client accidentally said rude things about my team in a voicemail, what happened to thank-you notes, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Client accidentally said rude things about my team in a voicemail to me

I recently had a voicemail from a dissatisfied client with whom we frequently collaborate. She had called to notify me of a mistake made by my department, but at the end neglected to hang up her phone properly before commenting on my team’s lack of intelligence and other similarly unflattering remarks.

Of course I plan to follow up with her on a course of action to address her initial complaint, but should I make any mention of the end of her message? What do I say?

Assuming that I’m reading your letter correctly and her remarks at the end weren’t intended for you to hear, I’d just take it as useful background information — now you know that you have a client with real concerns about your team. That’s useful to know and can guide your response in ways other than just directly telling her that you heard that.

That said, it’s possible that — depending on the relationship with the client and the situation here — it could be useful to just address it head-on by saying something like, “At the end of your message, before you hung up, the voicemail recorded you saying X and Y. I don’t think that was meant for me to hear, but obviously I want to make sure we address what’s causing you to feel that way. Here’s my take on the situation / how I’m handling the situation / etc.”

2. Do people think thank-you’s for gifts are optional?

For two years, I supervised a graduate student employee. In May, I bought her a graduation gift for her last day. When I handed her the wrapped gift and card, she said a hollow-sounding “Aw, thanks!” and dashed out of my office without opening it. It’s been over a month at this point and I’ve received no thank-you whatsoever. I’m so annoyed about her seeming lack of appreciation and poor etiquette. Amplifying my irritation is the fact that I used my personal money to purchase the items since our office budget does not allow for gifts, and the recipient knows this since she was part of an office-wide meeting where the restrictions were mentioned. I commented about the lack of thank-you note to a younger coworker and she was nonchalant about it, saying she often forgets to send thank-yous for gifts.

Am I expecting too much? I feel like a grumpy elder complaining about “disrespectful whippersnappers”– I’m mid-30s, while she is mid-20s — but have we really gotten to a point where a thank-you note for a gift is optional?

Well, technically, etiquette has never required thank-you notes for gifts that are received in person and where the giver is thanked on the spot. The requirement is for a thank-you, not for one in writing. So your employee fulfilled the letter of the law, although not the spirit of it. Although, of course, since she didn’t actually open in front of you, she should have followed up with you and expressed more specific appreciation once she found out what the gift was.

In any case, how are this person’s social skills in general? I’d be more inclined to write it off to interpersonal awkwardness or lack of social graces from her in particular than as a sweeping sentiment about the state of thank-you’s in general. I know you’re seeing a pattern from the other coworker’s comment, but there have always been people with poor manners (etiquette columns have been answering upset letters about lack of thank-you’s for decades).

3. New badges are creating visual divides

I’m kind of confused about a new policy at work and was hoping to get some perspective. My work (a large specialty teapot maker owned by an even larger general teapot maker) informally rolled out a new badge policy with promises of a full explanation of the changes to come. The new policy is we all must wear our badges on a lanyard around our necks, which is fine, but permanent hired staff and contracted/temp staff have different lanyards. The difference is not even remotely subtle: Permanent employee badges are very plain, while the ones for contractors and temps are a very bright color. This doesn’t reflect any level of security clearance or access to certain clean teapot rooms; a contractor with an advanced PhD who has been working with us for many years will have the same visual designation as a temp here for the day to do some filing.

It’s already something of a cliquey Who You Know environment and I’m vaguely uncomfortable with this Othering of people who, in a lot of cases, have been here for many years and act as essential staff. It’s such a large organization that I can’t imagine actually pushing back on this policy, but I do wonder if my unease is legitimate.

Eh, it’s not a terribly uncommon practice. There are actually solid legal reasons for giving contractors different badges than employees; there are legal restrictions about not treating contractors like employees in a whole variety of ways.

If your company generally treats contractors and temps well, that matters more than the badges. (And of course, if they don’t, that’s the bigger issue anyway.)

4. Is it creepy to check people out on LinkedIn?

I’m an in-house lawyer for a fairly large public service organization. Part of my job is drafting/reviewing leases, permits, and other agreements with external entities and individuals. I usually don’t, however, have any personal contact with these external persons — that is handled by my colleagues. Occasionally, I feel that it’s somewhat relevant to do a quick check on a person involved in an agreement I’m working on — sometimes to help figure out exactly what legal entity they represent, and sometimes just out of curiosity.

Is it a faux pas or otherwise weird to check the LinkedIn profile of such a person? I have a LinkedIn profile that identifies the organization and my position, so they would know who was checking up on them.

The same question would apply if I were in private practice and checking up on clients (without necessarily wanting to connect to all of them) and people on the other side of deals I’m working on (including their lawyers).

I could view these profiles in “incognito” or fake person mode, but first, it’s a bit of a pain, and second, it doesn’t give you all the information that you can see when you are logged in. I’m just curious about the social norms about this.

Nope, it’s not a faux pas. LinkedIn is basically a huge public, professional rolodex and it’s fine to check someone’s affiliations or background there. I wouldn’t worry about it at all.

(If you’re checking daily or something like that, that could certainly feel creepy, but it doesn’t sound like that’s what you’re doing.)

5. Quitting while my manager is on maternity leave

I’ve been feeling for a while that it’s time to move on from my current job. The opportunities for someone in my field are pretty limited at my company, so even though I’m great at my job and consistently get good reviews and praise from my managers, I’d like to work for a company where I have a clearer path upward.

The good news is that I’m close to receiving a job offer with a company in my chosen field. The bad news is that my manager has just gone on maternity leave. If this job comes through before she returns, how should I handle telling her? Is it bad form to go while she’s on leave?

I also feel bad about the gap I’d leave in my team by walking away. We’re very all-hands-on-deck, and the others will have to pick up a lot of extra tasks while they look for a replacement. I know that this would occur no matter when I chose to leave–but doing it while the manager is also gone feels bad. If my offer does come through, should I try to negotiate a later start date to give her time to return? What can I do to keep my team from scrambling after my exit?

No reasonable manager assumes that her maternity leave binds other employees to stay in their jobs until she returns. Imagine if it did — it would mean people would have to put job searches, moves, and other normal life events on hold.

You absolutely do not need to wait until she returns from leave. You should give your resignation to whoever is filling in for her while she’s away, and then I’d also send her an email separately letting her know. (If you’re very close, you could maybe call her — but only if you’re very close and know her well enough to know that she’d want the call rather than feel aggravated by being bothered at home while she’s supposed to be disconnected from work.)

People leave jobs, and it’s rarely at a perfectly convenient time. (A perfectly convenient time usually doesn’t even exist.) Your team will make do. The best thing you can do is to leave things in as good shape as you can, with plentiful documentation (something that you can start working on now, if you haven’t already), and then move on with a clear conscience.

{ 269 comments… read them below }

  1. Artemesia*

    #1 I think odds are high if the OP mentions she overheard these ungracious remarks that she will lose the client. No one likes to make a fool of themselves and this is incredibly awkward; the best way to reduce the embarrassment would be to not deal with these people again and so hire someone else to do the work. In some situations this is easy to do.

    1. Joseph*

      True, but you can address the situation without making them feel like they’re a fool.

      Next time you talk to her, you mention the mistake that spurred the whole outburst and how you plan on making sure it never happens again, without directly acknowledging the insults. At most, you might mention that you’ve heard “concerns” about your team’s [insert relevant characteristic here] and you’re doing A,B,C to address that. This makes it seem like you heard their concern (and boy did you!) and value their business (presumably you do) without embarrassing the client by letting them know that you heard all their insults.

      1. Artemesia*

        Well yes, what I was suggesting. USE the information to take the initiative to explore issues with the client, but if you want to keep the client don’t bring up that you overheard their outburst.

  2. Mando Diao*

    OP1: I think your response depends on the nature of the mistake that spurred the phone call. Was it a big mistake that’s causing your client a major inconvenience? Is it costing her money? Are you on round 4 of phone tag? Was the mistake made by a team member who has made similar mistakes before? Was it an especially goofy/preventable/careless mistake? Is it possible that other comparable mistakes are being made in regards to other accounts? Have things like this happened before in your working relationship?

    1. MK*

      More important than that, I think the tone of these remarks matters. Was she just venting in the moment out of frustration because of the mistake or did it sound as if she did actually have a poor opinion of your team in general? I can imagine a frustrated person muttering to themselves (or to their nearest coworker) “Idiots!” after discovering a mistake that will cause them considerable inconvenience, without this being their real, considered opinion.

    2. Joseph*

      I was going to make the same points. Without more information about the situation, it’s really hard to judge how to handle the situation. Or, to put the question another way: Do the insults fit the pattern of what you’re seeing personally and hearing on other occasions from her and other clients?

      A client who’s been through the run-around for too long trying to solve an issue or seems to always have something go wrong has a legitimate cause to wonder about your staff’s competence – in which case you treat it as important information no matter how you obtained it.

      On the flip side, if this seems like a one-off error, maybe you just figure out what went wrong this time, fix it, but don’t make a big issue of it.

  3. Mustache Cat*


    I sympathize with the desire to receive thank-yous, I really do. But what concerns me is that you seemed to have voiced your irritation with this grad student to your coworker.

    That’s pretty inappropriate, in my opinion. If I was your coworker, I’d definitely feel like you were expecting me to agree with you in criticizing her rudeness, and would indeed probably say something like “Oh, I sometimes forget to send thank you notes too, that’s probably what happened with her” in order to try to take the heat off.

    Your note in general seemed pretty incensed, too. The best thing for you is really to emotionally move on, and take it as a lesson not to buy office gifts with personal money

    1. Willis*

      Agreed. While it would’ve been polite for her to send or email a note of thanks, this is not worth dwelling on. In general, some people send thank yous, and some don’t. I think it’s sort of luck of the draw as the gift-giver.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Yes. If you’re giving gifts with the expectation of getting something in return, even if it’s something as small as a note, you’re going to be disappointed more often than not.

        1. Coffeepot Maker*

          This is what I was getting from the note, really. While I completely sympathize with the OP about spending her own money on the gift, unless the receiver tossed it aside and scoffed, there really is nothing to be upset about here.

          I certainly agree that the receiver should have followed up with a “thank you again for the X” when the gift was opened though. I generally am bad about sending thank you notes, so I’ll usually open a gift right in front of someone so my Thank You can be better received.

        2. Rafe*

          Oh I’ve stopped giving even family members gifts if they can’t bother to send even a THNX text — and I have family members who cannot be bothered to do even that much after people have spent time and money on them. It’s as much about knowing the gift got there (and people do go crazy in seeking to know this, I’ve noticed, so I now always immediately thank someone who has remembered me and done something nice). Life is too short to fret about and excuse and continue people thid selfish.

        3. CeeCee*

          I was always taught: “Accept the apology you didn’t receive.” It’s kind of a good way to mentally and emotionally move past situations where you feel you are owed something. I’d switch it up for this situation and say “Accept the thank you you didn’t receive.”

          People aren’t always going to treat you or do things that you think you deserve or are owed. It comes down to choosing which things are worth the fight.

          Take the initial thank you as sincere (It may have been meant that way anyway) and move on. Letting this take up space in your brain isn’t worth it. This isn’t really a battle worth fighting. (Even if you’re only grappling with it in your own mind.)

          1. Kyrielle*

            Oh, I love this – thank you! I need to use it in some of my interactions.

            It’s also possible that besides the initial thank you being sincere, the awkwardness that came across in it is because the young woman was suddenly wondering whether she should have also had a gift for the OP – in which case, thanking the OP for the gift might be hard, if she’s still wondering if she should then produce a gift, or…. (I think most of us know gifts should go only one direction in a workplace, as does the OP – but whether this student did or not, I don’t know. Yes, she’s a graduate student, but she’s mid-twenties; how much work experience does she have?)

            Or perhaps there’s a major situation in her personal life (ongoing or that came up after) that did indeed lead her to forget.

            Maybe she just didn’t bother, but maybe there was a reason, and in any case it almost certainly wasn’t intended ill.

            1. Sparrow*

              She was graduating and presumably starting (or at least looking for) a new job or other opportunity, so I think it’s safe to assume that she has some major life events going on that might distract from thank you notes!

            2. Sketchee*

              I often send thank you notes, texts, and emails. I’m the one of the few in any of my social and business circles who regularly does. So I don’t expect those to be the exact ways appreciation will be expect. I just do what I believe others appreciate and notice how voice their appreciation in other ways.

              Sometimes others express gratitude and reciprocation with huge delays and not in a traditional way, too.

