Don’t give your boss a gift

It's the time of year when there are a bazillion articles about what gift you should give your boss. The implication is that of course you'll give a gift. But I think you're better off skipping it. Here's why:

1. Gift recommendations are not really recommendations.
When a journalist or blogger (is there a difference?) writes about gift items, they get to review the gift items. Which means each gift was already a gift to the writer. I know about this because I'm terrible at it. For example, I would like Bose noise canceling headphones. They are too extravagant for me to buy for myself, so I should ask Bose for a trial pair and then tell you to buy them for your boss.

2. Christmas at work is bad for your boss. Really.
First of all, it's bad for your company to have everyone give end-of-the-year gifts, or holiday gifts, or whatever companies are calling Christmas gifts lately. It's bad because Christmas in the office is bad for diversity. I write about this every year, and every year it is the most controversial post. So you don't need to write to me about how I am a Grinch and a cultural moron and Jews should move back to Israel, okay? Because I get those comments—about 300 of them—each year. So all I'm going to tell you now is that you are not helping your boss reach his or her performance goals for your team by undermining diversity by celebrating Christmas at work.

3. Thanksgiving is a better holiday to give your boss a gift.
You missed it this year. But for next year, remember to give a Thanksgiving gift to your boss because it's a non-religious holiday and it's about giving thanks instead of honoring Jesus's birthday, and giving thanks, after all, is what is appropriate for you to do with a boss. (Note: Please do not tell me Christmas is secular. Only Christians feel enough authority over the holiday to say it is not Christian, which is proof that the holiday belongs to Christians.)

4. The best gift for a boss is handmade.
I know your mom has been telling you this ever since you could write your name on construction paper. But it's not just your mom. It's true for everyone because everyone wants a gift that tells them they are special. For your boss, a handwritten note does the trick. Tell your boss that you appreciate what your boss has done for you over the past year, and that you feel lucky to be working for him or her. Give very specific examples. (Here are tips on how to write that note.)

5. If you want good cheer give good cheer.
You know what? I'm not a Grinch. I'm just pointing out that you are going to be happier if you write a note than if you give a gift, because gratitude is what makes people feel good. Giving it. Giving some material thing does not give you the same jolt of happiness that verbalizing and expressing gratitude does.And receiving material objects is not as gratifying as a thank you note filled with specific examples of how you added meaning to someone's workday.

Posted in Managing up, No image
74 comments on “Don’t give your boss a gift
  1. Vicky says:

    This is a really good post. I was racking my brain trying to think of a really good present for my boss and let me tell you I can’t afford anything. So I think it’s going to be the note.

  2. Miss P. says:

    I think this holds true for all kinds of settings, even for family. Thank you.

  3. Kate says:

    I’m away from work for the gifting this year and I’m finding I miss it because, rather than give bosses presents, the tradition is to to do the Secret Santa thing. Slightly different to normal though – first, there’s no budget limit but before everyone hyperventilates, you buy a gift you think your receiver would have liked as a child. The whole office gets together, unwraps their presents, has a great old giggle, and then donates the whole lot to charity. I sort of feel it’s the most worthwhile/important present I buy each year.

  4. Sebo says:

    Yes. Yes. Politically, socially, personally, environmentally, simply the best solution. I only wish my handwriting looked like a grownup’s.

  5. Chris says:

    The modern Christmas is more secular than not. It has reverted to its pagan festivity that existed before the Christians hijacked it to celebrate the birth of a person who wasn’t even born on that day. Ditto with Easter for that matter too (the pagan festivity that is, not necessarily the date though).
    Granted, Thanksgiving Day is seen to be a secular holiday, but all harvest feasts/festivals are rooted in a religious festival one one kind or another.

  6. Brad Gosse says:

    I don’t want my employees giving me gifts. I would rather they use that money to enjoy Christmas more with their families.

  7. Brad says:

    No problem. Nearly 30 years in the workforce and I have never given my boss a Christmas gift, nor have I heard of any other guy doing so.

