The holiday season is a giving season – a time to reflect upon the people in our lives and show them our appreciation. Although it’s a joyous time, the holidays can also be stressful when you don’t know what gifts to get the important people in your life. The stress can be even worse when you’re not sure what to get people in your workplace, especially your boss.

Questions on the subject abound: What’s the right gift to give your boss? How can you get your boss a meaningful gift without seeming inappropriate or going overboard? And of course, should you even get your boss a gift at all?

The most widespread rule of thumb when it comes to getting your boss a gift is… not to get your boss a gift at all. That’s right, many people think that employees should never get their bosses gifts. Because of the workplace’s hierarchy, some believe it’s inappropriate to give a present to someone who has the authority to fire or hire you. It’s okay to get a present from your boss, but you shouldn’t feel like you have to give them one also. The problem is that your gift, although well-intentioned, may turn out to seem to be in bad taste and come off as a brown-nosing attempt.

However, if you really want to get your boss a gift to show him or her your appreciation, here are a few things to remember.

  • Make it a group thing. The safest way to get your boss a gift without seeming inappropriate or like you’re trying to curry favor is by giving a gift on behalf of a group of employees. Talk to your co-workers and run the idea by them. If you all think it’s a good idea to get your boss a gift, brainstorm together as to what gift to get, then assign someone to collect a set amount of money from everyone and actually buy the present. But, if you ask your co-workers about getting your boss a gift and none of them think it’s a good idea, then you should take the hint and scrap the whole thing. Don’t turn your back and buy something on your own – not only do you risk seeming inappropriate to your boss, but you’ll likely antagonize your co-workers as well.
  • Don’t spend too much. Whether you buy a gift as a group or decide to get one on your own, determine an amount to spend according to the number of people splitting the cost. Don’t even think about getting something overly expensive; remember, “it’s the thought that counts.” If this is truly the spirit in which the gift is given, then keeping the price low shouldn’t be a problem. If you’re considering getting something expensive in order to impress your boss, then you shouldn’t be getting him or her a gift at all.
  • Keep it classic and classy. Although you may be tempted to get your boss a sweater in his or her favorite color, resist the urge to buy something overly personal. Clothing, as a rule, is a “no,” because it’s much too personal. Plus, you have to guess your boss’ size, which instantly puts you in dangerous territory. Stick to classic, workplace-appropriate gifts like food and wine, electronics, and desk or travel accessories. And, when choosing among these gifts, go with classy styles and colors. Do consider getting a nice iPhone charging dock for his or her desk. Don’t get a toilet bowl-shaped coffee mug. Keep it classy and avoid gag gifts. Even if you think your boss would appreciate the joke, it’s best to play it safe and stick to something tasteful.
  • Be thoughtful. Being tasteful and getting a classic gift doesn’t mean you have to leave all thoughtfulness behind. If you know your boss is a wine lover, then consider getting a good bottle of wine, or a wine decanter. If your boss doesn’t go anywhere without his or her tablet, consider getting an accessory for it. Or, if you know your boss loves homemade cookies, then bake up a batch and put them in a nice basket.

The main thing to remember is not to feel pressured to get your boss something. Most bosses don’t expect to get anything, so something small and thoughtful is plenty. What do you think is the best way to go about getting the boss a gift? And what about getting gifts for the people you manage?

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Adina Miron

5 Comments

  • Avatar Scarlett says:

    It can be really tricky to choose a gift for your boss. It’s very important to analyze the kind of relationship you have with your boss and the company culture regarding this issue. Your company culture may determine the amount of money you can spend on a gift. Also, as you already highlighted, it is important to keep the gift impersonal. Expensive or personal gifts can send the wrong message, and you don’t want your boss to think that you expect something in return.

  • Avatar Meg says:

    When you have to buy a gift for your superiors, keep in mind that it should be something thoughtful and tailored to their interests. Go with something impersonal, but try to add a personal mark too – a handwritten note, an interesting way of wrapping it.

  • Avatar Ashley says:

    The most appropriate way of planning a gift for your boss is to consider a group gift. If you have cooperative coworkers, give them the chance to participate. Trying to not include your coworkers may make you look bad and manipulative.

  • Avatar Carin Dixon says:

    Also, if you want to buy a gift by yourself, you might consider giving it privately without making a scene in front of other coworkers or management.

  • Avatar Harry says:

    Will my boss present me with something as well? Will my boss think long and hard how to do it in the best possible way? Will they be thoughtful and add a personal note for my pleasure?

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