am I really supposed to contribute to a “Boss’s Day” gift?

A reader writes:

Apparently October 16th is “Boss’s Day.” A person in my department at work has sent out an email asking for $5 from each of us to buy our manager a gift. While $5 isn’t going to break the bank, there are over 20 employees on my team, equaling $100 for a gift.

A little background: my company is especially proud of the charity work it does and consequently is always asking for donations and participation in charity drives. I’ve come to terms with it and do my small, albeit sometimes begrudging, bit.

This recent request, however, has frustrated me quite a bit. The team manager in question is new, they have only been here a month and has had no opportunity to be a “good” boss to us. I am also not particularly fond of them in general. One hundred dollars seems like an outrageous amount of money for someone who we don’t know very well and who already makes exponentially more than any of us on the team.

Is there any way to politely decline involvement? Can I just ignore this request for money? Am I making too big a deal out of this? Help! I feel like I’m constantly being nickel and dimed.

Well, first, let’s separate out “Boss’s Day” from charity drives. Charity drives in the workplace pose their own problems when people feel pressured to contribute to them, but at least they’re for charity. Boss’s Day, on the other hand, is just BS.

It’s a recently made-up fake holiday, most bosses really don’t want gifts from their subordinates, etiquette says that any gift-giving should be from a boss to an employee and not the other way around, and any sensible boss is going to feel awkward about their team celebrating this mock-worthy holiday (and doubly so if they’ve only been on the job for a month) because any halfway competent boss knows that the only kind of celebration of a manager that really matters is freely-given, unsolicited praise or thanks. Forced thanks compelled by an event like this is pretty cringeworthy.

You’d be doing the rest of your coworkers a favor if you speak up about how dumb this is, and you’ll almost certainly be joined by others. I’d “reply all” to the email and say something like this: “Most managers I’ve known have felt ‘Boss’s Day’ was silly and embarrassing and would rather their staff not spend money on them, particularly since they make more than their team. [New Boss] seems sensible enough that I’m sure she feels the same. If anyone really wants to observe it, let’s all sign a card, but let’s not put her and everyone else in an awkward position of taking up a collection for a $100 gift.”

Most people are thinking this, and it would do some good for someone to speak up and say it.

{ 194 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    Oh, we have something like this, and even though I think the world of the people we’ve given it to, I really hate it on principle. These are not people uncompensated for their level of responsibility, and if they’re undercompensated it’s not their employees’ job to make up for that.

    I’ve noted my reservations about the practice, but people here really like doing it, so I’ve let it go. At least here they really don’t track who contributes and who doesn’t.

    1. Bridgette*

      “These are not people uncompensated for their level of responsibility, and if they’re undercompensated it’s not their employees’ job to make up for that.”

      YES. THIS. This is exactly how I feel about Bosses’ Day, and any other workplace holiday. I love showing people how much I appreciate them, but that’s something that will mean more done in small amounts over the year rather than in one lump sum on a random day. If you give me a gift one day but hate me the rest of the year, I will not feel appreciated.

      1. Lisa*

        I hate doing special xmas gifts for the boss. I think it is tacky to have his friend (also the office manager with a rich husband so money is no object to HER) goes around and annoys people until they each give $50 a piece to the boss’s gift. My MOTHER doesn’t get a $50 xmas gift, why would I want to give more to my boss ?? In the end the boss end up with a $1000 gift card. I hate that, I would rather spend $50 on a toys for tot thing

        1. Camellia*

          Oh my goodness! $50? Do you give in and give that much? I can’t even imagine that. Not to mention that I couldn’t afford that.

          Maybe you could tell them that you have contributed to X Charity in their name, or give the boss a Christmas card to that effect?

          Either way you have my sympathy.

        2. Jamie*

          That is seriously crazy – although it gave me a few moments of enjoyment trying to imagine how annoying someone would have to be to get $50 out of me for this…

          I don’t think it’s possible. They’d have to wait until I left my desk and steal it from my purse. And since I never have $50 in cash on me this would have to be pilfered over several days where I’m thinking I’m going crazy wondering where all my cash is going.

