How to deal with no acknowledgment of greeting cards
December 18, 2017 9:22 AM   Subscribe

I read the answers in this similar thread, but it's more than a few years old. For the people who put in effort to making greeting cards and mailing them to people, but then get no responses at all, how do you deal?

As someone who loves arts and crafts, I make my own Christmas cards and send them in the mail. Each one takes about 20 min to make. In the past, most recipients have all loved them and responded either with a quick text of "Got your card, thanks!" or even email a thanks.

Recently I gave cards to my current supervisors at work, and have gotten zero acknowledgment. I was in a meeting w/ them earlier too. Nothing. This happened with a few other long-distance colleagues, who didn't mention the card at all unless I asked if they received it. (In which case they go, "Oh yeah, that was nice.")

I know it's sort of silly to expect a response at all. You're not supposed to expect anything in return for gifts, right? But I can't help but feel frustrated, especially since I took the time to put the card together and everything.
posted by echoplasm to Human Relations (32 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If it bothers you, don't send them one next year.
posted by corvine at 9:27 AM on December 18, 2017 [52 favorites]

I also don't believe a gift is anything more than that. It's not a gift with an obligation to acknowledge and thank. If that's a precondition, then don't give gifts. If you believe there is a social contract requiring you to be thanked, and that part goes unfulfilled, don't gift to that person again.

I too make killer Christmas cards that take forever. I often get nothing in return. The only people who stay on the hand crafted list are the people who at least reciprocate with a thanks. Other people drop off entirely, or they get relegated to the second-class cards (bulk bought ones).
posted by cjorgensen at 9:33 AM on December 18, 2017 [14 favorites]

Not everyone appreciates or likes holiday cards, not everyone appreciates or likes handmade stuff, and even as someone who does appreciate a handmade card I don't know that I think of it as a gift for which I owe the giver thanks.

I think you're expecting kind a lot from people (I know! You just want an email or a quick word!). If making the cards and giving them to these people makes you feel good, keep doing it, but if it makes you feel bad, stop. They've shown you how they appreciate your work, and if that's not good enough for you there's nothing you can do about it.

(Also if your supervisors don't know who got a card and who didn't, they might be reluctant to say anything about it in a public place like a meeting. But they also just might not feel like a card requires a response beyond, perhaps, a card in return.)
posted by mskyle at 9:38 AM on December 18, 2017 [12 favorites]

Deal by putting the lack of a response in the following context: Not everyone believes a card is the sort of gesture that warrants a response.
posted by craven_morhead at 9:43 AM on December 18, 2017 [28 favorites]

It never occurred to me that there's an expectation of a response for holiday cards, and I think I'm generally a pretty conscientious person. I always display the handmade ones on my fridge and then save them in a box of things that are special to me. People get a lot this time of year and have a ton of other things they're tracking.
posted by quiet coyote at 9:44 AM on December 18, 2017 [65 favorites]

I think most people put cards in a different mental basket than gifts -- something that it is probably nice to return with a card, but that also might get missed in the craziness of the holidays. And, while YOU know you're putting in a ton of effort into these cards, no one else actually knows that. Especially for work colleagues who probably don't know anything about your hobbies, they may very well be assuming that you purchased the cards at a Christmas craft fair or something similar -- I know I see cute handmade cards on sale all the time around the holidays, so it's not an automatic thing that people would realize you personally made the cards.

If the lack of response bugs you, I think you can definitely take these folks off your list for next year (or send them a non-handmade card if you feel like you want to send something).
posted by rainbowbrite at 9:46 AM on December 18, 2017 [22 favorites]

I have to agree with other posters.

A card is nice and I appreciate them, but I don't think that a card requires a special message of thanks. I might mention it the next time I talk to the person, but going out of my way strikes me as socially awkward.
posted by Kutsuwamushi at 9:49 AM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Earlier today I ran into my neighbour about half an hour after she put a card through the letter box - she and her partner design & make them every year. So obviously I said thanks for the card & everything, because I was standing right there in front of her. But if I hadn't bumped into her in the street, I probably wouldn't have said anything, even though the cards are great & I appreciate getting one. It's a thing they enjoy doing, and I'm thinking that's the reward already.
posted by rd45 at 9:50 AM on December 18, 2017

As someone who has never acknowledged a greeting card (or gone through the effort to mail them en masse), it's never occurred to me that could be viewed as rude or a social faux pas.

