A reader writes:
My boss, who I have worked for since 2006, is a wonderful manager. Working with him has been truly an eye-opening experience as to what a good manager actually is. He has been very supportive, he never micromanages and truly leads by example. He has had my back throughout a health issue I have struggled with and it is obvious to me that he sees that I am a valuable, strong team player despite time away from work due to my health. Any other manager would handle it very differently.
A couple of years ago, I gave him a nice pen and a card telling him how much I appreciate him. It seemed to make him uncomfortable and things were kind of awkward that day afterwards. Every once in a while, I will just tell him he does a great job and that I appreciate everything he does. He kind of just shrugs it off. I heard another department manager telling someone that he tells his staff never to give him a gift, so I wondered if there is this unspoken rule that I am unaware of. Regardless, I have this need to let him know how I feel and I don’t know how to do it effectively without making it uncomfortable.
Do you have any ideas on the subject? I was thinking since it is the holidays it might be a better time. Any ideas would be helpful!
Well, here’s the thing: Gift-giving should be about the recipient … and in your case, you have a recipient who has shown you that he gets uncomfortable when you put the focus on your appreciation of him. So notes are out — they can be a great option for some people, but not for your particular boss. He’s shown he doesn’t like them, and you should respect that, just like you wouldn’t give chocolates to someone who doesn’t like chocolate, even if you really liked those particular chocolates.
If you’re absolutely determined to give him something, make it a small food item — baked goods, a bottle of wine, whatever — with a very brief note. Like two sentences. You can say “happy holidays” and you can say “thanks for everything you do,” and that’s it.
However, I’d urge you to forego giving your boss anything, unless it’s tradition in your office (but it doesn’t sound like it is). There’s a school of etiquette (to which I subscribe) that says that you don’t give gifts “up” when there’s a power disparity — because it can be awkward or there can be the appearance of obligation or because it can appear kiss-assy.
Really, the best gift you can give your boss is to do an awesome job and look for ways to make his life easier. And it sounds like that’s all he wants.