Should I formally thank my boss?
March 20, 2014 10:56 AM   Subscribe

I am a hostess at a small, family-owned restaurant. Yesterday, when I got my pay envelope, there was a small note inside indicating that I had gotten a raise (there were no words; it simply showed the hours I had worked multiplied by my new wage). I noted the change, and did not mention it immediately because my boss was not there at the time; I went about my day and forgot about it--until this afternoon.

My boss took me aside this afternoon and asked if I had seen my envelope and if I had noted there was a change. I replied that I had, and quickly felt terrible for forgetting about it (it is not difficult to make me feel terrible or guilty). I thanked her for the raise, and she replied that she had been hoping for some sort of acknowledgement, which I believe is fair. There's no excuse. I just forgot about the small raise, not because I had an attitude of "BOUT TIME" or anything, but because I am not great about remembering things in general, even potentially significant things. I explained to her, by way of (sort-of) explanation, that I wasn't sure if it was a general raise amongst all the hosts, and she said it was not. So, I'm the only one who got a raise. She went on to say that she would expect my lack of acknowledgement from one of the teenage kids who works for her, and not from me, which stung, in no small part because I believe she has a point.

So I'm pretty sure I messed up, at least in her book, although she seemed more disappointed than angry-- but even if I hadn't forgotten, I'm not sure I would have felt comfortable mentioning it as I've never been in this exact situation, and every other time I've gotten a raise, I've been informed beforehand.

So, was I a jerk? As I mentioned before, it is not difficult to make me feel bad about something I've done/haven't done, so my perspective on this could be off. Further, my real question is: if I was indeed a jerk, is a card or something apologizing for not mentioning it, while also thanking her again for the raise necessary? I don't know. I just feel like I was bad and I should feel bad.
posted by gypsyroseme to Work & Money (33 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
There's no need to feel terrible about it, but yeah, it was a little cavalier of you not to acknowledge it. Maybe buy her a little box of nice chocolate or something else she likes as a thank you?
posted by shivohum at 11:04 AM on March 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

I don't think you need to do anything else here, and I also think she overreacted a bit with her little lecture. Yes, it would have been better if you had remembered to thank her initially, but it would have also been better if she had told you about the raise in person rather than simply including it in your paycheck.
posted by something something at 11:06 AM on March 20, 2014 [26 favorites]

I don't think I'd buy anything, but I would probably write a note explaining that you did notice and appreciate the raise, but you weren't sure what the etiquette around that sort of thing was, and you didn't want to do the wrong thing. You could also add some personal reason why the raise will help (cost of X has gone up, etc) and also mention some other way that she is a good boss (her flexibility with your schedule or whatever). Couldn't hurt.
posted by Rock Steady at 11:07 AM on March 20, 2014 [21 favorites]

From her perspective, she probably had deliberated if/when to give you a raise, and how much, and was pleased to have done it; but part of the reason anybody does things for other people is to see them being happy and excited. But there you were being all normal, and not noticeably happy and excited, so she was disappointed. That's reasonable.

Among other things, you were probably right not to start talking about it as soon as you opened your envelope. This was a raise for you, but not for your coworkers, so it would have been rude of you to do a happy dance in the middle of the workplace.

Among other things, you had a job to do, and could not carry on being nonstop happy and excited from then until you saw her in private next.

So yes, it would have been appropriate if you had made a mental note to ask Boss about this ASAP, but the fact that you didn't doesn't make you a terrible person.
posted by aimedwander at 11:08 AM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

You have nothing to feel guilty for. You thanked her for the raise and that's where it should have ended. People forget things and you also explained yourself. If anyone is wrong here it is your boss. Your boss has an unreasonable desire for you to grovel in appreciation for something you earned through your prior actions. Please don't give this another thought. No guilt is necessary.
posted by mrdrummed at 11:09 AM on March 20, 2014 [12 favorites]

Wow, your boss really doesn't believe in virtue being its own reward, does she! Look, she may have a point that it would have been nice for you to say something, but she didn't just abandon the moral highground by being an asshole to you about it, she started tunneling her way to China. I think you need to separate out in your mind what you feel you should have done and how bad your boss made you feel by being a jerk. Ask yourself as honestly as possible what you think you would have said to your boss had she been there when you got the paycheck, then find some way to say something along similar lines along with a brief, non-effusive apology for having let it slip your mind. (I don't say you owe her this apology, but I think it will help you put this whole thing behind you). Then forget about it. You got the raise because you do good work. It's a recognition of your contribution to their business, not a gift or an act of charity.
posted by yoink at 11:10 AM on March 20, 2014 [20 favorites]

You know what, I think your boss is the jerk.

