Workplace gift giving
December 18, 2014 6:54 PM   Subscribe

At my workplace, there are 6 people on my team along with 2 leaders who we all report to. Collectively, we bought group gifts for both leaders. I had been planning to get a small gift (a few jars of homemade jam) for each of the people I work with (both leaders and my co-workers) and I had been thinking of doing this since before we decided to get a group gift for our leaders. I'm wondering if it's somehow inappropriate or weird to be getting my leaders a gift on top of the group gifts that I already contributed to? But then, the alternative of just getting my co-workers, but not my leaders a gift seems awkward too. I suspect I'm overthinking this, but I feel like I don't have a good sense of what the right thing to do here is.
posted by Proginoskes to Work & Money (15 answers total)
What did they get you?
posted by turbid dahlia at 6:56 PM on December 18, 2014

Giving both a private gift as well as the group gift could come across as ass-kissing and/or trying to outdo your co-workers. That doesn't sound like it's your aim at all, but it could easily be interpreted that way.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 6:56 PM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: The leaders got me gift cards. Other co-workers didn't get me anything.

I've been with the company for a few years in another role where I felt out of place and struggled with the management style. I want to give them gifts because this new role is like night and day from my old role. I really enjoy my new job and it's largely because of the people I work with - both my leaders and my co-workers.
posted by Proginoskes at 7:01 PM on December 18, 2014

I've heard that you shouldn't gift "up" at work. Ie, it's inappropriate to get your boss a gift. However, it's completely okay to gift "down" -- it's nice to get your assistant or the cleaning staff or the mail clerks or whoever something to show that you appreciate their support.

My office doesn't do gifts outside of major milestones, so this has never come up for me personally, but I think it makes a lot of sense.

So, no, you shouldn't get your boss a gift beyond the group gift.
posted by donajo at 7:03 PM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

In general, it's better to avoid giving a gift to your team leader/supervisor (unless it's your workplace culture, which it sounds like maybe it is?). You run the risk of making them feel awkward, and making your colleagues annoyed with you. Do your colleagues typically exchange gifts with each other? At my office many people bring in holiday treats for the whole office (not individually packaged, just a plate of cookies in the conference room), and a few supervisors give out holiday cards, but that's it. There are a lot of opportunities for hurt feelings and misunderstandings in workplace gift-giving, and I think it's better to stick with group gifts, if you do it at all.

Seeing your update, I'd recommend that you just talk to your team and tell them simply how much you enjoy working with them. That really can mean a lot to people. And maybe a big plate of cookies made with your delicious jam?
posted by chocotaco at 7:04 PM on December 18, 2014

On preview, a nice note in a Christmas card could convey the same sentiment without being as potentially awkward as giving a second gift.
posted by donajo at 7:05 PM on December 18, 2014

I've always gone under the rule that you give gifts to staff that is under you but not to your bosses. Though I do generally give a card to a boss.

I also like the idea of bringing in a "group gift" like cookies etc and a card that says how much you love your new role and what a pleasure it is to work on this team.
posted by thegoldfish at 7:13 PM on December 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

I feel like if everyone gets the same gift from you and it's inexpensive, then it's not weird. That's like bringing cookies for the whole class at school. Unless it's an expensive gift or you're giving different levels of gifts to different people, then I personally don't think it's weird.

Maybe I'm weird or my office is weird...
posted by Crystalinne at 7:15 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think if you just bring in some jam and make it evident that "hey I brought jam for everybody!" and don't make a big production out of the jam being "presents" then it's just a normal colleague-y thing to do and isn't weird or ass-kissy. You're overthinking it. There's always time for jam.
posted by turbid dahlia at 7:20 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing that it's not especially appropriate to buy gifts for your managers (it wasn't appropriate for you guys to do it as a group, and doubly so for you do to it yourself). Gifts flow down, not up in business. Alison at AskAManager has addressed this a bunch, most recently here.

Get everyone nice cards and write real notes in them. And then separately, I agree with turbid dahlia about the "hey I brought jam for everybody!" thing - some people won't want it and they can just not take a jar off the table, no big deal.
posted by brainmouse at 7:36 PM on December 18, 2014

I don't think it's a problem if you're giving the same thing to everybody. I also work in a small office (me, 2 co-workers and our manager) in a small private company (about 20 employees in other departments, most of which are rarely on site).

There is definitely more "gifting down" than up, but holiday gifts are given all around in our department. One of us is a crafter and every year makes three of something, one for each of us, including the manager. One of us makes a tin of yummy treats for each of us, including the manager. The other one of us is not so talented, but finds awesome personalized gifts on Etsy. (Ok, it's me, I fail at crafts and kitchens.) This was never expected, nor ever really mentioned, it just sorta happened our second Christmas together and has continued since. My manager gets something for each of us, and we get a yearly bonus.

Maybe our gifting culture would change if or department grew; I'm sure we'd discuss it. But right now, we're just that sort of close-knit group.

I think the key is that everyone is getting the same thing, the same amount of money is being spent on each person and that amount is whatever small amount the gifter is comfortable with. My office culture may be somewhat abnormal, though. Of course, I know I am lucky, in that my manager and the company owners are incredibly generous and kind people.
posted by MuChao at 8:34 PM on December 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely give the jam to your coworkers, that is very sweet (hehe) and not weird at all.

No jam for your bosses though.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:01 PM on December 18, 2014

Don't give your bosses another gift on top of the group present. The whole idea behind the group gift is you all, as a group, give your bosses something. If someone goes above that, no matter how well intended, it can come off as a sucking-up/underhanded move. You've already decided what to do to show appreciation as a group. Doing something by yourself in addition to the group gift can seem disdainful of the group. So don't do that.

But in general, I agree that it's not typical workplace culture for staff to get presents for their bosses.

Instead of additionally giving your coworkers the jam, I think you'd be better off telling people, "Hey, I'm bringing in croissants/bagels/muffins and homemade jam on Friday for everyone." Then it's just a nice thing to do and not putting people in a weird spot if they didn't get you anything.
posted by kinetic at 3:21 AM on December 19, 2014

In my department of seven, we chip in on our manager's gift (we like him, he's great to work for) and we gift each other. He gifts us individually. One of us always sneaks him an extra gift, and when we tell her she's sucking up (this is a friendly, non-toxic office) she says, "I know!"
posted by kimberussell at 5:09 AM on December 19, 2014

Jam for everyone seems completely appropriate. I think homemade foodstuffs fall into a special category. In fact, I think it's even more awkward to leave out the bosses in this case. Would you buy a plate of cookies and say it was for everyone except bosses?
posted by advicepig at 8:31 AM on December 19, 2014

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