my coworker tipped me

A reader writes:

Recently I took care of some work-related writing for a coworker. It’s definitely his job as a manager (although he’s not *my* manager), but I knocked it out in half an hour and did a much better job than he would have. He made a joke about paying me, which I laughed off. Then, when I was done, he handed me $40. I told him that was outrageous but I also accepted the cash.

Is that as weird as I think it is? Usually when I do a favor for a coworker, they say “thanks” or very occasionally buy me lunch. We’re the same age (early 30s), have known each other for like six years, and he’s never done anything like this before—and when I asked him why in the world he was paying me, he said, “to stay on your good side.” Can I keep the $40, or is there an obvious downside to this bizarro exchange that I’m missing? FWIW, he makes the kind of money where $40 isn’t a big deal, and I do not.

Agggh, I’m torn on this!

If he’d given you a Starbucks gift card as a thank-you instead, this wouldn’t feel weird. That’s a thing people sometimes do with their coworkers.

But handing you cash feels weird because … it’s cash. It’s like he tipped you, in a job where you don’t get tips. And if he did it a second time, it would start to feel like he was hiring you from his personal funds to help with his work, and that would definitely look odd to anyone who learned about it.

Logically, I can’t defend the difference. Why is a gift card so different from cash? I don’t know … but it does feel that way.

I think you’re fine this time though, especially since you laughed and told him it was outrageous (as opposed to just accepting it as your due). Mentally look at it as the equivalent of a thank-you gift card. But I’d refuse the money if he tries to do it a second time.

What do others think?

{ 265 comments… read them below }

  1. The Original K.*

    This feels weird to me too. If he had taken you out to a nice lunch I wouldn’t think anything of it. If he’d put in for a spot bonus for you via HR, I certainly wouldn’t think anything of it. But a cash tip feels kind of … crass, to me, in a way that I can’t quite articulate.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago*


      I had a boss who bought me lunch as a thank you for running our team while he was on vacation and that seemed fine, but if he had handed me a $20, it would have felt awkward.

    2. Rey*

      It’s crass in the same way that you bring a hostess gift when you’re invited to dinner, but you would never pay your host in cold hard cash. Part of that is because when cash isn’t involved, we understand that we’re trading in non-monetary ways (I write the report, my boss is grateful and recognizes the favor). But once cash is involved, it is purely fueled by money and our brains start to compute if we’re happy with the amount (i.e., “But we pay our writers $50/hour–shouldn’t I get that much?”)

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        This is a great analogy. There’s something about the form that makes it feel… cheapening or dismissive/derogatory?

      2. WoodswomanWrites*

        Yes, I see it the same way. I can’t imagine someone giving me cash for a task in my workplace. It would feel really awkward.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        There is an entire chapter on this concept (social norms v. market norms) in Dan Ariely’s Predictably Irrational. I found it fascinating to think about.

      4. TootsNYC*

        buying lunch = spending time with you, and the money is just the facilitating factor.

        Though if he’d handed over $10 and said, “splurge on a fancy coffee,” that might have had a similar “giving you a thing” feel.

      5. JSPA*

        I don’t know if it’s universally awkward. I mean, a “money dance” at a wedding is a thing in what’s (to me) a surprising number of cultures.

        1. Flash Bristow*

          Yeah but that’s a one off, right? Within a certain environment, even if it’s not one you’re comfortable with? It won’t happen again next week…?

        2. Environmental Compliance*

          Hmm, that’s different though. The Money Dance (TM) is a thing in my region (and a thing that we very vocally avoided at our wedding….no thank you, dancing with creepy distant relatives who are attempting to shove a dollar in my dress, noooo thanks). It’s meant to be a gift for the honeymoon in celebration of the wedding. What the LW was writing about wasn’t a celebration of an event, it was a business transaction, more or less, which does make it feel weirder. At least in my opinion.

    3. Just Elle*

      On the one hand, it feels crass because it was thoughtless in the way going out to buy a gift card wouldn’t have been. And because it feels like a payment rather than a gift.

      On the other hand, lets be honest, wouldn’t ALL of us prefer cold hard cash to a gift card to somewhere we didn’t actually want to go to that badly, which will inevitably end up with like, $2 left on it you’ll never use but not want to throw away so there it will live in your wallet forever taking up space taunting you about the last 3 times you went but forgot to use the gift card even though its RIGHT HERE staring at you?

      Why make the gift-giver put in extra effort to give you a less good present? Social constructs are so weird…

      1. valentine*

        wouldn’t ALL of us prefer cold hard cash to a gift card to somewhere we didn’t actually want to go to that badly
        I wouldn’t want either because I’d have to remember to include it in my taxes.

        There are websites where you can trade/sell/buy balances.

      2. AnonAndOnAndOn*

        My Christmas bonus was ten $100 bills in a Christmas card. Could it have been an Amazon gift card? Sure. Was it awesome that it was cold, hard cash? Absolutely.

        In this case, though, getting tipped for doing your job is just…weird. (I fully recognize that a Christmas bonus in the form of cash is basically the same thing, but there’s somehow a huge difference between “I think you’re great and here’s a monetary recognizance of that greatness” versus “Thanks for doing something in the course of your job, here’s 40 bucks.”

        I’m with Allison – if it was a gift card, it somehow wouldn’t be weird, even though the “tipper” is paying the same amount of money.

        1. sheworkshardforthemoney*

          Yes, to that. In my first year at my new job, I got the standard end of year bonus, then my boss handed me another envelope with 5 brand new 100 bills as an extra appreciation for my hard work. Giving me the cash in new bills seemed to make it more respectful and nice.

    4. tamarack and fireweed*

      I agree with Alison that once is ok, but the OP is now prepared for this eventuality and can say “Let’s put away money. You can take me out to lunch / get me a nice potted plant, book, poster, ornament… [whatever is appreciated and has already been part of the conversation / give me a ride / do me a favor next time”.

    5. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      I think Dear Prudence just got this question. Her in-laws were leaving after a week end stay and gave her a card with $200 in it. She was perplexed about, well, feeling perplexed. A dinner out could easily have cost that for the two couples or a gift card for that amount would be generous but not as weird. Cash is just weird.
      I think, too, that with a gift card, there’s still a feeling of business. Like it could have been expensed, but cash is clearly from him to OP. And it’s weird.

      1. ZK*

        Meh. My in-laws always gave us cash before they went home. And they paid for a lot of stuff while they were here. In their case though, we didn’t do birthdays or Christmas presents so it was kind of like “treat yourself to something nice,” Family to me is way different than my boss, though so there’s that.

      2. Ellie*

        I think giving a gift of cash at the end of a week end stay is a lovely gesture that is basically saying, “We love seeing you. We don’t want it to cost anything for you to host us so that we can see you more often/again!”. Its the work context that makes it awkward, in a “do I have to declare this since I’ve just been paid twice for the same 1/2 hour of work” and “Are taxes going to be a thing now?” kind of way. A gift card is more obviously a gift, cash may be interpreted as part of your salary.

        It’s weird, but did the manager put the cash inside a card with thank you, or congratulations, or best worker, etc. on it? Because if he did, I think that’s ok, and if he didn’t, then I wouldn’t take it. I agree with Alison though, the first time is fine, you’re put on the spot. If he tries it again though, I’d refuse.

    6. Jojo*

      I don’t know. A group of us at work came through on a last-minute project, hitting it out of the park, and one of the managers ran out that same day and got us all $100 gift cards — not store branded but Mastercard or Visa — which is basically handing us cash. It was a show of gratitude in a one-time crunch that we all knew wasn’t necessary, but much appreciated.

    7. Seattle1*

      At one company I’ve seen people take others to lunch, buy them coffee, buy them a gift card, and bring them beer and even refer to these things as “bribes.” Honestly, I always appreciated it and would’ve appreciated cash more, since this was back when I was a poor early 20-something. It’s the right thing to do if your personal schedule or poor project management horribly inconvenience someone else and you know it; I think it’s polite to acknowledge that. The fact of the matter is that sometimes it can’t be helped but even then, it just helps restore good will to say, “I know I could’ve worked late the last 3 nights but my kids recital and my spouse planned this thing, and then I was tired, and so I CHOSE not to work late to get my work done by my deadline, and so now I’m giving this deliverable to you late and you’re going to have to stay late and work at stressful break-neck-speeds to get it done… I’m really sorry, here’s a gift card.”–but with less detail about your personal life. And a hungry eager early 20-something year old is going to be motivated by money. It’s typically someone more senior or at least making more money than the person getting screwed over that’s doing the screwing–so, absolutely, I agree with this practice.

  2. Adlib*

    I had the same thought process as Alison! As long as he only does it once, maybe he just wanted to show some appreciation and did it without a second thought. It would definitely feel weird to me too, but I think you’re safe keeping it this time.

    1. Jake*

      Yeah. This is where I am. One of those things that is inexplicably odd, but no need to make a big deal out of it unless it becomes a pattern.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


      The next time is when you need to laugh, hand it back, or whatever else it takes to get out of that transaction. Otherwise it’s like he hired you on TaskRabbit or MechanicalTurk or something to do his work for him.

      1. Robbenmel*

        Can I just say that I never thought about Alton Brown having an Evil Twin, but he is just the type who would, isn’t he?

    3. Big Tippee (LW)*

      This is really helpful for me to read, thanks guys! The business I work in is a low-key rolling disaster, and if I re-frame this as “yeah, the manager probably should have made a run for a gift card instead of handing me cash, but it’s waaaay in his wheelhouse to have good intentions but not be organized enough to pull them off correctly” it really normalizes this occurrence. I’m also liking the very simple concept that this is weird-but-fine as a one-off, but will probably require further action (refusing the cash/looping MY manager in?) if it happens again.

      1. sunny-dee*

        I could see maybe accidentally doing something like this — like, he wanted to do something to say thanks, he didn’t want to let it sit forever or just forget, and he didn’t have time (or put it off) so he couldn’t do something more normal like a giftcard, so he just gave you what was handy in his wallet. If it happens again, I’d refuse, but once is just once.

        1. Laurelma*

          People forget that they can purchase gift cards on-line. I had someone do a Electronic Gift card for Starbucks and I was able to log on and transfer the funds to my Starbucks Gold Card.

          The cash would make me feel funny.

          1. Ginger Baker*

            ^This! I got a lovely amazon gift card amount via email from BossMan for my birthday one year with the line “I figured you’d appreciate this more than a pony…” (he was 100% correct!)

      2. Adlib*

        That’s good context to have! Especially if this is something that makes sense with this manager in particular, then it sounds like something you can relax about.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yeah, it sounds like they don’t work in the best environment and this manager wanted to show Big Tippee he appreciated her time – that’s probably not something that happens much in their workplace.

      3. Jaydee*

        I kind of love the idea of it being “waaaay in his wheelhouse to have good intentions but not be organized enough to pull them off correctly.” Possibly because I see a little of myself in that description.

        Seems like as a one-off thing it’s kind-but-awkward. If he does it again, maybe just tell him “Hey, I appreciate the appreciation, but it feels a little transactional to accept cash for doing you a favor. I know you’d do the same for me if the tables were turned.”

