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So, your boss is celebrating an important life event, and it’s up to you to organize a gift from the team. It's daunting enough to choose the perfect gift for your friends and family members, but when it comes to giving a gift for your boss, well, welcome to a whole new level of stress!
If you see your boss every day (or a few times a week) in the office, you may have a sense of what their interests, tastes, likes, and dislikes are. But perhaps you work from home, have never met the boss in person, and have no idea what they’re into. Or maybe your team is full of quiet quitters who are too checked out to help you come up with a gift that’s thoughtful, personal, and still professional. Whatever your situation, there's a gifting solution that'll hopefully make your boss feel appreciated during this major moment.
Read on to check out our guide on how to give a team gift to the boss. Our expert-approved tips will help you handle the art of office gift-giving like a pro.
Assess the occasion
First things first: Team gifts for your boss should be reserved for big-deal events like promotions, a new baby, or a milestone birthday.
"In some offices, it seems like every time someone runs a 5K, they’re passing the hat," says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach. "It gets to be too much."
If the occasion your boss is celebrating falls short of the major-life-event mark, consider a thoughtful card signed by the team in place of a gift, suggests Whitmore.
Play it safe
Once you’ve established that the event is truly gift-worthy, you’ll want to check with your company’s HR department to find out if there are any restrictions around who can receive gifts, the types of gifts you can give, or the dollar value of those gifts.
Some workplaces prohibit gift-giving entirely, while others have strict guidelines in place, according to Arden Clise, etiquette expert and author of Spinach in Your Boss’s Teeth: Essential Etiquette for Professional Success. These rules exist to protect employees from feeling pressure to buy gifts for their bosses while also discouraging others from trying to buy promotions or good performance reviews with expensive gifts.
Choose the gift
Before you ask your coworkers to contribute money toward the team gift for your boss, you need to do a little legwork. "Come up with a few gift ideas so you can let people voice a preference. Allowing people to weigh in will encourage buy-in," says Clise.
Choosing gifts for the boss requires a bit of savvy, especially if you don’t know them very well. If you’re at a loss when it comes to your boss’s interests, try asking around in the office. Someone else may have heard them mention training for a Tough Mudder event or perfecting their cassoulet recipe.
What’s the all-around best option for giving a team gift for your boss? "Something related to your boss’s hobby. Otherwise, a really nice gift basket," says Clise. And if you work in person at the same office, "taking the boss out to lunch is a nice thing, too,” she says.
"The best gift for a boss is often one that can be enjoyed by their whole family or that ties into a hobby," says Whitmore. "Maybe that person collects something, or they like to cook, or garden, or play golf. Maybe tickets to an event. If the boss is taking a trip, maybe a leather-bound journal. You don’t want to buy anything too extravagant because then you look like you’re trying to win favor."
Steer clear of gifting gaffes
When in doubt, Clise recommends keeping the team gift for your boss simple and professional. Avoid giving anything overly personal, like perfume or grooming products. "People can be very offended by those gifts,” says Clise. Anything religious or related to politics is a no-go. Alcohol is also out, unless you know for certain that the boss is a whiskey lover and would appreciate a particular bottle.
Giving a book as a team gift is usually a safe option if you know the boss is a book lover or interested in a particular subject — but avoid self-help manuals. "Even if it’s the hottest leadership book around, it could be taken as a suggestion that you’re trying to make your boss change," says Clise.
Both experts agree that gift cards are best avoided. "They just seem so impersonal," says Whitmore.
Make the request to the team
Once you’ve settled on some gift options and know how much they’ll cost, it’s time to ask for donations. "Take a low-pressure approach," says Whitmore. "Send an email so people can respond privately, or to everyone if they choose. Don’t drop by desks, or people will feel ambushed." Be sure to include a due date, suggest a donation amount based on the cost of the gift, and be explicit that it’s voluntary.
"Avoid language like, 'we hope everyone will contribute' or 'show the boss your love,'" says Clise. "It needs to be really focused more on the idea that we would love to honor the boss if you would like to participate," she says.
Whitmore agrees. "Just don’t make anyone feel awkward if they can’t give, or don’t want to give," she says.
Sign the card
No matter what type of gift you end up getting, make sure you give a card alongside it. How you choose to sign it can depend on your particular office situation — the experts advise that you may want to keep it general to avoid any last-minute stress.
"It’s better to say that the gift is from everyone," says Clise. It can be something like, 'from the marketing team,' or simply, ‘from everyone.’
"You don’t want to single anyone out," Whitmore says. "You don’t want the boss to know that the gift came from some people and not others."
If your teammates do want to sign the card themselves, just make sure that everyone has the opportunity to sign it, even if they didn’t contribute to the gift.
Plan for next time
To simplify gift-giving in the future and avoid donation fatigue, Whitmore recommends creating an office pool.
"Set up a birthday fund that everyone contributes to once, then when an occasion comes up, you pull out a few dollars per person for a cake and a gift," she says.
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