There were some problems at my job last week—not my fault but my responsibility—that required weekend work. My boss said she would work Saturday, and I said I'd work Sunday. This morning she called and said she felt bad since I have to travel quite far to work, and since there wasn't much left to do, she'd do it for me.
So nice of her! Are homemade cookies and a warm email appropriate thanks? I know you aren't supposed to give presents to your boss, but I was hoping homemade stuff could be an exception. True?
NR, Toronto, ON, Canada
What a pleasure to receive a question that deals with a positive, understanding boss. Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to your question. It depends to a large degree on the size of your workplace.
If you and your boss and maybe one or two other people are in the business, then by all means some “homemade stuff” would be appropriate. Just remember: Any time you do make stuff for any office be sure to let people know the ingredients to avoid any unpleasant surprises due to allergies.
The problem with a gift for your boss comes when there are several other employees in the business or department. It would be a shame to have an expression of appreciation appear to the other employees as an attempt on your part to curry favor with the boss. The other employees may not even know why you are giving your gift, and because of that lack of knowledge their thoughts could easily turn to the negative. Also, you are now setting the bar for other employees when the boss treats them similarly to how she treated you. If they don’t make some “homemade stuff,” are they less appreciative?
Instead, a perfect way to show your appreciation is to give your boss a thank you card or note. You should hand write the message. It doesn’t have to be long—three to five sentences are more than enough. Leave it on her desk or give it to her when you can do so privately. By the way, if you are in a small office where “homemade stuff” is appropriate, an accompanying card or note is like icing on the cake.
Out of interest, statistically bosses who do treat their employees well, foster a positive workplace atmosphere, and are considerate and respectful of everyone they interact with tend to have a more productive team, generate higher profits and engender greater customer loyalty. Those are pretty good results for treating people well.