    4. MNM*

      I think it’s fine. If it’s something on company time you could do as part of your reg job then he didnt bribe you, etc. If he doesn’t have time to do a paper he probably doesn’t have time to get you a gift card or something, or take you to lunch, etc. so the cash just makes sense to him. I used to feel odd about this until i realized that it was essentially the same thing. I would let it go if you can but it comes down to how you feel about it. if you feel weird youre gonna act werid and that makes it not ok/defend-able. Let it go and next time be like, “ok, ill take this over a thank you lunch, but know that i cant be bought!” then things are clear…..

  3. Marshmellin*

    A gift card takes time and effort — have to go buy it (online or in-person), print it out, whatever. There’s a modicum of thought (does she drink Starbucks? Would it be better to grab one for the lunch place downstairs?) that goes into it.

    Throwing cash at someone feels like a transaction because that’s how we use cash in this society. It’s as payment. Even when I give a highschool or college grad a gift of cash, I put it in an enevelope. Almost every gift I’ve ever given someone was purchased with cash, but because I thought about them when buying it, it makes it culturally different than handing cash in my opinion.

    1. Mkitty*

      I think you’ve hit it on the head here with the transactional nature of cash: it doesn’t feel like a real thanks. To me the analogy is the fact that many people object to giving or getting cash as a gift because they feel it doesn’t reflect any time or thought, and they believe a gift should come with those two components. I think that if I’d been in the same situation, I’d have said no to the cash, but suggested instead that the coworker buy me a drink after work, or that we go out to someplace nice for lunch. Those two options would include the important time and thought component, and feel like a more meaningful thanks than just handing me some bills.

      That’s not to say that accepting the cash is wrong. Rather, it helps explain why some people (including Alison and the LW) feel vaguely uncomfortable with taking it.

      1. Antilles*

        To me the analogy is the fact that many people object to giving or getting cash as a gift because they feel it doesn’t reflect any time or thought
        Not to completely derail, but I’ve never gotten this mindset. A gift card isn’t really reflecting “time or thought”, it shows that you happened to be at Starbucks for another reason and grabbed one off the shelf that’s literally within arms distance of the cashier…or possibly that you forgot entirely and just swung by Walmart/grocery/etc last minute to grab one off their display.
        In fact, if you really want to think about it logically, a gift card is objectively worse than cash since it does the exact same thing (purchasing items of your choosing) in a less effective way.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          I’m going to continue the derail by pointing out why a GC can, actually, be a very thoughtful gift. Because sometimes people are hard to shop for, no matter how well you know and love them. And sometimes if you just give them money, they feel compelled to spend it on the gas bill instead of buying themselves something nice, as you had intended for them to do. And sometimes people just love to shop, and so you’ve given them not only the gift, but the experience of shopping for it.

          1. Adlib*

            This is an excellent point! Usually if I have cash on hand at all, it gets spent on everyday necessities. (Getting people to remember to *use* the gift card can be its own issue in my experience.)

          2. pentamom*

            The thing about the gas bill is so true. At times in my life when money was tight I was so happy when I got gift cards (preferably for places that don’t sell milk, eggs, and broccoli) because I knew that cash could easily disappear into the budget. Even now I try to avoid gift cards for particular people that might be used to buy stuff they “need” (unless I’m genuinely doing it to help them out as opposed to a gift occasion) so that they can truly get some fun from it.

            1. suprisedcanuk*

              Counterpoint i need money to pay my gas bill and I get a gift card to Starbucks and I don’t drink coffee.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Right – to be a *thoughtful* gift, the GC needs to be for someplace you’d actually spend it. (Although I can’t stand coffee and I still find plenty to enjoy at Starbucks, so…)

              2. AngelicGamer, the visually impaired peep*

                Counterpoint to your counterpoint: there are websites you can sell the card at.

                1. Antilles*

                  For less than the value written on the card, yes.
                  Also, “here’s a gift, but if you don’t like it, you can go to the hassle of selling it yourself” seems kind of shaky.

              3. pentamom*

                I wasn’t speaking, though of times that I couldn’t have paid my gas bill at all without additional help, but of times when there wasn’t a lot of wiggle room and the path of least resistance would be to just take the money and pay the gas bill. In those situations, a gift card was permission to enjoy myself instead of being “prudent” and not buying anything fun.

                A thoughtful giver will choose a gift card the recipient is likely to enjoy.

        2. Diahann Carroll*

          Agreed. It takes zero thought to give someone a gift card – that’s exactly why I give them to people, lol. Visa gift cards given so people can spend the money however they want really isn’t that different than handing someone cash. And frankly, I prefer the cash.

          1. Gdub*

            I have a Visa gift card with $1.47 left on it in my wallet right now. I don’t want to do the big song and dance at the register to pay partly with that $1.47 and partly with my credit card. This is a hassle.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I used to do surveys for a organization that sent Visa gift cards as rewards, which I loved, because I’d use it to buy a GC to my favorite online store. But apparently people complained about this very issue, so now I have to choose from a few different retailers. None of which is my favorite store. :-(

            2. daffodil*

              This is a derail, sorry I can’t help myself. If you shop online, some stores will let you preload those visa giftcards into their systems so you can use them and then top off with your usual credit card. Then you’re only hassling yourself and not also a cashier, at least.

        3. JB (not in Houston)*

          Well, sure, if that’s the way you buy gift cards. But I have gotten a number of gift cards over the years that showed the person thought about what I liked, not just grabbed anything close to the register. And I try to buy gift cards at the place where the person I’m buying for likes. Even the Starbucks card is useful because I like coffee but when I’m in a coffee shop, I have a hard time bringing myself to spend money on a fancy drink, but if I have a gift card, it feels different. Gift cards feel like permission to buy something I wouldn’t spend my own money on, but cash doesn’t feel that way to me.

          I’m not saying that gift cards always = thoughtful and cash never shows thoughtfulness. My point is that you are projecting the way that you buy gift cards for people to generalize that that’s how everyone does gift cards, and it’s not the case. You can’t “think about it logically” to say a gift card is not objectively worse than cash because that’s not logical reasoning, that’s just your personal feelings based on the thought you (don’t) put into buy gift cards for people.

          This is getting derailing, so to bring it back to the topic at hand–a gift card feels better in this kind of scenario because it at least implies the *possibility* of thought/a thank you gift, even if little to no thought went into it, whereas cash doesn’t leave much if any room for that. It seems much more transactional.

          1. JB (not in Houston)*

            To be clear, I don’t care if people buy me whatever gift card they happen to see while standing in line at the grocery store (so long as it’s not some place they know I’d never go to). Getting a gift is nice, I’m happy they thought of me at all, and I don’t want someone stressing out over what to get me. I am just disagreeing that nobody ever puts thought into gift cards and that it’s an objective fact that they are worse than cash.

            1. suprisedcanuk*

              I feel like it is an objective fact that they are worse they are worse than cash. With cash you can buy a gift card. You can’t buy a gift card with cash.

              1. Rusty Shackelford*

                Scratch that, reverse. ;-)

                But no, it’s not objective at all. It’s still your opinion.

                1. Aurion*

                  I think it’s an objective fact that cash is more versatile than gift cards, because of leftover amounts, locked to this store, etc etc. Whether gift cards’ semblance of forethought makes up for its lack of versatility? That’s down to individual opinion. Personally I don’t like it, and I’d rather someone either give me cash or buy me the coffee/lunch/whatever, I will hard pass on a Starbucks gift card.

                2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Except in places that allow service charges for carrying a balance, which once meant th as t I put aside a gift card for a special occasion coming up, lost it when it slipped behind the bureau, and had half of it eaten up in service charges by the time I rearranged the room and found it. Half of a bonus provided on a gift card, which means they’d already taken withholding but I didn’t actually get that much out of it.

                3. Antilles*

                  The objective fact is this: Cash can be used in any way the recipient pleases – in any place, any location, for almost any expense. Gift cards perform the same function as cash, except with many more restrictions on usage.
                  If you give me a $40 gift card for Starbucks, I can go to Starbucks.
                  If you give me $40 in cash, I can still go to Starbucks if I please, but I could also use it on other restaurants, groceries, gas for my car, combining it with other money to buy something more expensive that I really want, and so forth.

        4. TootsNYC*

          and there are people who are insulted–either directly or vaguely–by being given a gift card, for much the same reason as they are offended by being given cash.

          Sure, there are situations in which case is actually a far more thoughtful gift, but in those cases, I would NEVER just hand over cash; it would go in a card and be accompanied by a note that said, “I hope you can use this to set up your new home together” or “buy pizza or a textbook on me!”

    2. Ice Cream Break*

      I agree. The card for a cash gift makes it different. I’m not going to hand my cousin cash during his wedding reception, but I will buy a wedding card, write a sentiment and put that same amount of cash inside. The thought that went into getting the card, signing it, remembering to bring it to the wedding, make it a gift vs. payment!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I’ve seen so many jars or boots or hats or whatever passed around to collect money at various special events, that I forget that other people still buy cards as a vessel at least. My family does cards but it’s literally just a cute cat card with money stuffed in it with maybe a “Love your Auntie Karen.” scrawled at the bottom.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I feel like cash is just “old school” to me. It reminds me of my elderly Auntie that will still find a crisp $5 to put in my Christmas card.

      I still have customers who personally mail their purchase orders despite being able to email them or even fax but nah, they put a stamp on it and wait their 3-5 days for it to get here to be processed because that’s just what they know and are used to.

    4. MK*

      In my culture giving cash as a gift is normal. After a certain age parents usually give their children money to buy whatever they want instead of loading them with whatever they think they should have. Older relatives give younger relatives money to have a drink on them just because. Couples put bank account numbers on wedding invitations and guests are appreciative that they won’t have to spend time and effort to pick and deliver one of the seven cutlery sets the newlyweds are likely to get and then return. The end of the year present we give the admin is money in an envelope, and many bosses do the same at Christmas for their employees (as a holiday gift, not in lieu of a bonus).

      But that is not what happened here. This sound pretty obviously payment for services rendered and it is odd that one coworker paid another for doinf something they ought to have done themselves. I don’t think it’s approrpiate. It’s probably not that big of a deal just the once, but I don’t think the OP should allow it to happen again.

      1. Avasarala*

        I also live in a culture like that, where cash gifts are normal and expected.

        It’s still weird to be tipped here because tipping is not really a thing, and because a lot of people take pride in their professionalism and it feels like accepting a bribe. “I don’t need to be bribed with cash to do a good job!” This was common in the past in America as well, I’ve read, but tipping culture has really changed that.

    5. Becky*

      I usually go cashless most of the time so getting cash for someone actually takes more effort that grabbing a gift card…

    6. John Thurman*

      Red envelopes are nice, but for a holiday or special time in the persons life, not really for specific labor

    7. AnonyNurse*

      I don’t know … I can buy a gift card in 30 seconds online. To get cash I’d have to go to an ATM. Would take way more effort on my part. (Not saying it isn’t weird, but having and using cash isn’t a given).

