What do you all think about buying holiday gifts for your boss? Good or bad idea? Any gifts that you would avoid?
Well, I think group gifts are a bad idea. Unless it is voluntary participation and everyone gets to sign the card and no one knows who put $s in and who didn't. Mandatory participation where one or a few decide on the amount to spend is not a good idea. Because you never know employees' true financial issues. Once, the highest employee in a group of 10-12 decided to buy expensive pens for our two bosses. She then went around and demanded $x per employee for the gift. I was brand new and had no idea that this was common/expected. The $x was more than I spent in 2 weeks for food, I was the sole breadwinner for my husband and I, I was the least paid in the group, and honestly could not afford it....but didn't feel I could say "no" at that point.
But a small gift directly from you to the boss, I don't have a problem with that if it is common in your office/industry. I would stay away from alcohol, or anything with a sexual overtone. Also stay away from anything religiously offensive (i.e. don't buy a Santa for a Jewish boss, don't buy a dreidel for a Christian boss). If you don't know the boss well enough to know whether something would be offensive, don't buy it.
I was told by a business professor only to give gifts to people who are below you in company hierarchy. I give small token gifts to my direct reports and others who do me favors (i.e. mailroom clerk), not to my bosses.
I do, however, bake some special cookies and bring them in for the whole department, including bosses to enjoy.
In one of my first jobs at a very small employer--about 7 of us total--the holiday tradition was for each person in the office to buy a gift for everyone! This was all fine and dandy for the husband and wife team who owned the company and had plenty of money, but for me, the puny administrative assistant who was making peanuts, it was a tall order to have to add 7 additional names to the gift-giving list! And it's not like I could afford anything that the owners would genuinely get excited about....
Why it didn't occur to them that this was a burden to someone like me is beyond me. Anyway, I've never forgotten that and would never expect a direct report to buy me a gift, or put pressure on co-workers to chip in on a group gift as a result.
While I do personally agree with the business professor, it can also depend on your business environment. I work for a family-owned company where we tend to pander to the owners (none of whom actually work for the company anymore). They are generous in benefits, timeoff, and pay so there was a feeling for many years that we needed to say "thank you" for their generosity. What was interesting was that the ones that came up with the idea to do so were the employees who were not doing their job well but were brown-nosing the family. The family didn't often look below the surface since they were getting high returns on their capital.
This year, we have decided against continuing the tradition. Mostly because employees were just told that health insurance would no longer be totally free for dependents. That alone is an added expense for most employees. I just don't feel right asking for money for Christmas presents too -- especially for people who make much more money than any of the employees. However there will still be a few who get something for the owners.