When I'm given a raise, I'm told before-hand, and I'm told what a good job I'm doing and the things that I'm doing that my bosses would like me to continue to do.

Sure, you should have said something like, "Boss, I noticed a bump in pay, is that a mistake, or a raise?" But it's awkward either way, without that conversation before hand.

The fact that she made a big deal about is also jerky.

Look for a new job if you can. Your boss shouldn't make you feel like an asshole for this. She should praise you and tell you how awesome you are and why you earned that raise.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:12 AM on March 20, 2014 [28 favorites]

She was too busy to mention it to you in person. You were too focused on doing good work while you were at work to follow up with her. That focus is surely, one of the reasons you were given a raise.

You shouldn't say all that to her, but I think it is appropriate to thank her for the unexpected raise, and apologize that you would have thanked her sooner while finding a way to remind her of your focus on the customers.
posted by Good Brain at 11:12 AM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

She should have taken you aside and told you in person. She wanted to congratulate you on a job well done, and see you happy.

Since this is family run, there is no HR drone telling her how to do things, so a little thank you note or gifty item from you should be ok and no harm no foul.

If she gets weird in the future (doing nice things, then expecting returns, seeming to count tit-for-tat, wanting acknowledgement, getting pissy if she doesn't get it) then get out of there asap.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:12 AM on March 20, 2014

From a conditioning point of view, it is always a good idea to reward behavior that you would like to recur. I assume you would like to get another raise - reward the behavior is a good idea.

It has nothing to do with feeling guilty or groveling. Just good business, if you would like to increase the future likelihood of getting more raises.
posted by jcworth at 11:13 AM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

You did nothing wrong. If the boss wanted a big reaction, she should have announced it to you in basically any method besides this.

What's more, she's poisoned her own well in hauling you to the side and making a Thing out of it. If you do get her a card or a gift, it will always be because she yelled at you, not because you were genuinely moved to thank her. You're doomed either way, but at least if you actually get her the card, she'll occasionally realize that she was/is unreasonable about it.
posted by Etrigan at 11:14 AM on March 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I work for our family company. We give raises because the employees deserve them, not because we're looking for accolades.

Instead of telling you about the raise, she played a game with you. That doesn't sit right with me and you shouldn't feel bad about it.
posted by futureisunwritten at 11:18 AM on March 20, 2014 [14 favorites]

(Won't edit to clarify -- by "it will always be because she yelled at you..." I meant in her mind, not that you would never have done anything to thank her.)
posted by Etrigan at 11:18 AM on March 20, 2014

Your boss is also a human being with feelings. An acknowledgement that she made some small effort on your behalf is not unreasonable. Ungrateful is ungrateful no matter how you slice it.
posted by three blind mice at 11:27 AM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

She gave you a raise without any fanfare or indication that you were singled out for merit. Now she's sore that you weren't prompt enough with your thanks?

I wouldn't offer any more apologies - you received your check yesterday, she wasn't present for you to thank, you thanked her today.
She's the one who's out of line. If she wanted the raise to be an occasion, she should have included a note in your pay envelope.
If you say anything, simply reiterate your thanks for her appreciation of your good work and pledge to continue.

Other than that, just let her get over it.
posted by Pudhoho at 11:29 AM on March 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

The issue isn't whether you were wrong or should feel bad. The issue is, this is your boss, and as noted, a human, and you have to work with her and keep her on your good side.

So the issue is whether you want to rebuild the bridge -- even if she is the one who burned it (or at least charred a good deal, to stretch the metaphor).

If I were you, I'd figure that the good performance assessment and raise is probably incentive enough to want to keep things nice on the work front, and I'd make a small effort to demonstrate my gratitude.