  4. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’ve gotten and given cash and cards before for various things over the years. It’s always because of doing things that aren’t actually my job or just downright a favor, I do a lot of favors because I work with a lot of people who don’t do well with technology.

    However I have also put my foot down and said “No, I’m not taking that” when people try to give me some kind of payment for something that’s my job or something that’s literally just printing a page off, etc. If you don’t feel comfortable, I say that’s when you say “Thank you for the thought but seriously, it’s okay, I’m happy to help out sometimes.”

    So honestly, there’s so many variables to think about and when it boils down to it, it’s your gut on an individual basis!

    1. Just Another Manic Millie*

      I guess I’ve worked at the wrong companies, because no one ever offered me money (or anything else) for doing their job for them (OP said that the writing assignment that the manager gave him/her was the manager’s job). On the contrary – I was always expected to pitch in and do someone else’s job (in addition to my own) if TPTB said that I had to. It was called being a team player.

      I don’t see how a Starbucks gift card is less of a problem than cash, maybe because I don’t drink coffee or tea. Cash is the ultimate gift card!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        You need to work with dudes who still only carry cash “I don’t know how to use an ATM, what do you mean you put your money in a bank?!”. I will warn you, they are sometimes stinky and covered in God knows what on those Carhartts.

    1. Big Tippee (LW)*

      Haha, for sure I did! And I think I would have shared your reaction until this literally happened to me. Like, cash is great, full stop; showing material appreciation to a coworker you know makes less money than you is also great. But the way it went down violated a work norm, and once a norm was violated (particularly, by a dude who makes more money than me and is higher in our hierarchy and whom our bosses adore), my unconscious was automatically stopping and reassessing everything—did a weird thing just happen because I provoked it, is a weird thing happening that I didn’t provoke but that I still have to shut down, did nothing weird happen and I’m just overreacting, etc. Something that could have been uncomplicated—a coworker showing appreciation for someone else handling a dreaded task—instead took additional time and mental energy (solely on my end). So, $40 was great! Being bothered enough to send an email to ask a (wise, delightful) stranger for advice about it was weird.

      (Also, typing in a live comment section after having self-identified as a “good writer” is just motherfucking nerve-wracking—I’m already trying to guess how many typos and malapropisms I’ve made that I won’t notice until tomorrow.)

      1. Laurelma*

        The cash gift might be his way of placing an obligation for future work from you, that should be in his wheelhouse? Or you give higher priority to his requests?

        Just a thought?

          1. Big Tippee (LW)*

            I mean, to that extent, it definitely worked! In six years, he’s never asked me to write something for him before, but if he does it again, I’m definitely going to approach the task with a little more enthusiasm than I would have otherwise—not because I expect another $40, but out of a combined sense of obligation and gratitude. But buying me lunch would have created the same effect—I think it’s pretty natural to favor helping people who make you feel appreciated.

      2. John Thurman*

        It made for a good column for this blog! But yeaa as long as him taking credit for this doesn’t affect you, money is money.

    2. P.C. Wharton*

      100% agree, but this: “I told him that was outrageous but I also accepted the cash” was just a hilarious mental image. I hope LW did both simultaneously. XD

  5. Tessa Ryan*

    The only immediate thought I had was: Would your boss be okay with this if they found out? It’s only $40 but still feels weird to me.

    1. PicoSignal*

      I think the reason OP’s bosses might object – and the reason the “tip” felt so weird – is that we’re paid cash to work. OP was double-paid for that half-hour of work, and that would feel odd to me, too!
      OP, once can be written off as a socially awkward interaction, but twice would make you this guy’s occasional employee. You’d have to take time off from your regular job for that to not feel odd!

  6. Ella Vader*

    Yeah, kinda weird.

    I wonder if he thinks that the $40 is in lieu of the kind of more-public appreciation that might do you some good down the line, like telling the higher-ups that you helped with the writing when he gets complimented on it. It’s almost enough money that I wonder if he hopes it’s a payoff to keep quiet, instead. And maybe if I were in your place, I’d be looking for a casual way to say to my supervisor, by the way, on Friday Bob asked me to do some writing for them as a favour, and I did it because we had our own stuff all submitted for the week – I think he was pleased with it, and I was glad to do it, but I wanted to check if it was okay with you that I did it. Should I check with you about workload constraints if they ask again?

    1. Big Tippee (LW)*

      Oh man, this is such a legit concern and I want to thank you for sharing it. Something I didn’t mention in my original letter is that he actually DID loop my manager in that I was going to write this for him—basically he asked me if I would mind doing the writing, then he asked my manager if she would mind him borrowing me and told her why. Without going into detail, this was drudge-y, low-prestige writing; not something that a person could really shine in or expect career advancement for. Good looking out, though, I appreciate it!

  7. Diahann Carroll*

    I’m accepting any and all cash tips for my assistance, lol. My student loans don’t care where that money came from as long as they get paid.

    (This is weird as hell, but I’m also not a fool – if someone’s giving out money, I’m taking it.)

    1. CM*

      This was my first reaction too! But I think this is something that could potentially get you in trouble if it happens regularly — it’s not normal for office coworkers to tip each other in cash and it might seem like something shady is going on. As a weird one-off, I’d take the money. I like the advice that if it happens again, you can refuse.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Reading the comments about how it’s weird is reminding me that I grew up with a lot of old men in overalls, who only ever carried cash and they’d peel you off a couple bills and say “Thanks for my messages! Here go buy yourself some goodies.”

      They would never ever think to buy a giftcard because “why, when I have this cash that you can spend anywhere you want, I’ll just stick it here in your desk drawer for later.”

  8. idk man*

    If this happened to me I would assume I was being tested somehow, and that if I accepted the money I would be fired. I know that’s nuts, but I’ve worked public sector before, and have had to turn down gifts that could have been construed as bribes (at least one was actually just a bribe).

    1. GreenDoor*

      Yes! I’m a government sector employee and this could be viewed as a gift, and accepting it could be an ethics issue.

    2. Pearl Jammer*

      I was just going to say, there mustn’t be many government employees around here today, or that things are Very Different in the US (I’m in Australia). I would not be able to accept this, ethically. Whatever we create at work (or at home, really) belongs to the Department; I cannot just go and sell it willy nilly, or expect extra compensation for the work. This would be a big deal.

      1. Ellie*

        But this is from a manager within their own department, not a customer, or a client. If it was from a client, I wouldn’t touch it with a ten foot pole. But your own manager, from your own company, could do this and there wouldn’t be any issues.

  9. Sis Boom Bah*

    I don’t think that I personally would have accepted the money, and I certainly wouldn’t recommend accepting it a second time. I can’t defend this logically, either, though–cash just feels creepy?

    1. Why isn't it Friday?*

      I’m trying to put my finger on why it feels so weird. Maybe it’s because you tip waitresses and valets, and this seems out of place? Or that it’s just not the norm. So odd!

      1. Witchy Human*

        I think if you’re voluntarily doing something at work that’s ultimately for your employer, even if it’s someone else’s responsibility on paper, it’s still kind of part of your job and it’s weird to get ‘tipped’ for it.

        1. Rectilinear Propagation*

          Yes, and it was also a really quick thing for the LW. I once worked someplace that would occasionally do the gift card thing if someone went above and beyond but not for routine work. If I finished my work early and helped someone else out with theirs, that wasn’t considered something that needed recognition with a gift card.

  10. Bunny*

    I would consult your workplace policies as well, at my workplace we are prohibited from accepting of a gift of any monetary worth from a co-worker.

    1. Just Another Manic Millie*

      Of my ten former companies (I’m retired), only two of them had employee handbooks, and neither one mentioned anything about co-workers not being allowed to give each other anything of any monetary worth. One company that I worked for even had Secret Santas. At other companies, holiday presents were exchanged. No one complained.

    2. Risha*

      That’s interesting, and now I’m wondering what event precipitated adding that to the rulebook! I’ve always (eventually) read the employee handbook at my jobs, and that’s been in none of them.

      1. Rectilinear Propagation*

        I would guess that the rule is either about:

        1. Avoiding the appearance of favoritism.
        2. Avoiding workplace arguments where Coworker A loans Coworker B money and then Coworker B refuses to pay it back, insisting it was a ‘gift’.
        3. Avoiding someone trying to claim a bribe of some kind was a normal gift (or vice versa).
        4. Overly strict interpretation of rules/regulations regarding getting gifts.

  11. KD*

    OP says that they did a much better job than the manager would have. This makes me wonder – is he going to take full credit for OP’s writing? Did he tip her because he wants to make this a regular thing?

    My concern, ultimately for OP, is that this manager is asking them to do work that makes him look great, paying her on the side to do his work.

    I think this seems icky because he’s not giving her a gift for doing a favor, it’s going to appear like he’s paid her as a side gig for doing his work (and maybe when OP should have been doing work for OP’s own manager?). This may not be the case but I’d be concerned that’s how it would look to someone else in the company.

    1. GreenDoor*

      KD, this was my thought as well. And not just the perception that he paid her as a side gig, but that he now owns what is actually her work and if it’s the kind of work that could earn him a a raise or a promotion or some other company wide recognition, by accepting the $40, OP somehow can’t claim it was OP’s work. Like a payoff. I don’t like it.

    2. Zillah*

      That occurred to me, too! OP did clarify in a comment that he asked her and then looped in her manager to see if it was okay, so her manager is aware of it.

  12. Thankful Maybe Weirdo*

    I think given the length of the relationship and that this is the only time this has happened hopefully it just won’t come up again. Once I baked a whole bag of cookies for my co-worker because I had spent literal extremely frustrating days working on something that it took her 15 minutes to do and she showed me the 15 minute way to do it. It was just a part of her job but I was so incredibly relieved and grateful I felt compelled to show her extra gratitude. Maybe it was just very special and he needed to mark that. (She thought it was weird until she tasted the cookies then decided absolutely everything was just fine and I could be weirdly grateful whenever I want haha).

  13. M. Albertine*

    I can almost put my thumb on it as “where is this money coming from?” Like with a lunch or a gift card or something, you’re pretty sure it’s being expensed as employee appreciation/incentives or something along those lines. If it’s money, I expect it to be in my paycheck. Not that cash isn’t expensed, but handing out petty cash as bonuses is just a little too wishy-washy to this former auditor.

    1. Yorick*

      This is some higher-up, but not OP’s manager. If your coworker buys you lunch or any sort of gift to say thank you, I don’t think you can assume that it’s being expensed. In fact, I’d assume it’s not expensed. That’s not really a business lunch in the usual way. Also, your coworker can’t put money in your paycheck.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve never had anyone expense a “gift” for their employees, it’s not done. We do that at a top-leadership level. So only the CEO can expense employee incentives. A line manager always pays out of their pocket if they want to thank them for going above and beyond. They could also possibly go through the executive of course if it’s huge and should be recognized from that high up.

      But we’re not expensing anything just because John Manager decides to ask Jimmy Report to do part of John’s job.