  8. Scott Perlman says:

    Our company has a policy that prohibits gifts “up” (you cannot give a gift to anyone above you on the org chart). This eliminates people feeling obligated or thinking they can use a gift as a sort of bribe. Even as an Executive, I would really appreciate a well written card. I would also appreciate something homebaked in a pretty reusable tin. I would not consider either a violation of policy.

    • Jim C. says:

      Absolutely right. Giving the boss a gift can be either bribery on your part or extortion on the boss’s part. In either case, it’s a terrible idea.

  9. s shah says:

    I completely agree with you–celebrating Christmas in the office is bad for diversity. I’ve been with my company eight years and every year I’ve managed to weasel my way out of attending the office Christmas party. The first few years I was uncomfortable about going and could not really put my finger on why. In recent years I’ve talked myself into believing “hey I’m on a streak, why break it now?” But I now know better! Thanks.

  10. Nancy says:

    Christmas the way it’s celebrated in N.Am. is not christian and never has been, sorry, Penelope. It’s ancient and pagan and is about dealing with the darkness and cold. Good cheer, wassail, and all that.

    I am not christian, and I do it (though we don’t exchange gifts). When I was younger, I used to go out carolling with all the Jewish kids, and the director of our Christmas carolling group when I worked as an ex-pat was Jewish. All my Hindu neighbours have Christmas trees up. The Hindu news and culture shows on TV all have Christmas trees in the background. Our Muslim TV sit-com had their Christmas special last week, which ended with the imam and Muslim kids decorating the tree with the Anglicans and the priest.

    I don’t know where you get the idea that Christmas is christian.

    However, having said that, gift-giving is a problem. It implies reciprocation. Gifts to bosses are subtle requests for something in return. This makes things awkward at work. I would never give a gift to a boss (or a co-worker).

    The most horrid thing is those secret-santa exchanges. They’re like being held hostage. And it’s embarrassing to be lousy at it, so you end up overdoing it just to look good.

    Stupid waste of anxiety and money.

    • Anthea says:

      Wow! What part of North America do you live in?

      I’m from MA and live in CT, and it’s very much a shopping holiday, but also aggressively Christian enough that conservative Christians go on tirades in the office about how obscene saying “Happy holidays” is.

      I think a lot of us tend to forget that North America, and even the USA, are not monolithic – in some ways, there’s as much variation from state to state as you see from country to country in Europe.

    • Joe says:

      The name Christmas pretty much tells you it is a Christian holy day. Oops sorry holiday! ;) But seriously everyone know that Christmas is a Capitalist holiday! :)

      Shop ’til you drop!!

  11. A Gift Wrapped Life says:

    I absolutely agree. And I am not supposed to. The note is a great idea.

  12. kate says:

    i always figured it was more of an ‘end of the year, yay!’ gift and less a ‘christmas’ gift at work. Usually i just gift to my team, not my boss. And generally it’s something homemade because i have a zero creative job and i need creativity. plus, i think it reminds them i am human.
    If anything, it’s easier to not give a gift to your boss, but much harder to not give something to those who work for you…

  13. Ann says:

    I don’t have any employees, but my husband has a secretary and every year she calls and asks what he might want for a gift. It’s very sweet and thoughtful, which is why she’s a good secretary – she worries about what other people need.

    But I don’t ever really have any advice for her other than iTunes gift cards, because who doesn’t like those?

    And I think (and my husband probably does too) that the best gift would be to not have to run around thinking of and purchasing and wrapping gifts for everyone. It’s exhausting.

    I agree that celebrating Christmas at work is rather rude – if everyone can’t fully participate, the celebration probably doesn’t belong in the workplace. Manners trump religion.

  14. Sharon says:

    Don’t covet those Bose noise-cancelling headphones too much…they’re not nearly as great as they sound (no pun intended). They’re moderately okay, but definitely not worth a the price!

    • Jan Exner says:

      I was just going to post that she was right mentioning the QC15s in the first list item because they are simply the best thing I have ever bought for myself!

      Penelope, you are right, you want them!

      (that is if you are travelling on trains or aircraft or working in a loud environment. They will turn that loud environment into a nice one. Proof: I work at home and when someone in a conference call asks: “are their children screaming in somebodys place?” it usually takes me some time before I take my QC2s off and realise they’re mine.)

