In this digital age, business professionals often communicate via email. All types of documents have to be processed digitally and are held to the same standard as those that are submitted as hard copies.
But how can you request a signature from a supervisor on an email?
Underline the importance of the digital signature by referring to legal or company regulations and then politely ask for the required signature. Make yourself familiar with the necessary technical steps to assist with quick implementation in case of doubt.
While supervisors usually have more experience than you, they’re human. Just like anyone else, they can make mistakes. As soon as you notice that an email hasn’t been signed, let them know.
Use the same respectful tone that you would use with anyone else.
If you would be gentle with a coworker who made that type of mistake, don’t get annoyed with your supervisor. Point out the error quickly, by saying:
“Mrs. Browne, you forgot to put your signature here.”
“Mr. James, please put your digital signature here.”
“Ms. Hamm, please sign here.”
Stay With Them Until They Do It
Some supervisors juggle multiple tasks at a time and they tend to deprioritize the things that don’t seem urgent.
If you remind them about signing and then step away immediately, they may get distracted by something else. Not only might they forget to sign, but they may also forget to send off the email.
When you point to the spot where they should sign, don’t move. Wait until they have signed the document.
If possible, also wait until they click send. That way, you won’t need to keep going back to them to remind them to sign the same email.
Emphasize the Validity of Digital Signatures
Most supervisors already know that documents are to be signed. If they’re not signed, they won’t hold up as well in a court of law. If your supervisor hasn’t signed a digital document, it’s possible that they may not think it’s important to do so.
Digital signatures are legally binding in America, Australia, and all other countries that rely heavily on the Internet to conduct business.
People want to conduct transactions more efficiently and communicating via emails and other electronic methods make it possible for them to save time.  This has been so for several years. In fact, documents with digital signatures are legal across the world.
You could remind them of the importance of digital signatures by saying:
“Miss Browne, remember that digital signatures are enforceable and valid.”
“Mr. Johnson, I notice that you sometimes don’t use a digital signature on your emails. Remember that your digital signature has the same legal effect as its written equivalent.”
“Mrs. Greer, please sign your emails. Doing so allows the team to take you more seriously because it indicates that you’re willing to be bound by the contents of the document.”
Sometimes supervisors don’t realize that not signing an email can give an impression that they did not intend to. For example, some members of their team may think that the supervisor doesn’t want to be held responsible for any actions that follow what is requested in the email.
Not signing makes the email appear to be unconnected to them and there’s less legal proof that the instructions in it came from them. An ambiguous email, in terms of ownership or origin, cannot be trusted.
If you care about the cohesiveness of your team, it’s important to discreetly remind your supervisor that signing their emails is a simple but powerful act.
It shows that they take responsibility for whatever is in the text.
You could say:
“Mr. Jackson, when it’s signed, it shows that you’re taking responsibility for verifying that’s in it.”
“Ms. Knight, people are more confident in following the instructions that you give if the email is signed.”
“Mr. Clarke, it’s important to sign your emails because it proves that the instructions are coming from you.”
Some companies describe how company emails are to be treated, detailing everything from what type of devices can be used to open them, to whether they should be signed. If your supervisor is actually violating the company’s policies by not signing, it’s important to remind them of that as soon as possible.
Know that you’ve done something to watch their back. Don’t just dismiss it and leave them open to some form of reprimand from another manager.
Remind them of the procedure by saying:
“Mr. Pusey, it’s a legal requirement of the company that all digital documents are signed.”
“Mrs. Baker, last week we were reminded to sign all emails before sending them out to our clients.”
“Mr. Collins, the guidelines recommend that all emails should be signed.”
Sometimes supervisors are so busy that they don’t have a chance to sign their emails. This is often the case when the email is actually typed by someone else but your supervisor dictates it. They may never actually look at the email before it’s sent because they trust the person who is typing it for them.
In this case, it may be best to decide on a system that allows them to attach their digital signature automatically. With a signature workflow process, documents are sent for signatures automatically. 
If your company does not currently utilize that type of system, you may need to suggest it to your supervisor.
Implementing digital signature workflow automation software will help to protect your business, make it more professional in the way it handles electronic documents and instill a greater level of confidence in clients who expect that emails will be signed.
You’ll need to say all of that to your supervisor to encourage them to upgrade to that process.
You can say:
“Ms. Browne, I realize that you keep forgetting to sign emails because you’re so busy. I think some type of automation software would solve the problem.”
“Mr. Nash, if we use software to automate the process of signing emails, it would make life easier for you.”
“Mr. Gibraltar, unsigned emails are causing confusion among our clients. If we automate the process we would improve communication.”
Ask At A Convenient Time
Some people say that timing is everything. If you work in a fast-paced industry, it may be difficult to find a time when your supervisor seems to be free to sign documents.
However, there may be moments that are less stressful or confusing than others.
Find one of these moments and remind your supervisor that they need to sign the emails.
You’re more likely to receive a positive response and the type of action that you want at these times, than others.
Say it With A Smile
If you frequently have to be asking your boss to sign emails, let them associate that act with something positive. Whenever you enter your office, ensure that your face looks pleasant.
Even if you’re upset about having to remind them frequently, try not to let that show on your face. Your unpleasant mood could be catching and will just make their day and yours worse.
You could say:
“Hello Mr. Frank, I hope you’re having a good day. Please sign this email for me.”
“Hi, Ms. Jones. Could you sign this for me please?”
“How are you doing Mrs. Gayle? I came by to remind you to sign this email.”
Take Your Supervisors’ Personality Into Account
You’re more likely to get the type of response that you want if you don’t use a one size fits all approach. That is, take the time to learn how your supervisor will respond to different types of phrasing and use that information to encourage them to sign.
If you have a supervisor who likes to follow rules, just remind them that it’s a rule for them to sign emails. If your supervisor is focused on customer service, tell them that customers feel more relaxed when emails with personalized offers are signed.
You can always identify what your supervisor will respond to and use that to guide your own actions.
Some people don’t like to be corrected in front of a crowd. If your supervisor is like that, don’t ask them to sign when other people are around. Wait until it’s just the two of you and quietly remind them then, without making a big deal of it.
If your supervisor likes attention, they might not mind if you mention that the email for an important client requires their signature, as the person in charge.
Just as you would walk with a pen if your document required the signature to be written, ensure your supervisor has everything they need to simply put their electronic signature on.
Talk to the technical people about setting up the digital signature, if it hasn’t been done already.
Ensure that any security features that should be used are already in place.
You can say:
“Hi, Mrs. Greer. I went ahead and had your digital signature set up by the IT team, as we discussed. Could you sign this email?”
“Hi Ms. Browne, your digital signature was already set up. Please sign this email.”
“Hi, Mr. Greene. The team finished setting up your digital signature, along with the security features that you were asking about. Please sign these emails.”
Katie Holmes is a senior author at everyday-courtesy.com with over 15 years of experience in marketing and psychology. As a freelance consultant, she also supports companies and executives in overcoming communication challenges. Katie is a passionate digital nomad working on her first book on the art of communication.