Around this time of year, engineers and other professionals typically give holiday gifts to their supervisors. The other day I was thinking back on some of the gifts that I gave my engineering managers through the years. On several occasions, I gave the typical bottle of wine with a nice ribbon on it, however there was one year in particular that stood out.
One year, I gave my supervisor a book. It wasn’t a book that was related to engineering, it was a self-help book on leadership. The book was titled The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You by John C. Maxwell. Those of you who read my blog regularly know that I read many inspirational books and I love spreading inspiration to others, and this was my way of doing so; but how did it really look? Was my supervisor upset or insulted that I gave him a book on leadership? The answer is I don’t know, or at least couldn’t tell based on his reaction, however this is something to consider when giving gifts to those that manage you.
I wouldn’t recommend giving your supervisor a book (or similar gift) with the intent of it helping them to improve as a manger, for several reasons. First of all, they are probably too busy to read it, in which case it will sit on their shelf and not help them (or you) at all. Secondly, it could bring up negative feelings towards you if they take it as an insult.
In general, I do recommend putting some thought into the gift rather than just giving them a typical bottle of liquor or box of cookies (unless they are homemade). This will show the person that you are not just giving a gift to the person for the sake of giving it, but you are thankful for their guidance. Also when you hand them the gift, shake his or her hand and thank them, and try to avoid just leaving it on the desk and running.
So if you are doing some last minute scrambling to find a gift for your engineering manager, don’t just grab the cheapest bottle of wine on the shelf, think about the gift and the meaning behind it. In my opinion, you are better off giving the gift late than just giving a gift that won’t be utilized or remembered.
Anthony Fasano, P.E.
Powerful Purpose Associates – Helping Engineers Develop Their Careers