  15. EngineerChic says:

    I totally agree, and I only wish I could find a way to get this post to a coworker’s attention 2 weeks ago. He was actually wondering why the VP of our division never responded to the gift he sent last year. Ummm – because you work 5 levels down from him, he has probably met you all of ONE time, and it’s hellashiously inappropriate to send him a gift!!!

    The note is a good idea, I sent one to a boss I worked for a long time ago and he mentioned it years later. I don’t do “holiday” gifts, but I do bring fresh from the garden produce in periodically throughout the summer. I’m amazed at how excited other techies get when there are fresh heirloom tomatoes or sugar snap peas in the break room ;)

  16. alan wilensky says:

    I have totally had it up to HERE with the gentile culture invading this season. I did not say anything bad about the religion, please note. But the music, the ads, the expectations, GIVE ME A BREAK.

    Enough! Jingle Jingle…enough Santa, Trees, Wreaths, poison commercialism.

    • Jim C. says:

      Sheesh! “Jingle Bells” isn’t even a Christmas song. It’s a song about a dope who takes Miss Bright for a sleighride and ends up overturning the sleigh in a snowbank.

  17. Sara says:

    Wait, what? I thought it was common knowledge that giving a gift to your boss (or anyone clearly above you at work) is bad etiquette. In general, I think the only acceptable work “gifts” are homemade ones — a card like you suggested, or something like homemade cookies. To me, that’s thoughtful and appreciated, but does not require reciprocation so it can be enjoyed guilt-free. This goes for co-workers, not just bosses, in my opinion.

    • Penelope Trunk says:

      Sara, your comment is interesting to me, as is Sandra’s, below. I think giving a gift to a boss is generational. I think gen Y thinks it’s completely absurd and would never do it. And I think older people do it because it’s been a workplace custom for 100 years.

      That said, I think the shift- to thinking that giving a gift to a boss is ridiculous — reflects a general shift to more genuine affection and appreciation for people we work with.

      Penleope

      • KateNonymous says:

        I didn’t give holiday gifts to anyone in my office, and never have. Both of my student interns gave gifts to me (which I didn’t expect, and feel kind of bad about, because they shouldn’t be spending their money on me). So I think it’s less about generations and more about individuals. And possibly about culture, with more than one way to define that in this instance.

  18. Susan says:

    Homemade gifts are nice and all, but they have the exact same effect as a purchased gift for the boss — they imply some kind of reciprocity. Instead, if you feel up to baking something in your spare time, why not just make cookies for the group, or staff? Everyone enjoys, no one feels obligated, and it doesn’t look like you’re sucking up.

  19. Sandra says:

    It’s great that you posted that. Having said that, it never entered my mind to give my boss a gift. I give gifts to charities, or family/friends. My gift to my boss is me working over time (and not getting compensated) through out the year.

  20. Sarah says:

    I LOVE this post!! Most especially what you wrote about how Christmas doesn’t allow for diversity. I don’t celebrate it and I’m pissed with all the people saying it’s a secular holiday these days. It’s not. Whether you choose to acknowledge the religious aspect of the day or not, it exists because of a theological standpoint that not everyone believes. And it can get soooo awkward!
    Ok, I’m done ranting! ;)

  21. NotgonnaSay says:

    The reality is this: Work places have different cultures.
    From your posts, you’ve revealed that you’ve worked in corporate America earning six figures. I’ve worked in remedial jobs that hire convicts. I’ve worked in jobs that meant the difference from people going hungry and/or homeless. So we’ve obviously had different workplace experiences. Unless you have worked in the food/beverage/service industry, maybe you could relate.

    I had a Hindu coworker (and she self-disclosed her religion and wasn’t asked) tell me that Christmas was a secular holiday. For her. She wasn’t going to Mass, but she was buying a Christmas tree and giving her kids toys. Jesus didn’t have a Christmas tree..But he did get gifts, according to the story, so what can I say??

    You won’t believe me here, and that’s ok, but I have had Jewish boss (again, also Jewish by self-disclosure) come up with the idea of doing a Secret Santa…so in my experience, “Celebrating Christmas” in the workplace hasn’t been about Jesus in the workplace but celebrating the exchange of gifts. I didn’t want to do it because of money reasons, just fyi, not because my Jewish boss was offending himself.

