Appropriate thank-you gift for a supervisor
April 6, 2016 2:57 PM   Subscribe

My boss just did me a really big favor. I feel the need to give her a thank-you gift, but not sure what's appropriate (or if a gift is appropriate at all).

I've run into some unexpected financial hardship. I told my boss about it, and she pulled some strings to get me a bonus. (Without getting too much into the weeds of our company's policies, it's a bonus that I would have been eligible for in about a year; she just sped up the process).

I'm awestruck by what a kind gesture it was, and feeling like I should get her flowers or a bottle of wine or something. But then I get panicky because:

1. I've heard some people say you're never supposed to buy your boss a gift.
2. I'm male and she's female, and she's a couple years younger than me. And I definitely don't want to give the impression of some sort of romantic gesture (worried less about her and more about other people's perceptions).
3. Speaking of other people's perceptions, I don't think she wants everyone to know she pulled these strings.
4. And yeah, I am having financial hardship.

Is there a perfect thing for this sort of situation?

posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A nice looking card with vague sentiments of thanks inside would be appropriate, I think.
posted by permiechickie at 2:59 PM on April 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

A handwritten note.
posted by ageispolis at 3:00 PM on April 6, 2016 [7 favorites]

No gifts.

Stopping by and privately saying thank you is enough. Being extra great at your job and supporting your boss and your team is a great way to show her that her help was appreciated.
posted by mochapickle at 3:00 PM on April 6, 2016 [18 favorites]

Is there a perfect thing for this sort of situation?

A card with a hand-written note of appreciation.

You should know that your manager is (probably) not giving you a bonus just to be nice to you or out of the goodness of her heart. She is doing so in order to retain a high-performing employee.

The way to show your appreciation is by continuing to be a high-performing gift. I will say that when on the side of the manager, I'd much rather have an employee that does their job well than one that gives me small gifts.
posted by saeculorum at 3:01 PM on April 6, 2016 [27 favorites]

A private in-person thank-you is enough, but a written note would also be a nice gesture. No gifts, though, even small ones. It's lovely of you to want to make the gesture, but it's going to put your boss in an awkward place and end up doing the opposite of what you're trying to do.
posted by Stacey at 3:03 PM on April 6, 2016

I am a boss, and it makes me very, very uncomfortable when a member of my staff gives me a gift. No gift. Your heartfelt thanks, expressed in person, would mean more and be more comfortable.
posted by OrangeDisk at 3:06 PM on April 6, 2016 [11 favorites]

I think you don't want even the perception that you're buying her favor. Bake cookies or get a nice card like the Papyrus ones at Target. Keep the financial value under ten bucks. Flowers are out because they'd be on display, regardless of whether they'd be interpreted as a romatic gesture (unlikely, I think). I have people working for me and I'd be thrilled to get a sincere token of appreciation, even for something that was just part of my job..
posted by wnissen at 3:06 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

Definitely hand-written card. Although I haven't been in this exact situation, I am a younger female who supervises people, and gifts are pretty much always SUPER awkward and make me feel weird. While thoughtful thank you cards completely make my day/week/month and are pretty much the best thing ever!
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:21 PM on April 6, 2016

A note/card sounds appropriate. In addition, try (especially for the period of time between now and when you would have actually been due this bonus) to go out of your way to make her life as a supervisor a little easier.

Do your job well, do it for an extra 15 minutes a day. If the job involves changing schedules, sign-up for more of the unpopular shifts than you otherwise would. Make even more of an effort to avoid causing situations that cause hassles for your supervisor (get your flu shot, eat right and exercise so you are less likely to have to call in sick, for example).
posted by sparklemotion at 3:39 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Fourthing the card. If you want to run wording by us, you could e-mail what you're thinking to an admin, who could post it.
posted by WCityMike at 3:39 PM on April 6, 2016

buy her coffee if that's a thing at your work.
or just stop by her office and tell her how much you appreciated her efforts on your behalf.

even a card seems like more than i would want from my staff.
posted by calgirl at 4:10 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

In this case, no gift. I'm not sure I would even give a card. A heartfelt thank you and a home baked cookie or two would be in order.

