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Bonus Appreciation

I have worked at the same law firm for nearly 11 years now. I have received a bonus from my boss every year in December and in June, respectively. These bonuses are part of my pay; they are not gifts. On bonus day, I simply smile and say thank you and place my check in my purse. About a year and a half ago, we hired a part-time assistant. She has become very helpful and we like her, and plan to keep her employed. This year after she received her Christmas bonus, she sent a thank you card addressed to my boss and his wife (who is in no way associated with our office), at the office address, thanking him for his generosity. I feel like this was a little bit of overkill buttock-kissing on her part. Am I wrong? Is an employee supposed to send a thank you card to his or her boss after receiving a work bonus that is a part of his or her pay, which was promised to the employee at the time of hire? Please set me straight if I am incorrect, as I do not wish to appear rude or ungrateful, because I do appreciate receiving my pay as promised. Thanks!

L. A., Lake City, MI

I’m thinking you’re concerned her gesture of “buttock-kissing” is putting you in an awkward position because you didn’t write a thank you note. Now you’re worried because your assistant has done something, sent a thank you note, which raises the ante for showing appreciation for the bonus. You think that because the bonus was a promised part of your salary that it doesn’t deserve a note. And that is the crux of the problem. Is a thank you note “deserved?”

I’d give your assistant the benefit of the doubt and ascribe her choice to write a thank you note to being part of her understanding of how to show appreciation as opposed to unbridled “buttock-kissing.” It’s also quite possible that her bonus was based on merit, profit, or generosity and not an expected part of her overall compensation. I’d also give her this benefit of the doubt because apparently she is doing the work she was hired to do efficiently and well or you wouldn’t be planning to keep her employed. If she made any mistake here, it was including your boss’s wife in her thanks. Best to keep the work and social worlds separate.

When you received your bonus, you smiled and thanked your boss. Well done. That is all you “needed” to do. You expressed your appreciation when the bonus was given. You followed a pattern you have established over time. You don’t need to feel compelled to do more in the future, nor do you need to feel upstaged by the assistant if she continues to express her thanks in a note rather than just verbally.

I’d let this issue pass.

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