    I do, however, see how this would make someone who practices Judaism as their religion, feel uncomfortable and if the tables were turned, people were asked to celebrate Hanukkah in some capacity, I would see how that might offend some people.

    I did celebrate Hanukkah one year as a kid just fyi, and I wasn’t offended. In my more “spiritual days” I’ve prayed with Jews, Christians, Muslims, so I like to think of myself as pretty tolerant.
    And there you have it. And I’m now agnostic. So there you have it.

    Before you call me anti semitic, you should know that my best friend is an orthodox Jew.

    That said, the ONLY time I’ve given a gift at work during Christmas, the Holidays, whatever, was during that Secret Santa exchange as set forth by my Jewish boss. Whatever his reasons for doing it, I don’t know.

    Let the accusations of me being a liar spring forth NOW!

  22. Lesa says:

    Sara has it right, employees should not give gifts to bosses or anyone of a higher level at work. It’s poor etiquette, it’s inappropriate and it smacks of a kickback or bribe for being employed.

  23. Erin says:

    I agree with all of your post except for No. 1. First of all, there is a huge difference between journalists and bloggers (and I got so angry about the post you reference that I couldn’t even comment on it then so I’m not revisiting it). However more importantly, many journalists and bloggers DO NOT get the gifts they mention in articles. In fact, I’d hazard to guess that most don’t.

    I’m a journalist and a blogger (two separate and very distinct things: Journalism is my profession, blogging is a hobby) and I can say that I’ve written articles similar to what you’re talking about and I’ve never received ANY of the products that have been mentioned. Furthermore, all newsrooms have policies on gifts and writers are rarely if ever allowed to keep sample items that have been sent. Yet one more difference between real journalists and bloggers.

  24. Lesa says:

    Giving a boss is gift may be a workplace custom in some companies, but it’s bad etiquette and has always been inappropriate, regardless of who is doing it. Just because some workplaces or bosses encouraged it doesn’t make it correct. Sara is right. It is inappropriate and poor etiquette to give a gift to your boss or other higher level employees. It smacks of a bribe or a kickback for being employed.

  25. Lauren says:

    Penelope, you made the same argument last year – “Please do not tell me Christmas is secular. Only Christians feel enough authority over the holiday to say it is not Christian, which is proof that the holiday belongs to Christians.”
    So, if Christians, or the culturally Christian ‘own’ this holiday, why can’t you accept their definition of it as either not really Christian or open to everyone?
    PS – As a Gen Xer, I’ve never given my boss a holiday gift. It’s never even occurred ot me.

  26. Sam says:

    “Note: Please do not tell me Christmas is secular. Only Christians feel enough authority over the holiday to say it is not Christian, which is proof that the holiday belongs to Christians.”

    I love this quote, it’s very clever and cuts straight to the truth. Could you imagine what would happen if a group of Muslims tried to tell Christians that Christmas was a secular holiday and not about Jesus? The mainstream media would have a field day, that’s for sure.

    • KateNonymous says:

      “Could you imagine what would happen if a group of Muslims tried to tell Christians that Christmas was a secular holiday and not about Jesus?”

      Actually, a Muslim said that to me this morning, as part of her explanation for why she and her family celebrate Christmas.

  27. Harriet May says:

    I was really sad this year because it was suggested that as an end-of-year gift we should get company shares. This was voted down by the board. Bummer. So I suggested that I get birthday shares instead, since my boss is my dad. Apparently it is not appropriate to take advantage of being the boss’s daughter at work.

    Also, I went to my boyfriend’s work Christmas party. His boss led everyone in saying grace. I was stunned. Also pretty bored since it was big on family fun and all I wanted was an alcoholic beverage. I guess this is Christmas in the south.

  28. Jen Hinderer says:

    I am astounded at the vehemence of the comments trying to prove the case that Christmas is a secular (pagan, capitalist, commercialized) holiday. Certainly the ways in which it is celebrated have drifted far from the origins of the holiday but really folks, there is just no reasonable way to argue with the fact that the holiday exists as a big celebration for the birth of Jesus. How we got Santa and reindeer and a tree all mixed up with that is a story (and an argument) for a different blog and on a different day.

