What kind of gift should I get for my assistant?
December 8, 2011 4:45 PM   Subscribe

Xmas gift for an assistant?

I started a new job a few months ago. I work on a team where there is one boss (managing director) three mid-level people (which includes me) and one assistant. The assistant helps all of us. She is excellent and I would like to give her a Christmas gift. I'm wondering what would be best etiquette in my situation?

I have no idea if the other people get gifts for the assistant or each other. I could ask, but even if they don't give her a gift, I would still like to give her something, provided it wouldn't be too out of line. And how much would be appropriate? I was thinking of getting her a prepaid Visa or something as I have no idea what kind of stuff she likes and I would be willing to go up to $100, I guess, unless people think that's too high or too low. I'd like to give her as much as possible without being obnoxious or awkward.

So, any thoughts you have on this would be helpful. Thanks Mefites.
posted by triggerfinger to Work & Money (28 answers total)
Best answer: I would ask the other people what they were planning to do. Hopefully everyone was planning on giving her something! I think $50 per person would be a good amount, whether or not others chip in. I find Visa gift cards sometimes a pain to use -- there's something about forgetting I have them, or how much is on them, or whatever -- but last year my boss got me a $50 Amazon gift card and I was like OMG FAVORITE GIFT FROM A BOSS EVER so that might be an idea.
posted by jabes at 4:52 PM on December 8, 2011

massage certificate.
posted by violetk at 5:17 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I think it's a nice thing to do. Certainly not inappropriate.

Wine is always a safe choice, I think.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:17 PM on December 8, 2011

I vote for the massage.
posted by maurreen at 5:29 PM on December 8, 2011

I should tell you why a massage:
1. It's something most women would use and enjoy.
2. It's a bit of luxury. Most of us get a massage infrequently, maybe never.
posted by maurreen at 5:30 PM on December 8, 2011

Best answer: I am assistant. Ideally, I like to receive a personal note & a bonus check. Barring that, gifts I've received over the years that have given me pleasure include:
- an amazon gift card;
- a gift basket w/ a couple of bottles of very good wine; or
- an workday afternoon at a spa with a facial and massage paid for (including tip) by my company.

You're being very thoughtful. I would indeed check with your colleagues to see if a group gift is in the offing. But do make sure that whatever you give your assistant is accompanied by a personal note. It really feels great to get a simple, sincere expression of thanks.
posted by minervous at 5:38 PM on December 8, 2011 [5 favorites]

Point 3 on a massage, it's something some of us ladies feel is a bit silly/frivolous to purchase for ourselves (even if we could afford it) but secretly kind of want and would be really psyched if someone else got it for us. I know my mom and I are both like this.
posted by naoko at 5:41 PM on December 8, 2011

Also something to keep in mind - unless you know she's Christian, I would call it a holiday gift, not a Christmas gift. And yeah get the massage.
posted by kthxbi at 5:42 PM on December 8, 2011

Oh man, I really don't want to be the hater here, but I am a woman and I loathe massages.

I don't like strangers touching me, and getting a massage as a gift would be not unlike receiving a coupon for one free assgrab on a bus.

In fact, during the dot-com bubble, the company I worked for had massage days, and it made me uncomfortable just having to fend them off politely and explain to coworkers that no, I really really don't want one, please stop pressuring me.

Like I said, I really don't relish being a hater here. Most people and most women probably would like that.

Someone said in an earlier gift thread, though, that the safest gift for someone you don't know is money. No matter how inoffensive your gift is, someone is going to be offended.
posted by ernielundquist at 5:52 PM on December 8, 2011 [3 favorites]

Ugh, I would absolutely hate getting a massage certificate (being touched by strangers totally squicks me out) but I seem to be in the minority here.... Whatever you decide, definitely write her a nice note.
posted by jabes at 5:53 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Small unmarked bills (5x $20s) in a card where you write something about thanks for all you do, it is much appreciated.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 5:54 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Count me as another who wouldn't be thrilled with a massage. Or a spa certificate. Or a bottle of wine. Unless you know for sure that she likes these things, I think a neutral gift card is the way to go. Visa, Target, and Amazon are good. I once got a gift card from Starbucks and thought that was great, but you'd want to make sure she likes Starbucks.
posted by MexicanYenta at 6:16 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Money with a personal note is the way to go here. No one has ever opened a card, found a crisp $100 bill and thought "damn, what am I going to do with this!" :)

It is after all, the universal gift certificate.
posted by saradarlin at 6:31 PM on December 8, 2011 [2 favorites]

Cash plus a small something personal - scarf or wine.
posted by Cocodrillo at 6:34 PM on December 8, 2011

I think massage is a little too personal. Gift certificate to a local store or Amazon, iTunes, etc. How much better paid are you than she is? A lot? $100. Some? $50. A card with your note of genuine praise means a lot, too.
posted by theora55 at 6:44 PM on December 8, 2011

I love massages. But I have my own massage therapist, and wouldn't be thrilled about going to someone new.

I hate wine.

