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Should You Get Your Boss a Holiday Present?


It is the season of spreading joy and merriment around, a.k.a the season of gift giving (and hopefully receiving). You are planning on buying a gift expressing your gratitude to your wonderful manager. It has after all been, one rocking year. So what can you get to the most amazing boss ever?

gift cards

(Photo Credit: Lani Elderts/Flickr)

Nothing. Nada. Zilch. I’m hoping this didn’t come as a surprise for you.

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Even if your boss and you share a great working relationship, it’s just not appropriate to buy a gift for your boss. There’s every possibility that your innocent and generous intentions will be misconstrued and seen as tactics to win favor. Is the next big project around the corner? Definitely not the right time for that gorgeous watch! However, if you are a part of a larger team and all your colleagues are planning on buying each other Christmas gifts and they organize a common budget pool, contributing to the pool may be a good idea. That way, all of you end up with gifts and so will your boss.

If your manager gives all of you gifts, thank her. You still don’t have to give her a gift. The best way to reciprocate, if you must, is to get the team involved and pool in together. Let the gift be from the team, not just from you.

Many organizations have a Secret Santa tradition where employees draw names of team member(s) they play Santa to. If you end up being the Secret Santa for your boss, don’t go overboard with your gifts. Keep them relevant. Good choices would include framed team photograph signed by all team members, coffee mugs, or gift certificates to bookstores or coffee shops. Susan Heathfield shares a list over at

Be sensitive to your boss and your team’s religious beliefs. See how your team celebrates the festivities of other cultures and religions and follow the cue. Religion is a very personal and often sensitive topic, so be aware of your team’s preferences and follow suit.

If you are not comfortable with the gift-exchange concept, come up with some other solution — identifying a charitable institute to contribute to as a team, just having a holiday get-together, etc. But time yourself so that you are not viewed as the spoilsport to the team spirit. Maybe wait until the holiday madness settles down early next year, and then discuss your ideas.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you buy holiday presents for bosses or co-workers? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

Padmaja Ganeshan Singh
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