Should I Buy a Gift for My Boss?

December 16, 2013

should I get a gift for my boss?

This is the time of year when many of us are struggling with the question, should I get my boss a present for the holidays? Here are a few things to consider:

  1. What is your company policy? Some companies have guidelines on how much you can spend, or even whether you can buy your boss a gift at all.
  2. What are your coworkers doing?  You probably don’t want to be the only one getting a gift (making them look bad) or the only one not acknowledging your boss for the holidays (possibly making you look bad). You might all want to get a gift together. If you are in a situation where everyone else is getting a gift, but you would prefer not to, skip down to number 4 for suggestions on what to do instead.
  3. What is the corporate culture like? Sometimes even if there is no official rule, there are unspoken ones. I once worked for a company where it was frowned upon to exchange gifts, but the employees happily enjoyed a gift exchange outside the office. I’ve also worked for the reverse: companies where they encourage “holiday spirit” within reason but the employees mutually agree not to exchange gifts. If you’re new to your office, ask a few friends what is expected.
  4. How do you feel about it? If giving a gift to your boss doesn’t sit well with you, then don’t do it. There are many other things you can do to acknowledge the season without buying a gift. Here are a few suggestions:
    1. Give a card. Just acknowledging the season without exchanging gifts is perfectly acceptable, and in some cases preferable.
    2. Say thank you. Take the time to thank your boss for something she did during the year. It could be anything, but be sincere. Some business associates send Thanksgiving cards instead of generic holiday cards. It gives them a chance to show gratitude for help they received, for the opportunity to work on something new, or just for knowing someone. This is a good idea for clients as well to thank them for their business.
    3. Bring in food. This is an excellent way to acknowledge everyone (not just your boss), show some holiday spirit, and avoid many of the issues associated with giving your boss or colleagues gifts.
    4. Donate to a cause in his name. This is an especially nice thing to do if you choose a cause that is dear to his heart. Your money goes to a good cause, and there isn’t any exchange of gifts.

Odds are, if you are asking yourself this question at all, you probably don’t want to get him a gift, but also don’t want to offend him either. Consider the suggestions above and take heart in knowing that most bosses don’t expect gifts; they expect respect, dedication, and hard work. If you acknowledge them sincerely, a gift is unnecessary.  Whatever you decide, don’t feel locked into your decision. If you gave a gift last year and can’t afford it this year or simply don’t want to, it’s fine to not give one this year. One way to make that less awkward is to mention before the holidays that you’re cutting back on gifts this year.

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About The Author

Christina Parisi is Director of Digital Content at the American Management Association. Previously she was an Executive Editor at AMACOM Books and the Director of AMA Self-Studies.

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