what should I give her?
August 9, 2013 12:48 PM   Subscribe

A couple of administrators at work have gone so far above and beyond the call of duty to help me in a crunch that I want to thank them with gifts. Help me choose the right way to express my thanks.

Three people worked on this project to help me, and two of the went so far above and beyond that I want to give them a ticker tape parade. In lieu of that I want to buy them all something. The cast of helpful characters:
1. A = incredible saver of my butt. About her: she loves writing, especially, I think, personal non-fiction, women's writing, thoughtful memoir. I would like to get her a good edited collection of personal, quality non-fiction. Not just Best Memoirs of 2012. What book? Or what else? Is there a literary journal like this?
2. B = She also helped me more than she needed to. I don't know her as well, but I think she's a bit of a foodie in an unpretentious way -- that is, good down to earth quality stuff.
3. C - She did some work on this, so maybe a starbucks gift card but I don't know if she likes coffee. I don't know her personally as well as the others.
Any suggestions?
I thought of flowers, but getting three bouquets (they have separate offices) sounds a bit ostentatious. Or would it be nice? If so, should I get three identical bouquets?
I already took A out for a simple lunch while we were working. So maybe no more meals.
posted by third rail to Work & Money (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Okay, first of all, each person gets a glowing letter to her manager saying how awesome she was, and specifically how. Nominate for in-house team-work awards and what not.

A fun thing that's surprisingly cheap are trophies.

For the foodie how about some lovely Rib Eyes? (I'd Love that gift!)

Starbucks gift card is an excellent choice, as is a $25 gas card. Everyone needs gas.

You can give each person something specific to her interests, but not too personal.

I am a fan of the effusive letter and a gift card.

You're a mench!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 12:59 PM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Perfect choice--three small matching flowers or plants. A florist can help you choose something modest.
posted by dottiechang at 1:00 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, the letter to the manager can, in the long run, do more for them than any gift you can realistically give. Some people think gift cards are impersonal, but I'm definitely in the "let them buy the thing they definitely want" camp rather than the "let me do my best to guess at the sort of thing I'm kinda sorta sure they want" camp.
posted by yoink at 1:07 PM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Do you mean administrative assistant or similar? Speaking from experience (and yes everyone is different, I know!) NO to flowers or plants!

Good gifts in order of my preference:
Cash equivalents - gift cards. I'd love Starbucks cards, Visa cash card, restaurant gift card, maybe a Target card. I think a gas card would be kind of weird. I'm not sure why.
Chocolate - an unusual or luxury brand is good, but not necessary
Wine (if you know the person drinks)
Take them to lunch & let them pick the place
With any gift, notes are great - I always keep them. It doesn't need to be a fawning missive; I love a very short, sincere note of appreciation.
posted by peep at 1:10 PM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm an executive assistant. Get them gift cards.

Books are risky things to get a reader because they are likely to have read what you get them. Plants are risky things to get people because not everyone likes taking care of plants. Flowers are pretty for a few days but ultimately useless. A gift card shows your appreciation and allows people to get what they like best for themselves. You can write a nice note inside to personalize it, but honestly, gift cards are always favorably received by someone in my position, along with emails to their supervisors and HR exclaiming over their wonderfulness.
posted by something something at 1:16 PM on August 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

Seconding the gift cards, and definitely write a note. Not everyone drives, so a gas gift card is not so great. What about a bookstore card for the reader, local swanky grocery store gift card for the foodie, and starbucks or similar for the unknown?

If you want something more tangible, maybe some small luxury they can use at the office--like a really great thermal mug or something. (Almost everyone drinks either coffee or tea.)

Flowers are weird because they're so obvious, and will lead to "wow, who are the flowers from??" kind of interactions. Some people might enjoy that, but I know that for me that would be awkward and a bit unpleasant (depending on the exact office environment).
posted by snorkmaiden at 1:27 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

These are professional relationships, and they helped you professionally, so your token of appreciation should be professional as well. Don't get personal.

Letter/email/note to the manager(s) as others have said, a financial bonus if that's within your ability to make happen, gift cards to work-appropriate places (local coffee shop, lunch place that lots of the office frequents). Really, don't get personal.
posted by headnsouth at 1:36 PM on August 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the answers so far. I'm getting great ideas.
This is an office without managers due to the kind of work I do, or else l would definitely write to their manager. There isn't exactly a boss.
Keep the ideas coming, thank you!
posted by third rail at 1:47 PM on August 9, 2013

My department (about 300 people) has a monthly "attaboy" type of program where any employee can nominate any other employee for an award by writing a little blurb about why they deserve recognition to a special e-mail address set up for just this purpose. The monthly winners get mentioned (with their blurbs) in a department-wide e-mail, and they also get recognized at a lunch held in their honor (usually pizza).