    The point of this post (and many of the comments) is that gratitude and appreciation are GREAT gifts for your boss and coworkers: and are best given on a day or during a season with no religious connotations. Giving wrapped gifts that you have purchased has a multitude of possible problems:
    It can look like a bribe
    It can make people feel obligated to reciprocate
    It can make people feel excluded/inferior/resentful
    It makes you look like a big suck-up

    So keep it professional and express your appreciation for support or a job well-done in your own words on day that has nothing to do with a religious figure of any kind. And leave the red and green (or starry blue) wrapping paper at home.

    • Ana says:

      @ Jen & @ Sam,
      You know, following your line line of reasoning, you could then argue that the swastika is a sacred symbol in Asia for thousands of years, so thinking that swastika = nazi is not reasonable.
      Really, if what counts is the origin, not the evolution, bring on the swastikas and the confederate flags, right?

  29. Robbin says:

    I’m sorry people are pathetic and rude enough to make comments to you such as “Jewish people need to go back to Israel.”
    I love your blog. It is thought provoking, honest and opinionated. It celebrates that we all have a voice and the right to use it to express our individuality.
    As far as giving gifts to our bosses-yes, what a great idea. It is true, words of praise and appreciation go much further than a tangible. And this year, our changing economic situation gives us the opportunity to reach into ourselves and find that gratitude for what we DO have. And what most of us find is that it is the richness we gain from our relationships with family, friends and co-workers, that hold the most value in our hearts. Why not let each other know through words rather than things?
    Happy Holidays to all.

  30. Chris says:

    Penelope.

    I’m a fan—but I would like to challenge your idea of diversity.

    Saying that we should respect religious diversity, with the exception of Christian holidays, isn’t really respecting diversity fully. Therefore, to discourage Christmas gift giving on the grounds of office diversity is disingenuous at best.

    Just my opinion. Hope it doesn’t fall into the “already heard it” category, which I’m sure it does.

  31. Derek says:

    I had to laugh when you said that you get email buy the truck load when you say Christmas and Christians in the same sentence. I then started to read the comments and there they are. To understand the meaning of a word please look at the history of the word. It changes over time and what you think is its history may be only a small part of it.

    The Thanksgiving idea I just don’t like. I see it as another way for stores to sell you stuff. No thank you. Also, Thanksgiving is big in the States. Not everywhere. In Canada we have Thanksgiving but it is not a big deal. My idea is to remove all old holidays and pool the days that we would have off and give them to the employee. If an employee celibrates (add your day here) then they take a day off. For my day I shall take December 25th off and with everyone a Merry Christmas.

    • Anthea says:

      “My idea is to remove all old holidays and pool the days that we would have off and give them to the employee. If an employee celibrates (add your day here) then they take a day off. For my day I shall take December 25th off and with everyone a Merry Christmas.”

      I love this idea. I would much rather take the winter solstice off and work on Christmas, but I wouldn’t want to force anyone else to do the same. Happy Solstice, and Merry Christmas to you. :)

  32. GenY says:

    I give my direct staff each a bottle of decent (<$50) champagne and a hand written note thanking them for their contributions. I also do this for my entire staff if it is small enough. I have given gifts to bosses on occasions where I had a close relationship and *knew* it would be valued and appreciated (a box of high quality tea I knew she'd like, etc). I would never give food to a boss unless I knew it was first class and elegantly arranged. As a woman I don't want my male superiors thinking I'm better off at home. Same way I don't take notes in meetings or fetch anyone coffee unless I'm on the way for myself.

  33. Leslie says:

    It's better to bring food to share for your whole department instead of a gift for one person–especially if your coworkers are gourmands.