      2. Jayn*

        This. I know that a thank you note is ‘proper’ etiquette, but it’s not something I’ve ever done or received outside of formal occasions i.e. Showers, weddings, and even then I wouldn’t be upset if I didn’t get one because I don’t really expect one. Thank you notes are not part of my normal, so I’m inclined to see this as just a mismatch of expectations.

        1. Ife*

          Yeah, it just wouldn’t even occur to me that I needed to send a thank you note to my boss for a graduation gift (which I’m assuming isn’t of huge monetary value). I have actually received graduation gifts/parting gifts from managers before, and now I am really hoping that I didn’t offend them by not sending a note!

          1. Calyx Teren*

            It’s very likely that you offended them by not sending a note. If they are kind people then they will forgive, and will verbally assure you that it’s fine, but trust me – they will never forget that you didn’t write a thank-you. They took the time to be pleasant and polite, to think of your occasions, to find a gift, and you didn’t think that worthy of a few minutes to write a thank-you note. Even if you didn’t want the gift, you should write thank yous to keep civilization going. It’s never too late – start today! People are charmed and pleased when you write thank you notes. You’ll be amazed at what a great reputation you get for being polite, considerate, and worth good treatment.

    2. Florida*

      This is a great point. Complaining to a co-worker about someone is a greater etiquette breach than not sending a thank you note.
      Also, remember that people show their appreciation in many different ways. A written thank you note is one way, but there are a thousand other ways to do it.

    3. Artemesia*

      The intern was a clod. While a note is not necessary some genuine expression of thanks specifically referencing the gift itself IS necessary. I am sure if the intern had later thanked her again after opening the gift or had sent her an email the OP would have been good with it. The intern was a boor. The OP is right to feel annoyed by it.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        A boor and a clod because she only said thanks once and it wasn’t in the manner that the OP wanted? That’s extreme. I’m a thank you note/email sender myself, but not everybody is, and that doesn’t make them wrong or me right – it’s just different. If she hadn’t said anything at all or dumped the gift in the garbage immediately upon receipt, then I’d understand this reaction. But the girl said thanks – expecting people to fall all over themselves multiple times in thanks because it makes you (general you), the gifter, feel good is a little much.

      2. Mustache Cat*

        That’s a bit much. The grad student (I didn’t see her referenced as an intern) did say thank you. It’s not very polite to use etiquette as a weapon to bludgeon people with.

      3. all aboard the anon train*

        This is why some people don’t like receiving gifts. They feel obligated to fall over themselves to say thank you in a manner the gifter prefers and appreciates. The grad student said thank you when she received the gift. Just because she didn’t specifically reference the gift she received does not mean she’s a boor. No one should be insulted because they said “thanks” instead of “thanks for X gift”.

        1. Lissa*

          Thank you! This is me, too. I always feel really awkward and weird when I receive gifts from somebody I don’t know well for exactly this reason. My family wasn’t big on gifts, thank-you notes aren’t something I ever received and only sent to my grandmother as a child, etc etc… For instance my landlady sometimes brings over her baking which is awesome, but she also is passive-aggressive if she doesn’t hear enough praise/thank-yous and honestly it makes me wish she wouldn’t do it at all because now I associate cookies with guilt and obligation instead of delicious cookies!

        2. AnotherAnon*

          Yep. I was quite relieved to stop receiving gifts from relatives I didn’t really know; no amount of cash was worth the meltdowns from my mother trying to make me write thank-yous. (turns out mental illness runs in the family too.)

          Now that I’m an adult, I don’t even do cards. The stress they cause me just isn’t worth it, and the people who actually care about me as a person aren’t the sort to take offense.

      4. a*

        Feel annoyed, sure. Complain about her to a coworker? That seems like an overreaction .

  4. Amber*

    #2 Are you a man? If you are, getting a “hollow-sounding ‘Aw, thanks!'” is what I would say if a guy at work gave me a gift because than you entered that super-awkward area of…is this a normal kind gift or is he hitting on me?

    1. Mando Diao*

      I have to agree here. There’s so much baggage surrounding older male professors and their young female mentees (especially recently – seems like every week there’s a new think-piece about the power differentials in the older man/younger female dynamic in academia) that even though I’m sure things remained perfectly platonic, it’s a hard vibe to avoid when you give her a present.

    2. Purple Dragon*

      I didn’t think of those dynamics – but I do think that, especially since the person receiving the gift knows that the OP spent their own money, they may have felt awkward and not really have known how to respond properly.

      I also think in the age of email and texts that thank you cards aren’t something that people think of, especially if they’re in the middle of huge life stuff like graduating and trying to figure out what’s next. I’d let it go OP, and I say this as someone who is still peeved that I didn’t even receive a phone call to thank me for the gift I bought my niece for her birthday. I need to let it go too :)

      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For*

        I am super awkward any time any one hands me a gift. Especially someone who has helped me succeed.

        As I’ve gotten older I’ve learned that despite my uncomfortableness, most people expect me to open it right there. Though for me thank you notes have always been my saving grace, they let me express my gratitude succinctly.

    3. Rafe*

      Really? We have to do this projected politically correct dialogue with every post? For the record, I thought the OP was a woman.

      1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        How is it “projected politically correct” to point out that gender dynamics can come into play? That’s not about political correctness, that’s just a thing that exists.

        1. Pineapple Incident*

          I agree- the gendered difficulty with getting/giving platonic gifts definitely exists, although that’s not what happened here. It’s reasonable to think that someone might be uncomfortable because of something like that, if it were the case. It’s not politically correct to attempt to recognize something that might make someone uncomfortable.

          It’s also very possible, given that that’s not the situation in this instance, that the receiver was just uncomfortable/caught off guard by the gift they weren’t expecting. People feel awkward the more time goes on between when they make a faux pas and when they realize it/want to address it somehow. It just is what it is.

      2. Mando Diao*

        There’s a reason that more than one woman immediately “went there” with this: a lot of us have experienced really inappropriate treatment by men who were tasked with helping us succeed academically. I wasn’t the hottest young thing ever in my university days, but I dealt with borderline sexual harassment at the hand of older male professors often enough that I had to work hard to recalibrate myself upon entering the working world. It’s pretty unique to academia; I haven’t encountered anything quite that practiced, sinister, or protected/willfully ignored/permitted (by administration and other professors) in my professional life after graduation.

        Here’s a great rule: Never step into a conversation among women to tell them that they’re wrong about how men treat them. It turned out that we were mistaken here, but we absolutely have the right and arguable obligation to talk about these things.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          In fairness to Rafe, though, I’ve brought this up myself too. I get that gender differences are very often in play but I also think it will totally derail the comment section if they come up in every post.

          1. Lucy (London)*

            I think the problem is less that and more that calling it “projected political correctness” is rude, condescending and dismissive. If Rafe had expressed concerns in a more constructive and kind manner things would be quite different. As it is, their comment appears boorish, sexist and inappropriate.

    4. C Average*

      As an aside, it occurred to me as I read this comment that I have never encountered (in real life or in an advice column) a man who cares deeply about thank-you notes. It’s always women: the aunt, the mom, the friend of the bride, etc. That’s a weird thing to ponder.

      1. Willis*

        I had the same thought upon reading that question. I can only think of one guy I’ve ever even heard mention thank you notes – a friend whose aunt started giving him stationery as a kid after a couple gifts were not properly thank you note-d.

      2. ZSD*

        My brother is a male who has learned to care deeply about thank-you notes. He once spent a large amount on a watch for a female friend (maybe for her graduation? I don’t remember), and she wrote him a generic thank-you that said, “Dear [Brother], Thank you for the gift,” without even specifying that it was a watch. Receiving that cavalier note made him realize how much heartfelt, well-written thank-you notes really matter.

      3. Megs*

        My dad is SUPER strict about thank-you notes. Post-wedding was made slightly miserable because my husband was dragging his feet and I was fielding regular calls from dad about it. Which yes, he was right, but I didn’t need the extra stress. Etiquette generally does often seem like something women care about more, though.

  5. all aboard the anon train*

    #2: I’m 30 and I usually say something like, “Aw, thanks!” and leave it at that when I receive a gift in person, so I don’t think it’s really an age thing. Plenty of people of all ages would act the same way.

    I really, really, REALLY hate receiving gifts, though, especially from people I’m not super close with. They make me uncomfortable and it makes me even more uncomfortable to open them in front of people or to give effusive thanks for fear of sounding fake. So I’m sure all my thanks sound hollow. Even when I really like a gift, I’m usually like “Thanks!”, and I think a lot of people expect…a bigger reaction? Something more excited? A huge smile and squeal of delight? People expect a lot of things from someone receiving a gift. Effusive thanks is not everyone’s default m.o. when receiving a gift and what you thought might be a hollow thanks could have been the grad student’s normal expression of gratitude.

    1. gnarlington*

      I have to agree here. I’m younger than thirty, and my response at this would also have just been “Aw, thanks!” There are many reasons: (1) I would have felt awkward that you were handing me a gift in this situation, (2) If I knew it was your own money, then that’s even more awkward, (3) And in my case, I hardly ever receive a gift that I genuinely like—and when I do, my reaction never matches what people were hoping. (I constantly get asked, “But did you like it!?!?!” every time family members gift me something even though I really DID like it!) Opening the gift in front of the person who provided the gift… oh, man, just added awkwardness.

      And, OP, it would never in a million years have crossed my mind that you were expecting a thank-you note after I thanked you in-person. That would have seemed like a non-issue to me.

      1. AnotherHRPro*

        As someone over 40, I agree. The OP received a thanks for the gift. It would seem odd to write a thank you note for a gift given in person and thanked in person. Sure the OP could have followed up with another in person thanks for the specific item, “I really appreciate the DVD set of Game of Thrones, thanks for thinking of me”, and that would have been a perfect thank you. However, the OP seems overly upset about not getting what they perceive as a genuine enough thank you.

        When I give a gift, I try (not always successfully, I admit) to give it without any strings or expectations attached. I try to give for the joy of giving and do not judge the recipient’s level of gratitude.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          When I give a gift, I try (not always successfully, I admit) to give it without any strings or expectations attached. I try to give for the joy of giving and do not judge the recipient’s level of gratitude.

          All of this. A thousand times. People who get mad about these types of things really need to examine why it is they’re giving gifts in the first place.

        2. Sketchee*

          This is a topic that I’ve seen across the web! We’re not along. There were several College Humor videos on the awkwardness of receiving presents. Very funny!

          The Awesome Etiquette Podcast (from the Emily Post Institute) has discussed a few times that receiving a gift graciously takes as much practice as it does giving. Of course, the giver has so much more time to prepare. The receiver is surprised and may not be prepared for the situation

      2. LQ*

        My grandma was hard core about thank you notes. A cousin didn’t send a thank you note one year for christmas. No more gifts for 5 years.

        Even she didn’t require thank you notes for gifts given in person and thanked for in person.
        (And also super awkward so I can absolutely see being unsure what to say, every time a coworker gives a gift or anything I’m super uncomfortable. Just because what do you say what do you do oh god the anxiety monster I didn’t get them anything what is the socially appropriate thing to do, dear god just shove it back into their hands and run away screaming because they might write a letter into the best advice columnist ever saying I only said thanks even though that is the actually appropriate thing to do etiquette wise…ahhhh!)

        1. Lemon Zinger*

          I’m in the same boat! My urge would be to return the gift immediately and say “I can’t accept gifts from coworkers” but that would be considered rude. I’m sure the grad student felt obligated to take it.

        2. Crazy Gran*

          My grandmother apparently didn’t get enough thank you notes, so she started including self-addresses blank thank notes with her gifts to me, my brother, and my parents (maybe others too, I wouldn’t know).
          And these weren’t even like “occasion” gifts, just “I knitted you these random things and sent them to you so now you MUST THANK ME.”
          She was a piece of work in many ways.

      3. the gold digger*

        I am quite doctrinaire about receiving and writing thank you notes, but if someone has thanked me in person, that counts. That’s a thank you. There is no further action necessary.

        1. KTB*

          I completely agree with the gold digger. I’m in my thirties, but am pretty old-fashioned about both writing and receiving thank you notes. If I give someone a gift in person, and they thank me in person, we’re good. I operate under the same principle in reverse–if I open a gift in front of the giver and thank them, I don’t feel obligated to send a note afterwards. That feels like overkill.

      4. INTP*

        A thank-you note wouldn’t have crossed my mind either. To me, they are something that you write when you get a gift in the mail or at a large event where you can’t thank everyone (like your bridal shower), and you don’t want to take the time to call the person to thank them.

