Handling Holiday Gifts From Employees

Jim Luff
Posted on December 11, 2013

Every holiday season brings an awkward moment when the least likely employee shows up in my office with a Christmas present for me. As a general rule, I discourage the practice of bringing the boss a gift. For many different reasons, it can raise eyebrows. Especially when the gift is inappropriately lavish. 
We give each employee a gift each year. It has ranged over the years from a holiday ham to cash, and of course last year’s most appropriate and practical gift, a new white, dress shirt. We also have given out winter trench coats and that was certainly practical as well. If there is an independent clothier in your area, you might want to inquire about the possibility of a trade. The retailer could provide holiday light tours as gifts for their employees while you give your employees clothing. If not, JC Penney’s has great prices and we did it online so no one had to go shopping for all those shirts.

As for receiving items, I would rather give than receive I was reminded of that today as I put a very large crystal beverage dispenser in storage. I have had it for a full year and never used it. It is the kind of thing that you would give to a couple on their 25th wedding anniversary or some other big occasion. I know it had to be at least $100. Maybe it was a re-gift. I don’t know but I was very uncomfortable when I opened the wrapped present on Christmas day and felt like the gift was over-the-top. I would rather receive a simple greeting card from an employee than any type of gift.

I wish I didn’t feel this way but the fact is I believe if you spend a lavish amount on a gift for me that perhaps you are expecting some work favor in return, maybe better hours, better runs, a pay raise or a promotion. The amount spent on a gift will have no bearing on future assignments but it might make me avoid passing you anywhere on the property as chances are, I would still feel awkward. 
I wonder if it might be better to just send an email to all employees and state that it would bring me so much more joy if they would take the same amount of money they were going to spend on me and spend it on their kids or better yet, spend it on frivolously by getting a massage, a manicure, a pedicure or just a nice steak dinner.

— Jim Luff, LCT contributing editor

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