  34. Charles Martin says:

    Though you use the argument that Thanksgiving is secular, I find it interesting how many people would argue that and insist that it is religious (every Christian out there will be quick to point out WHO is to receive the “thanks”). I’ve pretty much divested myself from all holidays and know exactly how “diverse” (or divergent) my way of thinking is when I don’t attend or participate in any of them. And I have often been considered of bad attitude or showing lack of teamwork (which is only enhanced by their lack of understanding of diversity). Thanks for this article and the others related to Xmas and work. Nice to know that I’m not entirely alone.

  35. Patrick says:

    #1: I agree with this.
    #2: Christmas celebration by a few people giving gifts to the boss isn’t the diversity issue. You’re confusing people by intermingling issues that don’t need to be.

    Gift giving isn’t a diversity problem. Flowers at birthdays, thank you gifts, bonuses, etc. all happen in the office. Gifts for Christmas are no different than gifts for Valentine’s Day (not all are included, some people don’t celebrate it). The diversity problem is as you described: everyone is forced to take the 25th off work, but other religious holidays aren’t given to those of other faiths. Joining those two separate issues is why you’re getting 300 e-mails every year about it.
    #3: I don’t know, I think giving a gift at the end of the year is seemingly just as appropriate as Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving’s entire back story is about religious exiles that land near Plymouth Rock, MA and “give thanks” to god with the natives. If you want God taken out of gift giving, you might want to make sure you don’t hurt Native Americans that might see the first Thanksgiving story as a pretty important negative milestone in their history.
    #4: Your recommendation didn’t take into consideration #1. I think you want handmade gifts now and that I should be looking at other options like cards, flowers, candy, or gift cards.
    #5: Unless it’s Christmas cheer and then it’s not okay because it offends Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and any other non-Christian out there. Maybe Christians are just generally happier people. I mean, we say “Merry Christmas!” and then you get a lot of “stop offending me, use Happy Holidays!” When’s the last time you said “Happy Yom Kippur!” to someone at work? Perhaps you should work to bring more diversity into your workplaces instead of whining about the lack of it? Diversity doesn’t just happen because you have different religions, races, or ideas in the workplace. You have to lean on those differences and use them to make everything better. Maybe if you helped more people learn about Yom Kippur, you could convince your workplace to be the first in the country to force that day off for everyone and you’d actually get what you want.

    • KateNonymous says:

      “When’s the last time you said “Happy Yom Kippur!” to someone at work?”

      What an odd thing to say to someone. Yom Kippur is a day of atonement, not a celebration. I’ve wished people a “good” Yom Kippur, but a “happy” one seems incongruous. Maybe you’re thinking of Rosh Hashanah?

    • Tzipporah says:

      “Happy Yom Kippur” just made me spit tea all over my keyboard laughing. Oh, the merry merry cluelessness of (certain types of) Christians…

  36. Carla says:

    “Please do not tell me Christmas is secular. Only Christians feel enough authority over the holiday to say it is not Christian, which is proof that the holiday belongs to Christians.)”

    Best defense I’ve ever read of why I don’t like having Christmas shoved in my face every year. I wish the Christians would reclaim the religiousness in their holiday and leave the rest of us alone when we don’t celebrate it.

    My jewish son saw a nativity scene this year, and I asked if he knew what it was. He said he did, but then added “But I don’t understand what it has to do with Santa Claus.” Sums it all up for me.

  37. Gavin Bollard says:

    I think I’d feel offended by a thanksgiving gift since I’m not American. :-)

    Also… the thank you letter just sounds a little too close to brown-nosing.

  38. Rachel says:

    I have been looking forward to this post since the annoying music onslaught started in mid-November. The original Christmas post is one of my favorites.

    But lately something has been bugging me. Isn’t there something uplifting for people about celebrating things together? I get it that not everyone is Christian. I get it that people feel left out. But there’s something about celebrating that brings people together. And bringing people together will make teams more productive.

    You know all the happiness research that says things like “support the local team”? Doing what the community does will make you happier– that’s the theory. This seems to me to be pretty much the opposite of the “diversity is good for the workplace” argument. (On the subject of the local team: I hate sports. If people told me I had to have a day off to go to a football game, I would be really mad. I do see that it’s a valuable bonding experience for lots of people. Ok, I didn’t really mean to compare football to religion, but it is a major cultural activity that I often feel left out of.)

