Etiquette for Giving Your Bosses Gifts at Work

Updated on December 21, 2016
Chris Telden profile image

Chris Telden's B.A. degree in sociology focused on effective quantitative and qualitative methods of cultural analysis.

Here are workplace etiquette answers for gifting leaders, managers, and bosses. This can be an awkward social arena where the rules aren't clear, but you should note that the rules aren't always just informal—sometimes company policy is clear on what is and is not appropriate. But questions still arise: Is it appropriate to give your boss an expensive gift? Will she or he be insulted by a cheapo gift? What happens if you personally know your boss?

It's not just a point for Miss Manners—it's a social dynamic that could potentially hurt your career. What if you're seen to be "sucking up to the boss" by your coworkers, especially if you're the only one giving the boss a birthday gift or holiday present or—and this is a delicate issue—a gift on some other occasion of celebration that not every coworker is in-the-know about?

What if it isn't Boss's Day, but you just want to give your boss an appreciation gift just as a thank-you for being a great boss? Is it allowed?

Here you'll find guidance on these issues and also a few suggestions for Boss's Day gifts suitable for both male and female supervisors, managers, and team leaders.

How Much Money Should You Spend on a Gift for Your Boss? How Little?

There is no lower limit to the amount of money you should spend on a gift for your boss.

As for the upper limit, the exact amount varies, but the rule should be: keep it modest. Most people worry they should spend more on the boss than on a coworker. But you really need spend no less and no more on your boss than you would on any coworker.

The work dynamic in your office is your best clue. If singling out your boss for a high-cost special gift feels right, and if it's legal and above-board as far as company policy is concerned, and you wouldn't feel uncomfortable mentioning it to anyone in the office, then it probably is fine. If it feels awkward, and you'd want to keep it "under the table," then it's probably not a good idea.

So how much should you spend? The three big "gifting" days during the year are Boss's Day, birthdays and Christmas (or whichever winter holidays are celebrated by your bosses). These generally beg more expensive gift items than, say, Halloween or Valentine's Day. But "expensive" is relative. An expensive present to you may be a cheap gift to your boss. Worry less about how much you spend than that the gift is appropriate.

Very Important: Note that different work places have different rules about giving and accepting both material and cash gifts. Contact your Human Resources department to ask if the rules or laws apply to you.

When It's Appropriate to Give Your Boss a Gift

Most supervisors, managers and team leaders do not get gifts from their employees, period. You are not expected to give your boss a gift, even if you receive one from your boss. Some stricter work environments even have prohibitions against gift giving to bosses.

In some more relaxed work environments, gifts may be given to bosses by their employees during major holidays and birthdays. The best rule of thumb is to limit yourself to giving a present to your boss only on major holidays, birthdays or other occasions when the whole office contributes to the gift giving, such as on:

  • his or her birthday
  • winter holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza, etc. and New Year's Day)
  • National Boss's Day (the U.S. holiday on October 16 and in the UK on March 24 in honor of bosses and employers)
  • office going-away party for the boss
  • office milestone birthday party for the boss
  • other office party to celebrate something boss-related

A time when it's okay to give the boss a gift when others at the workplace aren't doing so is when you hand out gifts to all your coworkers, such as trinkets on the 4th of July holiday (Independence Day), bags of Halloween candy, gift bags "just because it's a nice day", or any other small gifts for a special occasion. Since you're giving out goodies to everyone, by all means, include your boss as a recipient during these gifting sprees. Many managers and supervisors tend to end up externalized during coworker events such as parties and luncheons, and they appreciate being included and remembered as part of the team.

But what about those special occasions - the birth of a child, a wedding, a promotion, a successful business deal, or other personal or professional event that you want to congratulate your boss for?

At these times, you'd do best to organize a collective gift-giving effort. Take up a collection and buy your boss a thoughtful, classy gift. Or everybody contribute a gift and surprise the boss with a party during the lunch hour (making sure your supervisor isn't on the way to a meeting, of course!) Another option is to simply get a congratulatory card - this is appropriate when it is something you would do for any other coworker.

When It's Not Appropriate to Give Your Boss a Gift

It's generally considered bad etiquette to give your boss a thoughtful gift on a whim, or in order to impress him or her.

If you just found out your boss needs a new bicycle chain and you want to impress her, don't run out and get a bicycle chain as a gift. Gifting the boss this way is looked at askance and may be against company policy.

A special note about boss appreciation gifts: In most cases, it's best to limit your "I-really-appreciate-your-leadership" gift-giving to Boss's Day (also called Boss Day), which in the U.S. falls on October 16. However, if your boss went out of his or her way for you recently or did an especially good job being your supervisor, it may be appropriate to give a boss appreciation gift. To be safe, ask the Human Resources department if such gifting is permitted.

And Never Give the Boss...

Never give the boss anything that could be construed as a bribe, such as cash.

It's also a bad idea to give the boss a gift you made yourself (food can be an exception in certain cases, and it's also probably fine to make the gift yourself if you're giving it to your other coworkers, too).

And don't give the boss any gift that has a strong personal flavor. If you have a personal relationship with your boss outside of work, this is a socially precarious situation to be in, and could potentially be a legally precarious one, too. At work, give only a gift you'd also feel appropriate to give a coworker.

Boss Day Gift Ideas

Any gift appropriate to give to a coworker is also good for a boss on Boss's Day. Flowers or plants are perfectly appropriate. For a conventional gift that's also thoughtful and suitable for most bosses, give your boss something personalized, such as a personalized pen or mug. Cool gadgets are ideal gender neutral gifts.

A simple gift basket you make yourself and stuff with tissue paper, natural preserves, crackers, roasted nuts and summer sausages can be as luxurious looking as something you pay three times the amount for and be great as a going-away gift or on some other very special occasion.

Some great gag gift ideas for a boss with a great sense of humor are a funny mug, a stress buster themed to the workplace, or a plaque with a humorous engraving, such as "Voted #1 Boss in Five States (Happy, Relaxed, Imposing, Numb, and Exhausted)."

Is it Appropriate to "Gag Gift" Your Boss?

Yes, at the right times. Funny gifts are a great way to lighten the work environment.

Don't be afraid to inject some humor in your gift to your boss. But do make sure the gift is tasteful and tactful and not embarrassing for your boss. If you're in doubt about whether the gag gift is appropriate, check with your Human Resources representative.

Personalize the Present

Consider giving your boss or manager a themed gift suited to his or her profession, hobby, or work habits. For example, this marvelous and funny recycled steel and copper Computer Frustration figurine gift is appropriate for any employer who works with computers and gets frustrated by them!

Credentials: The author of this article is a former supervisor and office worker who has worked in many offices for large and small organizations over a period of 20 years and has taken an interest in business gifting etiquette.

See the author's disclosure statement regarding compensation for this article.

National Boss's Day is a Chance to Show Appreciation for Your Boss.  Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/nieve44/1594706439/ under Creative Commons Attribution License
National Boss's Day is a Chance to Show Appreciation for Your Boss. Photo courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/nieve44/1594706439/ under Creative Commons Attribution License

Questions & Answers

    Comments

    Submit a Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, holidappy.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://holidappy.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)