Cash is king!
posted by looli at 6:58 PM on December 8, 2011

Best answer: To paraphrase Brandon Blatcher in an earlier similar question: "nothing says you're great in a business relationship better than money". This is a work relationship, not a friendship, no matter how cordial your office is--a thoughtful note and cash is really the most appropriate token of holiday cheer and appreciation. count me among the women who would not only never use a massage gift certificate but would also find it too personal from a boss
posted by crush-onastick at 7:02 PM on December 8, 2011

nthing the gift card idea. iTunes and Amazon are easy and universally welcome.

If you want to give her a specific treat, how about tickets to something she'd like to see--sports or theater or a concert or whatever.

If you know she drinks, a gift basket of good wines, some nice cheeses, chocolates, etc. would be welcome. If she doesn't drink, a selection of coffees and teas (herbal and caffeinated) and a nice travel mug. Always tricky if there are unknown dietary restrictions involved.

A gift card to a hot new restaurant--enough for two meals, desserts, and wine, so she can bring a date or a friend.

Many high-end malls also offer gift certificates that can be used in any store in the mall. Maybe she'll use it to buy that beautiful something that she just hasn't been able to justify the price tag for.

Alternatively, you could give her a gift card to a spa that offers a wide range of services--massages, but also facials, hair cuts, waxes, manicures, etc. That way she can choose what she wants to do with it. Please note that this would be an odd gift to receive from an unrelated/unattached male. You don't want it to seem like you're passing judgment on her grooming.
posted by elizeh at 8:21 PM on December 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I used to be an assistant. I got American Express Gift Cards for the holidays. It was great.
posted by spec80 at 9:38 PM on December 8, 2011

Best answer: former assistant here. no massages. seriously. nice thought, but some people don't like them.

best gifts: amazon or target gift card
also okay, but annoying to use, especially when there's only like $1.23 left: visa gift card

you should also include a kind note/card.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 10:01 PM on December 8, 2011

Definitely agree that a massage certificate is much too personal coming from a supervisor/boss. I'm currently in an assistant-like position, and while I would of course be grateful for the gift, it would feel a little ... unprofessional, maybe?

Gift cards (Amazon, in particular), cash, or fancy gift basket/wine are all great ideas.
posted by spectacularicity at 11:40 PM on December 8, 2011

Another vote for NO massage or wine --- as someone says above, getting touched by strangers squicks me out. Cash or an Amazon gift card, plus perhaps something neutral like a fruit basket.
posted by easily confused at 3:16 AM on December 9, 2011

I'm an executive assistant, and I would much rather get a gift certificate for a service I would enjoy than a pile of money, unless we're talking about substantial money. If I'm assisting a director who makes $100,000-$200,000 a year, and I make $60,000-$70,000 a year, $100 isn't that much money to either of us, and that's even more true if my executive is a C-level who's in or near the 1%.

If you don't know her well enough to know if she'd like a massage or spa day, maybe you can ask around? A nice dinner out or a pre-paid night in a local hotel or B&B might be a nice little splurge that's in your budget. These are all things I'd like, but I'm pretty easy.
posted by rosa at 9:14 AM on December 9, 2011

I should tell you why a massage....

3. It's a wink-nod way of saying "I understand we stress you out sometimes, and I'd like to make up for it a little bit."
posted by rokusan at 11:07 AM on December 9, 2011

Best answer: If your assistant was male would you give him a massage certificate? If no, don't give one to the female assistant either. Are these still Mad Men times, this is like giving the secretary some lipstick and silk pantyhose. Ugh.

The most appropriate holiday gift from a boss is a holiday bonus. So yes, gift card or cash with a personal note is the way to go.
posted by Shusha at 8:22 AM on December 11, 2011

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for your answers. I ended up getting her a gift card from Target. I've tried to get details on what kind of things she would like and have come up pretty empty handed. I wouldn't have gotten her a massage unless I knew that she specifically wanted one (note: I am also female, so I don't think there would have been any weird gender issues around that) and I don't think she's the type who would be into getting a massage. I didn't want to give her cash because it just seemed a little weird - like tipping the newspaper boy or something. I'm not her actual boss, my boss is also her boss, I'm just kind of a mid-level person that she helps assist. I didn't want to give any kind of impression that I was "tipping" her, and cash sort of felt like that to me. I would have liked to do an Amazon gift card, because you can pretty much find almost anything you would want on Amazon, but I'm not even confident that she uses the internet or would order something online. She did mention that she was at Target a few weeks ago, so I know at least that she shops there, so a Target gift card it was.

Thank you again for taking the time to answer, I now have a much better idea on what works for office gift giving!
posted by triggerfinger at 9:16 AM on December 23, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, forgot to mention that I also gave her a card with a note inside thanking her for all she does for me.
posted by triggerfinger at 9:17 AM on December 23, 2011

If your assistant was male would you give him a massage certificate? If no, don't give one to the female assistant either. Are these still Mad Men times, this is like giving the secretary some lipstick and silk pantyhose. Ugh.

yeah, and just as sexist to say that men wouldn't enjoy a massage? because i know plenty of guys who do.
posted by violetk at 12:46 PM on December 25, 2011

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