        This is why people feel awkward about getting gifts. People are judging their character and graciousness based on whether they follow the giver’s personal narrative of how gift-receiving should work. (Not trying to pile on the OP here, just putting this perspective out there, because I don’t think it’s something people really feel comfortable to talk about in real life.)

        1. all aboard the anon train*

          This. Gift-giving comes with a lot of expectations and I hate that I might be judged as “hollow sounding” because the way I vocally said thanks didn’t meet the giver’s expectations.

    2. MK*

      In my culture, thank-you notes are not (never were) the big deal they seem to be in the U.S.; if someone hands you a present, you open it thank them then and there, or, if it’s not convenient to open it immedaitely, you call or write or just thank them the next time you see them. But in any case, I think it’s odd to expect a note after you have given the gift and been thanked; as if you want written evidence that they are grateful.

      But this response does seem pretty dismissive to me (I am taking it for granted that it was indeed a token “aww, thanks” and retreat, and not the OP’s interpretation of a not-enthusiastic response). The employee could have been a bit more cordial in her thanks; or, if she was caught off guard, she could have mentioned it the next time she saw the OP; say a generic positive thing about the gift and drop the subject. “What a lovely color the ashtray you got me is! Thanks again for thinking of me!”

      That being said, I think people should be more considerate when giving gifts and how they give them. You may be driven by generosity, but giving someone you are not close to a personal or expensive gift might make them feel pressured or awkward.

      1. Daisy*

        I’m not sure I’ve ever written a thank-you note (or in fact received one, except for wedding presents). They seem unnecessary if you’re given the gift in person, and if I got a present in the post I’d phone them to say thanks. Unless you have a relationship with a lot of written correspondence anyway, it seems odd to make this one interaction so formal.

        1. Al Lo*

          When I was a kid, the stereotypical “thank you note to Grandma” was totally a thing — but we lived quite far from my mom’s side of the family, so they all got hand-written thank you notes after Christmas and birthdays. The other side, which we thanked in person, didn’t get notes. They got a hug or a thank you when we opened it.

          Wedding gifts and wedding shower gifts all got thank you notes — for my wedding shower, the best trick I learned was to have every guest address an envelope when they arrived; that way, I knew I had the most current address for everyone. Also, if there were still envelopes left, that meant there were still notes to write. It was a handy way to track progress.

          1. Coffeepot Maker*

            That is SUCH a perfect way to “address” that task! I’ll have to keep that in mind :)

            1. Kate M*

              Generally, that’s actually seen as a faux pas and goes against etiquette. If you’re inviting people to the wedding, you should already have their address. Most people, when coming to weddings, spend a lot of money (shower gift, taking time to go to the shower, wedding gift, clothes for the wedding, travel, hotel, etc), and then to be asked to address your own envelope on top of that is just kind of like, “you’re asking me for all this stuff and then I have to help you write my own thank you letter?” If I were ever asked to do that, I’d probably pass.

              1. Kelly L.*

                I don’t mind so much addressing my own envelope, as long as there’s not some silly transparent game built around it. If it’s like “Leeeet’s have a raffle! Yay! Woohoo! OK, everybody write your name and address on your envelope so we can draw the winner! Yayyyyy!”, it just makes me roll my eyes because it’s so obvious. LOL

            2. Oryx*

              Yeah, no, I have to agree with others that the onus of addressing envelopes should not be on the people giving the gifts.

              That said, my mom has hosted multiple showers for family and friends and she will give a gift of pre-addressed envelopes and thank you cards to the bride/mother-to-be since, as the host, she has all the addresses already. That way neither the guests nor the guest of honor have to deal with that, but if that’s not an option don’t resort to having the guests address their own envelopes.

              1. BananaPants*

                When we wrote our thank you notes for our wedding gifts, we obviously hand wrote the notes but did a mail merge in Excel and printed the address labels. It’s a faux pas to expect your shower or wedding guests to address their own. I’ve maintained an address list in Excel ever since and used it later for baby shower gifts and the Christmas card list.

                I wrote thank you notes for wedding and baby shower gifts, but generally don’t for other gifts that are given in-person. As a gift giver I’ve never cared about getting a thank you note and those that I do get end up in the trash – save the stamp and call/text/email/whatever to thank me for it!

          2. Duncan*

            Personally, I do not like the practice of being asked to address my own envelope. I can’t say exactly why, but it feels like it shouldn’t be my job as a guest and gift-giver to do more work to help you keep track of the gifts and thank you notes. When my group was getting married, it was a bridesmaid who kept a list as the presents were opened (and back then, you definitely had my address since that’s how I received the invitation. Perhaps it’s different now with electronic invitations.)

            And now that I think about it, showers seem to be an exception to the rule that you only need a thank you in person, since each guest present does indeed get thanked as the presents are opened (in my experience), but also expects a thank you note (again, in my experience.)

            1. themmases*

              I agree, I have only ever heard of this practice when it is gift-givers complaining about it. My impression is that to people who really care about receiving a thank-you card, this practice is offensive. I don’t really care about them myself– I just consider them a nice surprise if I get one– but I tend to agree that doing this is not in the spirit of genuinely thanking someone.

              If you successfully invited someone to your party, you already have their correct address. Even if you didn’t, there should still be a return address on whatever they sent… That means all you should really have to do is write down who gave what. At parties it’s usually someone close to the host. My partner and I had some wedding gifts we opened at home on our own, so we just made that list ourselves.

              1. Al Lo*

                For the wedding, sure, I had the addresses, but not for a shower. The invitations were a lot less formal — Facebook, phone calls, or even an open invitation in the church bulletin, which is very much done in the culture where there are people who have known the couple growing up and wants to celebrate, but wouldn’t be invited to the wedding.

                I had a larger shower with family and church friends, and did this. I’ve also provided my own address at that kind of shower, where I’m not close enough to attend the wedding, but want to celebrate. I’ve never found it to be offensive, but I could see how some would. At my smaller, family shower, I had everyone’s address already.

                1. Michaela T*

                  Yeah, especially for a shower I don’t see the big deal about putting my address on an envelope. I have that information memorized, it takes a minute to write down and it could be a big help to someone I presumably care about. Why get offended?

            2. nonegiven*

              I got gifts from people I didn’t know, that weren’t being invited to anything. I didn’t know their full names or have any idea what their addresses were.

          3. fposte*

            Agreeing with Duncan–that’s too close to making me write the whole thank-you letter for the gift I gave you. It’s fine to find ways to limit your work, but not by pushing it into those who are giving the gifts.

            1. baseballfan*

              This is my reaction to that whole idea. Why don’t I just write the note to myself if I’m addressing my own envelope?

              Providing addressed envelopes seems to me like the perfect thing for shower hosts to do for the honoree, however.

              Once I attended a shower and failed to address my own envelope where the group was asked to do so. It’s notable that I did not receive a thank you in the mail.

              1. Oryx*

                “Providing addressed envelopes seems to me like the perfect thing for shower hosts to do for the honoree, however.”

                My mom does this, with a cute set of thank you notes. It always goes over really well.

          4. NJ Anon*

            We used to tape the card that came with the gift to the gift itself so we knew we who gave what.

            1. ExceptionToTheRule*

              I write what the gift was on the back of the card in case they get separated.

          5. Sadsack*

            Hmm, I guess I would just assume that I have the correct address if the people showed up, which is an indication that they received the invitation.

          6. Lemon Zinger*

            As a kid, we were required to bust out thank-you notes the day we received the gifts. I spent a lot of time on my birthdays writing to relatives I barely knew. Even if we saw family in person for Christmas, we still had to write thank-yous when we returned. My grandparents would get passive aggressive toward my mom if we didn’t!

            This instilled in me a general dislike of gift giving/receiving. Ugh, I have some birthday thank-you cards to write…

            1. BananaPants*

              We had to do the same, with the same reaction from the grandparents if the thank you notes weren’t postmarked December 26th! Grandma would start pestering my mother (her daughter in law) on the phone by New Year’s if she didn’t have the silly note yet – which was dictated by a parent anyways, it’s not like I put my own thought into it. Even if I really didn’t like the gift or it was inappropriate for my age I still had to write fawning praise for the relative picking “the perfect thing!” To this day I really dislike writing thank you notes because it was so forced as a kid – I did it for our wedding gifts and baby shower gifts and that was it.

              I don’t make my kids write thank you notes at all for gifts that they’re given in person; as Alison says, etiquette guidelines say that in that case a written thank you is not necessary.

          7. Anon Moose*

            As kids, we didn’t get to use/ take out of the packaging Christmas or Birthday presents from people other than our parents until AFTER the thank you note was written. Or cash money/checks from religious celebrations/ graduation. And hey, it worked to impress on us how important thank you notes are.

          8. Elder Dog*

            We got matching thank yous with envelopes with our invitations, and when I addressed the wedding invitations, I addressed the envelopes for the thank yous too. Sure, some went to waste because people didn’t come, but it was worth the time saved to me.

          9. Simonthegrey*

            My one grandma, we saw all the time and didn’t send thank you notes because everything was done in person. The other wanted to receive thank you notes, but she ALSO wanted us to call and thank her on the phone and have us talk up how much we had loved whatever trinket she gave us.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I got out of having to write thank-you notes as a kid because my handwriting in those days was painfully atrocious, and trying to write not only all the needed thank-you notes after a big Christmas or my graduation party but write slowly and carefully enough to make them all legible would have meant hours at a desk and painfully cramped fingers (and probably still illegible thank-yous!)

          Man, lousy handwriting got me out of so much…

          1. Karo*

            That’s how my new husband got out of writing his share of the thank you notes after our wedding! There were a few people I didn’t get a chance to meet at the wedding, have literally never met, and I had to write them a thoughtful note about how much it meant to have them there.

            …I may or may not still be bitter about that.

      2. INTP*

        Some people just aren’t very emotive, though, and can only put so much warmth into an “Aww, thanks.” I get what you’re saying, because for some people this can all come very naturally and the only way to not sound grateful would be to not BE grateful, but I get accused of not being surprised and excited when I a) genuinely am and b) am already trying to put on somewhat of a show of it.

        And then you add in the awkwardness that comes up because you KNOW that people are judging your character based on your reaction to their gift, and you have to conceal that awkwardness. If you’re one of the gift-awkward people, it’s a whole performance even if you genuinely ARE grateful for the gift, and sometimes you don’t nail it.

        1. Emilia Bedelia*

          Honestly, this is why I like sending thank you notes! It’s much easier to craft a nice note that details what I like about the gift and how grateful I am for it than it is to correctly make the right expression at the momentto convey my gratitude. It’s also easier to write something nice about presents that I don’t much like at all :). I understand the general dislike of thank you notes, but I will continue to advocate on their behalf as the perfect solution for those of us who hate phones and can’t interact with people in real life.

          Also, here’s my tip:I buy packs of blank cards at the dollar store and use them for everything. Thank yous, birthday cards- writing a nice note on the inside is way more important than what the outside looks like.

        2. Alton*

          Yep, this is me. Not only am I not very comfortable expressing myself emotionally, but my voice is naturally a bit flat and unexcited-sounding. Sometimes I emote more, and I think I’ve gotten better at adopting an upbeat customer service voice. But I’ve had some people misinterpret attempts at positive emoting as me being sad or annoyed, especially if I’m tired or put on the spot, so I’m self-conscious about it.

          Scenarios like receiving gifts can be tricky, because I don’t want to sound unenthused, but I also don’t want to sound forced or weird.

    3. Alienor*

      I’m over 40 and I do the same thing. If I didn’t receive the gift in person, I send the giver an email to thank them. I don’t expect to get handwritten thank-you cards for gifts I give, either – in fact, I would prefer not to because I never know what to do with them. It feels rude just to throw them away after the person went to all that effort, but I don’t want to save a card that says “thank you for the nice sweater” for the rest of my life.

      I’m also someone who’s never been great at super-excited reactions to gifts. I remember my mother giving me grief at Christmas when I was a kid because I didn’t squeal enough when I unwrapped my presents, even if I really, really loved them. It didn’t make me any more effusive, but it sure made me self-conscious!

