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Appropriate Gifts From Your Boss

Updated on September 19, 2008

Some gifts can be taken wrong, perceived as inappropriate, or reflective of a hidden agenda.

You've been coming in early, staying late, working through lunch, taking work home. You've been kicking ass, and you deserve a thank you.

Your boss surprises you with a gift.

What's appropriate and what isn't? And hey, this article works in reverse too. If you're the boss, and you want to give a gift to an employee for going that extra mile for you, what gifts state your intentions clearly? What gifts could be taken the wrong way?

Appropriate gifts basically fall into three categories:

  • 1 - Work related
  • 2 - Cube/Office related
  • 3 - A Nod to You and Yours

Work related items include a good pen, a briefcase, a leather blotter or desk set. A good letter opener or other truly work related piece is always safe. Engraving really makes it special.

Cube, office, or space related goes just a small step passed work related. And I mean small. Something that would be appropriate for the office, that's intent is clearly to be displayed and enjoyed on the desk. A plant, for example, is fine. Anything that clearly states a professional relationship is fine as well. A "Administrative Assistant's Basket" really can't be taken for anything other than what it is.

A nod to you and yours is appropriate if you are married or significantly partnered. Something like a gift certificate to a local restaurant for dinner, or tickets to a play, are perfect examples. But this gift must be accompanied with a card or note that clearly states the boss does not intend to join you. It should instead state something that recognizes you for your hard work, and additionally thanks your family for supporting you in your commitment to your profession.

Here's an example:


I want you to know that your hard work is recognized. I hope that you and Bill can enjoy a night out; you both deserve it.


Carl Merriweather

Jewelry is not an appropriate gift from a boss to an employee. Not even a watch. Sorry, but it's just not. Odds are the company does the gold watch thing anyway on a certain significant anniversary.

Another nod to you and yours would be support for a charity you're involved in. Your boss may know you walk every year in a Breast Cancer Awareness event, or that you volunteer at the local animal shelter. Receiving a card that says a donation has been made in your family's name to a charity you support, is a wonderful and appropriate gesture.

Candy is not appropriate. It can be misconstrued by some people as a sweet romantic gesture. Perfume is not appropriate. Be wary of cut flowers too. Unless the boss is giving several flower arrangements out at once, it's a fine line. Most times it's fine, but for that one exception, it's a line better left uncrossed.

Clothing is never appropriate, and neither is anything cute like a stuffed animal.

Books are also a fine line item. Obviously never a romance book or anything poetry related. A book about work is helpful, as long as it doesn't suggest that you need to fix something about yourself. Titles like: Dress Your Best: The Complete Guide to Finding the Style That's Right for Your Body is not a compliment to receive, and is not an appropriate gift. A title that would be good might be: What the Best CEOs Know : 7 Exceptional Leaders and Their Lessons for Transforming any Business. It shows you're thought of in a strong and professional way without suggesting any criticism.

Gift certificates are good, but can still cross a line and be taken or viewed from the outside as personal. Barnes and Noble, JC Penney, and Lowe's are appropriate gift certificates that can be enjoyed by your entire family. Clearly, Victoria's Secret and Frederick's of Hollywood are inappropriate.

Any gift certificate should be thanked with a note saying what you purchased. Do not thank your boss for your Barnes and Noble gift certificate by telling him you purchased the Kama Sutra. A note saying you purchased some gardening books, or a Spanish American Dictionary would be much better.

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All text is original content by Veronica.

All photos are used with permission.

All videos are used courtesy of Youtube.


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  • profile image

    louis vuitton bags 7 years ago

    that's intent is clearly to be displayed and enjoyed on the desk. A plant, for example, is fine. Anything that clearly states a professional relationship is fine as well. A "Administrative Assistant's Basket" really can't be taken for anything other than what it is.

  • profile image

    salesperson 9 years ago

    Wow at my work place we're doing Secret Santa and I thought of a stuffed animal but now I found better ideas on what to get. Thanks for this article.

  • profile image

    Sandy 10 years ago

    I hadn't thought about the way some gifts could really be mistaken for meaning something they don't. Better safe than sorry espec in the workplace. thanks for a great article!