Thank-you note workplace ettiquette?
March 19, 2012 9:39 AM   Subscribe

Do I get a gift for this very senior person in my company who took the time to speak with me and bought me lunch?

Background: I'm in an internship with a marketing company where the expectation (by both me and the company) is that I'll be hired as an employee at the end of a year. However, there is some flexibility with regard to my placement in the company, and to that end, I've been having conversations with various somewhat senior people in the company to get a better idea of different aspects of the business.

Question: Last week, a very senior person in the company took the time to speak with me. I know that at this point in time he is extremely busy, yet he took time out of his schedule to answer any questions I might have, and even paid for lunch (I offered, but was declined). I was wondering if I should get him a gift of any sort? A thank-you card maybe? I've sent a follow-up email thanking him, but I was wondering if there is another gesture I can/should make. Whiskey, or something similar seems excessive (and I don't know if he drinks), but for all I know any gift would be excessive.

Other details:

-He met with me for about an hour, and we got lunch.
-At this point in time, this person is not in any way my direct superior. I work in a different area of the company.
-If I do decide to work in this area of the business at the end of the year (a pretty good chance, I'd say), then this person will probably have a major part in the hiring decision.
-Though this conversation was basically an informational interview, we did discuss the potential of hiring me (and he referred me to other people to talk to, and told me that I should feel free to call him at any time - another reason why I feel compelled to make another gesture of gratitude).
-We are both married males, and I am not concerned about possible misinterpretations of any gifts.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (18 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
He probably turned in the receipt for reimbursement as it was a business meeting. I wouldn't get him a gift, but a thank you note for his time would be a nice gesture.
posted by cecic at 9:41 AM on March 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think a handwritten thank you note is appropriate and would be a nice gesture.
posted by pupstocks at 9:42 AM on March 19, 2012 [5 favorites]

The handwritten thank-you note was practically invented for this sort of thing.
posted by gauche at 9:44 AM on March 19, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah, the note. These sorts of gifts always had an air of brown-nosing about them, and they're not really done at all anymore. An email would probably be fine, but a note would stand out as thoughtful without seeming inappropriate.
posted by valkyryn at 9:47 AM on March 19, 2012

You don't send gifts to your superiors at work. Gifts flow down the hierarchy, not upwards.

When you've been seriously entertained, you send a thank you letter. You don't send a card, except in very informal situations, which this is not.

You handwrite the letter and you use ink, not ballpoint. The ink needs to be black or blue-black. You can get a Parker pen and some cartridges for only a few dollars.

You use writing paper in post-quarto size, with a weight of 100 gsm or heavier. The paper should be white or cream. The envelope should be in the same colour as the paper. I use DL envelopes for this purpose; to be the right size, the envelope needs to be able to fit the paper in after folding not more than twice. You would fold a post quarto sheet into thirds and put it into the envelope so that when the recipient opens it (which they would do with the back of the envelope towards them) they pull out the letter vertically and then unfold it to see the letter right side up.

You start with "Dear Mr. Lastname," and sign off, "Yours sincerely, Firstname Lastname."
posted by tel3path at 9:47 AM on March 19, 2012 [29 favorites]

You send a handwritten note thanking him for his time and his advice. Mention at least one piece of advice he gave you that meant a lot to you. Reflect that you took it to heart.

Then don't forget to send it.
posted by inturnaround at 9:55 AM on March 19, 2012 [6 favorites]

I am going to dissent and say that the era of the handwritten note is over ... Email is fine; an additional note would be overkill, and gives him annoying paper to have to deal with.
posted by yarly at 10:01 AM on March 19, 2012 [10 favorites]

Nope, next time you see him in the hall tell him you owe him a drink. Of course he will probably not let you pay because he is expensing all this anyway.
posted by Ad hominem at 10:02 AM on March 19, 2012

Also, he hasn't done anything that huge for you - just normal mentoring stuff that is part of his job. Not that you shouldnt be appreciative, but overkill would make it awkward. Although showing your gratefulness is important, it should not be disproportionate, because that can be worth than nothing.
posted by yarly at 10:05 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

a Formal Email - unless you work in a very old-school traditional place then a note. But for 99% of the firms in the world and e-mail is appropriate.

I probably wouldn't call him Mr. either. But a business style opening is appropriate.
posted by JPD at 10:05 AM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

I'm going to slightly dissent in that I think that, yes, a thank you note is the best way to go... but that your company culture/his personality should determine the formality and format.
posted by sm1tten at 10:12 AM on March 19, 2012

Never gift up the chain of command, it looks like ass-kissing.

Thank you notes to people in high places who did you favors are rarely inappropriate and often very beneficial. A formal email or an informal hand-written note would probably be appropriate here, edging towards one or the other depending on the culture of your company.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:15 AM on March 19, 2012

You sent an thank-you email. At most a thank you card with a hand written note, but really not necessary.
posted by rich at 10:25 AM on March 19, 2012

I'm more or less the guy you talked to. I'm a Sr VP in a giganto company. I would expect a thank-you email, be surprised and mildly amused by a hand written thank you note (it might suggest you were a bit old fashioned) and horrified by a gift, which I'd probably have to return. The extra effort thing you could do would be to use my advice weeks or months from now and write back to me then and shared how you were able to use the advice and thanked me again. You might have to remind me of who you were at the start of that email, however.
posted by Lame_username at 10:53 AM on March 19, 2012 [25 favorites]

Yeah, Tel3path's advice would, I think, have been great for 1920. I work for a huge multinational and that level of fuss over something so minor would be seen as weird by virtually all the VPs and senior execs I work with. They don't not move in a world like that any more.

A small note - no "Mr" or "Ms", just first name, and a couple of lines would be the absolute maximum I would do, but Lame_Username's advice is best. :)
posted by smoke at 3:34 PM on March 19, 2012 [2 favorites]

No! No gift.

I think a thank-you note like tel3path suggests would be a great touch, but since you already sent a thank-you email, you'd be doubling up and that strikes me as excessive and kind of weird.

And really, yeah, this guy is busy, but you didn't get anything extraordinary here. An hour lunch to speak with and advise a new recruit is something he probably enjoyed and it's probably something he considers part of his job.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:54 PM on March 19, 2012

I am that guy at work, too. Definitely no gift. I would very much appreciate an email or a handwritten note - those are the junior people I remember. And I have to confess to being slightly irked when I don't receive one. Extra points for follow up on a topic from the lunch in the note!
posted by mozhet at 8:31 PM on March 19, 2012

Handwritten note FTW. Gift is overkill and will make you look super-green -- this is networking, baby.
posted by desuetude at 11:18 PM on March 20, 2012

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