HOLIDAYS AND BIRTHDAYS are things that everyone loves—except at work. At work, they are awkward, obligatory occurrences that nobody likes—not the givers or receivers. The potential for emotional discomfort, hurt feelings, and misinterpretation is staggering. If your gift is too good, your co-workers will be uncomfortable for their shabby gifts. If it’s lame, your boss or employee will be uncomfortable because he or she will have to fake that they like it. Sadly, I believe that it’s safe to say that, although widely revered by, pretty much, everybody, office gift-giving is here to stay; because the one thing worse than giving a lame office gift, is being the guy (or girl) that doesn’t give one at all when everyone else does. We really reached out to a team on this one—a wealth of experience from all rungs of the corporate ladder. Below are their findings.
Office Gifts for the Boss
As the number of employees far out-weighs the number of bosses, statistics says that we should start here. When it comes to buying a holiday gift or birthday present for your boss, consider getting the entire department or office involved. Making gift giving a group event can create a more comfortable situation for you, your boss, and your co-workers. Buying the gift yourself will not only cost a little bit more than a gift from you and your co-workers, but it may also send the wrong signals to your boss and your peers.
If you do decide to get your boss a gift on your own, make sure it's not too expensive or way better than what you think your co-workers are going to get. Buying a lavish gift can make you look like you’re trying to improve your situation at work through favoritism or bribery. It's also a good idea to give your boss the gift in private, instead of making a big production out of it in front of the rest of the office.
Regardless of whether you’ve decided to buy the gift yourself or have agreed to go in as a group to chip in, it's a good idea to set a budget.
When looking for a gift for your boss, find something that he or she can actually use. Your boss, most likely, has an endless supply of novelty gifts and trinkets around his or her office that ultimately take up space and collect dust. A good way to find a functional gift for your boss is to think about what he or she likes. This can be easier than it sounds. If your company is relatively small, you may already have plenty of ideas. If not, we’ve made a list for you to get you started.
- Coffee shop gift certificate
- Laptop bag
- Concert tickets
- Coffee press
- Boxing lessons
- Yoga sessions
- Electronic golf scoring system
- An annual subscription to his/her favorite magazine
- A donation in his/her name to his/her favorite charity
- High-quality pen
- iTunes gift card
- Amazon.com gift card
- Gourmet gift basket
Another major facet of gift-giving for bosses is that you ensure the gift is appropriate for the environment in which you work. After all, no one is more familiar with what is and isn’t okay in your office than your boss, so use some common sense. Unless you are REALLY comfortable with your boss and your office is a REALLY laid-back setting, it's usually a good idea to rule out gag gifts that may offend or insult your boss, gifts that may appear to be sexual in nature, and gifts that contain vulgar or inappropriate language. If unsure, it is my professional advice that you err on the side of caution. Here are some examples of what we concluded were bad ideas.
- “Dummies” or “Idiot’s Guide” books
- Sexy lingerie
- Awkward, profane or offensive T-shirts or other gifts
- Fruitcake—even for a holiday gift
- “World’s Best Boss” stuff
If our list still doesn’t spark any brilliant ideas, our next advice would be to do your own research. We had a bit of mixed feelings about whether or not “gift cards” were a good or bad gift for a boss. While some thought it was versatile and useful, others thought it was drab and thoughtless. Personally, I would love to get a gift card or gift certificate from my employees because chances are, I could actually get some use out of it. All bosses are different, however, so feel things out before making a purchase.
A potentially equally as stressful situation is if you are a boss or supervisor and the time comes for you to give holiday gifts to your employees. Ensure that, not including bonuses (because different people earn different things), the gifts are equal. Holiday gift-giving is not a good time to play favorites. Unless you have a relatively small office and know each of your employees really well, I would stay away from wine or food as some may not drink, be vegetarian or vegan, or be religiously opposed. Our team came up with the following short list of ideas.
Gifts for Employees
- iTunes or Amazon gift cards
- Restaurant gift cards
- Hotel gift cards
- One-on-one lunch with the boss (where the boss picks up the tab)
- Time off (Outside of sick days or paid vacation days)