      1. Laurelma*

        My tight wad (former) department chair, got some university mugs & stationary from the bookstore and gave them as gifts. She made a big deal of it. The gifts were for people that helped her when I was out on medical leave. Than she turned around and submitted the receipt for reimbursement. It was denied. One of the gifts were for someone in Dean’s Office. She was so mad when the request for reimbursement went cross her desk. It took away the “shine” of the gift. Cannot think of the proper word.

        It looked really bad on her. I gave the women that helped in my absence jewellery that I made.

      2. mreasy*

        I have taken staff out for thank-you lunches and given flowers/gifts for milestones and have always expensed them. Depends on the company and position.

  14. PollyQ*

    I think a $40 gift card would’ve been weird, too. Really, any amount of money from a co-worker, rather than the company, feels very “off” to me. A sincere thank-you email, cc’d to her boss, seems like the right way to handle it.

    1. PB*

      I was just coming here to say this. A $5-$10 gift card feels different, but more than that would feel off to me. Similarly, if you take someone out to lunch as a thank you, that would generally be like $20, tops. If a coworker wanted to take me out to a $40/person dinner as a thank you, I’d feel a bit uncomfortable.

  15. Rectilinear Propagation*

    A gift card feels different from cash because:

    – A gift card is explicitly a gift. Outside of some weird situations, a gift card isn’t a normal way of getting paid.
    – The money was given for a specific work task so it doesn’t have the context of being a gift the way someone paying for your lunch/coffee would be or even like giving someone twenty bucks for their birthday would.

    A gift card would have made it clear that this was him thanking you for a favor, not something he thought he was obligated to do or something he thought he can do regularly going forward.

    LW, assume for now that he just didn’t have time to get you a gift card or figured cash was better than getting you the wrong thing.

    1. MoopySwarpet*

      I think a gift card also feel different than cash because you don’t normally know how much is on it right in the moment.

  16. GigglyPuff*

    I really thought that said “My coworker tripped me” and I couldn’t understand why Alison would make that it’s own post instead of 4 short answers, lol
    But yeah it feels weird.

    1. Rectilinear Propagation*

      I also read that as “tripped” and was confused until I got to “tipped” in the response!

    2. Thankful for AAM*

      Me too!
      And weird that tripped seemed so much more believable after reafing AAM for so long!

  17. Keg Party*

    Keep it, and spend it all on consumables before he decides he wants it back. A couple of pizzas and a 12-pack ought to do it.

  18. Jessica*

    I had the exact same reaction as everyone – why is cash so weird but a gift card isn’t?

    The solution: buy a $40 coffee shop gift card and use it to buy coffee for when you’re at work (or even buy him a coffee or two with it). That would make it less weird for me because it’s almost like he just couldn’t be bothered going to get you the gift card, so this way you’ve done that for him, but still reap the benefits.

  19. Sometimes Always Never*

    Maybe take this as an opportunity to see if you can expand your role officially, since it’s something you’re good at and like? A gift card does feel differently than cash, though, and in a slightly icky way, although it very likely wasn’t meant that way. I might try returning it, saying you gave it some thought: you were happy to help, you know it was meant as a thank you, but you do work there and since it was on work time anyway, it’s all good? Maybe buy donuts for his department and yours with the $?

    I did have one secretary/assistant who didn’t like going to make photocopies, getting paper for her printer, posting mail, getting a file out of the file room, etc., so she would offer our clerk money to do it. It made the clerk very uncomfortable so he told me about it, and I had to shut it down (while determining there were no mobility or other issues on her part). She didn’t mean it to be anything weird, but it was, and it had to stop.

    1. Just Another Manic Millie*

      “I did have one secretary/assistant who didn’t like going to make photocopies, getting paper for her printer, posting mail, getting a file out of the file room, etc., so she would offer our clerk money to do it.”

      At one company, the receptionist hated making the coffee and calling the answering service, so she started coming in late, so I was told to do it. Because people couldn’t wait for her to come in to get their messages, and the company’s owner couldn’t be told that he would have to wait for the receptionist to show up before he could get his coffee. She never offered to pay me. TPTB never gave me anything. On the days that I was out, someone else had to make the coffee and call the answering service.

      I said upthread that I was never given anything extra at any of my jobs for doing someone else’s job in addition to my own job. Reading about getting cash for it really surprised me. I believe I would have accepted it if it had been offered to me.

      1. Sometimes Always Never*

        Ugh, that stinks! If your company wanted to expand your duties to make coffee and get messages and wanted to pay you more for it, then yes! But if the company is just avoiding a tough conversation with the receptionist about showing up on time and outlining her duties, and instead put her duties on you for no extra pay or other consideration to you, that obviously breeds resentment (not to mention showing they are bad mangers).

        And if the receptionist were offering you money to do it, as her employer, I would want to know, since there is responsibility being shifted and it would be outside professional office norms besides.

        1. Just Another Manic Millie*

          They didn’t exactly avoid a tough conversation with the receptionist, because every single day the office manager would call the receptionist in for a meeting and tell her that she had to get to work on time, and the receptionist would say yeah yeah yeah, but she never came in on time (so that she wouldn’t have to make the coffee and call the answering service), and this just went on and on every single day. I bet the receptionist didn’t care, because while she was sitting in the office manager’s office saying yeah yeah yeah, she wasn’t answering the phone. And she was still getting paid just as much as if she were answering the phone.

  20. kittymommy*

    Ugh. There is a “cheap” feeling about it, but hell if I can explain why. It just seems weird and out of business norms. At the end of the day I’d probably keep it, but also be paying attention that this isn’t a habit.

  21. Fiona*

    I think I have to disagree – I would return the money. The upside is $40 (which is significant, not going to lie!), but the downside is a whole bunch of weird messiness that could ensue from accepting it. I don’t know exactly what those consequences could be, but the mere optics of accepting personal cash (not a company bonus, for example) in exchange for doing your job (even if it was outside the normal scope of your job) is not a good precedent to set. And it’s not good for this person to think that it’s an acceptable thing to do.

    I would return it, cheerfully say “treat me to coffee some time” and leave it at that.

    1. I heart Paul Buchman*

      I agree. It feels off because it violates a cultural norm (part of our jobs is helping out co-workers when appropriate). It also creates a perception of obligation which could be problematic if there are problems in the future. I had a trusted, friendly co-worker who splashed cash around in a ‘hey, let me get it’ way. He was eventually prosecuted for quite a large fraud (govt employer). No one else was in the know but it didn’t look great when the audit came that so many had compromised themselves.
      This cynical commenter says no, nope, nuh-uh. It makes you look bad, makes him look weird and it could bite you later. Let him keep the cash. I would even side-eye a gift card (in my country tax wise they are treated the same as cash) for $40. The amount is just too high to justify and would trigger reporting obligations for many jobs (our limit is $15 IIRC to be considered a token gesture). Appropriate work gifts are things that can get put in the lunch rooms and shared around (box of pastries) or a coffee. Cash isn’t a gift, it’s a bribe.
      I would email him, let him know that you’ve thought about it, he caught you by surprise and while you appreciate the gesture you can’t in good conscience take money off him for doing your job. Put in the email that you are returning the money then do so.

  22. Ama*

    I think it feels weird because if he gave you a gift card, you did him a favour and he gave you a token of appreciation. By giving money, he’s technically moving it over into employment, which has so many complications, it’s probably not worth the $40.

    That said now you’ve accepted, I definitely keep it. But if it happened a second time I’d probably joke that I’d prefer a gift card or something!

  23. Betsy Bobbins*

    If it were me I would have accepted it, but used it to take him to lunch so it was less awkward.

  24. nora*

    I would take it but donate a substantial portion (if not all) to a nonprofit. That being said, if I was in a position where $40 meant the difference between buying groceries and not, I’d keep it all. Either way I’d feel a bit squicky about it.

  25. Asenath*

    It would seem really weird to me, and I think I would have refused the money. Tipping is just not a thing where I work, and the only gift-giving is the kind of generic gift cards or chocolates handed out to everyone in the office at Christmas. Even when I do something a little bit outside my job description just to help out, all I expect or get is a verbal “Thanks”. A cash gift would be like someone paying me for my time, which I am already getting paid for.

  26. Person from the Resume*

    The fact that it is cash instead of a gift, gift card, lunch makes it weird. Weird enough that LW probably should have refused it but also weird enough that Im not shocked the LW couldn’t manage to gracefully refuse it in the moment.

    Keep the money now but figure out how to refuse any further tips before they happen.

  27. Mrs B*

    Since you’ve already taken the cash and sometime has passed, if you’re feeling weird about it, perhaps use it for something that will benefit the whole office, like coffee and donuts, some nice pens, or fancy soap for the bathroom?

    1. Heidi*

      I was also going to recommend spending the money on something related to work. Flavored K-cups, coffee mugs, Halloween desk decor. Just so no one can think you’re taking the money to secretly fund your lavish lifestyle or something.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I would recommend donating it to charity over this option.

      None of those purchases would be appreciated anywhere I’ve been. The company covers all of those things and would be put off by someone bringing them in, with maybe exception of the donuts. Since those aren’t a frequent thing.

      I feel like you may be from a public sector though where you have to buy your own coffee? Then that makes sense.

      1. Mrs B*

        Indeed I do, and we get nothing beyond scratchy toilet tissue, lest the public think we’re living high off their tax dollars (lol) so even a bottle of B&BWorks soap is seen as an indulgence when someone brings it in, and people are still talking about the time a staff member brought in the tissues with lotion,can you imagine! ;)

  28. Librarian of SHIELD*

    I think the cash feels weirder than a gift card would because the work world tends to associate being paid in cash as an “under the table,” hush-hush, not by the book method of compensation. That’s not to say that the manager in this case was trying to be underhanded, just that this is the way we’ve been trained to interpret things like this.

    1. Donkey Hotey*

      To expand on this, though:
      I’ve worked for companies where any sort of bonus – including gift cards – had to be reported as distributed income by the employer on your year-end tax reporting. IF this is that sort of company, the cash does serve the boss’ plausible deniability. “Cash? What cash?”

  29. drpuma*

    Definitely weird. Use it to buy a treat for your team, or put it in the back of a drawer to use for your next office Secret Santa / group gift / etc. I agree with the folks who suggest asking your boss if it’s “expected for our office.”

  30. Jedi Squirrel*

    Why is a gift card so different from cash?

    Cash has some serious negative connotations in our society, because there’s no traceability. You can use cash to bribe someone, or you can use it to buy cocaine. With a gift card, you know exactly how they’re going to spend that money, so when they get arrested for bribing someone or buying cocaine, you at least know that it wasn’t your Starbucks gift card that they used to get in trouble. I think a lot of these negative connotations come from tv shows and movies. Every time someone gives me cash at work (because I bought lunch), I feel like Walter White.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      They sell gift cards for drugs all the time =X

      They have actual setups for this kind of thing. But yeah, it does take more effort to turn it into drugs at least.