    4. Mookie*

      I’m also awkward about gifts (and, ugh, compliments, though I’m working on that) and that awkwardness stems from social anxiety. As you say, expressing an especially effusive kind of gratitude would ring false for me, would feel very attention-seeking and would put both of us in a spotlight I’m not comfortable with. Opening gifts in front of people–outside of birthday parties, intimate celebrations like anniversaries, showers for weddings and pregnancies–feels like a performance, where the recipient is meant to be amazed and the giver is meant to feel noble. I understand why a low-key “thanks!” in the moment might strike someone as cold or rude but it’s kind of a self-preservation tactic because it’s difficult to gauge people’s reactions and it’s always safer to underperform an emotion than overperform it and insult the person by play-acting. To compensate for that weird dynamic, I always send the giver an e-mail, letter, or text message after taking the gift home and opening it in private (this is such a weird ritual, like it’s aberrant to open gifts, but I really do this), or make a point to thank them again and discuss, briefly, the gift the next time I see them.

      Unexpected gifts, especially from colleagues or casual acquaintances, are odd that way. It’s such a thoughtful gesture that it can be unnerving to some people and sometimes that discomfort is expressed in confusing, misleading ways.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Yes, exactly. Opening gifts in front of people feels like a performance and I’ve definitely had people upset or insulted when I didn’t act amazed – which is a bit bizarre because if they knew me at all, they’d know that a “Oh, cool, thanks!” was standard for me and a “Oh my god, this is so thoughtful! X is such a lovely gift and I’m so grateful you gave it to me, wow I never wound have expected it, I’m so honored!” is way out of character.

        I even hate opening gifts at parties where you’re supposed to have gifts. I just don’t like being expected to have certain emotional reactions in front of people and feel….embarrassed to be celebrated for something so trivial like a birthday where I didn’t do anything worth celebrating (though, strangely, I do enjoy celebrating for other people, I’d just rather ignore it for myself)

        1. Sparrow*

          I totally identify with everything the two of you are saying. Additionally, I dislike watching other people open gifts I’ve given them – I’m uncomfortable feeling obligated to act in an effusive manner that’s unnatural to me, so I don’t like putting other people in that situation. But I do try to give a sincere (if perhaps understated) thanks when I receive a gift and do generally email/text an additional thanks after opening it. Even if I’m not particularly overjoyed about the gift, I generally appreciate the thought behind it, and it’s easier for me to express that in writing.

          1. all aboard the anon train*

            Oh, yeah, I totally agree. I’ve been to so many bridal and baby showers over the past few years and I’m like, “I don’t have strong feelings about those towels I gave you, but I feel like I’m supposed to act in this weird effusive manner when you open the present”. The whole performance angle of gift giving and receiving really annoys me. If someone asks for towels on a registry, I’m going to buy them because they want them, but I’m not going to act like it’s the most amazing gift in the world and I don’t expect them to act like that when opening it, yet some people seem to expect that to happen.

            1. CanadianKat*

              Why do you have to act effusive? Just find something something nice about it, like: “Towels… thank you, towels will always come in handy.”

              If it’s at all useful (even if you have enough towels), say that it’s useful.
              If it’s useless, say that it’s pretty.
              If it’s a unique, useless, ugly thing – say it’s “interesting” (but look grateful).

              And if they’ve put some thought about it (e.g. give a tea drinker a mug with an infuser insert – worst present ever, because if they liked these, they would already have one) – just comment on the thought. “Ah, yes – I do drink a lot of looseleaf tea.”

              If it’s a crap present that they didn’t put much thought into, just say “Thank you, that’s so nice of you.” Because they didn’t have to give a gift at all.

              Opening the gift in front of the giver creates closure: the giver gets some feedback, the recipient gives thanks, and the story is over.

        2. Lemon Zinger*

          Opening gifts IS a performance! I’m a terrible actress (I can’t even lie convincingly) and I hated the days when I had to be SO THRILLED to receive ill-fitting clothes from relatives who barely knew me.

      2. pope suburban*

        Hi, fellow awkward person! Anxiety can go pound sand; it ruins so much, including gifts. I get a lot of anxiety about gifts, because I never know what people want/expect. This is not helped by the fact that no thanks was ever enough for my mom, but if I played it up too much, she’d think it was my “bad attitude.” Which, yeah, my mom is some kind of Cluster-B personality, and most people aren’t, but when every gift is an unexploded bomb the whole time you’re growing up, that sticks with you. Christmas sometimes feels like a tightrope act, where I’m trying not to over- or under-react, even with people I know well and who I know not to be vindictive. I felt pretty bad for this intern, honestly.

    5. Mustache Cat*

      Yes, this! I didn’t want to say it before, because it really shouldn’t affect etiquette (and I’ve been told I’m ungrateful before for politely requesting ahead of time to not have to receive gifts >.<) but I absolutely hate getting gifts. It's a personal problem, but that doesn't mean that office gifts aren't a total awkward minefield for me.

      1. INTP*

        I feel like there’s no way not to be considered ungrateful by SOMEONE for gift behavior other than pre-intuiting exactly what each individual’s expected gift etiquette is, and doing that. And even then, it conflicts. Some people feel strongly that NOT making a registry is ungrateful (implies you want cash), while others feel strongly that making one is tacky (implies you expect gifts for an event at which gifts are always given?). I just hate the whole song and dance, personally.

        1. themmases*

          Yes, this. My partner was very worried about this stuff when we were getting married and I took pretty much this attitude. My opinion was, if someone doesn’t like us enough to assume good faith on such an important occasion, it sounds like they don’t like us enough that they should feel obligated to attend. You can’t worry about people who would decide to anyway.

          We suggested some charities we like instead of a registry for our wedding. We’d lived together for 5 years and didn’t want or need gifts. I even found people online who thought that was a faux pas and somehow holier-than-thou! If that’s how you really feel about someone, just don’t engage with them anymore.

          I feel the same way about gifts (although I do try to write a note whenever I think it might be appreciated). If the lack of one thank you note would change your whole opinion about someone and have you badmouthing them to others, maybe you didn’t like them that much and shouldn’t have gotten them a gift.

    6. AtrociousPink*

      Yes to this. I’m nearly 50 and have always hated receiving gifts at work, especially from bosses. And it’s only gotten worse as I’ve aged. I’m mature and professional enough to bite the bullet and put on a grateful act, but really, I resent the hell out of being put in that position by someone who already holds considerable power over me.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        Your last sentence nails it. I wonder what Alison thinks of gift-giving by bosses? It really does seem inappropriate to me. I’d be appalled if my boss gave me anything.

        1. Megs*

          Well, there are some industries/professions where it is absolutely expected for the boss to give gifts to their employees (assistants is a big one), but it’s generally good to stick to generic unless you’ve got a good sense they’d want something else. I know Allison’s written about it gift-giving bunches of times.

          As a side note, I found out recently that my spouse has not been getting gifts for his assistant. Her birthday is now on my calendar and I’ll be ordering her flowers and a coffee-gift card in his name next year. Grr.

          1. Megs*

            To be clear, I despise gift-giving personally and have broken most of my loved ones of the habit (bwa ha ha). But being the one person in the company who doesn’t get his assistant basic birthday/holiday gifts is a bad look. She got us a wedding gift, FFS!

            1. Lemon Zinger*

              As someone who knows nothing about assistants, why do they deserve personal gifts for birthdays when others don’t?

              1. BananaPants*

                Yeah, I was wondering the same thing. Our admin assistants are great, but they’re getting paid to do their job just like everyone else – what warrants a personal gift for his/her birthday when one’s other direct reports don’t get one?

                1. Cassie*

                  Maybe because frequently assistants and their bosses have close working relations, especially if the assistant is more of a PA? Yes, the assistant is getting paid to do their job, but presumably (if they are good at their job) they are making the boss’s job a lot easier.

                  Also – ” being the one person in the company who doesn’t get his assistant basic birthday/holiday gifts is a bad look” – if all of the other assistants in the company are getting gifts from their bosses and Meg’s spouse’s assistant is the only who’s not, it doesn’t feel great.

    7. INTP*

      Yeah, same. There’s probably a family background to this but when I get a gift, I get all anxious and am afraid that if I act too enthusiastic, effusive praise or opening it up right there (seriously, what are the rules for when you open a gift on the spot and when you take it home?), I will look super greedy, and I try to react just enough. Plus, some people are gracious givers who just expect a “thank you” but other people will start to keep a tally of when you should give them a gift in return and how much it should cost, or get upset because your thanks weren’t delivered in the right manner (in person, phone call, text, note, handwritten note, handwritten note with sufficiently personal wording). You have to perform graciousness in the exact expected way or they will decide you’re an ungrateful person.

      It’s like when someone gives me a gift they bring me into this labyrinth of social expectations that I don’t know how to navigate. Like Sheldon Cooper says, “You haven’t given me a gift, you’ve given me an obligation!” And I do truly appreciate the sentiment behind the gift, even if I would rather not have received it. It just makes me feel super super awkward in a way that might come across as ungracious.

      1. Hazel Asperg*

        Yes, this whole thing!

        My nana kept a book for years on the cost of presents she had bought for others, and the estimated price of gifts received by her. Like, side by side with tallies.

        Once I realised that some people do that, I learned to react to presents with … fear and anxiety. I don’t want to have to deal with pointed remarks and jabs because I haven’t made the appropriate response to a gift.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          My nana kept a book for years on the cost of presents she had bought for others, and the estimated price of gifts received by her. Like, side by side with tallies.

          LOL, nice.

        2. Mookie*

          Oh my crikey, this is a nightmare I never knew I had but now I’ll dream about it. The Big (British) Book of Gift-Giving and Why My Family Are Ungrateful, Cheap Turds.

    8. Artemesia*

      What people expect is an expression of thanks specific to the gift; it can be oral the next time the person sees them or a quick email — it doesn’t have to be with quill pen on deckled linen paper — just an acknowledgement of the specific thing. It is possible the intern felt awkward or bashful at the time and the faux pas is easily recommended with a quick email about the specific thing and how useful or pleasurable it is.

    9. Lemon Zinger*

      YESSSSSSS. I’m 23 and I would feel incredibly uncomfortable if I received a gift from a coworker, let alone a manager! I read this letter from the grad student’s perspective, and I imagine she was probably taken aback and embarrassed. Many people don’t like being singled out in the workplace.

      1. all aboard the anon train*

        Honestly, getting gifts from coworkers is why I never talk about my private life. The idea of someone throwing me a birthday party or party for a different life event mortifies me and I’d probably wilt in embarrassment if I had to sit in a room and open presents in front of coworkers – or even eat cake they bought just for me. (This is why I also dread winter holiday swaps and am so, so grateful my current employer doesn’t do anything festive in the winter).

        1. Lemon Zinger*

          You get me. My birthday was last week and I managed to keep it on the DL until the end of the day, when a coworker wished me happy birthday on my way out the door! I consider it a victory!

        2. Cassie*

          I told my friend at work that they were throwing her a surprise birthday party because I knew she would hate it. She went along with it (to be nice) but at least she could mentally prepare herself for it. She’s told our coworkers that she doesn’t want to celebrate her birthday and stuff like that but people are always like “oh, come on! It’ll be fun!”. As if they know what’s best for her.

    10. Sir Alanna Trebond*

      I’m the same! For added confusion, it is considered rude to open gifts in front of the gifter in my parents’ country of origin.

  6. ManagerToBe*

    #2 Some people (myself included) are awkward at receiving unexpected gifts from people with whom they are not close. Technically, you got a “thanks” for the gift, even if it wasn’t the way you wanted it.

    Since gifts were not allowed in the budget, and you said yourself she knew that, she was likely not expecting you to give her anything. The whole situation sounds awkward to me, and I think you’re making it more awkward by putting emotional strings on the gift by requiring an emotional response. If it was an expensive gift: more understandable that you’d want acknowledgment, but also more awkward for her to accept. An inexpensive gift: she probably assumed her in-the-moment thanks was enough.

    Either way, you probably shouldn’t buy gifts like this in the future. They’re not expected, and there are too many emotional strings attached.

    1. AFT123*

      Agree. It really bugs me when people give gifts with any sort of expectation of emotional (or otherwise) reciprocation or behavior. Like you said, they give with strings attached. I’ve come to the conclusion that gift giving is almost always more for emotional perks that the giver experiences, and even though the intent may be to please the recipient, the giver is is the one who benefits most, or else they wouldn’t be giving. That was a rambly sentence and maybe it’s just my experiences have colored my views on this, but that is how I feel. If you give a gift, I don’t think it’s fair to expect anything at all in return, emotional or otherwise. If you’ll feel hurt by the recipient not thanking you, not appearing grateful, not behaving in whatever way you seem fit, then you’re probably giving the gift just as much or more for your own emotions and not theirs. Just because you’re giving a gift does not mean that the intent always trumps, people don’t need to be thankful for gifts just because someone gave them.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        If you’ll feel hurt by the recipient not thanking you, not appearing grateful, not behaving in whatever way you seem fit, then you’re probably giving the gift just as much or more for your own emotions and not theirs.