Maybe your employer has a similar program. If so, I'd suggest a nomination and also an e-mail or similar mention to their supervisor(s) on how and why you appreciated what they did for you.

I'll second the gift cards (not cash) as opposed to more personal gifts, to remain professional. Also seconding the possibility of taking them out to lunch at a local restaurant of their choosing.
posted by tckma at 1:47 PM on August 9, 2013

Comp time.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:55 PM on August 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Nthing gift cards, especially Starbucks or Visa. Gas card does sound kinda weird.
posted by starscream at 2:56 PM on August 9, 2013

For person A, you could get a Powell's gift card, which she could use on-line. Thank a butt-saver and support independent booksellers, all at once!
posted by Kat Allison at 4:18 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Nthing the letter of appreciation to each of their managers.

If you are not in a position to authorize paid time off, then nthing gift cards as well. My go-to gift card is Amazon. You never know what someone reeealllyyy needs but may not have budgeted for, and Amazon has just about everything.

(I also like the suggestion about a little trophy, it's a daily reminder right there on their desk of your appreciation).
posted by vignettist at 4:34 PM on August 9, 2013

I know you said they don't really have managers; how about a letter to HR? (With a copy to each of the ladies themselves, of course.)

How about taking them all out to lunch at a really nice, special restaurant? If you make it a 'group' lunch, you and all three of them together, it'll avoid any sense of impropriety and keep things professional.

I'd avoid wine or other alcohol (not everyone drinks and all that) or a gas card (sounds a little odd).
Two problems with potted plants: not all of us are 'plant people' (hi!) and while it's a nice gift, they might already HAVE more plants than they want. If you decide on cut flowers, make it three equal bouquets.
Gift cards in general are good: perhaps make them for Amazon.com, because heck: they could get just about ANYTHING from Amazon!
posted by easily confused at 5:40 PM on August 9, 2013

In addition to the gift cards, etc.: Offer to make a recommendation on their LinkedIn/similar career networking profiles, if they have any. Who knows if/when they'll go jobhunting in the future, but a story of "specific time this person was professionally awesome" is great for job interviews.
posted by nicebookrack at 7:16 PM on August 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

All 3 - thank you letter, cc:ed to their manager, pointing out specific skills and assistance.
and/or, make up an award certificate, suitable for posting in a cubicle. Presented to ______ for her excellence above and beyond the call, in ________lots of detail_______ on __date___, etc. and give gift cards to a bookstore, Visa, Starbucks, Whole Foods. This gives you the chance to personalize it a little.
posted by theora55 at 7:47 PM on August 9, 2013

Not everyone needs gas.
posted by pompomtom at 5:21 AM on August 10, 2013

posted by BostonTerrier at 6:29 AM on August 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

As someone in an admin-esque position, the gestures that have meant the most to me are
* written notes (even email) about how something specific I did helped the person
* the person showing up a year or two later to tell me about their success
* a small flower arrangement (totally unexpected! but, I love flowers/plants!)
* a ton of assorted chocolate (the person really tried to make sure I would be overwhelmed with chocolate and the thought behind the gift was awesome)
* a gift card to Starbucks from someone who knew not to bug me before I had my coffee

What is it about the person that stands out as memorable for you? Try to give a gift that makes a connection and it will be remembered. I will always remember those who took the time and effort to thank me in this way.
posted by ainsley at 10:58 PM on August 10, 2013

I think a nice pen is an awesome gift. Most people use pens, most people won't buy themselves a nice pen, it's something they will remember the gesture by (I have pens given to me years ago, and I still think of the giver when using them), and it's not too personal. If you know they'll use it an appropriate moleskin notebook could go with then pen as well.

Please don't get them a plant unless you know they love/nurture plants. When I'm gifted a plant, I always think "Great, something I have to care for that I'm going to kill and feel sad about."

The linkedin recommendations and internal commendations are great as well, but a physical gift is something that will last and will continue to make them feel good for years (as they use it, they'll remember that it was a thank you).
posted by el io at 12:39 PM on August 11, 2013

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