Worst Gifts: Bosses Edition

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You’ve probably received a gift that you didn’t love, maybe from a distant relative or an acquaintance who just didn’t know you well. But an unwanted gift can be way more awkward when it comes from your boss.  

Giving gifts to staff can boost morale and foster company loyalty, if done properly. Unfortunately, 84% of workers say that they’ve received a workplace gift they didn’t want and almost 90% have faked a positive reaction to horrible gifts.  

Most supervisors mean well. They want to express their appreciation to their staff, letting every employee know that the company values their commitment and hard work. However, sometimes their well-intentioned gifts miss the mark. And the only thing worse than not giving gifts at all is giving awful gifts.  

We’ve compiled a list of some of the worst gifts that bosses have given to employees, as well as a few tips for how to make your corporate gifting strategy into a huge success. 

Branded Company Swag 

Pens, coffee mugs, and clothing featuring your company logo might be okay for marketing and brand awareness. But those branded items shouldn’t go to employees as appreciation gifts. When you give your staff the same T-shirts and keychains that you buy in bulk for corporate events, chances are they won’t feel valued. 

Re-Gifted Items 

Re-gifting is a dangerous game for anyone on your list, but for employees, it’s an especially bad idea. If you want your workers to feel appreciated, you need to go through the effort to purchase a brand-new, thoughtful gift, not dig something unwanted out of your closet or storage room. 

Insensitive Gifts 

When choosing a gift for an employee, it’s critical to think about how they will receive the gift. Your gesture can cause friction if you don’t consider your employee’s personality and lifestyle when purchasing a gift. Some of the worst gifts ever received include giving wine to an employee who doesn’t drink, Christmas ornaments to someone who doesn’t celebrate the holiday, and meats and cheeses to a vegan. Be thoughtful and consider the recipient when selecting a gift.  

Prank Gifts 

Bad gifts from bosses are often insincere. There’s no place in the office for joke gifts, like whoopee cushions or fake vomit. For one thing, these items are cheap and hardly say, “I appreciate you.” And for another, employees expect thoughtful, useful gifts from their supervisors, not a bad joke.  

Anything Hygiene or Bathroom-Related 

Gifting in the workplace can be a challenge, so your best bet is to stay away from anything too intimate or personal. A bathroom-related item can feel inappropriate, and anything related to hygiene can send the wrong message. You want to show your team members that you appreciate them, not make them feel uncomfortable.  

Lottery Tickets 

Nothing says, “I was getting gas and remembered I needed a gift” like scratcher cards. Gifts for employees from the boss should never feel like an obligation, but instead a genuine expression of gratitude.  

Office Supplies 

If you work in an office setting, your company should provide office supplies like pens and staplers to their employees. Giving these items as gifts doesn’t show appreciation and can even give the impression that you only value your employees for the revenue that they help your company earn.  

Clothing or Jewelry 

Everyone has different tastes in accessories and fashion, and gifting items like jewelry is a bit too personal for the workplace. And clothing requires knowing each employee’s sizes, which isn’t information that a supervisor should have. There are plenty of thoughtful gifts you can choose that don’t feel on the edge of inappropriate.  

Cheap or Discount Items 

Employee gifts don’t have to be expensive but purchasing gifts at the local dollar store can easily give the impression that you as a supervisor don’t value your staff. Gifts should be high-quality, thoughtful, and practical, showing your employees just how much you appreciate their dedication and hard work.  

Here are a few more examples of some awful gifts that employees have received from their bosses: 

  • Gas station wine 
  • Gift cards for chains that aren’t in town 
  • Expired sweets or candies 
  • Ice scraper 
  • Rubber duck 
  • Multivitamins 
  • Bookmark 
  • Broom 
  • Jumper cables 

If you don’t want your employees to add your gesture to the list of horrible gifts, put a little extra effort into your gifting strategy and follow our tips for showing appreciation to your staff.  

Understand the precedent you’re setting 

If you’re just starting out with workplace gifting, make sure you set a budget and stick to it. After all, if you spend $50 per employee one year and then drop down to $20 the next, your staff will definitely notice and wonder if you appreciate them a little less. Make sure you have a specific budget and plan to continue your giving efforts around the same time each year or quarter. 

Keep everything equal 

You might stumble upon something in a local store that’s just perfect for one of your employees, but then you’ll have to buy unique gifts for everyone. While your gifts should definitely be thoughtful, you should try to keep each one at the same level of personalization. Otherwise, you could be accused of showing favoritism to one staff member over the rest.  

Practical is best 

Little trinkets, while fun, often end up gathering dust. It’s a good idea to give employees gifts that they can use, whether a baking gift box for the kitchen, a movie theater gift card to have fun with the family, or a bag full of gourmet treats.  

Prioritize professionalism 

While you may have a friendly relationship with your team, it’s important to remember your role as their supervisor when it comes to gifting. Keep in mind what your gift will communicate to the employee and think through how both the recipient and the entire office may perceive the gesture. Avoid giving any items that are too personal and stay far away from things that aren’t normally permitted in the workplace.  

Don’t expect a gift in return 

Gifts should always go down the office ladder, not up. A manager may give presents to staff, and colleagues can exchange gifts, but employees should never give gifts to supervisors. For a boss, gifting is a way to express their appreciation for their team members’ hard work. But if an employee gives a gift to a supervisor, it can put pressure on other workers to buy gifts for the boss.  

Stick to a budget 

Work with other supervisors and Human Resources to develop a company-wide policy and budget for gifting. That way, you have a set amount to spend on each employee and can avoid any appearance of favoritism. Plus, you can be sure that each member of your staff feels appreciated and no one feels left out. 

Employee gifting doesn’t have to be complicated, and it only takes a little effort to avoid giving horrible gifts. No matter how many people are on your list, Client Giant can help you give the perfect gift to every person on your team, ensuring that everyone feels valued.