      I think it’s a lot to do with how cashless we’ve gotten as a society as well. Tons of people just venmo their friends money for their share of a meal because nobody has cash and nobody wants to ask the server to divide the check 3 or 4 ways anymore.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Oh me too. I was bitter when Venmo came around because I was like “It’s called PayPal, you barbarians! Why do I need to sign up for this new thing?”

          My mom still keeps a check book register after all.

        2. MAC*

          I’m so old school I still use cash! (Thanks, Dave Ramsey.) And nobody I do things with has any qualms about asking the server to split the check – where I live, most of them ask in advance if it’s together or separate. I don’t even know anybody with Venmo!

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            It’s 50/50 if you get a server who asks about how many checks you want. It’s been that way everywhere I’ve lived and we’ve had places that will straight up refuse to split a check. Our service industry is…full of special characters.

          2. Becky*

            I pay my rent with Venmo! Way easier than mailing the check to the landlord who may or may not be in the state at the time it is delivered. (This is one guy who owns a few properties, not a big complex that has a web-based portal where you can pay rent and request maintenance.)

            If I am receiving a payment from a third party who I don’t know? yeah not taking a personal check–cash, paypal or venmo please). My roommate paying me her portion of utilities and rent?–check is easier than cash because I can deposit on my phone and cash I have to drive to the bank/atm and venmo or paypal it takes a few days to transfer to my bank account.

            (Side rant on Venmo–if you don’t have enough in your Venmo account for a full payment on whatever your transaction is then they take all of the payment from the linked account and none from your venmo balance. It feels like I should at least be able to designate use the full amount in Venmo and then take the difference from the linked account!)

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              I have friends that also pay rent with their Venmo accounts. Even though when I went to dig through landlord laws for something unrelated, it the state is all “Gurl don’t do that.” because it can really screw you if you do for purposes of accepting short payments when you didn’t necessarily mean to.

    2. Just Another Manic Millie*

      “With a gift card, you know exactly how they’re going to spend that money, so when they get arrested for bribing someone or buying cocaine, you at least know that it wasn’t your Starbucks gift card that they used to get in trouble.”

      If someone gave me a Starbucks gift card, I would sell it to someone else, because I don’t drink coffee or tea. I wouldn’t use the money to buy cocaine, but that’s just me. The person who gave me the gift card would have no way of knowing how I was going to spend the money that I got for it (as opposed to knowing “exactly” how I was going to spend it.

  31. CL*

    Giving cash doesn’t seem too odd to me, but I worked for years in industries where I received end of year cash bonuses from the company and my individual boss(es) and that was considered very normal. If one contributed a significant amount of work to a case/project, one might also get a bonus from the person leading that case upon its completion or at year-end.

  32. The Bad Guy*

    I thought this read, “my coworker tripped me.” I would def feel weird if a coworker tipped me but it would be much more pleasant than being tripped by a coworker.

  33. Jamie*

    I guess I’m the outlier, but I would have been wildly insulted. No matter if I tried to hide it, my offense would be palpable – no way I would have taken it.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’ve had people offended to the point of anger that someone gave them a gift card or a gift basket before! Everyone is different, that’s for sure.

      It’s the forever and ever “know your audience” world that we live in.

    2. CM*

      I would have been insulted, too, but, because my biggest weakness is greed, I probably still would have taken it while looking angry and holding a grudge for a long, long time.

      It’s hard for me to articulate WHY it’s insulting, but I don’t even like it when someone tries to buy me a coffee or something, if it’s framed as being “payment” for a favour I did for them or (worse) if it’s a “reward” for doing my actual job.

  34. jcarnall*

    If a co-worker bought me a gift worth £40 for doing something like this for them, I’d probably feel a bit weird, too. (Though this is situational based on how much people earn, I guess, and also if someone gave me something that (I knew they could afford) that was (exactly what I wanted – a book I’d longed to read, the boxed set of a TV show I was a total fan of) – it would feel different again.

    Ways to make it not weird might be to say outright “sorry, I meant to get you a Starbucks gift card but I remembered you prefer coffee from the indy shop round the corner, and these are the only ‘gift cards’ that indy shop round the corner accepts”.

    Actually, yes, if the cash was offered tucked inside a thank-you card with a note saying “buy yourself a treat for making my life easier” it would still feel more present-like and less like being paid.

    That’s the problem, as others have said: it feels like he was trying to pay you, and as your co-worker, he shouldn’t do that. If it feels like too big of a deal to hand the money back or involve your manager (and I can totally see that) – use the money to buy yourself the kind of thank-you treat you WISH he had bought you instead of the cash, and have a plan for a polite, definite refusal if he tries this again.

  35. KAG*

    I would, frankly, have been offended. I would have tried to defuse the situation with a joke (I can’t come up with one now, but I hope I could on the spot), and not taken the money. If I were in a role where tips were a portion of my compensation, my answer might be different / more nuanced, but here I would feel as though my contributions were so undervalued that I need a pat on the head to do anything requiring skills / intelligence / competence beyond the strict parameters of my job description.

    Or even within… my first year in the workforce, we got an annual bonus of $100, and the going joke in the office was that we could now go to the grocery store that week… So to me the salary difference mentioned is a red herring. I would have preferred not to receive any bonus at all (tough times and all that) than to feel as though my work was so undervalued by the partners (who clearly made quite a bit more than I.

    1. KAG*

      I would have the same reaction to a gift card, although not by a lunch, if no big deal was made about it.

    2. Zona the Great*

      My exact response. If it were an older male to my younger female self, I’d be triple offended.

  36. Academia4ever*

    I didn’t think this was weird at all! But….I work in academia, where (so I’m told) workplace norms are very different.
    I guess my thought is, if someone is doing labor for me – like proofreading something – they should be compensated for their work and time! I rarely have cash so I’m usually trading my own time or baked goods, but I’ve definitely paid people with money for their work/time/effort in the past.

    But…again…academia? Maybe that makes it different?

    1. BethDH*

      I think it does — I’m in academia too, but I haven’t always been and my role often is sort of alt-ac, and I think job roles in academia are a lot more piecemeal and almost freelance-y in that way. We’re also a lot more accustomed to some slippage between our identities as private individuals and our job identities, and this is one way it shows up. Outside academia, there is often a hard line between “I’ll pay you to dog sit for me outside of work” and “tipping you for proofreading, using your office computer and while present on work time” and that line often just isn’t there in academia for our skillsets, job descriptions, tools/equipment, or time.

    2. Scion*

      If a coworker is helping you out, aren’t they being compensated for their work and time *by your employer*?

      1. Rectilinear Propagation*

        Not necessarily!

        I worked for a university for a brief period but I was paid by multiple sources, not just the school. In most cases the other sources were paying me to work on a specific project, not just to have someone there performing tasks as needed.

        In a scenario where all of someone’s pay comes from a specific person or a grant* or some organization, they aren’t being paid to do work completely unrelated to their task(s).

        *I don’t actually know if organizations who give grants wouldn’t be OK with this, someone who was in academia longer than me please correct me.

  37. e271828*

    Tipping a co-worker cash for doing their job is treating them as a personal employee, rather than a colleague.

    1. Jamie*

      THANK YOU!! I was trying to put my finger on why I found this so offensive but you encapsulated it perfectly. This is exactly why I would find it so rude.

    2. CaliCali*

      THIS is what makes it weird! You’ve hit it. A gift card is more of a personal thank you, which is totally fine, but a tip is a form of compensation based on services rendered.

    3. Just Another Manic Millie*

      But OP wasn’t given $40 for doing his/her job. OP was given the money for doing the manager’s job.

      1. PollyQ*

        “And other tasks as assigned” is part of almost every job description. The work was still being done to the benefit of the organization.

        1. Just Another Manic Millie*

          That’s true, but does that mean that no matter what task needs to get done, it’s YOUR job? Meaning that the company/manager is telling you to do YOUR job, not do something that someone else is generally responsible for?

          1. PollyQ*

            Here are the options as I see them:
            1) OP shouldn’t do the task at all, since it isn’t his job.
            2) Helping out co-workers is part of the overall gig, especially when the task is something fairly small that can be done in a half-hour, so OP should do it, unless it interferes with his work or other instructions given.
            3) OP does the task, but operates as a paid sub-contractor for the co-worker while neglecting his actual job that he’s also getting paid to do.

            To me, this should’ve been a #2 situation, but the co-worker actually paying cash starts to make it feel like a #3.

  38. Angwyshaunce*

    Money versus a gift card.

    I’m no expert, but there is clearly some psychological difference for some people between receiving one or the other. Perhaps this is because money drives our lives – it provides shelter, food, transportation, entertainment, life options, etc. And we have highly formalized systems in place for spending and receiving money. Thus, it has an importance and reverence to us.

    The occasional informal transfer of paper money for rewards or lending typically takes places among friends and family. So when someone we are not personally close to offers money as a gift or reward, it may feel like they are broaching some unspoken boundary, since such interactions are usually personal. Just like how receiving hugs from family is okay, but not from a coworker we are not close with.

    Converting money to an object with worth (e.g. gift card) is a way we overcome this weirdness, since you’re giving a gift (an object of worth) and not paper money.

    This is not very logical, but neither is our human psychology.

  39. Grand Mouse*

    Hm. Last year at the holidays my coworkers gave me a card with a not-insignificant amount of cash in it. I am their custodian so I understand that is done for jobs like mine but I did feel weird about it.

    I did keep the cash but I dropped a line to my boss about it. I was really really hoping I could keep it because that kind of money makes a huge difference to me. But the optics… fortunately he said it was ok but I’m definitely not clear about the boundaries and rules of exchange of cash between coworkers

    1. Grand Mouse*

      Alison, hope this isn’t a derail, but what about giving cash to the custodian or admin? Is that still weird? I have gotten (modest) gift cards from my managers before and I understand that is like a bonus but what about from my coworkers? I don’t work for the same company, if that makes a difference.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I think there’s a bit of a disconnect here. You’re viewing them as coworkers because you work out of the same building/area on a daily basis but in reality, you’re providing their office a service and they are your customers. So the “tip” they give you, is not much different than tipping your hair dresser, server or car wash attendant.

        Only instead of giving it to you every day, since that’s a bit much. They pool it and give you a “gift” at the end of the year usually around the holidays as a year end “Thank you for being here, doing what you do, keeping our space tidy and pleasant!”

        1. Grand Mouse*

          Ah ok thanks. It seemed different than being a hairstylist because my coworkers did not hire me directly, Some person in charge of the building contracted my company. Only ever seen him once, and that was a coincidence. It’s a few layers removed.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            It gets murky like that when there are contractors involved and layers involved.

            They may not have hired you but they get to see your work on the ground level, whereas the person who made the hiring decision probably isn’t the one keeping an eye on things either.

            It’s also common for residents of a building to tip out their doormen or security services for holidays, they are also hired by the building people themselves. Usually someone who never sets foot in the place at all. But the residents live there, see them every day, have relationships with them but they’re still service providers at the end of the day =)

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s pretty standard to tip your housekeeping service/janitorial service around the holidays.

      1. PollyQ*

        I’ve never seen or heard of that being done by regular employees at any company I’ve worked for.

