not to include it in future emails. But this little thing didn’t even register as anything to me.

  • Will

    I’d ignore it. Like other folks, I didn’t even notice it until it was pointed out, and even if I HAD noticed it, I probably wouldn’t have made the connection that < = jesus fish.

    If someone wants to put that in their email, that's fine. They've got a right to believe whatever crazy stone-age garbage they want to believe.

    If it had come from a government employee's work email, on the other hand, I would (ooh bible vocabulary word incoming) rebuke the hell out (in?) of 'em, since it would immediately smack of gov't promoting religion.

  • I didn’t notice it because I was blinded by the grammar mistakes and confused by what he meant. I read it twice, but never past his name. I’d ignore it even if I saw it, because I’ve only ever worked for tiny companies, where personality can be expressed more openly (usually to their disadvantage). That seems like it proves I should say something, but I’m more concerned with looking like the bright one in the company. *disclaimer: I currently work by and for myself*

  • Valhar2000

    Well, on second thoughts do I agree that this sort of thing should not go in a signature used for company e-mail, since it is simply not professional. However, that is for the guys supervisor to handle, not the recipient of this e-mail. So, unless there is a pattern of obnoxious of harassing behaviour coming from this team leader, I think the recipient should just let it go.

  • Dear Dave,

    Thanks for the heads up. I shall make a note of that.

    BTW I see you like fish. Me too! We must go for lunch sometime to the “All you can eat” buffet at Fishy Joes.

    Regards,

  • Carlie

    If it were my company, I’d send out a reminder memo that all email signatures from the company address should be formatted as (example) without anything additional – symbols, quotes, etc.

    If I were just a worker at the company, a memo to whoever is in charge of PR mentioning that you’ve noticed a lot of differences in signatures and asking about personalization of said signatures might induce the same effect.

  • kate

    I noticed it right away. If I were a potential client or a client already doing business w/ this company (assuming, of course, that the writer didn’t restrict his use of the emoticon to internal memos), I would want to know why a personal religious statement is part of what is supposed to be a workplace communication. I would also seriously question whether I would want to do business w/ a company which doesn’t seem to maintain professional standards, not to mention, doesn’t seem to care if it offends people who do business with them. Furthermore, if one engages in this type of proselytizing among one’s co-workers it is not only disrespectful, it is highly unprofessional. It is not acceptable to allow one’s personal beliefs (or nonbelief, for that matter), to interfere w/ morale and productivity.
    I would report it to HR as it may serve to alienate clients as well as co-workers.

  • mike

    Given the use of greater than and less than symbols

    > < FSM

    or a Computer Science joke

    public int god;

    where god is real, unless declared as an integer.

  • BeamStalk

    What do you mean “if”? I live in the bible belt, I see this thing all the time. I ignore it, just to keep the peace at the work place.

  • DGKnipfer

    I spotted it right away (fairly clever I think) and have to say it’s harmless and can probably be ignored. But if the person sending that in their signature block was a somewhat pushy bible thumper I’d give him a continuous stream of subtle ridicule. Pick on him for bringing his faith out of his room and displaying it in such an un-Jesus like fashion.

  • Whit

    When I first read through I thought it was just a weird error at the bottom of the message.
    But how I would react would depend on the guidelines of the work place, if there were strict regulations of behavior that this violated, then I would anonymously report it to HR if possible.

    If not, and if I felt I knew the person sending the email, I would casually and respectfully go up to them and suggest that including a personal line in a signature may not be viewed as professional by clients, and I would say the same to anyone even if it was a religious, atheist, or even a neutral quote. When I get a message from say, my cable company, I don’t expect to see their personal email signature at the bottom, regardless of content.
    But if I didn’t feel comfortable saying this to the senior partner, I’d probably let it go, sometimes you have to pick your battles.

  • Jaysen

    That would never fly in my workplace. I work for one of the largest companies in the US so I would suspect many people to complain about something like that. If I put a Scarlet A in any communications even interoffice, I would be written up in a heartbeat.

  • R9

    Ignore.

  • Kevin

    Simple.

    Forward the email to HR, and inquire about the company’s policy towards religious expression within business communications. 99.99% of the time (unless this is a religion-based company), this will result in the HR affirming to you that the company has a religous-neutral policy forbidding such expressions. Also 99.99% of the time, HR will deal with Dave directly and without reference to you, probably with a simple warning to him about religious expression in business communication (in other words, this is not the same as pushing to “get Dave fired” – which would only be the result if Dave already had bigger issues). Continue to forward the emails to HR if Dave doesn’t cease-and-desist.

