What is the appropriate way to respond after an unplanned social encounter with your boss?

Last week, I ran into my supervisor at the store and she invited me to her house to look at some yard equipment that she might have been willing to part with.  Once there, she opened a bottle of wine and we chatted for a few hours before parting ways.  What’s the next step?  Does one send a thank you card for that?  Should I return the favor at some point in the near future?  I do not want to sully the professional relationship, disregard her hospitality, or overstep my boundaries as an employee.

A surprise get together ending in an empty bottle of wine sounds like a pretty perfect day to me.  But when it comes to work relationships outside of work with a superior, well things can go from delightful to daunting pretty quickly.

Everyone appreciates a thank you.  When putting together a thank you there are few things to keep in mind:

  1. Know the recipient. Make sure that your thank you will be comfortably received and reflect the relationship.  A singing telegram will get the point across but the over-the-top gesture and public display will likely leave everyone confused and uncomfortable.  Then again, maybe that’s what your supervisor likes?  Whatever you select, gauge the level of comfort your recipient will have upon receiving the thank you.
  2. Use a form of communication that matches the occasion. No, this doesn’t mean you need to send a bottle of wine since you polished one off,  Rather, the level of effort you put into your thank you should be in line with the occasion.  This may be a thank you card or an email, but be sure the gesture reflects a level of appreciation.
  3. Have a clear message. How many times have you left a dull event and regretted the words as they came out of your mouth, “we should do this again.” Genuine thank you’s can quickly turn into disingenuous offers.

Fear not, you don’t have to duck into a hallway every time your superior passes by or uncomfortably dodge the topic in conversation.  Send your thank you, relax and realize that you more than appropriately responded to the occasion.