        YES. And if that’s the case, you should stop giving gifts or only give them to the people you know for a fact will give you the emotional response you’re hoping for.

    2. INTP*

      Yeah, I would not expect a gift with that policy, so I would feel extra awkward when it was given and especially knowing that OP bought it with her own money. And while I might genuinely be grateful for the OP’s gesture and love the gift, the overwhelming awkwardness of course would interfere with me being able to gauge the exact right level of emoting that would be appropriate to convey my appreciation for the gift without being so effusive as to make anyone uncomfortable.

      Really, you should not be giving gifts if you have to place strings on the exchange to feel good about it. It’s an exercise in frustration for both you and the recipient because people react differently to gifts for a variety of personality, family/culture, and other reasons. If you have some narrative in your head of how a grateful recipient performs their gratefulness, you’re going to be frustrated and hurt when people don’t live up to it, and it’s not fair to them to judge them as a rude or ungrateful person because they didn’t learn the same code of etiquette as you. It’s better to just detach from the outcome (short of blatant and intentional rudeness) and give for the joy of giving, or not at all.

  7. dragonzflame*

    #4 – you should be able to set your LinkedIn not to notify anyone when you view their profile. That doesn’t make it incognito Ando doesn’t change the features (at least it didn’t when I last seriously used it but I know they’ve been on a bit of a changing stuff bender recently), it just doesn’t tell them that you looked them up.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots, Ltd.*

      I use Linked In to qualify customers all the time, and I have my trail turned off. It’s just one setting to change.

      The only side effect is that then you can’t see who viewed you, but, I don’t care.

    2. (Not an IRS) Auditor*

      This. There is a setting that will make you anonymous – it will just tell the person that a “linkedin user” viewed their profile. This means you will also not know who’s looked at your profile, but that’s fine with me. Frankly, I find that functionality creepy.

    3. OP #4*

      Oh, cool – thanks, guys! I didn’t know I could turn that off.

      Now that I think about it, I vaguely recall deciding to keep it on during job search days – when I cared more about who was interested in me. At this stage, I don’t care, – and few people do anyway, since I’m behind-the-scenes.

  8. Adam*

    #5. I think this something most of us struggle with both with work and many other important undertakings in our lives: waiting “until”. To be as cliche as possible, if you are always waiting “until the right time” to do anything you’ll still be waiting later on. The right time is when you decide whatever change you want to make.

    Make sure your personal ducks are in a row and that your team can access and comprehend the things you were working on and then move on guilt free. It’ll work out. Good luck!

    1. AnotherHRPro*

      The reality is it will never be a good time for your manager and your team. But what is most important is when it is a good time for you, OP. This is your career and you need to treat your career as something that is important. I have seen many, many people leave organizations and initial all managers and teams react as if the sky is falling. But then a funny thing happens. Life goes on. Work gets done. The company was not brought down. It might be inconvenient timing, but that is no reason to change your plans. Just do your best to make it a good transition. That is really all you can or should do.

    2. OP #5*

      That’s good advice. I’ve been struggling against it because it feels like a selfish move–but I suppose if there’s any area of life that calls for a little selfishness, it’s finding a worthwhile career path, right? Thanks for your kind words. :)

      1. themmases*

        It’s very common to feel this way when you’re the one leaving. However I bet if you look back at other times you or your colleagues left, you can reassure yourself.

        I don’t think I’ve ever been mad at a peer for leaving a job or for how they left… If I already didn’t like them, I was relieved. Regardless of whether I liked them or not, I wished them the best in a job that was presumably an improvement. If there was something wrong with the job, I was jealous and inspired to focus on my own job search.

        I met one of my best friends working in a horrible environment, and eventually we were both preparing to leave but dreading working there alone. We were in a tacit race to quit and not be left alone — my friend even talked about saving up to just take a month off with nothing lined up– and I eventually won. Even then she was happy for me, survived and got out soon herself, and we are still close. One time I walked out of an awful retail job. No hard feelings from my peers got back to me, I was just grist for the rumor mill for a week.

      2. Artemesia*

        As someone who was indispensable to my operation, it was surprising how quickly they coped when I retired. It opened up opportunities for advancement for several people since I had several arenas of authority/responsibility. Same when my husband retired and left a small law firm; there as a partner he gave a lot of notice, like 6 mos and when he left they had already figured out how to patch the hole he left. I have over my career seen many vital people move on through new opportunities or death and organizations generally cope just fine.

      3. Adam*

        Exactly. If it helps, reframe the mindset to “acting in your self-interest” which is very often important and good for you. You do lots of things in your self-interest already like your laundry, reading your favorite novels, etc. Furthering your career is one more thing on the list. It’s always inconvenient when somebody leaves a job, but the sky doesn’t fall and they will carry on.

  9. Marcela*

    OP #2, I guess you would have said if the student employee is not American; however, I’d like to point out that for some foreigners, like the Latina me, thank you letters are just not a thing. I discovered them mostly reading this site (thanks!), and I still remember when my former boss asked me to read a letter he was going to send to some potential Mexican clients. “A thank you what?!” was my answer. We sent that letter anyway because I didn’t know if Mexicans use them (I just know Chilean don’t), and it was a gracious gesture. On the other hand, though, and the reason I’m writing this, is that when my husband was applying for a position in an university, we didn’t know about thank you letters and he didn’t send one after a phone interview. We have always wondered if we were judged as rude (and he was disqualified because of that) when we were only educated under different social rules. Please do not hold something like this against anybody.

    1. Jen RO*

      Thank you letters are also uncommon (nonexistent?) in my part of Eastern Europe and I feel like I’m in a Victorian novel every time I read about thank you letters and notes on AAM! Also, I know that in some countries it is actually considered rude to open the gift in front of the gift giver.

      (I assume that the student is American, so this probably has no bearing on the OP, but I like talking about cultural differences!)

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I’ve never heard of them in Germany either. Granted, I sometimes live under a rock concerning certain things but I definitely heard about them for the very first time when I started reading here.

        1. De (Germany)*

          They are sort of expected for weddings – I wrote 40 or 50 of those after mine. I don’t think I’ve written or received them for any other occasion.

          1. Aella*

            In my (UK) experience, they are for after weddings, and sometimes sent by children to grandparents/aunts after they have received a Christmas present, though that could have just been because my grandparents liked getting letters.

            1. LSCO*

              Yup – fellow Brit here. Thank you letters were for distance relatives after Christmas/birthdays as a child, and maybe after weddings (I have no direct experience of a “traditional” wedding so I couldn’t say for certain), but from one adult to another for a gift.. it’s a fairly rare expectation.

              1. Elkay*

                UK here and thank you notes are still used in my family (and my other half’s) for Christmas and birthday gifts that arrive through the post. It’s partly a way of saying “Royal Mail didn’t steal my birthday card with the £10 in it” and partly good manners (I think, although I know I’m in the minority).

                1. JessaB*

                  This. Besides weddings/showers/funeral gifts, we only sent them for stuff arriving in the mail, mostly to let people know that stuff didn’t get lost. Nowadays with phones being pretty much universal (and free long distance in the US,) most people call. Back in the day we wrote because calling was very expensive and email was a business not personal thing to the extent it is now.

                2. ExceptionToTheRule*

                  I’m even fine with a text. All I want to know is that the gift arrived and I don’t need to start a complaint with UPS, FedEx or, god forbid, USPS. That’s it. A “Thanks!” on top of it would be like sprinkles on a sundae but I’m never going to get that from the people I’m sending stuff.

          2. Knitting Cat Lady*

            Austrian here.

            Even for weddings thank you notes are not really a thing.

            At some part during the wedding there is The Opening of Gifts and people are thanked in person.

            Also, if I get a present in the post I’ll give a thank you call. In part to confirm the postal service didn’t lose the present.

            1. Blurgle*

              In the US it is considered a serious faux pas to take the wedding gift to the wedding. Gifts are sent to the couple well in advance (which explains why thank you notes are used – the sender might not know otherwise if it was lost in the mail) and have no part whatsoever in the ceremony or reception.

              1. MJH*

                If it’s a serious faux pas to take gifts to the wedding in the US, I guess my friends and family have been committing massive faux pas for years. There is always a gift table at every wedding I attend. No one opens the gifts, but everyone brings one and places it there. (Or brings a card with cash.)

                1. Jennifer M.*

                  I’m in the US and I was always taught that bringing a gift to the wedding is an inconvenience to the couple because it’s one more thing that they have to deal with on an already hectic day. They have to be transported from the venue to somewhere else and a lot of times the couple is in a rented car that’s not taking them home but to a hotel or even directly to the airport for a honeymoon so then some friend or family member has to be dragooned into dealing with it etc. You still have the gift table because people are gonna do what they’re gonna do, but it is a kindness to the couple to send the gift to their home rather than having them schlep it there.

                2. Mpls*

                  I think the gifts issue in the US is very regional. Growing up in the Upper Midwest/West, gifts came to the wedding, or the day after at the breakfast where all the gifts were opened.

                  As with so many things involving weddings, one person’s tradition is another person’s faux pas.

                3. ExceptionToTheRule*

                  My family puts someone in charge of the gifts on behalf of the couple so they don’t have to worry about them. It’s a way to include crazy uncle Bob and socially awkward aunt Sue in the wedding. Which they’re totally expecting and will hold a grudge forever if they aren’t a part of the wedding.

              2. brightstar*

                I’m in the US and never heard it was a faux pas to take the gift to the wedding. Every wedding I’ve attended actually had a table set up for gifts. A quick Google search didn’t show anything stating you can’t do that.

                1. the gold digger*

                  It’s more about safety – wedding gifts have been stolen – and about making it easier for the wedding party. If the gifts are taken to the wedding, then someone has to be in charge of taking them home.

                2. my two cents*

                  The only time I’ve been discouraged from bringing physical gifts was when the couple was traveling from out of state and would have a heck of a time bringing stuff back with them. But, in that case they stated it clearly on the invite.

                3. Artemesia*

                  Every wedding has the gift table but it is most places still considered more appropriate to send the gift ahead to the bride. Since some people don’t do that, the gift table is necessary. It is generally a real faux pas to open gifts at the wedding like a children’s birthday party. IN days of yore, the gifts were sent to the bride and then displayed in her home and people would visit and view the gifts. Teas or similar events were thrown for this purpose. When I married for the first time 50 years ago this was still the custom although we didn’t do it. I thought it was sort of creepy. But many of my friends did this gift display thing.

              3. Phoebe*

                Huh, I ‘m in the US and this is news to me. I mean I wouldn’t take a gift to the ceremony, but the weddings I’ve been to have all had a table for gifts at the reception. The couple generally opens them later, in private, and then send out their thank you notes when they return from the honeymoon. Perhaps it’s different in other regions of the county though.

                1. fposte*

                  Since quite a while ago. But I think the convention is changing because people can’t be stopped :-). Guests see gift tables and think that’s the destination and not a convenience, and they’re used to the birthday-party model anyway.

                2. Sadsack*

                  I am a Pennsylvania transplant from New Jersey and never heard this either. There’s always a gift table, including a box to put envelopes in.

                3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

                  Agreed! My parents’ wedding in New England, my aunt’s wedding in Michigan, and my brother’s wedding in Georgia all featured presents given at the reception. They weren’t opened there, but they were given there.

                4. Morning Glory*

                  Since never. It’s something we planned for as part of the whole day. Our hotel offered secure gift storage overnight as part of their services.

              4. Liana*

                Wait, what? This is what a wedding table is for. It’s definitely not a faux pas – I think it’s just a lot less common now.

              5. Kristine*

                I wouldn’t say it’s a faux pas to bring gifts to the wedding, but it’s certainly less common. My husband and I didn’t have a gift table at our wedding, but that’s because we got married 3,000 miles from home and didn’t want to fly with a bunch of gifts, so we sorta forced people to send them in the mail. But if the couple is getting married locally I usually bring the gift with. They usually have an appointed ‘gift person’ who deals with them at the end of the night.

                1. Artemesia*

                  Etiquette books have always had the rule that gifts are sent ahead; custom in many communities is that they are taken to the reception. When my daughter married most of her gifts came to our home ahead of time. But the grooms relatives and friends brought checks and put them in the box on the gift table provided (thank goodness) by her MIL since it had not occurred to us. There are lots of stories of money and checks being stolen from wedding receptions since most occur in somewhat public settings where a stranger might walk off with them (and of course there is the crooked brother in law problem.)

