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Boss's Day: acknowledge or ignore?

Today is Boss's Day, but is it really in your best interest to participate?

By Kevyn Burger
Monday, October 17, 2016

Today is the annual workplace event that is known as Boss’s Day.

It’s a chance to make a career-limiting move — or an opportunity to enhance your standing in the office.

But mostly, Boss’s Day represents a dilemma, both for employees and their supervisor/managers. It’s easy to get it wrong, both on the giving and the receiving end.

“For employees, I say, unless you can think of something small that will make your boss laugh, or can chip in on a group gift from the whole team, don’t do it,” advises Liz Taylor, a business etiquette consultant at Excelsior-based Etiquette Principles.

“It’s almost always a bad move to single yourself out by giving the boss a gift.”

Boss’s Day got its start in 1958; you can blame a secretary at State Farm Insurance in Deerfield, Illinois. Patricia Bays Haroski, whose boss was her father, came up with the idea and registered it with the US Chamber of Commerce, picking October 16 — her dad’s birthday — for the annual quasi holiday. (This year, the 16th fell on a Sunday, so it’s being marked today, on the 17th.)

Hallmark jumped on the Boss’s Day bandwagon in 1979 and has been producing greeting cards to acknowledge the awkward day ever since; this year there are more than 50 options, from formal to humorous, available for purchase on the cardmaker’s website and in shops.

A version of the day is now is observed among employees and bosses in Australia, India, Ireland, South Africa and Egypt.

Taylor suggests that employees who want to use the day to express appreciation to their boss take an old fashioned approach.

“A hand written thank you note trumps any gift you could give,” she says. “Not a suck-up letter, but one that says, thank you for your leadership, here’s how you have made an impact on me. Any boss would appreciate the gesture.”

If an employee cannot write a letter that is genuine, she advises skipping it.

What if you’re the boss yourself? Taylor finds some bosses are embarrassed by the attention and don’t respond to any of the attention. She thinks that supervisors can use the day to acknowledge their employees and strengthen those relationships.

“I’m all about servant leadership. A boss who gets a gift from employees should send each one a hand written thank you and say, ‘My success wouldn’t be possible without my team.’ It doesn’t have to be more than three sentences, but it should be heartfelt.”