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Does your boss deserve a gift?

There are many great bosses, and you may be working for one of them. So, is it appropriate to show your appreciation with a gift? And if you don’t have a great boss, should you feel obligated to give a birthday or holiday present?

Either way, giving a gift to the boss can be a tricky situation. First of all, business etiquette does not require you to give a gift for any occasion. While a thoughtful gesture, it could also make your boss feel awkward, alienate your co-workers and even appears as if you’re trying to “brown nose” your way to a raise or promotion.

However, if you want to give your boss a gift, here are a few things to think about:

Be thoughtful, but not too personal:  Keep the gift simple and sincere, and relatively inexpensive. Remember, it’s the thought that counts and in some instances, there may be a HR or IRS limit on the amount of a gift. (The recommended spend is the same or less than the Internal Revenue Service allows for a professional gift tax deduction- $25.)

Go with the group gift or Card:  Perhaps a group gift is the best way to go and a donation or an agreed-upon/suggested amount from all participants is usually the preferred way to do keep the playing field level without hurt feelings.

Be modest: If you do give a gift by yourself, deliver it privately and never brag about what you gave afterward.

Avoid a “bad” gift:  A bad gift could be considered something that crosses boundaries into sensitive subjects like religion or ethnicity. It’s usually best to avoid giving alcohol unless you are 100 percent clear about their preference. It’s also a good idea to avoid items that you’d expect the boss to show off in his or her office. You don’t want them to feel obligated to display it and your feelings might be hurt if they don’t.

As with all good manners, be honest, considerate and thoughtful. A simple thank you (written or verbal) goes a long way and can often be the best gift of all.  

—Suzanne Willis, Southwest Florida etiquette consultant (


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