              6. Kelly L.*

                I kind of feel like this might be either a geographical or class divide. Where I come from (blue-collar Midwest), there’s a table at the reception and everybody just deposits them there. Other places or social circles seem to only mail the gifts, or only give money, but that’s not what I’ve personally encountered much.

                1. Lily Rowan*

                  Everything about wedding gifts is cultural, so even within the US there are so many different traditions!

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yeah, it must be geographical or some other divide. Every etiquette book I’ve ever read (and I like to read them) has repeated that you send the gift ahead of time and don’t bring it with you because it’s an inconvenience to the bride and groom. Clearly, though, there are plenty of other cultural traditions.

                3. Kristine*

                  My husband’s cousin got married a few years back and the bride and groom opened their presents in front of everyone during the post-reception meal (reception was small bites and cake, then the closer family gathered for food at the bride’s parents’ house). It was odd.

                4. Gandalf the Nude*

                  Oh, jeez, Kristine, how did anyone keep a straight face? I would have felt like I was at a child’s birthday party.

              7. Kate M*

                Um no…definitely not a faux pas. I generally send presents ahead of time so I don’t have to transport them, but it’s not an etiquette blunder at all. One way or the other may be more common depending on the area, but it’s never ever been against etiquette, much less a “serious faux pas.”

                1. Kate M*

                  Because let’s not forget – the reception is not for the couple. It’s to thank the guests for coming. (Yes the couple can plan it and have fun, but it’s purpose is to thank the guests). So the comfort of the guests is supposed to be the most important. Plus, it seems gauche to say “when you get us a wedding present, make sure to pay for shipping too, because we don’t want to have to bother with all the presents people got us at the wedding.” If people get you gifts for an event you invited them to, you don’t get to dictate how they gift you. (You can request if you’re flying overseas or something, but you don’t get to dictate it.)

              8. YaH*

                No, it isn’t. It may not be the most convenient thing ever to bring a gift to the wedding and have the wedding party have to deal with transporting it, but it’s not a “serious faux pas”.

            2. Natalie*

              Man, I would hate opening gifts at the reception. I skipped a bridal shower for that reason and if we have kids, I’d like to skip the baby shower too. (Plus in my family, people just write checks, so it would also be colossally boring.)

              1. Belle*

                I am with you. My husband and I are hoping to have a baby and I am already planting it in my friends and families minds that a baby shower is not something I am comfortable with. I get nervous in social settings and we are older now, so we would prefer to skip it. Of course, we also married in Las Vegas with only a handful of our family — so most shouldn’t be surprised that I would want to avoid being the center of attention.

          3. Myrin*

            Ah yeah, I forgot about the weddings thing. Although I’d say they’re a bit different since – at least where I am – they aren’t there primarily to thank someone for the presents received but rather for their actualy presence, taking part in making it a nice day and thelike.

            Oh, also, I just realised that the only reason we didn’t have thank you notes for Christmas, birthdays, etc. was that we always called the family members who sent gifts. So I guess it’s kind of like a verbal thank you note?

            (And man, I can’t spell today. I keep writing “thnak” and “tahnk”…)

      2. Kate R. Pillar (DE)*

        Another German here, and I also think I only ever wrote thank-you letters after my wedding, as we did not open gifts during the reception.
        For all other gifts. when I receive them in person, I thank the person right then and there (and mention the gift later with new thanks if I do not open the gift in front of them).
        Birthdays and Christmas gifts usually get calls, either the day of or a little later.

        1. Artemesia*

          If you thank someone in person about the specific gift, or mention it later specifically then a letter is not required by etiquette.

    2. Florida*

      I think if you are the recipient of a gift, you probably can’t go wrong sending a thank you note. I know there are cultures that don’t expect one, but I’ve never heard of a culture that would be offended by one. (Someone correct me if I’m wrong.)

      But if you are the giver waiting for the thank you note, it’s probably better to give people the benefit of the doubt when you don’t receive a thank you. Even if it was an egregious social faux pas on the recipient’s part (usually it’s not egregious, but there might be a situation where it is), your life will be better if you let it go.

    3. Bob Barker*

      I work at a university where (hand-written, mailed) thank-you notes after job interviews are a Big Thing, and I haaaate them. I don’t think it’s 100% universal that they’re compulsory/expected at every university, but I’ve been trained in their necessity in my own environment. I’ve sent them and received them, but of course when they’re effectively compulsory, they become meaningless gestures, just another customary hoop you have to jump through. Really, for me, they’re a test of how effectively I can write effusive nothingness while not betraying my own sense of self. Also practice on beautiful handwriting.

      Let me say one more time how much I haaaate them. I would probably feel the same way about wedding thank-you notes, but luckily I’ve never been married.

      1. Lemon Zinger*

        Ugh that is a pain. I work at a large university. It was impossible for me to send a thank-you note after my interviews, since I was only communicating with a secretary and never given the contact information for any of my interviewers. Fortunately it didn’t hurt me– I don’t think people in my office would expect anything anyway.

  10. Mephisto*

    I think people like to think thank you cards are a universally American thing that all Americans should understand, but there really is no American monoculture. I’m American and was born in this country, but my parents are came here as adults…I was never raised to write thank you cards. If I got a gift I said thank you to the person directly or called them afterward to say thank you. But writing a card? Did not even know that was a thing until I became an adult and started mingling with the world a little more.

    1. Bartlett for President*

      Due to the size of the country, there are probably more pronounced regional differences than many countries. That, coupled with the fact that the United States is very much a country of immigrants, it is very easy to identify outliers in “American culture.” But, there is still a generalized American culture.

      1. Duncan*

        Agree, and there are general etiquette rules. Sure, they change over time, but they exist, even if someone is unaware of them due to lack of exposure. There may be slight variations by region or allowances made for close friends and/or family, but the basic etiquette is more or less the same.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          I would say — having lived in some very diverse parts of the country — that the differences are more than ‘slight.’ It’s not just regional, either; city etiquette is different from suburban etiquette is different from rural etiquette, even within the same region or even state.

      2. Blurgle*

        That’s an extremely common misconception, but the most diverse American communities have infinitely more in common than two neighbouring villages in any random African country.

        Americans are immensely more mono cultural than they are led to believe.

        1. Isben Takes Tea*

          That’s…quite a statement. There is a lot of diversity in Africa (and Asia, and South America…) but you can highlight American monoculture without emphasizing our monoculture’s heritage of jingoistic view of “villages in any random African country.”

        2. Mags*

          That’s a pretty incredible generalization. In regards to both the “Americans are immensely more mono cultural than they are led to believe” and your “villages in any random African country” comment.

          Firstly, the USA is a country, and is incomparable to the African continent. And as you can tell by reading the varied responses to topics as specific as thank-you notes and wedding gifts, American culture truly varies wildly. I wonder just how many American communities and African villages you’ve lived in to gain the knowledge to make such sweeping statements.

          1. Amy UK*

            The person you are quoting didn’t mention the African continent, they said “in any random African country”. They clearly mean ‘any two villages in any (same) random African country’.

    2. Audiophile*

      The company I worked at for 4 years, came out with no less than 3 different style of badges. Contractors had a red stripe at the top of their badges, employees had a green stripe and vendors had a purple stripe. Then when the new cards came out, the badges changed again. We didn’t use lanyards, so this was the easiest way to differentiate. Other than security, no one knew the difference.

    3. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

      Yeah, even in the same geographic area there can be a lot of variances. I was raised in New England and out of my friend also raised in the area half were taught that it’s rude to open gifts in front of the giver, half were taught it’s rude NOT to open the gifts, and while I can’t trace the trajectory of all our parents across the US they’re all white and none are immigrants. Same with thank you cards.

    4. Glouby*

      Interesting variations reported here! My parents are immigrants to the US, and my mom taught me that thank-you cards are to be sent to non-family or for gifts given not-in-person; for gifts from family, we simply thanked the person if they were present.

    5. Florida*

      “I think people like to think thank you cards are a universally American thing that all Americans should understand, but there really is no American monoculture.”

      This is a great point. I think the American definition of common sense is: things that are obvious to me because I was raised a certain way and had certain experiences. If that’s how it was for me, it must’ve been like that for everyone else in the world.

        1. Isben Takes Tea*

          I didn’t read it as rude, just a recognition that we all start looking at the world thinking our experiences are the norm/standard. Growing past that view is a lifelong exercise, and many don’t ever take the first step.

        2. Florida*

          I’m sorry if I came across as rude. That wasn’t my intent. I was trying to say that many Americans walk through life with blinders on thinking that everyone experiences life the same way they do. To relate it to the post, if I was raised to write thank you notes then it is common sense that people should write thank you notes. Of course, it’s common sense if you were raised that way. But many people aren’t raised that way.
          I apologize again if my original comment was offensive.

          1. Mephisto*

            I didn’t read the comment as rude either.
            And isn’t calling someone out for being rude, well, rude?

  11. Cáilín*

    OP3 – yup…totally normal and not a “class system” as you seem to think. I’ve been both contractor and employee and so have worn both. My experience is that the lanyard itself is also a different colour e.g. Red for day visitors, green for contractors, blue for employees.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      My company uses different badge styles.

      Regular employees have a grey name field, contractors blue and temps orange.

    2. Talvi*

      The Smithsonian uses different coloured badges as well. Blue for permanent employees, red for contractors, and purple for interns and volunteers.

      1. Talvi*

        *This makes it sound like I work for the Smithsonian. I do not :) (I was, however, an intern some years ago, which is why I know this.)

      2. MuseumGal*

        Same at my museum- we use black for staff, blue for volunteers and green for temps/contractors. I created the lanyard system (and at a previous museum as well) for a couple reasons:
        1) Staff had to wear badges for evening events, tours, meetings etc. Black is just more subtle and blends in- easier on those who wear them all day every day
        2) Brighter colours were used for those whose faces/roles might not be known to everyone. For example, we often have temporary students who work only with one department. They go places the public are not allowed, but not all staff know these young people by sight. If I can see him in a bright green badge I know I don’t have to all security!
        3) Different colours for staff and volunteers helped customers as well. In the event of an issue a volunteer in a blue badge calling a staff member in a black badge is a visual cue that can appease an upset visitor. Sort of ‘Look I’ve called someone who is clearly different and possibly knows more’.

        I wouldn’t take it personally OP!

    3. Joseph*

      Yeah, this wouldn’t faze me at all. It’s so common that I wouldn’t even think about it.

      I think the bigger issue here is that OP mentioned there’s already a clique culture. That’s an issue worth examining on its’ own.

      As a side note, in my experience it’s usually the badges which are different colors rather than the lanyards. Three reasons: (a) Most places print the badges themselves, so it’s easier to do different colors of those rather than your mass purchased Landyard Co, (b) badges are a lot more permanent than lanyards, and (c) safety reasons often dictate that certain jobs (e.g., shipping, manufacturing) clip their badges to a shirt or wear it in an armband rather than having dangling loose items near machinery or vehicles.

    4. Faith*

      One of the companies I know used to have different color badges that indicated seniority – they got rid of most of them except for the golden badges for people with 20+ years of tenure.

      1. Joseph*

        I would actually have a different answer in that scenario.

        In OP’s case and the others mentioned by commenters (hospital, museums, security), the different badges have legitimate business purposes in distinguishing job functions, access, and so on. However, if the badges are purely ornamental (10 years get silver, 20 years get gold, etc), then it becomes a lot more questionable because there’s not really a reason beyond differentiating employees.

    5. Red*

      I work in a hospital. We have white badges for employees, blue ones for contractors, pink for those who are allowed to move infants, and stickers with a photo, name, and security clearance for vendors. It’s not a class thing, it’s necessary information about who should be where and do what.

    6. The Black Dog*

      Yup, it’s pretty much SOP here to have the contractor badges look different. Now here it matters because they are expected to be in the building only during daytime hours so if security now spots a contractor badge after a certain time, something is up.

    7. AnotherHRPro*

      This is very normal. And frankly a company has to treat contractor/temporary employees differently than company employees. If they don’t there are co-employment issues. By having a different looking badge it is helpful so that you know if you are dealing with an employee (who you can manage, give feedback to, include in company events, etc.) vs. a non-employee.

      1. Belle*

        Seconded! We also use different colors to help keep the line clear between our employees and contractors. We do have many temps starts as contractors, but they don’t get the “employee” color until they are hired on as an employee.