          In all seriousness I wouldn’t be able to work for someone who would be okay with this – just because I would have a hard time believing they were worthy of respect in other areas when so clearly trying to shake down employees once a year.

        3. Amouse*

          $50?! That is ridiculous! I hate set dollars of any amount but I don’t think I’ve ever been asked to give more than 10 per person. Are they trying to reinvest a portion your Christmas bonus back to themselves or soemthing? Someone should speak up. I’m sure in this case your co-workers find it ludicrous too.

    2. km*

      “These are not people uncompensated for their level of responsibility”

      In a word, YES. On a side note, is anybody else feeling the urge to quote Mad Men and suggest the OP write a reply-all email that reads “THAT’S WHAT THE MONEY IS FOR!!!!!”

  2. Pointy-Haired Boss*

    As a manager, I totally agree with Alison. I don’t expect so much as a card for Boss’s Day, and don’t want employees spending their money on me. First, I make more, so wealth should not be transferred up. (If that’s the way it is expected to work, I’d find a way to pay you less.)

    Second, odds of my team knowing what I’d like are pretty slim. If it’s something I need/want for work, I can put in a request for the company to buy it. If it’s something more personal… the odds of the team knowing what I want go down even more, and hey, it’s something I can/should buy for myself.

    Most importantly, though, it’s just awkward. I am not a fan of workplace gift-giving, especially if it’s something that happens every year. I might make an exception for weddings or new babies, but Boss’s Day and holidays… not so much. Please buy yourself a giant fancy coffee drink rather than spend your money on me. Really.

  3. Eric*

    While I 100% agree with AAM’s advice, if people in the office really want to get something (and because you mentioned your office is big on charity drives), you could always make a donation in your bosses name. Less awkward, but I guess doesn’t really solve the problem that this is a bizarre holiday.

  4. Malissa*

    Honestly for my group this means a great excuse to have breakfast out and to conduct our weekly staff meeting in a new place. The office folks will pay for the bosses breakfasts, but it only works out to a couple of bucks a piece. The bosses take us out for that other made-up holiday in April and spend way more on us, so it’s all good in our books.
    But each work place has it’s own culture.

    1. Hari*

      +1 totally agree it all depends on the culture. I don’t think it should be required or anyone should keep track of who participates, but its not unlikely places that have a bosses’ day do so because of the high quality employee appreciation they receive. One agency I interned with had a happy hour almost every friday or friday “creative lunch” where they would cater food and have a presentation given on something industry relevant. Not to mention all the office freebies and free lunch if you were working.

      I wouldn’t write it off as “stupid” because it depends on the culture but I would be more annoyed to show boss appreciation in a work culture that showed little to no employee appreciation, especially if the bosses were already overpaid and I was underpaid.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        But if you want to show appreciation for your boss, the most meaningful way is to just do so — by telling her what you appreciate. I guarantee you that no good boss out there wants Boss’s Day celebrated.

        1. Hari*

          I don’t think it should be required but I don’t think its bad either. I also think it would be something that would come as a surprise to the boss. I don’t think a good boss would require this or expect it to happen. (I’m thinking of Boss’s day as just getting your boss a gift or an all employee lunch as Malissa mentioned. Not anything where the WHOLE day was actually dedicated to them and they would get special treatment as the name may suggest).

        2. Aimee*

          This. I’m just waiting for my husband to tell me that he needs $5/10/20 to contribute to the boss’ day gift for his boss. He’s probably avoiding telling me because I don’t have a history of reacting well to that news! :) (Thankfully, my team just ignores these things, so I don’t have to worry about being asked to give money myself).

          His team will also probably get him something – I know he’d rather just have them be effective at the job they were hired to do, which would make him look good to his bosses. A card or nice message telling him he’s a good boss would be appreciated, but while he will appreciate the starbucks card or whatever they’ll probably get him, he would be just as happy not having them do anything.