    On the .01% chance that HR writes back to you that religious expression is acceptable in these communications, store a hard-copy of this response, and send an email back to HR thanking them for their clarification, and inquiring if you can put “I don’t believe in God.” in your email signature. To hammer the point home, put “I don’t believe in God” in the signature of your response.

    Wait 1 week for an official change in policy.

    On the .0001% chance that HR continues to affirm the permissibility of these expressions, you have a personal choice:
    1) Take a stance, put “I don’t believe in God” in your email signature (and await the inevitable fallout – but forward HR’s response to all who complain). You’d suddenly become “that guy”, probably experience some level of social alienation (though your HR email leaves you immune to any real ramifications – ACLU would have a field day with any official steps they might take).

    2) Cede defeat, leave your email “as is” and start looking for a company having a culture you can feel more integrated with.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    Where are all them “militant atheists”? Not hanging out in Hemant’s blog obviously!
    Here, folks, is why the USA has so much religion in the public sphere – despite being having the most religiously neutral constitution in the world. Because Americans don’t want to appear to be “small-minded” by taking “offense”, or being “anti-God” over “petty” instances of religious people pushing their private beliefs into the public sphere. And it’s how we ended up with “God” in the Pledge and on our money; and manger’s in front of city hall…..
    The last thing most people want in a big company is to make an issue of anything that gets HR (Human Remains) kicking into high gear and coming out with more nitpicky “Company Policy Directives” (Shudder!) Or, in a small company, creating a personal dispute amongst co-workers over a policy issue……but small stuff like this is often where it all begins.
    As government has moved away from a de facto promotion of Xtianity in the public sphere in the last 30 years, individual Xtians are pushing harder to put it back in. The current problem is that we really don’t have a handle on where to draw the line on courtesy & tolerance in the public sphere.
    I would be respectful of aomeone saying grace over their lunch, but not of trying to arrange a group prayer before a meeting. But I would try to talk with the individual, rather than make it a company issue, if at all possible. But only because I am too much of a coward to risk my job over a principle.

  • I had voted “Ignore it,” but I just now saw it said that the team leader would be “sending it out to clients later.”

    If that’s the case, I would definitely complain and ask that it not be sent as a representation of the company.

  • TrogloDyke

    @Troglodyke – you contradict yourself. You say it’s no big deal and you wouldn’t do anything, but then you say that you do not patronize businesses with such symbols. Why risk the fact that your customers have similar feelings and don’t want to do business with you if your coworkers are using this–or any other–religious or political symbol.

    I guess that did seem a bit contradictory. But I see the email fish as pertaining to the employee, and not as a statement the company is making.

    But fish on company vehicles, or in the logo, or in the Yellow Pages ad are the company speaking for the company, and that’s a bigger issue for me.

    Don’t get me wrong…stuff like this, even subtle, annoys me–but is is a big deal? I’m inclined to let it go to a point, if for no other reason than to show that I’m not a crabby atheist trying to squelch others’ rights.

    Not only that, but if I like my job and want to keep it, fish in my boss’s email isn’t enough to lose my job over. If he started making me do it, I’d definitely balk, and walk.

  • I’d ignore it. I didn’t even notice it until it was pointed out.

  • Thrutch

    There are various tactics to use

    First there is the obvious, put darwin between the first two arrows and attach to e-mails to this person.

    Second there is the “Why are you using a pagan symbol in your e-mails??” retort pointing out that the symbol was primarily used by pre-christian goddess cults.

    Thirdly, check the client list; there may well be one of your clients who is Atheist, Islamic, Buddhist etc who might object, this could be pointed out to your “team” member.

  • Tory

    If it were just an email that was going out inside the workplace, I’d ignore it. But because it was mentioned that it’d be sent to clients too, I think it’d be very inappropriate. Not something requiring disciplinary action or anything but at least something worth mentioning to the person. Putting religious symbols in company letters that are going out to clients seems to me to say that it is a Christian organization.

  • JSug

    My reaction would probably depend on several factors:

    * what is this person’s position relative to my own?
    * Who is the email going to?
    * Is it actually a religious reference? Maybe this person is a really avid aquarist.

    Taking into account my position at my current employer, I would most likely just ignore it. If I were in a management position, I might point out to the person that emails going to clients should, out of prudence, not contain mention of personal matters not related to business. When you send out such messages, you’re representing the company, not just yourself. If it wouldn’t be in a formal business letter, it shouldn’t be in that email.

  • MrMarkAZ

    The author’s intent is irrelevant, as is whether or not I personally felt offended by it (I’m not). The fact of the matter is, the inclusion of the Jeebusfish can contribute to a hostile work environment for non-Christians, non-believers, and Christians who do not believe in publicly prostituting advertising their faith.