        I think a year-end bonus from the company that’s the employer or the one that contracted for the service is a great idea, but I don’t think regular employees should have to pay other workers out of their own pockets. It’s a business expense that the business should be covering, same as rent, electric, supplies, etc.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s because it’s a gift to the person who does the work. It’s not to cover a business expense. It’s the same thing as collecting for an admin for administrative assistant day. Yeah some places cover it themselves but most don’t bother, so colleagues take up a collection fund. Just like for a wedding or baby shower gift from the “group”.

          You cannot give a tip to a company, it’s classified as an overpayment and will eventually have to go to the unclaimed properties division. That’s simply not how businesses work. They will not transfer it to the employee unless perhaps it’s owned by a single individual.

          They used to try to tip my buddy who owned his own mechanic shop. It worked fine when they gave him cash but some of the older folks would put it in their check with their payment. He was like “What am I supposed to do with this, I can’t just break it out without doing a lot of extra paperwork and payroll magic, right?”

          If you think someone who’s working janitorial services is getting a Christmas bonus, that’s really sad because it’s not usually a thing. Most service oriented jobs are low paying, without much to speak of benefits wise. Those companies don’t take care of anyone, so we purchase their services and take care of the people who we get to know on a daily basis.

          It’s a thing, even if your companies haven’t done it. It’d be great if everyone just made a living decent wage but this isn’t a fairy tale.

          1. Grand Mouse*

            Thank you! My “bonus” was a $15 gift card that my boss might have even paid for herself.

  40. 8DaysAWeek*

    My company has a process for this. So in that light, this seems strange to me. If your company doesn’t have a formal rewards system then maybe this is his way of thanking you.

  41. MOAS*

    My boss gave me a $40 gift card to my favorite store for Christmas, and a card wiht a nice note in it.. now I’m wondering if I was shortchanged…. JK!

    I don’t know what it is about cash that just makes it so awkward. I had a friend say she would rather have the cash than go out for dinner since she was hard up for $ and that felt super werid but I couldn’t figure out why (until I posted here!)

    I think it’s just that cash…makes it so mechanical and unemotional if that makes sense? Even in a work context, a gift card shows more effort/appreciation than taking out cash. That’s just me though. I’m stumped lol

    1. Jennifer*

      Maybe because cash makes it feel so transactional when it’s supposed to be a friend helping out a friend. You’d pay a stranger who did work for you in cash. A friend you’d take to lunch or give a heartfelt gift a

      1. MOAS*

        Ah I wrote this in a rush. Basically it was their birthday and I wanted to treat them to dinner. But they asked for the money instead. I couldn’t figure out why I felt bothered about it until I asked here and someone kindly broke it down for me. This was years ago and it’s all good now but man that was crazy.

        The cash does make it transactional and impersonal! Even with friendly coworkers, it’s been done in the past that someone will buy someone lunch or coffee as a gesture of thanks or any other sentiment.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My mother took about 56 years before she’d hand cash to anyone for a “gift”. As a kid, heck no were we ever going to get cash as a gift. “What do you want?” “IDK just give me the money.” was met with “LOL yeah no, then it’s just another Tuesday, gurl.”

      Whereas now, she stuffs cards with cash because she’s like “Well we’re not related and I don’t know what they’re into right now, so I just gave them $50.” Whomp whomp whomp.

      I have had people complain about gift cards before so I’m like “you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t, I’ll take whatever path that’s easiest.” Thankfully it’s easiest to send someone a mobile Starbucks gift card now. I hate gift cards because so much plastic. So much trash. At least cash just gets passed around until it wastes away and is eventually destroyed by the reserve.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Gift-giving is hard! I had a relative who wouldn’t tell me what they wanted for Christmas. “Just buy me something I could use” they said over and over again.

        So I bought the biggest package of toilet paper I could find and gift wrapped it. When they opened it, my response was “You said to get you something you could use. Don’t tell me you don’t use that.”

        The following year they were able to tell me exactly what they wanted for Christmas.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I come from a family where we ask each other for things like toiletries and socks, so I chuckled that it made them change their tune.

          I just get my brother disposable razors at Costco for every birthday and holiday to go along with his socks because my gift budget has been increased over the years ;)

    3. Just Another Manic Millie*

      “a gift card shows more effort/appreciation than taking out cash.”

      It depends. I would not appreciate a Starbucks gift card more than cash because I don’t drink coffee or tea. Cash, now, that I would appreciate!

    4. BethDH*

      To me it comes down to:

      -how personal it is (scale seems to go cash -> lunch or gift card, generic present -> personal present)
      -how thoughtful it is (present or gift card in a written note conveys their appreciation)
      -how much money it is (too little is insulting because it undervalues you; too much is inappropriate)
      -the sense of expectation it conveys (cash makes it seem more transactional, which implies that they can do it again whenever; a gift seems more like a recognition of the past somehow)
      -the sense of hierarchy it implies or even creates (gifts flow down or at least sideways, money flows down)

      That last one is potentially the most important in the workplace; the others are relevant but often at odds with each other (a coworker isn’t a friend . . . but isn’t NOT a friend).

  42. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I think it’s partly the amount that’s weird for me. It isn’t a single note (which would feel like “first thing he found in his wallet”) which makes it feel like a calculated amount (“this work was worth precisely $40”).

    There is something weirdly offensive about a cash tip to someone in a non-tip job. I had a £20 note pushed into my hand once in a situation where it was customary to give something more like a bottle of wine, and yes I was mildly offended, where I absolutely wouldn’t have been offended to be given nothing. That’s despite the fact that the £20 would have been much more useful to me than the wine.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Eh. It’s because $20 feels cheap in most cases, so people will pull out two instead, it’s not that calculated. I give $20 to a kid for a school fundraiser event.

      I wish we used $50’s more as a society but they have a history of being hard to break and small places still won’t touch them with a ten foot pole.

  43. Jennifer*

    I think it’s no different from taking someone to lunch or giving them a present worth the same amount. It seems weird because it’s cash.

  44. ThundarCatz*

    The cash is what makes it weird – because it really does qualify as legal tender, and because of that I wouldn’t have accepted.
    If it was a Starbucks card, box of jellybeans, even a thank you lunch, it would be different because none of those forms would be considered a (legal) form of currency that settles a debt. I understand that a lot of people would say $40 in cash is just like a $40 lunch or $40 box of chocolates but really, it isn’t.

    He should have put the cash in a little gift box that way it would be technically accurate to say, it was a “little token of appreciation” rather than, “$40 for doing him a favor”


  45. Eukomos*

    Weird indeed. I’d invite him to lunch and pay for both lunches with the $40. Maybe rib him about it a bit at the lunch to discourage his doing it again.

  46. Anon Y. Mouse*

    For some reason I just get a good laugh at the image of you deadpan saying “I can’t take your money, that’s outrageous” while simultaneously shoving it into your purse/wallet/pocket/small portable safe with a smug smile.

    Which I know is 100% not how it played out.

    Is there some sort of communal pizza party, coffee fund, etc that you could dump it in to make it feel less weird?

  47. Delta Delta*

    This seems like a situation where if the person had just thanked OP that would have been sufficient. A token gift might have been nice – like a Starbucks card or something like that. Cash feels weird.

    I used to have a boss who would give low-level employees filled-up punch cards for a coffee, so it was effectively a free coffee. That was nice – she did it just because she was a nice person (in hindsight, she was incredibly kind and a very good boss; I didn’t realize how lucky we were to have her) and she thought a little pick-me-up was a nice thing to do sometimes. It was just nice. It wasn’t a “here’s extra payment for your job.”

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Giving cards out is also so much easier than doing a coffee run for the office, since then it’s not an “on the spot” and “at your convenience” setup.

      I get car wash tickets with my car services. I hate car washes that are manned with humans because of my anxiety, so I give them to coworkers. People love them.

      But then it reminds me of childhood where you’d get fake money/coupons to buy erasers in the school store. Which can be warm whimsical nostalgia or someone being all “I prefer to get cash that I can pay my bills with, what is this coupon nonsense?”

  48. Budgie Buddy*

    I’m with LW that this feels kind of ooky, like turning what should be a favor into a business transaction. It seems like the fact LW would really like the extra cash right me is making them lean towards the “Eh, I deserve it,” side.

    But based on experience I would say if you have any hesitancy at all, listen to that hunch and tell your coworker that for the future you’re not comfortable accepting cash. Things can get weird when money is involved for various reasons, and it’s better to go with your gut even if you can’t put your finger on why this particular situation might be problematic.

  49. Traveler's checks*

    Like everyone, I enjoy being noticed when I do extra work or go outside my responsibilities to help out. And the sooner you get the reward the better you feel.

    A previous manager offen had leftover Traveller’s checks from business travel that he would hand out for a job well done or going beyond expectations. This was common practice amongst all the managers and senior-level directors of the company. It felt like a bonus on-the-spot, it wasn’t exactly cash, but it sure felt like cash. Better than a Starbucks gift card any day!

    I only got it twice over the two years I was there, but it was $500 each time – it was unexpected and felt so good!

  50. PieInTheBlueSky*

    If you feel uncomfortable accepting cash from him, then if it happens again perhaps you can politely decline and say that you appreciate the thought, but you’d rather have a small favor from him—praise you to your boss, or help you get involved in some project he’s doing, or nominate you for some workplace award, or whatever else makes sense.

  51. Victoria*

    While I don’t know the specifics LW’s jobs, many jobs have a range of responsibilities which can sometimes include helping a coworker when something is in your particular skill set. So the weirdness is that helping a coworker on something like this doesn’t feel like something terribly far afield, especially if it only took a half an hour and didn’t distract from other responsibilities. Offering a gift card says “this was really helpfully to me” while paying kind of recasts it as “this was something so outside of the realm of what you do that it requires external compensation,” which makes it weird. The amount also says to me he’s done research on how much to pay for editing services, which adds an additional layer of oddness to it. Like, if he really felt strongly like “this should be a compensated task, he could have asked if you were interested in doing some light editing for him outside of work and started an open conversation about it.

    That’s not saying that you are out of line accepting it.

  52. Tin Cormorant*

    Cash can be used to pay bills/groceries/other needs, so if I get cash as a gift, it becomes part of my own personal money in my mind and I feel guilty about spending it on something selfish in the same way I’d feel guilty about spending my own money on something I don’t need. It’d go into my bank account or used on that week’s groceries and I wouldn’t really feel like I’d gotten a gift at all.

    Gift cards have to be used for a certain thing and can’t be used to pay bills (outside of taking extra time to sell the gift card for cash, which I wouldn’t do unless it’s an emergency), so I feel like I can spend them on a treat for myself right away without feeling guilty. Especially if they’re gift cards for places that only sell coffee or books or video games and could never be a need.

    Though I’ve been known to save gift cards for YEARS if they’re to a place that sells something that could be a need someday. Especially clothes. If you give me a gift card for a place that sells clothes, I’m not using it to get a nice new blouse for myself right away, I’m going to use it to buy winter clothes for my 3-year-old daughter because none of her stuff from last year fits her any more.

