Boss’s Day Was Yesterday, and Thankfully I Forgot About It

Presents only go one way in the office. Down. Managers can buy presents for their direct reports, and CEOs are free to hand out bonuses at any time. But employees don’t get presents for their bosses (except in very few cases which I will explain below).

October 16 is Boss’s Day and that is no exception.

If you’re the boss, do not expect, do not hint, do not give any indication no matter how slight, that you expect any sort of gift. Period.

This is not my rule. This is Miss Manners’ rule and we should all follow it. Judith Martin (AKA Miss Manners) was speaking specifically about Christmas gifts, but it applies to Boss’s day as well. She says (and commit this concept to memory):

“The whole gift exchange business in professional life is ridiculous. You should not be giving presents to your boss. It’s the boss who should be giving the present if anyone does, and it should be a bonus or failing that, extra time off.”

Bosses have power over you. Any gift you give to a boss is legitimately a suck-up move. Bosses should turn down such gifts and should make it clear that they will not accept anything more than a card.

A card is fine. A card with no money, no gift certificate, nothing inside it is fine. (In case you weren’t quite clear on the principle.) The card should be signed by the entire group. There should not be individual cards. If one person doesn’t want to sign, fine. If multiple people don’t want to sign then that indicates the boss probably doesn’t deserve a card. Forget it.

Why am I so harsh and strict on this? Because unethical bosses will be more unethical if gift-giving happens. Because people feel pressure to spend their money on nice things for the boss. The boss makes more money than you do (in almost all cases) and can buy her own nice things if she wants. And? Because it’s icky.

There are a few exceptions to the boss gift giving thing and I will give them to you now.

  • Baby shower presents. If, and only if, you hold baby showers for every new bundle of joy that comes to someone in the department, you may give a baby gift to an expectant boss (male or female). This present should be identical to what you give other people. So, if your standard is everyone brings in a small present (some onesies, diapers, or those adorable baby shoes), that’s fine to do. If the standard is everyone chips in money and the department buys a car seat, that’s fine too. But that’s the extent. You don’t buy a box of diapers for your peer and an oak crib for the boss.
  • Wedding shower presents. If, and only if, you hold wedding showers for every wedding for someone in the department, you can give a shower to the boss. Same standards as above (although substitute, dishes, towels, and pot holders for the onesies, diapers, and baby shoes). Bosses should accept this gratefully and not moan because they really wanted money towards their honeymoon. Pay for your own honeymoon.
  • Funerals. If the boss loses a family member, group flowers are appropriate. It may be appropriate to bring in a meal.

That’s it. There is no exception for boss’s day.

Bosses, if you’re feeling hurt because you wanted a present, stop and consider how grateful you are for your good job and your good team. That’s enough of a present.

This originally appeared at Inc.

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2 thoughts on “Boss’s Day Was Yesterday, and Thankfully I Forgot About It

  1. Well said. My last horrible boss asked his subordinates to donate their PTO for his cancer treatments (he’s fine, years later) a few months after an excellent long-time employee was nearly fired because she exhausted her PTO and FMLA for her own cancer treatments (no request was made for her, but we donated anyway.) Not only was it an abuse of power but since he made so much more than us peons our PTO barely counted for anything. He was awful in so many ways but that really took the cake.

    1. At least he didn’t threaten to fire you if you didn’t offer to donate half your liver to his brother (to name a particularly egregious account from Ask A Manager).

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