    Unless I were the direct manager of the individual, and the scenario suggests that I am not, I would not confront the person either. Not my job, not in my pay grade. The last thing I want to do is take on an angry religious person whining about persecution all on my own. Let the corporate lawyers handle it. That’s what they’re paid for.

    Thus, I would opt to do something else entirely: notify HR and allow them to follow their procedures.

  • Dave

    As long as they don’t make me get rid of my signature, they can do whatever they want!

    – Dave

    \m/ 8^P~~~~~~( v ) \m/

  • Emily
  • I’d ignore it, but start including my own ascii art in my signature
     @ @
    ~|-|~

  • bunnyslipperz

    WOW…. that’s all I can say is wow…

    So many people ‘don’t care’ and wouldn’t say or do anything about it. Well then, if their little sig doesn’t bother you when will it bother you? When they start leaving tracs on your desk? Or when they stop you in the hallway and ask you if you’ve accepted Jebus yet?

    We cannot complain about the ‘big’ issues, when we let the ‘little’ ones slip by. If you would object to be handed a chic trac or being accosted in the hallway and badgered if you’re saved or not bothers you, then this should bother you as well. All it takes for some Christians is a toe in the door. First its a little fishie in their sig and when no one complains about that, they step it up.

    Because you can bet your bottom dollar that if an Atheist or a person of another religion had something in their sig on an inter-company memo, that Christian will sure as heck complain about it to HR themselves.

    Things will never change for non-Christians in workplaces where they have to deal with prayer before meetings, biblical messages everywhere in a non-religious business if we don’t stand up and say this is not right. I’m here to work, I didn’t come here for church.

    Call me militant if you want, but we can’t expect change if we let the ‘its not a big deal’ things slide by. Then what right do we have to complain about anything then?

  • brent

    “no big deal” for me. oh. wait – this is leaving the company???

    no no no.

  • I did not notice it, but if I had, I certainly would report it. I would print the email, highlight the fish, and give it to my boss. I’d also forward the email to whatever superiors I could and make my case, just politely saying that religious symbols of any kind should not appear in work correspondence.

    If my bosses didn’t do anything about it, I’d leave it alone, but at least I’d have a paper trail for any upcoming infractions. For something like this, I would anticipate possible escalations that might end up in preaching at work, handing out Jesus pamphlets at work, workplace praying, etc., so I’d just treat this like any other workplace issue and document, document, document.

    I work in an environment with several religious people and have had to ask my bosses to intervene when these folks have made copies of religious handouts on my office copy machine, or when there have been prayer meetings during work time, etc. So I think it’s worth stopping this kind of stuff right away and reminding everyone that work just isn’t the place.

  • Oh, and I would not approach the person directly about this issue, unless I was the person’s boss. This is like any other workplace issue. If this person were sending inappropriate sexist jokes in emails, I would not approach directly. I would document it and report it, because that’s the professional way to handle that situation. Your boss should deal with it. Even if the boss doesn’t deal with it, your only legitimate choice is to document and report, unless you are okay with letting the situation escalate, which I would not be.

  • bunnyslipperz

    If this memo had been written by a Pagan and they had a Pagan symbol in their sig or if they went around saying to people, ‘May the Goddess Mother Bless you’ then you can sure bet the Christians that work there will demand that it be stopped the very first time and maybe even demand the person be fired.

    A lot of Christians want tolerance for their beliefs, but give very little to others in return. To me the issue with the fish is about respect, people should have respect for their co-workers. If this is not a specifically religion orientated business then it has no place being there out of respect for co-workers that are not religious or not of the same religion.

  • At first I thought it was a failed attempt at entering HTML codes in a signature. If that’s what I saw in an email, without a follow-up explanation of the symbol’s meaning, I would’ve just ignored it. Or ignored it in any case; I’ve seen worse.

    When did a fish become representative of Jesus?

  • Joffan

    The only thing that made me think it needed a mention was the idea that it would go out to clients. Then a number of comments have demonstrated that the angle brackets are not a great idea anyway, for entirely practical reasons.

  • John

    I agree with many of the ‘gentle tweak’ responses. I’d add a question mark (?) under my name, reply, and see what happened.

    Reminds me of the old joke – How do you insult a Unitarian? Burn a question mark on her lawn.

  • Rawley

    I’d warn them that the binary code for those characters contains the binary code for six in each one (110) and it appears 3 times and is really a code for satan, not jesus.

  • felicity

    I will put FSM in my signature.

  • Colin

    I’d be tempted to reply with this added.

    <
    ..?..?…