Guidelines for Giving Your Boss a Gift

The right gifts for your boss.
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Business etiquette “rules” do not require you, or any worker, to give a gift to your boss for any occasion. In fact, giving an inappropriate gift to your boss could make your boss feel uncomfortable, alienate co-workers, or even appear as if you are trying to “buy” your way into your boss’ good graces.

However, if you do feel compelled to give (i.e., if you don't your boss will hold it against you -- which is a good indication you may not be working for the right boss) or you want to give your boss a gift, the following guidelines apply.

Consider a Group Gift First

For birthdays and holidays, you may want to consider giving a group gift instead of a gift only from you.  That takes pressure off of you as an individual but also allows co-workers the chance to participate. If someone else is already coordinating a group gift, it is better to participate than to give a gift independent of the group.  If your boss gets a group gift from everyone but you, it reflects poorly on you. 

Be Discreet

If you do give a gift by yourself, deliver it privately without making a show in front of other employees or management. Trying to “show up” or “out gift” other workers make you look bad and manipulative, so be a team player when it comes to both work and gift giving.

The one reasonable exception might be if you and your boss are friends outside of work and you want to do something extra special to acknowledge the personal side of the relationship.

 If this is the case, then give the gift outside of the workplace instead of at the office in front of others.

Aim to Please – Not Impress

Keep the gift simple and sincere, and relatively inexpensive, and stay away from giving personal items. When you give over-the-top gifts, it puts pressure on the recipient to respond favorably, or even with a return gesture or gift.

 If there is something, your boss really would like that is more than $25 go in with someone else. Expensive gifts, when they are even appropriate, are better given (and received) when coming from a group.

Never Give Cash as a Personal Gift

Cash gifts are not personal gifts and send the message that it was last-minute, that you don't care enough to know your bosses' tastes or interests. Unless you are giving out bonuses from your company to your employees, never give cash as gifts. A gift card is appropriate to give to your boss, but cash is not. 

Another reason to never give your boss cash is that small amounts seem trivial and obligatory and large amounts seem gratuitous or can appear that you are trying into your employer's good graces. Don't let that next promotion be clouded with office gossip that your big cash gift was the reason you got promoted.

Do Not Give Promises or I.O.U.s

Never give favors, offers to take your boss privately to lunch or dinner, or 'IOUs' as gifts. If you have nothing tangible to give but want to make a nice gesture, give your boss a greeting card with a nice note (even better, have your co-workers sign the card, too). Remember that your boss may have authority over you at work, but they are still human.

 People like to be remembered for the right reasons -- even your boss -- and not because it was mandatory.

Give Honestly and Without Expectation

Always give a gift without expecting anything in return – this includes a gift, promotion, or raise!

Business Gifts Etiquette Tips

Never “brag” to others in the workplace about a gift that you gave to your boss, and if your boss does not seem to appreciate the gift, or does not give you something in return never bad mouth your boss to co-workers. If you give anyone a gift (including your boss) with the expectation of receiving something in return, it was given for the wrong reason.

Closing Thoughts

The bottom line to remember is that giving gifts should always be focused on the recipient and not on the giver. A gift given with the right intention will always better received than one given under duress or for the sake of gaining something in return.