Greeting cards to me are friends telling me hello and an opportunity for me to hear what's going on with them - I've never ever viewed it as a gift that required a thank you.
posted by Karaage at 9:51 AM on December 18, 2017 [12 favorites]

I agree with most. I send a lot of holiday cards every year. I do this because I love sending holiday cards and it may be the only time I contact some of those folks all year - it's a way to maintain our friendship. I attach no emotions to the response whether or not I get one. It's really a little gift, and if it makes them feel happy for 10 seconds and that's the end of it, I'm ok with that.

If I handmade something with a lot of love and found it upset me not to be acknowledged - like at work - I just wouldn't handmake things for that person any more. If you can't do it with love and let go of the outcome, save your energy for those you feel give you back the consideration you showed.
posted by Miko at 9:52 AM on December 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

In the United States it is socially acceptable to remove people from your Christmas Card list the following year if they don't send you a Christmas card in return, so that's always an option.
posted by muddgirl at 9:55 AM on December 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Having to thank someone for a card seems like too much. When does it end, do you have to reply to my thank you with a thank you? Actually it never occurred to me that anyone would expect a response to a greeting card, and I'm a thank-you note writer and a card maker.

A card should be sent no strings attached, imo. Obligatory thanks is a string. Especially around the holidays! Folks get and send tons of cards. And expecting work supervisors to thank you is an especially big and unusual ask-- bosses shouldn't be going out of their way to thank staff for cards, unless they're handed one in person and then you just accept it with a brief thank you. I don't expect staff to get me cards at all; that's not really common where I work and I wouldn't love that precedent to be set where they felt obligated.

If you were my friend and you clearly went out of your way to hand make an awesome card, I'd definitely try to make a point to mention it, but if I forget, that's not a breach of etiquette.

I think you make this easier on yourself by asking honestly why you're making and sending the cards-- if it's because you enjoy it and to let people know you're thinking of them, then great, mission accomplished and any thanks you get is a bonus. But if it's to solicit a particular response, you won't be satisfied because lots of people don't view cards as response-required items.

I agree with others that if you decide it's not worth the effort, or a particular recipient's lack of response is stressing you out, you can stop. And it's an accepted tradition to cross someone off the list if you're not on theirs.
posted by kapers at 9:59 AM on December 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

who didn't mention the card at all unless I asked if they received it
It's pretty intense to ask. I'd feel a bit scolded. Not a nice holiday feeling. Just assume they got it and had a moment of joy then went on with the rest of their mail and their day.
posted by kapers at 10:05 AM on December 18, 2017 [19 favorites]

I find it interesting you get thanks from your family and friends, and not from your supervisors and colleagues. I'm guessing your friends and family have learned that thanks are important to you, and that your coworkers are following general social norms which (as far as I know) at most suggest that if someone sends you a card you should send them one (if you are sending any), not thanks.

I also agree that you might need to think through your motivation for spending so much time on the cards. If you really are still enjoying it, then that's great. If you're enjoying that it's become part of your identity, the Maker of Handmade Cards, but you aren't actually enjoying it because you have less time or different priorities, that's worth thinking about.
posted by warriorqueen at 10:10 AM on December 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

I love sending hand-written Thank You cards, and consider myself to be fairly well-versed in etiquette surrounding gift-receiving. But I would not send a thank you note for getting a card* and I think your expectations are out of whack. If you can't send the card in good faith, don't send it to folks who don't perform your required gratitude behaviors.

* The one exception is when I get a card with a really long message - sometimes my grandma will fill up three full panels of the card (both inside panels and the back!) - and I usually reply with a "Thank you, and here's a little update on my life" type note. But unless I knew you had spent a bunch of time on the card, I wouldn't send you a thank you or acknowledgment.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:11 AM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I also make my own cards and agree with lots of what's been said above - people don't know how much work goes into them; they often don't know that I have made them myself; and some people just don't appreciate handmade. Case in point: my father, for whom I made a birthday card, sent me a card for my own birthday a few weeks later with a note inside that said he hoped I might have time in the year ahead to "sharpen my skills" in my craft. (!!) So needless to say, it's a store-bought card for him next time and forever more.

Oh, and my coworkers also show absolutely no interest when I talk about my craft.

I used to be great about sending holiday cards and have found with social media that it's become less of A Thing, since I interact with many of the people on my card list much more frequently now. I do try to send a text or FB message if someone sends a card, even if I haven't, but understand that's not in everyone's routine.