    I won’t pretend Christmas is a secular holiday. But even though America is a nation of varied religions, there is definitely plenty of Christianity incorporated into our state– we use the Christian calendar as our national calendar. So there is a state element, if not an entirely secular one, in the end-of-year celebrations.

    Isn’t there some kind of cultural experience of Christmas, or at least the end of the year, that is worth sharing? Maybe we should just accept that not everyone will participate in every office activity? Can there be multiple celebrations in a way that allows for diversity? Some people will bond over common religion, and some people over common interests, or just personalities. Bonding will always be a personal, individual activity, and can be fostered but not forced. Should we get rid of all workplace activities in order to be fair? Won’t that end up being less fair– and unpleasant?

    Thanksgiving is not a good subsititute if you want to foster diversity. Some religions don’t celebrate any holidays at all. You’re always going to leave someone out, aren’t you? Where do we draw the line? Who draws it?

    Just a thought. Has anyone got any serious answers?

  39. Chris says:

    I find the juxtaposition of this post with the “Look at the great gift I just got from the Farmer” post hilarious. Just saying.

  40. Sonia W says:

    If your going to give your boss any gift, I would keep it simple and just give him a card. I am strapped with my finances anyway. They figure your gift is your job, so his gift is a card. Not a big deal to me anyway, but I think if you give anything, it should be with your heart.

  41. Elizabeth says:

    I can’t say what Christmas means to anyone else, but for me, as a Christian, it is a largely secular event.

    Ninety percent of what goes on around this holiday has no religious significance to me at all.

    And I think that’s awesome.

    I hope this season becomes increasingly secularized, so that people of all faiths feel included in the tradition of celebrating family, community, light and joy. It’s better when lots of people are in on it and feel that it includes and welcomes them.

    You want a Christian holiday? Catch me on Ash Wednesday when I am late for work and have a smudge on my forehead.

  42. Celine says:

    P has brought up this issue re: Christmas, diversity, etc. for a couple of years and it’s REALLY getting old. If you don’t want to partake, great, all the better, you seen to want to be a perpetual downer. But don’t ruin our tree lights, Yule log, partying, gift giving, etc. BTW, who would give the boss a gift anyway?

  43. Deadhedge says:

    While I know that there is always an exception to every blog post, I am amazed at how hard some folks make things. I am Jewish and my coworkers know it. We had a department meeting of 4 and I brought Peace Corps calendars for everyone (under $10 and money supports international development) and a coworker brought nerf dart guns. My boss said that she would make us fudge and the final coworker said that she was too disorganized to get us anything. We looked at pictures in the calendar and shot nerf darts at the wall for 30 minutes then talked business.

    4 different approaches to gifts in one department.

    Another coworker gave me a CD of Christmas music. I was touched by his gesture even though I promptly threw the CD away (not in front of him) since I hate Christmas music. I’ll give him a Peace Corps calendar since I always order extras.

    Some things in life are hard and some things aren’t.

  44. Cassie says:

    I’m not Christian but I don’t think Christmas is necessarily a Christian holiday. Especially not the way that we in North America “celebrate”. It’s essentially as religious or as secular as you want it to be.

    I’ve only gotten one boss a gift in the past 10+ years I’ve been in the workforce and that was because the boss was someone I knew previously (outside of work). She gave me gifts for Christmas (usually clothes) that went right back to the store for store credit.

    Our office never used to do any sort of gift exchange until we got a new manager a few years ago. Last year (I think), they planned a white elephant exchange and the manager sent out the rules via email a few weeks prior. I didn’t participate but I heard from my friends that it was kind of a disaster. In white elephant, if your gift gets “stolen” from you, you are supposed to be able to then “steal” someone else’s and it continues down the line. In this case, when your gift was stolen, you were stuck with whatever was then handed to you. People were stuck with gifts that they didn’t want. It’s one thing if you want to change up the rules, but if you email the rules before the exchange, you should stick to the rules!

    I’m not big on gifts to begin with… if I get something utilitarian, it’s nice but it doesn’t feel like a gift. If I get something sentimental, that’s nice too but it’s kind of useless. I’d much rather spend my money buying stuff that I want, for myself. It makes me selfish, but I have no idea what other people want (and also don’t understand why they can’t just buy it for themselves).

