Are you buying a gift for your boss this holiday season? I’m not. And I actually like the guy. I am a big believer that employees should NOT buy their bosses holiday gifts.
Every year we all wrestle with the issue of who to buy for at the office and what to get them. Here are some rules and reminders that will hopefully alleviate some of the holiday pressure.
DO IT PRIVATELY: If you plan to give a gift to your boss or a colleague it should be done privately. Public displays of gift giving open you up to criticism and judgment.
“Oh my God, did you see what a kiss ass Andrew is?”
“He didn’t tell me he was giving XYZ a gift!”
“That’s all he spent?”
Gift giving is a personal choice that should come from your heart. Do your best to keep it quiet and personal.
LEARN THE CULTURE: The holidays can be particularly difficult if you’re the newbie at the office, as you have no idea what to expect. Rookies need to quiz their co-workers and consult the employee handbook so they will be prepared and understand the “rules” of engagement.
SET PRECEDENT: It’s important to note that if you give a gift this year, you will likely be expected to give a gift next year. If you’re new at a company or working in a new department you have the opportunity to lay the groundwork for years to come. Once the cycle is set in motion it is difficult to break. Choose wisely and remember that this year’s decision will have ramifications down the road. It’s the law of stroking.
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PERSONAL, YET GENERIC: Now that you’ve made the decision to give you need to figure out what’s going into the box. Your goal should be to make it personal without crossing lines. In this day and age of hyper-sensitivity we urge you to tread lightly. Benign items such as chocolate, flowers, candles and lotions can easily take on another meaning. Play it safe with Starbucks gift cards, calendars, scratch-off Lotto tickets, and the always-popular, homemade sugar cookies.
BE ON TIME: Holiday gifts that arrive late, even if it’s only a matter of hours, have a way of being negated. In fact you can even come out looking worse than if you didn’t reciprocate at all. If you decide to give, get it out of the way early so you don’t end up forgetting .
BE PREPARED: If you’ve been unable to crack your company’s holiday code, we suggest you still arrive “prepared.” Keep a stack of holiday cards in your bag so you can quickly reciprocate if someone unexpectedly hooks you up. I’d also buy a few small gift cards that you can keep on you in case the need arises. Not reciprocating is AOK if you are comfortable. If not, alleviate some of the stress by being prepared.
BOSSES, TAKE CHARGE: Part of what makes a good boss is leadership ability. We wish more bosses would pick a consistent holiday message and deliver it to their staff. For example, tell staffers that gifts, while a generous thought, are not necessary and will not be accepted. Bosses can also dictate what happens among staff by urging people who choose to share gifts to conduct exchanges discretely. Someone always feels left out and hurt – and that is not only bad for the individual – but for the organization as well.
DON’T BE FUNNY: Gag gifts like a mooning snowman are for family and friends – not co-workers. Even if it’s the “fool-proof joke of the century” – resist the urge.
One tactic I’ve seen employed that I absolutely loved occurred at my very first job. I was working for a local radio station as an intern. One of the computer guys (I think his name was Ed White) came in with about 50 snow brush / ice scrapers. He made the rounds handing one to everyone. From intern to owner, everyone got a hardy handshake, a ’happy holidays,’ and a snow brush. It was a token gift that proved useful for years to come.
Maybe I was just happy to be included as a lowly intern. The fact that I can remember Ed White’s name almost 10 years later shows how effective his tactic was. And I imagine it was cheap and efficient for him. A HUGE win-win!
For the past few years I’ve made donations in co-worker’s names to different charities. I’m not sure how it comes across, but it helps me feel a little better about the holiday madness. I get to do a little good while also satisfying holiday office politics.
These approaches might not be perfect but I wish my boss would take notes.
How do YOU celebrate the holidays at work? Leave a comment and you could win $50.