So I guess that's a +1 for letting it go, only making and sending cards if it makes you happy, and lowering your expectations.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 10:17 AM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

How obvious is it that you made the card vs. bought it? If I got a handmade card from anyone in my life except two specific people (who I know do make cards), I would assume they bought it.
posted by soelo at 10:42 AM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

You send out cards to express your sentiments for the season, not to elicit warm friendlies sent back to you. It's entirely a one-sided process by, and for, yourself. If you get an acknowledgement, that's a bonus.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:49 AM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Maybe it’s just me, but it would have been weird everywhere I’ve ever worked to send cards to colleagues, much less your boss. I’m wondering if you misread your workplace culture, and perhaps people are a bit taken aback about getting cards at all? But also, the accepted way to acknowledge a holiday card is to send one of your own, and thanks/follow ups are the exception rather than the rule.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:50 AM on December 18, 2017 [9 favorites]

I deal with it by never having expected greeting cards to be a thing that would get a response? I would've found it mildly weird if anyone had responded.
posted by waffleriot at 11:03 AM on December 18, 2017

You're giving your cards to the wrong people. Instead of giving them to your supervisors or coworkers, make some for people who will actually appreciate them. Make cards for children stuck in foster care, or in a hospital over the holidays, or your lonely senior neighbors, or the people who make your life easier in some way like your regular UPS person or babysitter (if you have one, and add a nice tip if you're of the mind) or the neighbor who keeps your delivered packages safe til you get home from work. Most of these people would probably really appreciate your cards and love to know that someone is thinking of them during the holiday season.

Giving cards (or gifts) to supervisors and coworkers can honestly be thought of as a burden, because it makes them feel awkward if they don't have one for you.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 11:07 AM on December 18, 2017 [17 favorites]

I've never considered acknowledgment of a card to be a requirement, especially considering that most cards appear in flocks (either at holiday times or life events). I rarely get acknowledgements even for large packages, which does reduce my likelihood of sending them again; you're perfectly within your rights to not spend your energy on those folks in the future.

That being said, I would be kind of put off by getting a personal card from a colleague (as opposed to a business-to-business card from a company I work with); to me personal cards are a family thing and I have only ever received one from a colleague with whom I have an extensive outside-of-work relationship. So they might not have wanted to encourage them.
posted by tchemgrrl at 11:08 AM on December 18, 2017

Thanks for the answers everyone. If the cards had been generic store-bought ones, I wouldn't take it nearly as personally. I guess I'm equating them to more of a gift, when in reality, they're just little notes wishing people well (thanks for the reality check!). Here's to having some mental detachment in the future :p

I think the best solution for me is to not send out any more homemade cards unless it's to close friends and family. Several of you also raised good points in that it might not have been obvious I made the cards myself. (Again, back to the lowering expectations from giving greetings in the future.)

I did give a few cards to my old supervisors previous years, and they enjoyed it. But this is a new team that I've joined this year, so it could also be a clash in personalities / culture.
posted by echoplasm at 11:11 AM on December 18, 2017 [5 favorites]

Yeah, I would totally be brazen about the "I made this!" aspect of the cards, because I WOULD like people to appreciate them in a different way than a bought one. Then again, I have no shame.
posted by tristeza at 11:22 AM on December 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

There are different schools of thought re: thank yous (one which seems to have dominated on Metafilter as I've been here over the years.)

1) if you give of anything (your time, money, cardmaking skills, gifts, etc) you cannot hope for any thanks or acknowledgment, because clearly you are giving for the wrong reasons (whatever those happen to be.)

I do not agree with this.

2) I believe that thanks are not necessary for most things I personally give, but I like to know if something has reached it's destination (by mail) and I do appreciate when others take note of time or effort that I put in to something that I have given them. It doesn't take much. A text is plenty.

You can offer acknowledgment of something that someone went to the trouble of sending you without getting caught in a thank you loop. It's not so hard :-)
posted by 41swans at 12:49 PM on December 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

First: just because someone doesn't say thank you doesn't mean they're not grateful! I'm sure they are even though they only tell you when you ask. I'm glad that you do often get positive feedback:
it sounds like your cards are very special and beautiful!

Like you, I'm a crafty person who enjoys the process and hopes people enjoy the product. I've learned that some people enjoy homemade stuff more than others and I now focus on them. I've also learned from friends that non-crafty people can become overwhelmed by handmade gifts: they may love them but worry they'll never be able to reciprocate. You don't expect that but sometimes they can project their worry and simply not reply at all. Likewise, there are years I have received lovely holidays cards from abroad yet didn't have the chance to reply due to stress in my life. However, I've always been grateful and this year am sending a long and heartfelt card explaining my delay.