    8. Shark Lady*

      Yeah, it’s normal. Where I am now, employees have the company logo at the bottom, temps and contractors have a large red “T” or “C” and their employer at the bottom. All badges have the person’s photo and name. There are solid legal and security reasons for us to differentiate temps and contractors from employees, but on a day-to-day basis everyone is treated the same here.

  12. Slowly rioting for nothing*

    On #3: Could the OP’s real problem be that he/she feels troubled because it seems unfair that people who deserves credit for their work gets a visual reminder of their lower priority than permanent employees? I wouldn’t work for a place like that.

    And why have the contractor not been asked for a permanent job if he’s worked there for years?? Seems like the OP are pretty happy with his work if OP brings him up as an example in the letter. And a guy worth fighting for with upper management as a permanent employee. That should also be a trademark of a good manager to me.

    1. Knitting Cat Lady*

      Re: permanent job:

      The contractor could have been offered a permanent job and might have turned it down. There could be a hiring freeze. The work could be regular in the way that it happens every year at the same time, but not the whole year.

      There are plenty of non sucky reasons.

      1. Slowly rioting for nothing*

        Yeah I can see that now from reading the above comments aswell.

    2. Foxtrot*

      I work for the government and you have to have a bachelor’s degree to be a “permanent” employee here. We have lots of contractors with high school diplomas who have been here 20+ years, but it’s not our agency who sets the rules. It’s a much higher up bureaucracy thing.

    3. Allison*

      I’ve been working where I am for just over two years, and was brought on as a contractor “to start,” but right as I hit my 2-year anniversary I finally felt justified in asking why I’m still a contractor. I don’t mind the label, but never having paid time off royally sucks. Dental insurance would be nice too. Some companies either forget to bring someone on as a full-time employee, or see a person’s line of work as being a “contract job” that isn’t worth the benefits that come with full-time employment.

    4. Red*

      It’s not necessarily a lower priority – I fully expect my contracted manger to be at my company longer than I will and I’m an employee – just a different role. I do patient care and she reports to get company and mine and manages my department. The blue badge just means she’s on a different payroll.

    5. JessaB*

      Contractors may not want permanent jobs, also, you cannot treat a contractor like an employee without taking on major legal issues (you would have to start paying benefits and taxes if you do that for your regular employees.)

      In what way are contractors/temps lower priority? That’s kind of insulting to people who choose to work that way. Contractors probably like having the freedom to work the way they want, and a lot of people work temp because they do not want to work somewhere permanently. And if they do, they’re looking for permanent work. Heck temps when they’re good have to be able to do just about anything and hit the ground running for short periods of time (they have to be quicker at getting things than regular employees who can be trained/retrained, etc.)

      It’s a huge problem that people think that temps and contractors are some kind of lower class of employee and it kind of needs to stop.

  13. Gandalf the Nude*

    #3 – Like Alison said, there are lots of good insurance reasons to have contractors and temps visibly distinguishable from permanent employees. There’s a good chance that your company also requires vendors like electricians and elevator technicians to have a similarly distinguishable badge/hat/armband/whatever (this comes up frequently in my company’s field service) . Weirdly, it might even be a requirement of one of your company’s clients.

  14. Ann Furthermore*

    #2: Personality I don’t get bent out of shape if I don’t get a thank you note (or email these days) but I try to send them. I look at it as one of the very few things in life guaranteed to pay off. If someone doesn’t expect one, they appreciate that you took the time to send it. If someone expects one and doesn’t get it, then they think you’ve been rude or inconsiderate.

    1. Gandalf the Nude*

      This is going to sound bizarre, but I actually hate getting thank you cards (greeting cards in general). To me they’re just another piece of paper that goes in the recycle bin. I’d much rather someone save it for the next time we see each other, and I’d even more prefer to just assume someone is grateful than worry about receiving any kind of thank you.

      1. Graciosa*

        Well, I kind of agree with you but more because I generally expect a note rather than a generic card. Seriously, how hard is it to find a pen and a piece of paper? I would prefer an actual handwritten note on the back of a grocery store receipt to a mass-produced card.

        Mind you, I would also be totally fine with verbal thanks when a present is opened in my presence, but I’m in the wedding-gifts-are-mailed-in-advance camp so this doesn’t come up often.

  15. Trout 'Waver*

    OP #4, My SO is a family law attorney. She has told me that all family law attorneys under the age of 40 routinely check out clients’, other attorneys’, and opposite parties’ social media presence to get a feel for the case as part of their research. Attorneys are a competitive bunch and will take any advantage they can.

    To the general public: if you’re involved in a contested lawsuit, you should probably take a close look at your social media footprint. Because I bet the opposing counsel is.

    1. OP #4*

      I guess my urge to do it is not unique then :) Because you can never have too much information, and you can’t know that it’s not useful until you have it.

      Some commenters above suggested browsing in “Private” mode, which essentially disables this tracking feature. I’ve now done that. I imagine your SO already knows about it.

      And yes, there are many examples out there of cases lost or large sums of money being payable because of social media posts.

  16. Ben*

    #3 If your company is heavily focused on security, then this may be a clear signal to others to just say: “You may not recognise this employee, but you can see they are very obviously are a contractor and should not be alarmed.”

    1. Red*

      This, exactly. My hospital is obviously very security-conscious, so the badge variations are necessary. They let you know whether that random person should be doing that thing or whether you should call security ASAP.

  17. Pearl*

    OP 2 – I know now that thank you notes are appreciated by some people, but honestly, I didn’t know until I started reading wedding discussion boards that people sent thank you notes for anything but wedding gifts. My family, childhood friends, and current friends all thank each other in-person upon receiving a gift, or via the medium we usually communicate if we get the gift in the mail. (Email to a penpal, text to my brother, phone call to grandma, etc.) I don’t think that this was a slight or intended to be mean. As far as her tone of voice, maybe the person wasn’t an expressive person in general.

    Also, she may have not remembered the thing about there not being a budget for gifts. If she knew she wouldn’t be there permanently, that detail may not have seemed very important or stick in her mind. It was mentioned at the meeting, but if it wasn’t the focus of the meeting, there’s a chance she just didn’t remember, especially if someone in her position wouldn’t have been expected to arrange gifts if there were a gift budget.

  18. Allison*

    OP 2 – for me, the days of sending a thank-you note for every single gift I received ended in middle school. My mom had me send them for the graduation money I got in the mail a few years ago, and I’m sure I’ll need to send them for wedding presents someday, but for the most part they’re not really expected for gifts received in person. The person could have been more gracious and maybe thanked you in person after opening it, but this isn’t really something you need to dwell on. I’d chalk it up to awkwardness, or her having a lot on her mind, not deliberate rudeness.

    1. CanadianKat*

      Wedding – yup! At least when there’s no “thank you” in person. I was pretty annoyed when one of my best friends did not acknowledge my gift in any way. We were directed (not by her) to put the gift bag in a pile in the reception area, and that was it. Made me wonder if it was stolen from the reception area and she never got it. And if she did get it, the lack of a thank you was, as I see it, a message saying my gift sucked. (It was a thoughtful decorative piece and cash. Maybe not enough cash?)
      Our friendship fizzled after that (not the only reason).

    2. Emilia Bedelia*

      I’ve found that the older I get, and the more seldom I get gifts, the more inspired I am actually write nice thank you notes! I’m embarrassed to admit as a kid I didn’t care, but now that I’m an adult, I truly do feel grateful when someone sends me a check or a gift, so when I write a note I really mean it. It’s always from family I don’t see in person, so sending a nice card is the least I could do

  19. Important Moi*

    OP#3: “.. a contractor with an advanced PhD who has been working with us for many years will have the same visual designation as a temp here for the day to do some filing. ”

    Looking at the other responses here, I don’t seem to understand the context of your concern.
    What would be so bad if a PhD were thought of a being a temp for the day to do some filing as long as the PhD weren’t harassed for not being in the right place?

    1. BananaPants*

      We have different badges for employees versus contractors and I just don’t understand why the contractor with the advanced PhD who’s been working there for many years would somehow be offended by having the same visual designation on their badge as a daily filing temp.

      We have contractors, generally longer term temps or those who work for contracted firms and are placed in our office (IT support and the like). Some of our consultants have contractor badges because they’re in and out often enough that it’s a pain to have to escort them as if they were visitors (many of them are retirees still doing part time consulting). In day to day work I don’t treat a contractor any differently than an employee unless security restrictions or export control restrictions mean I have to ask them to leave – and the same restrictions might apply to some of our permanent employees too.

      I worked for an aerospace company that worked on aircraft that the President of the US rode in. Not only did you have to have a certain badge color to go in that area of the plant AT ALL, you had to have additional markings/codes on the badge to get inside a certain area and to actually touch any of the hardware. There were armed guards, and if your badge flipped around so the colors couldn’t be seen they would immediately have you flip it back around. You never got anywhere near that part of the building as a contractor, and if someone was offended by that fact, that was just too bad.

      When I had a baby, the only hospital staff allowed to transport the baby had a maternity unit designator on their badge AND a little teddy bear logo. We were supposed to check for the teddy bear if any employee came and said they needed to transport the baby anywhere. It was a locked maternity unit and of course they had the little baby Lojack bracelets but it was an extra reassurance that the staff member taking your newborn was supposed to be doing so!

    2. Cáilín*

      I really don’t understand the concern about whether someone with a “blue” badge has a PhD or not; there seems to be a tone of those with academic qualifications being “better” than those without in OP’s eyes at least. I’ve just finished up a year’s contract in a high level position; I had the same colour lanyard as many other people in many other roles and the only thing it meant to anyone is that we were all on a particular type of employment contract…whether it was day 1 or day 900 of “employment” on that contract type.

  20. tango*

    OP#2: I wonder so much if it isn’t a formal thank you card/note that has irked the gift giver so much as there was no follow up thanks of any sort later after the gift was opened. We all like to think we’ve given a gift that is appreciated, wanted and/or liked. So if a gift is not opened in person but a super quick verbal thanks is given, it only seems reasonable to want to hear back later, after the gift is opened, an short acknowledgement of of liking the gift or commenting on it in some meaningful way.

  21. Roscoe*

    #1 Just let it go. Its an awkward thing to bring up, and it will just lead to more awkardness.

    #2 This is one of those things I don’t get. She did thank you, just didn’t get you a note. I’ll be honest, I very rarely send thank you notes to anyone. In fact, the last time I did it was for my grandmother before she died, since I knew she was big into them. But you don’t get to decide what the “right” way is to express gratitude to someone is. Its like when people think they have a right to demand a certain type of apology. Its one thing for you to prefer someone act a certain way, but you can’t dictate that then be offended when they don’t.

    1. Artemesia*

      But she didn’t thank her for the gift. A quick ‘Thanks’ without opening the gift and thus expressing some pleasure or thanks for that particular thing is simply not adequate. If she had sent an email about how she ‘loved the prune shears’ or whatever, that would have been fine and the OP wouldn’t have written AAM.

  22. Nanani*

    #2 I’m about your age and I think thank-you notes are pointless extra emotional labour.
    Thanking a person for a gift is polite, but when given in person you get the thanks in person.
    If you get another thanks later, that’s extra. It should not be expected.

    If the gift is not given in person there may or may not be a thank you note, and there may or may not be thanks in person next time you see them.
    Whatever happened to the joy of giving?
    Stop emotionally nickel-and-diming people, you’ll feel better.

    1. Graciosa*

      Well, when a gift is not given in person and no thanks are received for it, how does the giver know it even arrived at its destination?

      A person who receives a gift like this and doesn’t bother to acknowledge it may be putting the giver in the position of having to deal with the possibility – but not the certainty – of a lost package.

      Oddly, there used to be an exception for flowers from a suitor you wished to dismiss. Not acknowledging the floral tribute was interpreted as a sign that the receiver wanted the courtship to end.

      Which if you think about it is kind of consistent with the idea that one doesn’t keep giving gifts to people who don’t seem to appreciate them –

      1. Florida*

        In OP’s case, the gift was given in person. She knows the person received it. The receiver also expressed appreciation when they received it.

        1. Graciosa*

          I understand that, but I was responding to Nanani’s comment about gifts not given in person (for which there “may or may not” be thanks of any kind.

          It’s a system that leaves the giver wondering if the present was received.

          Courtesy should go two ways.

          1. Florida*

            Ah, now I see how you were responding to her.
            I agree that in the ideal world, courtesy would go both ways. I just wonder whether it’s worth getting your feather ruffled when it only goes one way.