A handwritten thank you card with a minimal explanation seems appropriate -- eg. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to thank you in person earlier, I was taken by surprise and not sure if I should discuss it at work with other coworkers around. But I'm sincerely grateful for the raise, and very glad that you're happy with my work. I want to do my best, and I appreciate your support, etc.
posted by girlpublisher at 11:38 AM on March 20, 2014 [10 favorites]

I'd also add that my read is that she thought it would be a fun surprise to just quietly raise your pay, and that's why didn't take you aside to discuss it in advance. That's dumb, but it isn't malicious, and it doesn't mean she didn't think it was important or an "occasion" worthy of note.
posted by girlpublisher at 11:41 AM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

yeah.. your boss was a little weird there, frankly you do something nice for someone because it is what you should do, not to get kudos for doing it, it is always nice to get a thank you or acknowledgement for it but if it isn't forthcoming anything beyond checking to make sure they actually received the item/favor/whatever is grandstanding. But, I guess you gotta dance to to them that calls the tune so to speak.

If I was in your situation I would get a nice thank you card, apologize for forgetting to mentioning it to her right away and say you appreciate the raise and working where you are working. This is a cya move, and does not necessarily have to be 100% heartfelt, but something nearly cost-free to grease the wheels of workplace harmony.
posted by edgeways at 11:46 AM on March 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Take her aside, look into her eyes and sincerely say that you are grateful for the raise and that you're sorry you didn't acknowledge it right away. Do not offer excuses, just thank and apologize. And then move on.
posted by Pineapplicious at 12:05 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

A handwritten thank you card with a minimal explanation seems appropriate -- eg. I'm sorry I didn't get a chance to thank you in person earlier, I was taken by surprise and not sure if I should discuss it at work with other coworkers around. But I'm sincerely grateful for the raise, and very glad that you're happy with my work. I want to do my best, and I appreciate your support, etc.

In your position I would do just as girlpublisher suggests here: write a simple note reiterating your thanks, but not groveling or overly apologetic.

From an objective standpoint, you didn't do anything worth feeling bad about: it would have been nice of you to remember to thank her as soon as you saw her but you're the hostess of a restaurant and obviously have many tasks and customers to focus on during the course of your day. Your boss is being somewhat unreasonable by apparently being disappointed/offended that she didn't receive a personal thank you from you when she didn't even bother to tell you in person or actually write you a note of explanation or congratulations. Sometimes people have expectations you can't predict. Don't beat yourself up about it: send a thank-you note and feel confident you've done all you can or need to do to settle the situation. (If you feel like your boss is penalizing you or continuing to make you feel bad about this, that's her bad. Don't take it personally, write this aspect of her personality off as unreasonable and/or look for a new gig. If the gig is good, just remember that to get ahead you're going to have to remember to stroke her ego and make her feel like you love and appreciate her.)
posted by dahliachewswell at 12:07 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

My boss once gave me a significant bonus, and I remember the thing he was most interested in was what I was buying with the bonus. So, if you want to sincerely thank your boss, mentioning where the extra money will go (even if it's "paying off my student loan faster") could help her feel nice.
posted by amtho at 12:19 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

So, was I a jerk?

I don't think you should feel bad or terrible. I don't think you did anything wrong. I think your boss was wrong in implying that your "lack of acknowledgement" was some horrible transgression that only teenagers would commit. It really wasn't. You may be uncomfortable talking about money. You may have forgotten (you did!). You may have been trying to catch her alone so as to not make other employees jealous. There were so many possible reasons and she assumed the worst one.
posted by soelo at 12:40 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, raises generally come with some more explicit notification. Her pulling you aside and guilting you because you didn't thank her for it the second you saw her (maybe you hadn't had a chance to get her alone and didn't want to mention it in front of colleagues?) is -- and I am not sure I've ever used this word seriously before -- seriously gauche.

I would make sure she knows you appreciate it once (and I think you already have) and leave it at that. If she makes it an ongoing thing between the two of you I think that says more about her than you. If that happens, I would suggest looking for new employment.
posted by rocketpup at 12:41 PM on March 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Your boss is a jerk and you shouldn't feel guilty.

But. Your boss is your boss.

So, you should write a short thank you note. You appreciate the raise. Optionally say you weren't sure of the etiquette or whatever. But you are grateful.

Your boss is a narcissist and wants your gratitude, so in the future you'll want to express it, whether or not you should in normal circumstances, I think.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:41 PM on March 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Always thank bosses for giving you raises. This should be done verbally.

Do not write a note, and especially do not give her a gift of any kind. She is your boss - giving raises and expecting gifts in return is so far from professional it's making my head spin.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 12:59 PM on March 20, 2014

Your boss is a jerk. Totally normal for her to be disappointed, totally inappropriate for her to say what she did to you (acting more like a mom than a boss, IMO).