  53. Shoes On My Cat*

    It is a little off but I wasn’t really getting the ick vibe until I read the managers comment about staying on OP’s good side. That sent up my antenna. If he does this again and tries to give you cash & again brings up the ‘staying on your good side’ comment, see what happens if you reply back to him “Oh, well I’d rather you say something to my manager then about how much you appreciate my assistance with your report and how well it communicated the information.” Then see what he says. It may be an innocent yet awkward appreciation attempt to give you cash as he didn’t think to get a gift card, etc, OR it may be that it’s an awkward attempt at hush money ad he’s not supposed to be getting help with these reports. (Who knows, my suspicious mind says, if he reached out to you, who are not a direct report, because he was doing the same with his direct reports and told not to for some reason, like info that shouldn’t be disseminated at the non-manager level?). But ask and then see how he answers! You do not want to get caught in the crossfire if he is on some kind of PIP

    1. Jane Plough*

      I came here to say this. That comment came across as weirdly neggy and boundary pushing and I would feel uncomfortable around this coworker going forward (quite apart from the ‘is cash weird?’ issue)
      I didn’t necessarily feel like he was doing something underhand in asking OP to do the work for him, but it certainly reads as a power play from where I’m sitting.

  54. Amethystmoon*

    To me, this is odd. OP is presumably already getting paid at work, and this is job-related. That being said, the company I work for does have a recognition program. Once a month, we hold a meeting to give awards to people for getting recognized by their coworkers for going above and beyond. Some of the awards are small gift cards (think $10). You can also list your awards when it is time for your annual review. So if doing the writing task was above and beyond normal job duties, coworker could have nominated OP for such an award, and possibly selected gift card as one of the awards, and it would be presented in front of the entire team. But it would still be less than $40.

  55. AnotherSarah*

    I think there’s something about the pay differential as well. Last year, a less-well-paid/positioned colleague did me a bunch of favors–and I responded with beers when we went out socially, as well as reminding him he should put everything he did in his annual self-reporting (as a good citizen of the dept. or something like that). Because he was less well-paid then I am, I would be worried that he would feel demeaned by a cash gift. Like it assumed that he can’t manage his money well since he’s paid less or something….Irrational but that’s where my mind went.

    1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      I totally see that logic. If the favours he did were all work related, then he likely saw his efforts as “I’m part of a team,” you recognized and rewarded it with beer and social recognition and he could be hoping it would lead to advancement or interesting opporutnities. Throwing money at a good faith effort could be very poorly received at the other end.

  56. LGC*

    Woof, LW’s coworker.

    So, I’m probably in agreement with everyone where I’d personally be slightly weirded out. (I might have even turned it down, and – I’m not broke broke, but I’d also like a spare $40!) I think the difference to me is that it comes off as a bit gauche and blunt. Going a bit US-centric, it seems like we’re a bit uncomfortable talking explicitly about money, and then your coworker is shoving 40bux right in your face. I think the difference is that…like, a gift card isn’t cash (unless it’s a Visa gift card or the like), and lunch is even further removed from the cashiness of things (since it’s an actual meal that you’re being compensated with).

    On top of that, it’s kind of coded! Like, you tip servers (partly because base American law is garbage and assumes that a server’s income should be based primarily on the whims of their clients). I tipped my barber this week. I feel like the message sent is “thank you for being my servant” – which is problematic on its own, but at least I think that everyone is in on it when I get dragged off to Applebee’s. In a general office environment, it’d be a bit more jarring.

    I think, too – he might just be absent-minded and have skewed norms, if he’s well-off. Like, he meant to get you a gift card or something but whoops he didn’t have time but he does have two $20s on hand.

    I also think you were totally reasonable to take the cash in that instance. He offered it! It’s not like you asked him for it. And $40 is…not that obscene to me – like, if it was $200, I’d be more worried about him, but $40 is like just on the top edge of “weird, but not TOO weird” for me.

  57. Ra94*

    I also think it being *only* cash makes it feel different. If he’d written a card, put the cash inside, and presented it to you along with a $5 box of chocolates, it would’ve seemed like a ‘thank you’ in a way that cash alone doesn’t.

  58. Brett*

    I don’t think there needs to be a reason for treating cash differently from gift cards and separately still from favors.
    It is just a cultural norm.

    To realize the difference, ask any public sector worker about this same scenario (a few commented above). They would run away from the whole situation, fast, whether it was cash or a gift card. Public sector employees have a different culture, where even a gift card would be wrong, even though that would be acceptable in a lot of business cultures. The reason most will give is that it has the appearance of a bribe or ethical violation, but the reality is that the aversion to taking a thank you gift card from a co-worker is just simply part of the cultural norms for public sector works just as the aversion to taking cash from a co-worker is just simply part of the cultural norms for many private sector environments.

    1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      I worked for a paragovermental provincial agency and they would refuse to use any gift card or even merchandise “because we are providing a public service” as they provided health care information to local hospitals, long term care facilities and other places. A 25$ Tim Horton’s gift card sat unused forever. Boxes of a gift of Purell wipes, a new product, sat unopened. The items were received in such a way it was difficult to return them, from what I could understand. That manger was quite principled.

      The private sector engineering firm I worked for, while they did accept the odd gift from suppliers and vendors at Christmas, it was part of company policy to not accept personal gifts from our clients. After all, the clients did pay for our services already. Until that same engineering company got caught in that huge scandal in Quebec a few years ago…it never quite recovered.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      And now in the medical field, you can’t accept promotional gifts either because of the issues with pharmaceutical companies having influence over the medicine that doctors would prescribe.

      Which stinks because I had a good doctor group growing up. They’d use their samples to treat things that would otherwise cost the patient out of the nose if they had to buy even a generic brand of meds. But yeah, sadly the bad outweighs the good that some doctors did =(

  59. Exhausted Trope*

    The “to stay on your good side” comment concerns me but I can’t articulate why.
    But I do agree that him giving cash was extremely unprofessional. I would have refused it but that’s just me.

  60. Tiger Snake*

    Prefacing with; in public service, you never accept gifts of any kind. In private industry, this is a little laxer, but there’s still a general feeling of ‘Do not accept bribes’, with bribes automatically being linked with hard cash in peoples minds. Beyond that;

    In the office work space, we associate extra money for good work done with bonuses. That makes it official recognition by the corporation as a whole; it comes with a perk of reputation along with the money itself.

    Taking you out to lunch is a personal thank you. Early association with thank you lunches is “you had to work through your normal eating period to help me, so its my treat today”. Its a personal recognition that your effort actually cost you something. Gift cards started as a ‘I don’t have time to take you to lunch, but I’ll still pay’, and then broadened.

    In short, money feels like a corporate response. A gift card, whose roots are in the ‘taking you out to lunch’ category, feels like a personal response. The work you did falls into the personal favour category, but the way your co-worker expressed his gratitude makes it feel like he is pushing back on your relationship.

    The reasons why money is a corporate, inhuman feeling acknowledgement are broad and varied. But one big distinction between the recognition of a friend and the recognition of your place of business; money gifts should, technically, be [I]taxed[/I].

      1. Tiger Snake*

        Firstly; depends on your country.
        Secondly; the result is that you don’t need to declare the +$40 on your income, but that wasn’t always the case.

        We don’t have tax-free gifts because the government is nice (though they might make a big deal of changing it so you’ll vote for them); we have tax free gifts because the cost of identifying and charging you tax on a gift less than $15k is less than the tax they make. It was meant to jump start the economy after the great depression and deal with people trying to avoid estate tax, and it just stayed because it was genuinely more cost effective than reverting it. (People were avoiding estate tax by giving away their assets before they died.)

        But for a very long time, there were stipulations on who you could gift too. So that doesn’t denounce my original comments around a financial gift, from a workmate, feeling impersonal and a step back in the relationship.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        In my country you’d have to work out whether the money was truly a gift or actually payment for services – in this case there’s a strong case for the latter, which would mean it would need to go on your tax return.

  61. Lyn*

    You don’t tip professionals: doctors, lawyers, etc. I’m assuming these people are both professionals. Or at least within the context of their own office are supposed to be. That’s why it is weird.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      There’s a huge array of professionals, to lump us all in with high paid doctors and lawyers is pretty absurd.

      1. Lyn*

        Those were supposed to be examples. It has nothing to do with pay. It is the type of job. As you said – there is a huge array of professionals. Professionals don’t get tipped. I’m an hourly worker, but yeah, I consider my position to be a professional position, and unless it is a bonus from my boss (hahhahah), I would consider cash crass, yes.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        The concept is correct. Tips are usually reserved for service positions. The manager is essentially saying that the OP is not a work peer when they tip the person.

    2. Anon Librarian*

      It’s not a tip. It’s payment for ghostwriting; it turns her into a freelancer (in addition to her regular job).

  62. WorkingForTips*

    I would feel bought.

    I was a waitress when I was 19. My noon to midnight shift overlapped the 9 to 5 shift of a much older waitress who “had been slugging hash for 25 years!”

    One evening, after her shift, instead of going home, she stayed at the restaurant with the locals and proceeded to get drunk. And mean towards me and making pointed remarks about my work (“That fridge better be filled up and ready for my shift tomorrow!”). I was working for tips and a peanut of a salary and it was bad enough the locals never tipped.

    I found myself crying my eyes out behind the bar later, being comforted by the underage dishwasher, and the cook.

    The next morning, the sobered-up-slightly-hungover coworker by way of apology gave me five bucks. I took it as five bucks equalled one whole hour of pay and I was saving up for university and a place of my own. But I hated taking it as I felt bought off. It was as if she was saying “Sorry I was such a bitch to you, so here’s five bucks and let’s never talk about it again.”

    A heartfelt apology and a word from the owner that this would not happen again would have been more appreciated.

    You do what you’re comfortable with but I hated feeling bought off and still mull that event over 30 years later.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m sorry that this still sticks with you but that’s literally just the service industry in a nutshell. It’s basically like swimming with sharks and they’ll eat you alive if you swim slow enough around them.

      There’s a reason why a lot of life food industry folks have massive addictions to feed. It’s not unheard of to stay after work and get drunk with the regulars. It sounds like hazing to me, which sucks and isn’t okay but it’s a thing. So I wish you could find a way to get over this old time scar.

      1. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

        It wasn’t hazing: she was just drunk. There may have been jealousy, or she was just a mean drunk when she drank (whereas I get sleepy instead when I drink too much). Rumour mill had it her husband was not thrilled to drive to pick her up because she was too drunk to drive home. I wish I had refused the money or told her off instead. I don’t think about it often but it does come to mind from time to time. Any respect I had for her was lost though.

        The locals were whole ‘nother matter: never tipped, loud, brash, sat there for hours with their cheap beer, other customers complained about them and one decided he had a crush on me and thought it was okay to try to grab me and the other locals goaded him on. The day after I quit to return to school, the restaurant burned clear to the ground. The owner had left a good job to fulfill his dream of running a restaurant and had started to break even when it happened. When I arrived at the scene to check it out, the locals were there, laughing about it.