If you celebrate birthdays in the office, then when it is her birthday you could treat for a lunch or buy a (small) pleasant/funny gift-- then it would be decoupled from the bonus while still acknowledging her as a person.
posted by frumiousb at 4:47 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

I think getting someone a gift when they help you out of financial hardship is kind of... never really the right response, unless it's 10 years down the line and they're family or a personal friend and you're back on your own two feet and want to show that it stuck with you.
posted by stoneandstar at 5:57 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing the handwritten card. Or card plus a small batch of cookies or a 10 dollar box of very expensive chocolates, which will probably amount to just two really yummy truffles she can enjoy at her desk or take home in her handbag without people really noticing the tiny gift.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 6:09 PM on April 6, 2016

Nth'ing just a note/card, or in person thanks. I wouldn't even give a token like coffee, chocolate, or homemade goods.
posted by 2 cats in the yard at 6:32 PM on April 6, 2016

A lot of people here are saying no. I actually think "pulled some strings to get me a bonus" because you're having money troubles is a big deal, beyond a boss's duties, and a gift is totally appropriate. I would certainly want her to know how much I appreciated her doing that.

That said, I think a nice bottle of wine (if it feels appropriate) or some (nice) candy, things like that, would be a nice gesture but not going overboard. I'd need to know more about her to see what kind of non-edible things she might find useful or enjoy, but good alcohol and candy tend to be a one-size-fits-all type gift. Maybe some nice/gourmet coffee or tea if she is into either. Plus a thank you card attached, of course.
posted by atinna at 6:44 PM on April 6, 2016

BTW just wanted to add - all the bosses here saying they'd feel awkward receiving gifts from their underlings, have you ever done a favor like the one mentioned?
posted by atinna at 6:51 PM on April 6, 2016

As a former boss. When I got one of my direct reports an out of cycle bonus, the smile on his face and the subsequent loyalty were thanks enough to me. I wouldn't have wanted a gift in that situation.

However, my directs did organize flowers and a cake for my birthday. I was really touched. Take your gratitude, express it in the moment, and gift on a more appropriate occasion.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:36 PM on April 6, 2016 [2 favorites]

As a boss, gifts are always inappropriate and they put me in a very uncomfortable situation. I would even feel obligated to return something small, like wine or chocolate, that often get suggested, and have an awkward conversation with the gift giver. I also feel annoyed at someone ostensibly doing something nice for me without considering the situation it puts me in.

I do not do "favours" for my team, rather, I do my best to take care of the people I am responsible for. If someone felt particularly thankful for something I did the only appropriate way to demonstrate this is to simply say so, un person or on a card. To do otherwise in order to satisfy ones gift giving desire is, to me, selfish.
posted by mikek at 7:56 PM on April 6, 2016 [5 favorites]

I've been a supervisor for years and I will tell you, I still really treasure notes of thanks that feel personal and recognize something specific about my work-nthing the note!
posted by purenitrous at 8:55 PM on April 6, 2016

Go to her office or some other private area. Look into her eyes. Shake her hand. And say "Thank you". She went to enough trouble for you that she will know what it means. Anything else would be overkill.
posted by banishedimmortal at 9:48 PM on April 6, 2016 [1 favorite]

As a long time boss, I don't want a card. If I did this, it's because you deserve it and because I'm glad you're part of my team. Just say thank you and continue to do a good job.
posted by kamikazegopher at 1:29 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

On the question about whether bosses in this thread have done things of this kind: I've gotten people promoted, I've gotten them moved from hourly to salaried, I've gotten them out of cycle raises. And in all those cases, I would have been extremely uncomfortable with a gift. I received a gift in one case, which I accepted graciously, but it didn't sit right in my gut. I don't want to take from the people who work for me, because their kick-ass work is what gets me ahead. I don't need extra, and I don't do things like this for people who have not earned them.
posted by OrangeDisk at 10:52 AM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

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