Should I give my boss a Christmas present?
December 21, 2004 12:50 PM   Subscribe

WorkplaceEtiquetteFilter: I plan to give my boss his Christmas gift tomorrow. But now I've seen some people on some other sites (fark, ahem) saying that getting a gift for the boss is "ass-sucking" (they sure have a way of talking over there!). So I'm wondering: is my rather nice gift going to be perceived as my being an ass? [+]

He is basically the reason I got my job - even though my qualifications were somewhat lacking, he believed in my talent from the beginning and made my moving here possible. And so, the gift is pretty nice (he likes old books, he likes Mark Twain, so I got him a first edition of my favorite Twain book).

Other notes: he has literally no family and this will probably be pretty much the only gift he gets. Also, I am the only employee under him - I am not having to deal with other people at my same employment level. He and I are the only 2 people in the department.
posted by u.n. owen to Human Relations (32 answers total)
Around my workplace, the purchase of a gift for a superior by an individual employee is absolutely perceived as unequivocally asskissing. Even when I had a fantastic boss who I appreciated both professionally and personally. Pitching in with a few other folks as a group tempers that somewhat, since if the boss is such a good person as to be a gift recipient for reasons other than kissass it's likely other people -- perhaps his peers or his boss -- feel similarly.

Also, some workplaces may have "workplace ethics" rules about accepting gifts above a certain value from within the company. Be aware of them.
posted by majick at 12:55 PM on December 21, 2004

Who is going to perceive you as a suck-up if you're the only two people in the department? You're displaying your gratitude to him, it's a nice gesture.

The first step, however, is to stop listening to advice given on Fark.
posted by trey at 12:56 PM on December 21, 2004

Response by poster: majick: frankly, I got the used book specifically to circumvent those rules. If anyone asks what I got it for as part of an ethics probe, they'll hear that I got the steal of the century.
posted by u.n. owen at 12:56 PM on December 21, 2004

Also, it's a well thought out gift, not some mug with "World's Best Boss" stenciled on the side.
posted by trey at 12:57 PM on December 21, 2004

Response by poster: Well, trey...

I work in a newsroom with about...oh, we'll say 20 people. But my boss and I are the only people who do the opinion pages. I'm basically his right-hand woman. But there are a LOT of reporters who would be in a position to notice.
posted by u.n. owen at 12:57 PM on December 21, 2004

well see, my dilemma is a lot worse... last year, i didn't really want to get three of my superiors gifts (the ones i work with the most directly), but my girlfriend managed to convince me that it'd be a great idea to show my appreciation by getting them gift certificates for a restaurant they all go to.

and so this year, i'm no longer with her, and i'm likewise no longer convinced it's a good idea. but i got them gift certificates last year! do i back out of giving them the same gift certificates now, since i sort of set a standard on my first year working here, last year?

(sorry owen, for asking my own question in your askme thread)
posted by lotsofno at 1:01 PM on December 21, 2004


Last year I gifted my boss with a well thought out gift for him and his family. He and I shared a very enjoyable working situation. He also was responsible for promoting me quickly through the company.

The gift, while nice, didn't cost me much, but was super appropriate and in my opinion, very thoughtful. We're both Chicago natives and missed the deep dish pizzas. I prepared everything he would need, dough included, to make a Pizzeria Uno style pie.
posted by FlamingBore at 1:01 PM on December 21, 2004

Yeah, screw Fark as a source of legitimate advice. Your gift sounds personal and thoughtful, so all that really matters is the personal context between the two of you.

As long as you feel comfortable giving him the gift--that it's not sending some kind of weird signal, or anything like that--then I think it's totally appropriate. You apparently have plenty of reason to appreciate him as your boss, and it's definitely OK to express it.
posted by LairBob at 1:02 PM on December 21, 2004

Your co-workers will certainly say it's an ass-kiss but co-workers talk about each other no matter what. Give it to him for the reasons you gave us and don't care what your co-workers think.
posted by bondcliff at 1:03 PM on December 21, 2004

I certainly wouldn't trust fark for career advice.

And I understand how you feel thankful for you boss giving you your job but I'm sure he hired you because he thought you could do a good job. If you are doing kicking-ass job, that is probably the best xmas gift you could ever give your boss.
posted by sexymofo at 1:03 PM on December 21, 2004

Response by poster: FlamingBore, what a great gift! :) I'm glad I'm not the only one who likes my job and my boss.

See, the thing is, as of now, for the first time in my whole life I have a job I LIKE waking up to.

Oh, and I brought fudge to all the reporters today (two kinds!) to diffuse any possible notions of asskissery. But now I'm all worried. I'm probably just being really dumb.
posted by u.n. owen at 1:03 PM on December 21, 2004

And lotsofno, I think the only standard you've set is for treating them all equally. If you've got three bosses who judge you by how much your present costs, then you've got a whole bunch of other problems besides a holiday gift.
posted by LairBob at 1:03 PM on December 21, 2004

One of the foremost rules of office gift-giving is to keep it on the down-low. No one has to know that you give him a gift at all if he behaves professionially about it. i.e. not flashing it around at work going "look everyone, look what u.n. owen gave me!" If you trust him to do that, then I'd say proceed with confidence.
posted by boomchicka at 1:05 PM on December 21, 2004

Response by poster: Hahahaha, boomchicka, he might. I've only been here 2 months! And he can be awwwwwfully show-offy sometimes (in that curmudgeonly 60 year old way only a very few people are good at).
posted by u.n. owen at 1:07 PM on December 21, 2004

I say give him the gift, but as an anecdote: The first Christmas I worked for my company, I gave my boss a gift (just some homemade cookies, more as a token than anything else), and she had nothing for me, so it was awkward. So the next year I didn't get her anything, but she got me something. Sigh. We finally got it worked out the third year (we both gave each other gifts).
posted by occhiblu at 1:07 PM on December 21, 2004

I'd suggest giving it to him discreetly, perhaps even outside the office (in the car park, for example).
posted by dirtynumbangelboy at 1:28 PM on December 21, 2004

Hmm. Maybe this is incendiary/devil's advocate, but why not listen to fark? It's quite possible that the people hanging out at the two sites aren't all that different, however you might like to think otherwise.