If you want to keep you're job, I'd do this, as Rock Steady suggests:

> I would probably write a note explaining that you did notice and appreciate the raise, but you weren't sure what the etiquette around that sort of thing was, and you didn't want to do the wrong thing

But personally, I'd look for work elsewhere.
posted by ravioli at 1:05 PM on March 20, 2014

I don't think you did anything wrong! She put the ball in your court and then unfairly assumed the worst about you. I think that is odd. Whenever I get a raise, my boss has told me about it beforehand (as far as I can recall) and I thank them then and there. I'm not sure what I would do if I got a raise without a head's up first...but based on my circumstances (not saying you should have done this per se), I would have probably double-checked with our bookkeeper to make sure it was correct before thanking my boss, but that's just me.

I wouldn't give her a gift of any kind as a thanks. A thank you note might be good, but don't make excuses for why you didn't thank her within a 24 hr span of time. I think it's best not to get into that.

I'm always grateful for a raise, but the way I see it, it's not a "gift", it's fair payment for my time.
posted by Shadow Boxer at 1:06 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

No gift as thanks for a raise. That's not appropriate for the workplace. A raise is not a tit for tat.

A note to thank her for the raise? Weird, but she is weird, so maybe this would be appreciated.

At minimum, a personal and heartfelt "I really appreciate the raise. Thank you for investing in me. It means a lot!" is nice.

But your boss is a weirdo and totally unprofessional to (a) not let you know the raise is coming and (b) instruct you to thank them.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:46 PM on March 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your boss has given you 2 things of value:

More money
A lesson

A raise, especially when no one else got one, is a gesture of value. Showing an appropriate level of appreciation for that gesture is part of the human contract. It's a good thing to do because it creates happiness between us. You didn't give timely acknowledgement as you should have. Your excuses are just that. The sting you feel has a purpose - next time you'll be much more aware to act. And that's a pretty good lesson at a very good price.
posted by Kruger5 at 1:58 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your boss was inappropriate, and you were not.

You said, "it is not difficult to make me feel terrible or guilty," which makes me think maybe you don't have a good sense of whether it's other people's expectations that are weird or if you are out of step. In this case, your boss's actions were out of line and childish--she should not have chastised you this way.

Yes, it's appropriate to acknowledge the raise, and you did that. Her lecture to you was unprofessional. You were not unprofessional, and now you know your boss can have out of proportion reactions to things--both good pieces of info for you to have.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:00 PM on March 20, 2014

The right thing to have done would have been for your boss to take you aside before you received your paycheck, to discreetly let you know that you would be receiving a raise, and to give you an appropriate opportunity to say thank you (and perhaps ask "I appreciate your confidence in me; while we're here, is there any feedback you'd like to give me, positive or negative?")

Your boss giving you an unexpected raise, and then being disappointed because you didn't go out of your way to acknowledge it, is a great example of why managers need to model behavior that they want to see. Your boss gave you a raise without acknowledgement, and so set the tone that you shouldn't acknowledge that you received a raise (except in kind, like a small note in their mailbox.) If your boss wanted a more significant response, they should have presented the raise to you in a more significant fashion (and advance warning -- versus just having it show up in your check -- is definitely the classier way to go about it.)

So, yes, I think you should have dropped a note discreetly in his mailbox thanking your boss, and I also think your boss's lecture was a classic example of doing one thing but expecting employees to do another. In short, you can both do better, but these are small failures and easy enough to correct next time around. Don't sweat it.
posted by davejay at 4:34 PM on March 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Completely ridiculous. Businesses give people raises to encourage continued good work and/or to invest in their loyalty. Your boss didn't do you a personal favor, and even if she had, hounding you about not thanking her would still be incredibly ungracious. Honestly, I think her expectation that you beatify her for a strategic management decision almost crosses the line past rude into inappropriate.

(I'm actually really surprised that the consensus here hasn't come down much harder on your boss.)
posted by threeants at 7:48 PM on March 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

On top of that, I also think that in the service industry, getting huffy over the lack of response to something non-urgent after one single day is downright unrealistic. If your workplace is anything like my current/former workplaces, it's constantly busy and even if you technically see or work alongside a colleague/supervisor, it's pretty difficult to find the actual time and/or space to have even a brief conversation if it's something that would benefit from your undivided attention.
posted by threeants at 8:09 PM on March 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

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