            1. Kyrielle*

              Ruffled? Nope. But if I ship a gift to someone and don’t get a thank-you or anything in a reasonable time frame, I will generally reach out – as mentioned above, just to be sure it got there. “Hey, I sent you a box a while back – tracking says it was delivered, I just wanted to make sure it arrived safe. Did it?”

              On at least one occasion, this caused the friend in question to go hunting for the box, which they did not have, and find it had been inexplicably left on their *back* porch. Where they never went in that season…. Luckily it was just fine, just a touch delayed. :)

      2. Nanani*

        Use postal tracking numbers, if you’re seriously concerned?

        If there is no thanks, just roll with it.
        Asking probing questions like “Did you watch the DVD I sent you yet?” is probably a bad idea too.

        You can feel free to stop giving gifts if you don’t like the lack of acknowledgement too.
        Just… let it go.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I don’t know, I think there are lots of social transactions that we perform as part of our society, and it’s not unreasonable to be surprised or concerned when someone doesn’t do their part of the exchange. It’s not that different than expecting someone to say “thank you” when you say “I love your dress” or to respond when you say “good morning.” I think it’s pretty reasonable to expect someone to thank you for a gift.

          We live in a society where it’s expected that you’ll say thank you when someone gives you something. It’s okay to find it rude if they don’t bother to.

          1. Nanani*

            Well sure.
            To be clear, I’m not saying thank you notes are bad or that it’s rude to expect them. Far from it!
            People can and do have different expectations.

            However, LW2 strikes me as more than that, given that they were prepared to write off a generation of people over this. I think it is far more polite to accept the response you get and not demand more, explicitly or implicitly, in return for a freely given GIFT.

            And with that, I will shut up :)
            (squee I got a direct response from the mod)

        2. Kate M*

          Postal tracking numbers only tell if a package was delivered, not if the recipient actually got it. When you live in a city like mine, packages are stolen from porches all the time. That would be my worry about not hearing if someone actually got the gift. It’s not unreasonable to want confirmation from someone that the money you spent on them was actually received. And it’s also a matter of wanting to make sure that they know you got them something.

          I agree about not dwelling on it too much if you don’t get a proper thank you for your own peace of mind, but it’s still really annoying to not have confirmation that the gift was even received.

  23. Mae*

    Just a question: Is it possible to not group several posts onto one page? It makes filtering through comments difficult. I’ve noticed some posts get their own page.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The first post of the day is always five questions and answers that are short enough to be grouped together. Otherwise there would be eight posts a day instead of four, and that’s not practical for me!

  24. Althea*

    #5 – I just want to add, if there is too much of a burden on your team, it is your *employer’s* fault.

    If someone goes on maternity leave and it’s assumed the rest of the team will just pick up the slack, it’s the employer’s fault for burdening the team (not the one on leave).

    If there is no clear plan to fill a vacancy, it’s the employer’s fault (not the one who left).

    If the team has to work extra hours to get everything done, it’s the employer’s fault (not the people absent).

    I feel like I have to say this ALL THE TIME. Stuff happens, whether an employee gets sick, goes on leave, leaves the job, takes care of a sick family member, etc. Soooo many people want to blame the person in the position, when it’s the employer’s job to ensure the function is covered, and has sufficient redundancy not to lose anything when this perfectly natural stuff happens. Yes, even in small orgs!

  25. hungry hipaa*

    #3 First, this is definitely common in large organizations. Second, sometimes places roll out security changes slowly because of timing, budgetary issues, or just getting the employees used to change. I worked for a large healthcare org for 9 years and when I started there it was a free for all. You could access all the hospital floors after hours by going through the ER (and no one stopped you). All of our door codes were “1234” and our time sheets were on paper. Over time we got badges with color codes and ranks listed, they switched to a badge/time clock system, they got more security, they changed the building codes, and eventually they locked certain areas off and you needed security to add special access to your badge or certain areas wouldn’t open. They eventually linked your rank to how much access you had to the EHR & billing systems (lab workers would see certain options and RN’s would see different ones etc because HIPAA). So this could be that start of a larger security overhaul where contractors get certain security, temps get another, etc. And if it’s a very large org these decisions are probably trickling down from your parent company – they might have reasons for it on their end and it’s easier for everything to be consistent.

  26. BananaPants*

    Re: #3 – this kind of visual differentiation in ID/security badges is very common in health care and security-conscious firms, especially defense contractors or other companies that deal with classified or export controlled information. It classifies people with a visual aid so that everyone knows if they’re supposed to be in a certain area or doing certain things, but it certainly doesn’t imply that some are better than others. Security-conscious organizations WANT that “visual divide”!

    I work in engineering and as an employee I have a blue badge with a special marker indicating that I’m a US citizen (non-citizens do not have the special marker). All of our contractors have yellow badges. Visitors have white paper stickers and have to be escorted anywhere but the restroom.

  27. Kalli*

    #5 – Depending on the maternity leave requirements where the LW is, people who are on maternity leave are meant to be kept informed of any changes in the office. (This is the case where I am, which goes even further and provides up to 10 days of paid keep-in-touch days, where the person on leave can come into the office, help out/answer questions, and be social so that time doesn’t leave them out of the loop).
    If that’s the case, taking a few minutes to inform her personally would be a courtesy and possibly help if you’re using your manager as a reference in future. Like Alison, I recommend email for this. I wouldn’t recommend calling, because you don’t know what’s happening on the other end, and you wouldn’t want to get your manager at a time where she can’t fully pay attention to you. Email is a thing she can choose to devote time to – phone calls are not.

  28. JMegan*

    #5, I was once part of a three-person team – two team members and the manager. We all three of us got pregnant within six months of each other (and yes, there were many jokes about the drinking water in our kitchen!). We’re in Canada, which means a year mat leave, which means there was a period of several months where all three of us were out and other people were covering. I expect it was a bit disruptive for the organization to have to deal with an entire team on leave, but they figured it out.

    And so will your team, I promise. They may not love the idea of your leaving, or the timing of it or whatever, but they will definitely figure out a way to manage after you go. And if they don’t – well, you won’t be working there any more, so either way you don’t need to worry about it. Do all the usual courteous things of a decent notice period, help with transition, leaving your files in order, etc, and go to your new job with a clear conscience.

  29. Coolb*

    #3 – I have worked at two companies that flag consultants and temps in their email address, as in The intent is to clearly differentiate for legal reasons. Interestingly, I am a consultant in my current position by choice and I’ve come to understand that when I make that decision I get good and baggage that comes with it because everybody with whom I interact is aware that I am not an “employee”. the experience will definitely help me understand what I want in future positions. I get that in your scenario people don’t have the choice and are made to feel lesser, I agree with other posters that the underlying culture is the issue although this practice points it up more sharply.

  30. esemes*

    #2– I AM a thank you note writer, but major life transitions (like graduating and the subsequent things that go with that –job hunt, possible move, etc.) can often make me forget to write thank you notes. I bet your graduate assistant was really appreciative. Truly! :)

  31. Chriama*

    #2 – There’s also a real cultural aspect of thank-you notes. I’m a first generation immigrant from an African country and I’ve literally never written one in my life. When I was younger and older relatives would send me a gift through my relatives I would be told to call and say thank you, but writing a letter was never expected or asked. Quite frankly, I find the formal written thank you’s to be old-fashioned and outdated and I would look askance at anyone who judged my overall manners based on a tradition specific to a culture that I don’t completely identify with. Alison’s note on the thank you being for when you don’t receive the gift in front of the person makes more sense to me than expecting one from someone you just handed the package to, although again when I’ve received gifts not in person I’ve been told to call (and more recently to text). So yes, I think you are old-fashioned and out of touch if you expect a written thank you note for anything except the most formal of occasions (I’m on the fence about weddings but again, I’m a bit of a cultural mish-mash so I’ll concede that one if I have to when the time comes). In this day of super inter-connectedness, demanding paper communication is silly.

  32. Student*

    OP #2 – I never write thank-you notes for gifts from people who aren’t immediate relatives. I don’t write thank-yous because I do not want gifts from people, and I hope the lack of a thank-you and lack of reciprocated gestures will drive the point home. I will try directly telling people not to get me gifts. However, a straightforward conversation about it gets dismissed as mere “politeness” by people who give gifts for purely selfish reasons with no regard to the recipient.

    Some of us actually don’t like getting gifts. I view them with suspicion – in my experience, they are mostly a quid-pro-quo effort to extract something from me that I don’t want to provide. I know not everyone experiences gifts this way, and I’m sure that there are many lovely people who give gifts for lovely reasons. You are clearly not one of those people.

    You gave a gift for reasons I can’t know, but it wasn’t for the sake of the person you gave it to nor for the joy of being generous in itself. You wanted what, exactly? Sounds like you wanted emotional labor from your employee – some brown-nosing, or kowtowing, maybe some social currency with this student or others in the office, or emotional closeness to the student. Maybe you want the student to feel indebted to you?

    People exactly like you ruined gifts for me. You reek of clear expectations of *something*, but are almsot never clear about what that *something* is. On top of that, you’re trying to extract that *something* from a person who did not enter into the bargain willingly but was pushed into it by being given something they didn’t ask for, creating the appearance of a debt to repay. Just like people who stand on street corners and give you a magazine and then demand money for it, or alumni groups that send you address labels or trinkets and then ask for contributions, it’s a con to get something from someone by starting with an imbalance you created artificially so that someone else will satisfy your emotional needs.

    1. c*

      This sounds really intense! I actually understand your frustration in a lot of ways, but thank-you notes can be perfect for this dilemma. If you can’t get out of looking at the giving and receiving of gifts as some sort of transactional process, a thank-you note can serve as your end of the “bargain.” Forget any unspoken expectation of favor; a well-written expression of gratitude is plenty.

  33. Sigrid*

    Before I started reading AaM, I, personally, had no idea that thank you notes were ever a done thing, outside of Jane Austin novels or similar. My family never mentioned thank you notes one way or another while I was growing up, and no one outside my family ever told me about them either. So someone who fails to send a thank you note may be operating in complete ignorance – the thing about social convention is that you have to be taught it, it isn’t hard-coded into our brains.

    1. CanadianKat*

      And, apparently, we don’t all agree that it *is* a social convention. :)

      I think it would be rude to completely fail to acknowledge a gift that wasn’t given in person. But I’m not sure it’s ever required to send a hand-written thank you card. Any acknowledgment will be fine.

      Personally, I would feel weird if somebody sent me a Thank You card for a gift that wasn’t completely over the top. I may even feel a bit offended, thinking: Does this person think I don’t value our friendship, so much that I would feel that it’s necessary for them to do this kind of thing. A note, unless written particularly artfully, would feel insincere. I’d much rather get an email saying: Thank you for ___, we sure could use that / it would look great on my wall / that’s just what we needed / the baby loved the ___ / it was very nice of you (that’s when you really have nothing good to say about the gift).

  34. Pennalynn Lott*

    What about Thank You’s for a thank-you gift? I gave one of my professors a book last semester about something she’d mentioned in her personal life (her son being diagnosed with ADHD). She was super-stressed and I took the time to contact an author who has written a life-saving [for me at least] book about adult ADHD and relationships, and the author made a fantastic recommendation for a get-to-the-point book about children and ADHD.

    Anyway, at the end of the semester the professor gave me a small thank you gift (things she had laying around her house that she wasn’t using, but which I appreciated receiving). Should I have reciprocated with a Thank You note? Or would that have kicked off a never-ending cycle?

    1. CanadianKat*

      If’ it’s a small thank you gift, and you said Thank you in person, you dont’ need to follow up, especially not with a pretty handwritten note. If it wasn’t given in person – send an email (Thank you so much for ___. You really didn’t have to :)

  35. SeekingBetter*

    #3 – I made of bunch of badges for the last organization I worked at for their contractors to wear, but I don’t think anybody ever wore them, lol.

  36. ECHM*

    Random thoughts on thank-you notes:
    1. I will be attending a baby shower in a couple of weeks. I thought of pre-writing, self-addressing and stamping the thank-you note as a (second) gift to the new mother … one less thing for her to do.
    2. Maybe that’s a result of hand-writing 450 personalized thank you postcards to the many wonderful friends who gave us wedding gifts.
    3. I once received the following thank-you (verbatim): “Thank you for your gift. I will put it to good use.” (Although … at least they acknowledged receipt of a gift!)
    4. I have a sweet friend whose young daughters I send a birthday gift to, one dollar for each year they are turning. She is good about having them send thank you notes, but I feel bad when they spend 50 cents to thank me for something like $8.

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