Do Not Buy the Boss a Present

It’s that wonderful present time of year! But businesses are hierarchical and presents go down and not up. See this horror of an example from r/antiwork.

Do not do this. Ever.

If you absolutely, positively have to give the boss a present, it should be small and consumable. A box of chocolates, or a bottle of midgrade wine, with no one contributing more than $5 and completely voluntarily. A card is a better idea.

This is incredibly inappropriate.

If you are the boss, and your employees give you something like this, very politely reject it. Better yet, let people know that you will not accept any presents from them.

Your employees are not your grateful subjects. You should be grateful that they work for you.

No presents for bosses. Especially no expensive presents. And yes, $20 is a lot of money for a lot of people.

Someone talk to this Executive Director and tell them to knock it off.

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3 thoughts on “Do Not Buy the Boss a Present

  1. 100% agree. When I took over as a supervisor, I ended our teams gift exchange. I suggested it would be okay if team members bought each other gifts, voluntarily. There would be no obligation and I would not accept a gift. I did not want any of our team to feel obligated to spend money on me. It just made me feel creepy. If our team feels I have done something right, I always appreciate a thank you. But I want to have had earned it. No gifts please.

  2. I’m torn.

    Buying a gift specifically for the boss, specifically because they are the boss? That’s not right, at least not in our culture (in other cultures it would be considered proper). On the flip side, if there’s something like a dirty santa or a group-wide gift exchange or the like, not joining in is also not right. It gives the impression that you think you’re better than the workers, that you’re above them. In a properly run team the “boss” is an integral part of the team–it’s a matter of division of labor, not intrinsic superiority–and while some distancing is proper (the boss is part of multiple teams, after all) too much is not good either. And this is the season where our culture traditionally exchanges gifts.

    I think that’s the issue: Exchange. As long as everyone has an equal chance of getting a gift from everyone else, I think it’s fine for the boss to join in. Random names from a hat, or a situation where you don’t know who it’s from, that sort of thing. Something where being the boss is irrelevant, what matters is that you’re a coworker.

    All of this assumes a traditional company structure, of course. In something like matrix management or project-based work this discussion gets really complicated. I’ve had situations where someone was my boss one week, I was theirs the next. We didn’t do gifts (just not part of the company culture), but it would have made the calculation of who had power over whom nightmarishly hard.

  3. 100% agree. When I took over as a supervisor, I ended our teams gift exchange. I suggested it would be okay if team members bought each other gifts item, voluntarily.

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