Because he isn't Scrooge to my Bob Cratchit
November 23, 2021 8:04 AM   Subscribe

I have a boss. My boss is awesome. My boss gave me something for Christmas last year and very likely will do the same this year. I want to return the favor (because he's awesome) but have the feeling that may look weird. What should I do?

I checked a previous question about Birthday Gifts for bosses, and the majority opinion in there seems to be that giving something to a boss isn't quite the done thing. But I wanna do something, and I've found other advice columns that suggest that a small token gift is actually okay. (And would be all I could afford, to be honest.)

Would maybe downshifting to "here's some cookies I baked to share with your family" be okay? I love baking so I'd totally be down with that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos to Work & Money (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
As a boss, receiving a gift from someone on my team (who I manage) would feel a little weird, but I'd accept baked goods gratefully.
posted by jquinby at 8:08 AM on November 23 [27 favorites]

I think baked goods are the perfect kind of thing especially with a kind note.
posted by amanda at 8:12 AM on November 23 [10 favorites]

One data point to say that I wouldn't think it was weird. My boss started giving us gift cards one year, and after that, I started buying him some booze every holiday season.

If someone who worked for me did the same, I think I would both appreciate it and wish they wouldn't spend any real money on me. I think most people would appreciate the thought that went into baking, though I wonder if COVID would have some bosses a little uncertain about actually eating a thing. Probably a small percentage. Token gifts seem right, though -- something like a baseball card of a player I heard/knew he rooted for growing up, or maybe an Etsy-type thing related to whatever I knew he was into.

FWIW, I think a holiday gift -- especially in (advance) reciprocation -- would make more sense than a birthday gift, if that was the previously asked question you found.
posted by troywestfield at 8:13 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]

In this spot I think the ideal gift doesn't have significant monetary value and shows some thoughtfulness. Baked goods are perfect, especially if they are something you know he likes. If you were a knitter something like a simple scarf would fill the same role. It doesn't need to be homemade - a growler of local craft beer for someone who likes beer, that sort of thing. A nice card and/or a nice box and you're done.
posted by true at 8:16 AM on November 23 [4 favorites]

As a manager, I very much do not want my staff spending money on me. Baked goods or tokens are the limit!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:16 AM on November 23 [18 favorites]

Another option is a card with a personal note about the specific ways in which your boss is awesome and how much you appreciate them.
posted by mskyle at 8:20 AM on November 23 [13 favorites]

I have occasionally received small but personally meaningful gifts from employees over the years, including baked goods. The key thing is that it has to be something of little to no monetary value, and I would also recommend giving it to your boss privately so that no other employees (if there are any) feel compelled to follow suit. The baked goods are a good choice, I think.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:23 AM on November 23 [4 favorites]

I want to edit my answer a bit for posterity to say that as a manager I would be very uncomfortable receiving a gift that had more than token economic value for the person giving it.

I managed highly compensated white collar professionals, so a $50 bottle of liquor of a type they knew I liked would have been in the "that's a nice thought" category, but I I were managing someone where I knew that represented 3-4 hours of their post-tax income I would have felt quite differently.
posted by true at 8:24 AM on November 23 [11 favorites]

The workplace rule in general is gifts flow downwards not upwards.

But I think homemade baked goods or other sort of token gifts are the exception to the rule. I agree that they are best given privately.
posted by warriorqueen at 8:26 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]

I think low monetary value, and not too personal is ok. Gifts should flow down the hierarchy, so you don’t want to upset that by spending more than a nominal amount of money. And then it needs to be in keeping with a working relationship. I’ve done a joint gift of chocolates, and once received a Xmas tree ornament. Baked goods also work, as does a note or card.
posted by plonkee at 8:26 AM on November 23 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Ironically, most of my Christmas cookies come from a cookbook another past boss gave me at an old temp job, and I tend to go a little nuts baking so having someone to share the wealth with would not only be a nice gesture for him but would also spare my waistline. Heh.

Okay, an assortment of cookies it is. Thanks!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:29 AM on November 23 [3 favorites]

Is it wrong that I am now hoping that EmpressCallipygos is secretly one of my employees?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:48 AM on November 23 [11 favorites]

I wonder if COVID would have some bosses a little uncertain about actually eating a thing

Freezer cookies, packaged already cut with instructions on the package?
posted by clew at 9:08 AM on November 23

Response by poster: IRFH - I can make it up to you by sharing a recipe I've repeatedly made from that book that is a) easy, b) tasty, and c) looks fancy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:48 AM on November 23 [6 favorites]

I’ve given coworkers things I’ve made. I think that’s within the norms of business, and if it isn’t, tough toast. Sometimes the coworkers have been my first-level manager. I think it does have something to do with the intrinsic value of the objects—since I am not a professional artist, there is no market for any of these gifts making them economically valueless.

Gifts of food seem to fall into the same hopper, so maybe that’s a common theme.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:28 PM on November 24

Response by poster: I think the fact that I've already begun bookmarking biscotti recipes online means that my mind has already been made up about the cookie menu thereof. I've also noticed that "say, these would also make enough to let me make a few other little gift boxes for other co-workers."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:04 AM on November 25

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