Thanksgiving isn't quite here yet, but it's time to start thinking about presents at the workplace. Whether you want to label them as Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, Holiday or year end gifts, they are common place. Employees tend to want things like Harry and David's Fruit baskets, gift cards, time off, and of course, money. But what do you buy your boss?
Are you ready? Really ready? Because once you read this, your holiday shopping days will be greatly simplified. Here's what you should get your boss this year (and every year): Nothing.
Not a typo. The workplace is not an egalitarian place. There is a hierarchy and people who have hire/fire power authority over you don't get a present from you. This is not because you have a bad boss, or as revenge over that small bonus. It's just not the proper thing to do. The boss can give you a present, but it does not go both ways.
As Judith Martin, better known as Miss Manners, says, "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." All hail Miss Manners.
Emily Post agrees, but consents to a group gift to the boss. She gives her stated reason for no individual gifts as it might be seen as trying to "curry favor" with the boss. She's right. There's just no way for you to give a gift to the boss and have it be neutral. (Okay, there is one way, and that's a Pollyanna, where everyone in the department brings a gift and they are passed around and the boss ends up with one, but it wasn't selected specifically for her.)
Are you the boss? Stop expecting gifts or hinting about them. If someone asks what you want for Christmas reply, "I'm just thrilled to have such an awesome staff. Please don't buy me anything. Miss Manners says it's inappropriate."
Are you the office gift coordinator? This is often not an assigned job, but rather something that someone takes on herself. (This is usually a female, and often times that female feels she has to do this, but no one has asked her to). If you're this person, stop trying to organize gifts for the boss. Just stop it. If you feel so compelled, get a nice card and have everyone sign it. Write, "Happy Holidays! Jane." That's it.
If you just can't stand to not get a present for the boss, follow Emily Post's rule that it not be an individual gift. It should be a group gift, with voluntary contributions. If someone does not wish to contribute their name should still be on the card. Why? Because otherwise, it does look like you're trying to brown nose. And if you start asking your co-workers for donations and they all say no, or give you $0.50, it's a sign that no one else wants to do this. So, stop asking.
This group present should be inexpensive (each person's contribution should be less than what the boss spent on them) and consumable, according to the boss's taste. A bottle of wine, a box or chocolates, or something similar. Anything else goes into the seriously inappropriate category. Boss gifts are inappropriate to begin with, don't make it worse by trying to find a sweater in the boss's favorite color.
Of course, if you've got a particularly bad boss--and even worse co-workers that indulge your bad boss--you may have to buy something to not be put into the project dog house. Take the time to speak to your co-workers and you can show them this article (which, of course, is definitive) which states that gifts to the boss are not necessary. But, in that case, follow my advice at your own peril. (And start looking for a new job, because a boss that demands a holiday gift from her direct reports undoubtedly has a whole myriad of problems and you deserve better.)