As for co-workers, the holidays can be hard due to a heavier work load as people prepare for a break and the mental stresses of pressure at home. I used to give out holiday cards in December but now switch to a personalized compliment or thank you card for an individual when I'm extra grateful or they're having a hard time. I also give out the treats and fun cards for lower pressure holidays like Valentine's Day or Halloween. As long as it's clear they're platonic and you make sure you only give out a few or one to everyone, they could even become your trademark and an office tradition where people anticipate your design each year.
posted by smorgasbord at 5:40 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

I spent many hours of my youth making handmade gifts for my family, only to finally figure out that most of them did not value my time AT ALL, and would really rather have a gift card. It was an epiphany for me, realizing that people I loved did not share my value system. So I just stopped with the handmade gifts, limiting them to the people who did truly appreciate my work. So that would be my advice. Many, many people do not care for handmade gifts. So stop giving them to those people.
posted by raisingsand at 5:48 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

One extra thing I would add to your mental calculation is that the holidays are overwhelming. Everyone has a mental to-do list on top of their usual - buy and wrap gifts for mom, dad, kids, siblings, make sure work is tied up before going out of town to see family, get all the addresses to send cards, buy the cards, get them written and stamped and mailed, go to this party and that one and the kids' holiday performance, buy three extra gifts for holiday exchanges at work/school/etc, get something for the kids' teachers, get something for direct reports, something for the angel tree, etc.

People appreciate cards but remembering to specifically acknowledge each one is a lot to ask considering the already over-loaded mental to-do list.
posted by bunderful at 5:58 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

My hobby is correspondence and many of the friends I sent cards, letters, etc to do not reciprocate and sometimes don't acknowledge they received it. I do it for the small joy of letting that person know that I'm thinking of them and that I deeply care about maintaining our connection even if we're apart. They bring so much to my life in other ways and by being who they are that I don't need that reciprocity in that way. That's how I don't let it bug me when I don't get that much mail back! That said, I send to folks who I know appreciate my handwritten letters.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 6:17 PM on December 18, 2017

While I agree with others here that expecting a response from a holiday card may be asking a bit...I still totally understand and feel your frustration. You put in a lot of effort making customized cards. It'd be nice if people...especially co workers would at least have the decency to say "Hey that was a real neat card you gave me. Thank you." Or "wow what a creative card you sent me." Truth is people are really self centered and all about themselves. So while I think they should show their appreciation unfortunately people today are just selfish and won't give you the time of day. So don't take a personally. Also just know that you can't expect thank yous for cards or gifts. It sucks but it's How It is.
posted by ljs30 at 6:46 PM on December 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Recently I gave cards to my current supervisors at work, and have gotten zero acknowledgment.

Seconding that co-workers is one thing (if you get along quite well), but supervisors is another thing entirely. While it really can depend on the workplace as well, it's nonetheless quite rare to give cards to someone who has a management link to you. I am NOT saying this to critique, since it does seem it was acceptable at your previous workplace and so it's only normal you continued, but just to add context for that very reason: when there's a power differential, it's best to go with as much professional neutrality as possible. Supervisors should not be friends with the people they manage. Supportive and friendly-ish, yes, but true friendly stuff is where suspicions of favoritism start to sneak in.

Being a supervisor/manager is hard for that very reason; in order for teams to run smoothly, there can be no favoritism, and thus no or very, very understated and generic, shared displays of friendliness. Some managers even go so far as to turn down cards for that reason. Or others, if cards are shared, may express that to everyone so that it's clear that cards are cool and not a favoritism thing. Was that perhaps the case at your old place? Was everyone in on it being shared?

Again, not a critique, just so you have another viewpoint. FWIW I'm a manager and have never gotten a thing from people I manage or have managed (this is veeeeerrrry common where I work), other than occasional happy emails about how they've progressed in their careers.

As for cards with others, if you're happy to send them to people, keep sending! If not, that kind of takes away the shared happiness of it.
posted by fraula at 2:48 AM on December 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

I make cards for people at my work whether or not they say thank you, including my line manager. I have never worked anywhere that giving a card to your managers was at all unusual so that rule may depend on your location/industry?

At work I don't expect thanks but I do know it's sad when you work hard on a card and get no appreciation for it. Maybe just don't give them cards next year or if you do just get those people storebought ones if you want it to not be obvious that they weren't included?
posted by winna at 11:18 AM on December 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

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