  45. Carla Hinkle says:

    I guess when I read your “Christmas is purely Christian” posts I always wonder what you think of Christmas actually being winter solstice co-opted by the Christians. Because that’s really what it is. (As an aside … is Hanukkah also a winter solstice holiday? I have no idea. But given that it comes in December and is about light (the candles) I always kind of assumed it was. Penelope?)

    Granted, in North America when everyone says “Happy Holidays” what they really MEAN is Merry Christmas. Because if it wasn’t for Christmas my impression (and I’m not Jewish) is that Hanukkah would be a very low-key affair. And Ramadan (my husband’s family is Muslim) is on a true lunar calendar so it rotates all through the year. And I never actually MET anyone who really celebrates Kwanzaa.

    But that said, considering that the Christians put their own religious spin on winter solstice to try and win people over, and considering how very secular the modern celebration of Christmas has become, it doesn’t really bother me. I haven’t darkened the door of a church in YEARS but I am all about Christmas.

  46. Tzipporah says:

    “As an aside – is Hanukkah also a winter solstice holiday? I have no idea. But given that it comes in December and is about light (the candles) I always kind of assumed it was. Penelope?”

    Best historical theory is that Hanukkah was a military victory holiday for particular events that happened at this time of year, when the zealots were able to reclaim the temple and observe Sukkot (which they’d missed) in Kislev (a couple months late). But the rabbis co-opted it for their own political purposes by combining it with midwinter solstice/light in the darkness customs with the slightly retarded magical-oil story.

    Shh, don’t tell the kids.

  47. DrewGriz says:

    I want to like the idea of giving gifts during Thanksgiving because I don’t think most Americans appreciate how uniquely American and uniquely awesome the whole concept of Thanksgiving is. That said, I think starting a gift-giving tradition would totally water down the holiday. Please, corporate America, don’t do to Thanksgiving what you’ve done to Christmas!

  48. w.stanton smith says:

    Penelope, this is a timely post indeed. The only kind of holiday gift giving that I ever saw work in an office was a “Secret Santa” with a $20 limit. Gifts were in a grab bag and no one knew who their Santa was. And really this lost its “buzz” after a couple of times. A far preferable approach to me is a note at Thanksgiving or to begin the new calendar year (well after the holidays) with specifics.

    With regard to Christmas itself, I thought I’d offer the findings of some simple research I’ve done over the years. The Romans had a mid-winter gift giving holiday. When one of the Roman emperors “converted” to Christianity, the new “church” simply appropriated the holiday as it did with Easter. In any event no Roman emperor, sane or not, would have taken a census that required population movements during one of the coldest parts of the year. The summer would have been a better time anyway.

    Coming closer to the present day, the Puritans did not celebrate Christmas at all as they recognized it as a pagan holiday and gift giving as an open door to materialism. It wasn’t until the Victorian influence in the late 19th century that Christmas began to take on its current format in North America.
    My point is that the history of this holiday is what it is. Let’s focus on the uplifting parts of all traditions, put aside all the squabbling about who is right/wrong etc and try to appreciate each other in the spirit of this season regardless of how it came to be.

  49. Sharron Clemons says:

    I can’t say what Christmas means to anyone else, but for me, as a Christian, it is a largely secular event. Ninety percent of what goes on around this holiday has no religious significance to me at all. And I think that’s awesome. I hope this season becomes increasingly secularized, so that people of all faiths feel included in the tradition of celebrating family, community, light and joy. It’s better when lots of people are in on it and feel that it includes and welcomes them. You want a Christian holiday? Catch me on Ash Wednesday when I am late for work and have a smudge on my forehead.

  50. Bob says:

    To be honest, I feel awkward giving a gift to anyone at work, not just the boss. Sharing chocolates around is one thing, but wrapping something with somebody’s name on it which is worth over $10…that just makes me uncomfortable.

    Perhaps it’s because I’m part of this Gen Y thing, or maybe because I’m male, or even because I’m not fond of overly close work relationships, but gift giving at work makes me cringe.

In Archive