That said, I certainly prefer mefi.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 1:29 PM on December 21, 2004

Response by poster: dirtynumbangelboy, as I have no car, that would be at least moderately conspicuous. ;-)
posted by u.n. owen at 1:30 PM on December 21, 2004

Around my workplace, buying a gift for a superior isn't seriously considered asskissing (unless it's obvious, like the person giving is known to dislike the recipient or doesn't actually have enough of a relationship with the person to be at all justified in giving a gift) but we'll throw the term around because we like giving each other shit. Actually, if you feel grateful to your boss for something and you like the guy, I think it's definitely fitting to get him a gift, especially one that reflects interests you know he has. Forget any gossipy co-workers (and poison their fudge next year). They don't matter regarding this.
posted by DyRE at 1:31 PM on December 21, 2004

Are you giving him my erection man?!? Egads woman...seriously, always give the boss a small gift. Ass-sucking isn't all bad.
posted by yodelingisfun at 1:43 PM on December 21, 2004

You got him a first edition Twain?!! That must have been well over a thousand bucks, yes? Like a stopped clock, the boys at Fark are right twice a day, and this is one of those times. But if you are going to kiss ass (or as I prefer to call it, "image management"), this is a spectacular, home-run effort.
posted by LarryC at 2:06 PM on December 21, 2004

Response by poster: LarryC, you'd think it would cost that much, wouldn't you?

In truth, I got the steal of the century. The trick is in picking obscure, later twain.

($35, and it's in close to PERFECT condition, thank you. But the next cheapest in that condition's well over $150.)
posted by u.n. owen at 2:09 PM on December 21, 2004

If you believe that the boss is a decent guy, and you respect your boss, then a gift is certainly appropriate.

If you give the boss a gift while believing that the boss is a jerk, then you're a butt-snorkeler.

If you like the boss, give a gift -- and screw any of your co-workers who think you're kissing up.
posted by davidmsc at 2:10 PM on December 21, 2004

In that case, u.n. owen, I'd make sure that I discreetly made it clear to him what a great deal I got. You definitely wouldn't want him to mistake this for an over-the-top gesture, when that's not what it is.
posted by LairBob at 2:12 PM on December 21, 2004

Response by poster: I dunno. Maybe he'd give me the 40% raise I'm asking for in April, just to see what I'd come up with next - a gutenberg bible or something! haha.

(uh, to be fair, my 40% request is actually to bring me up to market value, not to kill the company. I'm making verrrrry little for the work I do currently, as they lowballed my salary for the first 6 months to see how things went. But I now have enough ammunition that I'm almost certain my 40% will be doable.)
posted by u.n. owen at 2:15 PM on December 21, 2004

Consider that you might make your boss uncomfortable with a gift. In that situation I just hate receiving presents of any value. It’s hard (or impossible) to avoid weird undertones when the power relationships are asymmetrical. He may love your gift, but it’s a risk. (And, you’ll probably never know how he really feels about it. That’s all part of why it is such an uncomfortable social situation.) Why risk associating yourself with his discomfort? For me the most appreciated gift is nothing more than a card with a heartfelt note of thanks.
posted by found missing at 3:10 PM on December 21, 2004

Response by poster: Well, guys, I think I'm going through with it - and the reason is actually kinda the opposite of found missing's response.

I mentioned to him today, right before he left, that I would bring in his gift tomorrow. He said "Well, I'm not going to open it."

"Why not?"

"Well, I don't have any kids, or really anyone I'm spending Christmas with. If I don't save your gift until Christmas I won't have any gifts at all!"

And then I felt pretty damned bad for even thinking about not giving it to him.
posted by u.n. owen at 3:57 PM on December 21, 2004

Not quite off-topic... where did you find a first edition Mark Twain in near-perfect condition for $35?
posted by honeydew at 4:04 PM on December 21, 2004

You managed to find the perfect gift for someone you genuinely enjoy working with, and who managed to do you a real favor in getting you the job. Not to mention the only Christmas gift...

It's a wonderful gesture, and the whole thing almost brings tears to my eyes. You my be branded an asskisser, but I'd say it's well worth it.
posted by Saydur at 6:59 PM on December 21, 2004

Response by poster: honeydew: Go look up "The Mysterious Stranger." You, too, can have a decent-shape one for $75ish!
posted by u.n. owen at 7:30 PM on December 21, 2004

A first edition Mark Twain? is it signed as a gift to George Bailey from Clarence?
posted by Megafly at 8:19 AM on December 22, 2004

Hope I wasn't too glib--that is a fine and thoughtful gift!
posted by LarryC at 7:12 PM on December 23, 2004

« Older Where could one sleep for free in Florida?   |   Help Me Find a Hunter Thompson Poster Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.