October 17, 2016

On Boss’s Day, Show Your Appreciation Without Looking Like a ‘Suck-Up’


Today, October 17, is Boss’s Day.

And no, this isn’t one of those appreciation days created by Hallmark, the National Association of Employers, or some other group that stands to potentially gain from it. In fact, Boss’s Day was first instituted in 1958 by a secretary at an insurance company.

The key questions raised by this holiday, if you are an employee, are:

  1. Should I do something for my boss?
  2. If so, what?
  3. How do I keep from looking like I am just “sucking up” to them?

Let me give you some help in thinking through those questions:

  1. It would be good to do something for your boss if you do appreciate something about them and/or if you want to improve your relationship with them. If there is nothing you like about your boss or if you are in the midst of a major conflict, pass. It is better to do nothing than to go through the motions and try to fake it.
  2. What should you do? It is largely up to you. What would feel genuine coming from you? How much time, energy, or money do you want to invest in the process?  Generally, it is better to do a little something that is meaningful (either to you or to them) than it is to take some action that looks like it is just for show. Most people value an action that seems to have involved some time and thought and has to do with them personally – rather than handing them the last “Happy Boss’s Day” card from the grocery store.
  3. How to avoiding looking like you are just trying to impress them: Take some time to identify either: a.) a character quality you value in your boss; b.) an action they undertook that impacted you positively; or c.) something about your boss that you respect. Then get a card (or make a card); attach it to a small, meaningful gift; and write in the card that you just want to thank them for a., b., or c. above. The card doesn’t have to be long, life-changing, or super fancy, but your writing should be legible – especially your signature.

Another option is work together with one or more colleagues to get your boss a card or gift as a group. In fact, you could initiate and ask if anyone wants to “go in” with you. That makes the act less focused on you.

(By the way, it would be good to find out how your boss likes to be shown appreciation before doing anything for them. The Motivating By Appreciation Inventory might help with that.)

Finally, do not, under any circumstances, say “Don’t forget me at bonus time” or something equally offensive – even in joking. This is about your appreciation for your boss, not about getting a reward at some point in the future.

Paul White, Ph.D., is a speaker, trainer, author, and psychologist who “makes work relationships work.” 

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Paul White, Ph.D., is a speaker, trainer, author, and psychologist who “makes work relationships work." Dr. White is coauthor of "Rising Above a Toxic Workplace," and has recently released training resources to help businesses avoid becoming toxic.