Son of Who?
September 24, 2010 8:57 AM   Subscribe

Odd religious reference in official business communication—what to do?

A business associate sent me an email with "Son of Issachar" in the signature. I've received dozens of email from this person before, and never saw anything like that in the past.

I am concerned that this sort of thing might get this person in trouble. The person works for a huge multinational (my group is their vendor) and I don't think they are too keen on this sort of thing.

Any thoughts on handling this? Is my acquaintance at risk? Should I MYOB?
posted by Mister_A to Work & Money (20 answers total)
 
Many companies have a mandated signature for this very reason. If it's a customer-facing sort of deal, I'd bring it up quietly to this person's manager.
posted by jquinby at 9:01 AM on September 24, 2010


Ignore it or mention it to him in the context of not wanting him to get in trouble.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:04 AM on September 24, 2010


You could bring it up with them, and only them, but it would be awkward if it was intentional for some reason.
posted by smackfu at 9:05 AM on September 24, 2010


Is it possible he sent it from a different account and forgot about the signature? I would ignore a first offense, but if future emails contain this sort of signature I might give him a call and mention it. Or I'd just continue to ignore it I guess, because I'm conflict-avoidant.
posted by muddgirl at 9:08 AM on September 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


"Son of Issachar" is not so much a spiritual identifier as it is a tribal one (one of the 12 Tribes of Israel).

Still, it's pretty odd, and not really appropriate for a business email.
posted by mkultra at 9:08 AM on September 24, 2010


mkultra: ""Son of Issachar" is not so much a spiritual identifier as it is a tribal one (one of the 12 Tribes of Israel).

Still, it's pretty odd, and not really appropriate for a business email.
"

In context, it's from 1 Chronicles 12:34, and may carry a bit of political baggage as well.
posted by jquinby at 9:15 AM on September 24, 2010


(:32, that is)
posted by jquinby at 9:15 AM on September 24, 2010


I think I will wait and see if it happens again. I really don't want to embarrass this person or come off like I'm thin-skinned about these things. Maybe an email from my personal account would be appropriate, in the event this happens again?
posted by Mister_A at 9:20 AM on September 24, 2010


Issachar is a strong ass lying down between the sheepfolds: and he saw that settled life was good, and the land was pleasant; he put his shoulder to the burden, and became a slave under forced labour. (Genesis 49:14-15)

Signing himself "Son of Issachar" would probably be a sarcastic comment about his job intelligible to somebody who gets the biblical reference. Like muddgirl said it's probably a mistake, not something meant for you to see.

You might reply asking what it meant (without expecting him to reply), just to give him a heads up.
posted by nangar at 9:31 AM on September 24, 2010


I really don't want to embarrass this person or come off like I'm thin-skinned about these things.

I don't think there's danger of coming off as thin-skinned if you phrased it as your concern over his appearance to others within the firm and outside of the firm. If your company does have any kind of standard email sig or HR guidelines for professional presentation, it should be easy to point to that and say 'Hey FYI, I didn't want you to get in trouble or anything.'
posted by shakespeherian at 9:38 AM on September 24, 2010


1st Chronicles 12:32-

And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do

It really could be reference to this passage. By definition a "son of Issachar" would have "understanding of the times" and "know what to do."

I have heard the phrase used this way myself.

It may or may not be that big a deal. The guy might not even be that religious and just like the concept that yep, he knows what's going ON.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 10:07 AM on September 24, 2010


I'm very much not of the corporate world, so take this with a grain of salt. But is this something that could have an impact on you, or where you KNOW this sort of thing is directly forbidden by your company? Or is it just that it stands out in some way and you're idly wondering whether it's OK or he could get in trouble or what?

If it's not directly your business, and you don't know for sure that it's a real problem, I wouldn't say anything.
posted by Sara C. at 10:57 AM on September 24, 2010


A couple of points of clarification:

- This person doesn't work for my company; we do work for the other person's (huge, multinational) company.
- It doesn't affect me directly except insofar as I have an excellent working relationship with this person and would hate to compromise that through my actions or lack thereof
- I've never seen anything of this sort in my professional life and I have serious concerns that it will get the sender in trouble if it's an ongoing thing
posted by Mister_A at 11:30 AM on September 24, 2010


This person doesn't work for my company; we do work for the other person's (huge, multinational) company.

Oh, that does change things significantly. Do you have any kind of personal relationship with this person, or is it only a professional relationship? If only professional, then I don't think you have any standing to comment on it one way or the other.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:46 AM on September 24, 2010


I would reply and ask, "Errr, what's a Son of Issachar?" One of two things will happen:

1. They will be mortified, realizing that somehow the wrong .sig file got set, and stammer and flush and offer a number of excuses. In which case, you've done your good deed for the day.

2. They will go on and on and ON at GREAT LENGTH about their religious beliefs. In which case there's nothing you can do other than step aside and let them go down in flames.

Theoretically you could quietly tip off that person's manager. But I assure you, if this scenario is true, then their manager is already well aware of the situation.
posted by ErikaB at 1:13 PM on September 24, 2010 [4 favorites]


Unless there's a personal reason for you to bring it up (and you seem to imply not), I'd MYOB and just ignore it. You're not even in the same company. Unless there's a subtext I missed...
posted by TruncatedTiller at 2:14 PM on September 24, 2010


Hmmm compelling arguments for doing nothing and for doing something. I will probably split the difference—watch and wait, see if it's a pattern or just a one-off brain fart.

And as for personal reasons, you know, we're friendly and we collaborate well on the projects that we have a hand in together. This person seems like a decent sort and I would not wish something ill to befall them over something like this.
posted by Mister_A at 2:20 PM on September 24, 2010


If it's a customer-facing sort of deal, I'd bring it up quietly to this person's manager

What? Why should he snitch to his manager? He trying to keep the guy OUT of trouble, not get him called on the carpet.
posted by Ian A.T. at 4:29 PM on September 24, 2010


Meh, I'd drop it. If there's an extended pattern then bring it up, I suppose, but in its current form it seems harmless. The Bible is one of Western civilization's most significant collections of proverbs and metaphors. If you're showing a new hire around work and you say, "I'll be your Virgil for the day," I don't think the allusion to the Divine Comedy is inappropriately religious, despite its source. Aesop's fables are some great proverbs, but the Pharisees make for a pretty great proverb, too, I think, and despite my strident atheism I don't think it should be off-limits.

Signing an email "God bless," on the other hand, would be over the line for me. That just seems more active, more intrusive. Although to be honest I had never heard "son of Issachar" until this question, I would be worried that if we were to forbid all such relatively innocuous Biblical references we would foolishly cast away countless rich and useful ways of expressing ourselves. (And I think Shakespeare would agree.)

This is all assuming that the phrase is not code for some group membership, like a sinister "Friend of Bill," in which case my opinion may be quite different. Actually... that makes me realize that I really don't know the meaning of "son of Issachar," and it really does come down to the meaning. But if the meaning isn't evil, I don't think the phrase is offensive merely due to its source. I guess that's what I'm trying to say.
posted by kprincehouse at 8:52 PM on September 24, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well that's just it-I really don't know what it means in this context either.
posted by Mister_A at 5:26 PM on September 25, 2010


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