        1. Ellie*

          Taking the $5 was the gracious thing to do, don’t feel sorry for it. There’s a real awkwardness when it comes to refusing money (and in this case, it’s their apology too!).

  63. MissDisplaced*

    The cash part feels a little weird, if a nice gesture, but I think it would now be weirder if you tried to give it back. I think it’s ok to let it go this time, but not again.

    Some companies do have recognition programs just for this type of thing, where you would receive a a thank you/kudos gift card where the card would be mailed to you. Maybe he just wanted this to be immediate and/or your company doesn’t have such a program in place? Also, getting a cash thank you is somewhat more common in small companies (though usually it is still made public).

  64. Pineapple Cake*

    They talk about this in the book Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely. Gifts come from the world of social norms while money comes from the world of market norms (think relationship vs transaction). Thus you are following social norms when you do something out of kindness because of a relationship, and when money gets involved the issue of which norms to follow get confused. Hence a Starbucks giftcard (“money” but not tangible money) is allowed in social norms, but not in market norms (no Target is going to accept payment for a shirt via a Starbucks giftcard). And vice versa, money is great in market norms but it is weird in a situation ruled by social norms. It’s a little more complicated than that, but the book is an easy read so I recommend it!

  65. pcake*

    My first thought was “ugh”. My next was “Why do I feel that way?”

    I’ve had people take me to lunches that cost wayyy over $40 and received $50 or more gift cards as thank yous for favors. And I like cash – it works everywhere. But social norms don’t like giving cash in many circumstances. So my real concern would be whether the company and my boss are okay with my receiving a cash tip.

  66. Not So NewReader*

    Ugh, OP. I think the fact that you feel uncomfortable stands alone for saying no the next time. You don’t really need to figure out why/how/etc. And this is where I went to for myself. Once someone gave me money for “above and beyond”. I accepted it but later I decided going forward I would simply say, “I get a paycheck here.”

    The next thing after money that is of high value is words of praise. I had a friend who was very good at saying, “If you are really happy, would you mind telling my boss?” My friend had a knack and people would send his boss emails or notes. You could do something like this and get something of high value for yourself.

    To my way of thinking the first time is a free pass because the gesture can blindside us. But if it comes around again from anyone you can just say it’s your habit not to accept any cash from cohorts. With this guy you would have to rephrase to say, “I have decided to make it a habit not to accept cash/gifts of value from people I work with.”

  67. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

    It feels almost like a sale. Instead of just doing him a favor by giving her cash he turned it into a commercial transaction.

    This also implies that if she needs a favor in return at some point, she will need to pony up some greenbacks. It takes away the give and take of favors/reciprocity.

  68. Tech Nerd*

    I don’t have an opinion or keep the money or give it back. I think both could make sense depending on the general vibe of the company and how much $40 means to each person involved. If both parties have large salaries $40 doesn’t matter but if they get more reasonable salaries $40 could be a lot of money.

    My employer actually has a system specifically set up for situations like this. Employees have N peer bonuses they can give to others every year. The amount depends on the country but in the US it is around $100. You fill out a form, the gift receiver’s manager approves it, and it shows up in their next paycheck.

    There are a number of rules in place to make the system work with the intended goals. The ones I know off the top of my head:
    – You can’t give a bonus to someone in your management chain
    – You can’t give a bonus to someone who gave you one in the last 6 months
    – You can’t tell someone you’ll give them a bonus for doing you a favor
    – You can’t receive a bonus for something that is part of your day-to-day job. It needs to be above and beyond in someway.

    It is a lovely system and one of my favorite parts of working for this employer.

  69. Reality.Bites*

    Back around 89-91 I had computer skills that were then rare – I could use WordPerfect to produce an OK-looking resume in a time when typewritten were the norm. I did resumes for some people in my office who were looking for jobs – it was a growing already-huge company with lots of room for advancement where internal candidates and referrals were the norm, so openly talking about updating resumes wasn’t suspect. I’d even done one for our operations manager for his application to VP of finance as well as for entry level.
    But I never solicited or tried to turn it into a side gig (We actually had an employee who was caught working as a travel agent on company time! We were in no way connected to travel!). I felt perfectly comfortable accepting the $20 or so (entry level pay for customer service was about $14 an hour in 1990)
    I’d not have felt comfortable accepting money for company work done on company time. I occasionally worked overtime on projects or presentations for/with managers and they’d buy dinner for me, but that was expensed to the company. I’d be OK with a reasonable gift for something where I went above and beyond, but again I’d expect it to be a company expense.
    And this is in a company with EXTREMELY blurred boundaries, where there were more relationships, affairs and one-night stands than on any prime time soap and EVERYONE knew about all of them. Someday, when a letter prompts it, I’ll tell the story of the Christmas Party of 89 or 90.

    1. Everything else has gone up*

      Entry level pay was $14 for cs 30 years ago? And now it’s still barely $14 for cs. Usually $10-12 in most industries. That’s heartbreaking whenever it’s put into perspective.

      1. anon4this*

        Minimum wage wasn’t even close to this number in 1990 ($4.25), not in the US anyway.
        Looking at the median income for individuals and household in the early 1990s- none come close to making a $14 hourly rate (except for Caucasian men with a bachelor degree in management) especially since CS workers are seen as disposable.
        Not exactly sure what reality Reality.Bites is reminiscing about, but it feels like its coming from an ivory tower.

  70. Anon Librarian*

    Honestly, I have seen people do things like that. It can be harmless. It can be sketchy. I would look at the ethical side of it – is it wrong in some basic way for him to do this once? Maybe. Because he’s basically hiring a co-worker as a freelancer to do work that he was assigned. That could be an issue, especially if it continued.

    Another angle: is this hush money? Is it supposed to be an incentive for her to keep quiet about it? Maybe.

    I think as a one-time thing, it’s pretty harmless, assuming the ghostwriting would not be a big issue (that no one will care if the writing is actually his). I would just be skeptical and hesitant if he asks for something similar again. Otherwise, file it under, “People are weird.”

  71. SKTeacher*

    This is in another country, South Korea, but here as teachers there’s rules against giving gifts/money. Anything that’s valued above $20 could be seen as a bribe of sort (from teacher to teacher, head teachers, principal, or even from parents or students). Here to be careful, if someone gives something like food or drink, we always share it with all the teachers.

    1. Arctic*

      Much of the US has similar rules when it comes to public sector employees (which most, but not all, teachers fall into.) But it doesn’t seem like the OP would fall into that category.

  72. Formerly Known As*

    In the early 2000’s at my first job out of college, I only made $24,000 a year and was the lowest paid person in the department. Barely enough to meet my bills.

    A couple of times at the end of the year, my grand-boss mailed a personal note and $100 cash to my home saying that she wasn’t able to give me a raise (we were under a freeze at the time), but that the wanted to give me something extra and requested that I not tell anyone at work. I took the money and kept quiet because I badly needed the money. I could hardly afford groceries, so an extra $100 here and there was a lot.

    But I felt uneasy about it then, and I still do. She had other issues with boundaries, such as altering people’s time cards (paper back then) so that if they had taken PTO, she fixed their time cards so it didn’t show any PTO taken. All these years later, it still feels weird. We’ve both long moved on to other employers, and I have no idea where she is or if she’s even still working. She could be retired by now. I wish I could return that money.

    1. Kaaaaaren*

      Eh… Don’t worry about it. $24,000 is a ridiculously low salary, even for 15 – 20 years ago and even for someone right out of college (I also was making that amount in around 2006 as a new college grad) and I’m guessing your former boss realized this and was trying to rectify it in whatever ways she had the power to. Maybe it was weird, but also maybe employers should pay their employees – even the new ones right out of school – enough to cover their bills?

  73. Thankful for AAM*

    We dont usually work for cash, we work for a paycheck (more clinical). I feel like geting paid in cash is tied to working in something that is illicit or feels dodgy or is not professional- under the table, prostitution, day labor, things like that.

    So I think it feels cheap or like you are selling yourself when someone hands you cash in the way OP described. I think that is thesourceof our discomfort. Getting a paycheck is genteel, getting cash is not.

  74. Audrey Puffins*

    I agree with Alison that it’s okay to take it as a one-off and politely refuse anything in future. I would also use a chunk of it to buy donuts or something for the team/office with a “thanks to [co-worker] for the donuts!” note on the box.

  75. Falling All Over Myself*

    I misread the title at first and thought this was going to be a letter about a coworker purposely tripping someone yeesh lol

  76. Roscoe*

    Its funny, I kind of disagree with a lot of people. I get that there is a difference in cash and a gift card, but frankly, I’d have the cash. As a non coffee drinker, the amount of times I’ve been given a Starbucks card as a thank you is crazy. Sure, I can find a way to use it, but its not really something I would want for myself, so its not really a good “thank you” for me.

    I’m curious though, if it was a visa gift card which is essentially same as cash and could be used anywhere, would people feel the same? It just seems so odd that people have a problem with this.

    Also, if it matters, I’m in sales. Cash isn’t that unheard of as an incentive

  77. So sleepy*

    For what it’s worth, both cash and gift cards are considered taxable benefits where I live, and so are a huge no-no. I’d be inclined to accept it once in case it’s a one-off, but more than once it becomes a sort of weird pseudo-employment situation (is he paying you because he shouldn’t be asking/you shouldn’t be doing it? If so, can you even do it on company time? So confusing). Let it go this time, but if he attempts to pay you again, I would let him know you consider this part of your job and can’t accept payment for it, and that you’re worried there might be tax implications.

  78. Kaaaaaren*

    There is no logical reason why, but giving cash DOES feel weird. Since OP has already accepted it, with the comment about how it’s outrageous, I think it’s okay to keep it this time, but not going forward if he does it again.

  79. boop the first*

    I feel guilty about every small nice thing that could ever happen to me so I would naturally feel bad about this, but as an outsider, the only part that stands out to me is “to stay on your good side.” What does that mean? Does coworker think he will be in trouble for sharing this particular work with others? I feel like he’d be more likely to be in trouble if he was paying others to do his work. Is he secretly subcontracting? Heh.

  80. Weckar*

    Not everyone goes to Starbucks, so a gift card could well have been wasted. Cash is never wasted.

  81. Tobias Funke*

    After the hardest and worst week I ever had at the hardest and worst job I ever had, my boss gave me a $25 grocery gift card to thank me for working so many long nights and literally none of these thoughts popped into my mind, I guess I am easily bought because even if it were straight cash homey I would have accepted it. I did not make enough money to live at that job.

  82. Alma*

    There’s part off my job that all the staff has to complete twice a year and three of my co-workers are bad at it AND hate it. It takes me fifteen minutes. I do it. One buys me chips as a thank you and the others nothing. I use to do it for an additional three others. I received jam, baked goods, and other edibles. None of these rewards ever bothered me. However, no way would I have accepted cash. My work was a gift to them, no strings attached.
    (I’ve also trained other staff in my method for getting the job done in fifteen minutes with high accuracy.)

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