          Except cake. Any occasion to have a cake is good (and since I work in the same building, I would get cake too. His team always shares. It’s win-win as far as I’m concerned!).

        3. Lils*

          So, what to do when you’re on the unwanted receiving end of presents and showers? I don’t want Christmas gifts or baby showers at work and yet people insist on giving them. Now that I know about Boss’s Day, what can I do to prevent my employees from giving me a present I will be skeezed out by?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            You probably can’t do much to stop holiday gifts, but you can firmly say no if someone wants to throw a baby shower for you. And be firm: “Thank you for the thought, but that’s not something I’d be comfortable with.”

            For Boss’ Day, if you have reason to believe your team is one that might celebrate something like this (because fortunately, most aren’t), I think you’d be doing everyone a huge favor if you headed it off in advance and told them that if they want to show appreciation, their hard work is all you need.

          2. Jamie*

            If it’s not the culture of your workplace to celebrate it, I wouldn’t even mention it. Personally I’ve never worked in a place that even aknowledged Bosses Day so if someone were to come around and tell us not to celebrate something no one would have considered it would be…odd.

            This isn’t like Mother’s Day – it’s by no means a universal thing.

          3. Lils*

            Thank goodness Boss’s Day came and went and no one said anything! I’m planning to say “let’s not exchange holiday gifts ” at an upcoming staff meeting. Maybe we can get through this year without the awkwardness. Thanks for the advice…

      2. Heather*

        But the company would pay for that I’m assuming? So why should the employees have to pay out of their own pocket? Makes no sense to me

        1. Hari*

          Well in that case although well known, it wasn’t a huge agency so the CEO was around a lot and even as an intern I had interaction with him. So although it was the “company” paying for these extra employee things he could have just as easily pocketed the money as it is his agency and his choice what to do with extra revenue.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Sure, but the same could be said for raises and salaries. The CEO wasn’t earning a gift for himself by creating a culture that, ultimately, benefitted the business (by attracting/retaining the type of employee he wanted to attract/retain). And again, any good boss is creeped out by Boss’ Day.

            1. Hari*

              He didn’t try to “earn” it, nor did he require or expect it to happen, or know about it prior to its happening (it also didn’t come in the form of a “day” rather than a surprise gesture of a gift). I’m speaking more of boss’s day as a time to voluntarily do something nice, if you would like, as a group for your boss. More like in Malissa’s example rather than a supposed day of reverence and worship for your boss (which I think anyone would be creeped out by).

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I might have misunderstood, but I was responding to your statement that “it’s not unlikely places that have a bosses’ day do so because of the high quality employee appreciation they receive.”

                The two things really shouldn’t be connected. High quality employee appreciation benefits the business and is paid for by the business. Boss’s Day is just silly BS (redistributing employees’ money upward for no good reason) that no sane boss likes.

                1. Hari*

                  Ahhhhh I see now how my comment would have made it seem like the bosses themselves were expecting it or “boss day” was something that was required as a thank you for a good boss or culture. Not at all. Only saying that I think the employees who would be more voluntarily willing to do this would be the ones who had a better work environment and really did appreciate their bosses. I didn’t think that it should be something routinely celebrated traditionally.

                  Wait… boss’s day an actual calendar day? I thought it was just something employees made up and did on a whim to celebrate their boss? I just googled it. This whole conversation makes so much more sense now… In all my previous jobs or internships (I’ve worked regularly before and during college in office and corporate environments) is was always just a random day, not Oct. 16th. Maybe bosses day isn’t so popular in PNW? Just called up my parents and they have never heard of it. This is so odd to me now, I can see where you all are coming from more. However I still stand by my earlier comments of how I would personally deal with it, rather than be the odd one and stick out (even if I still agree participation should not be forced).

          2. Jamie*

            There was a post a long time ago – maybe last holiday season – about a company which was all about the parties and spending money on extras, but they had a wage freeze and no one was getting raises.

            I totally remember that, please someone tell me I’m not crazy and just making up posts in my head now.

            I’m sure your company wasn’t doing that, but it shows there can be too much of a good thing.

            And I have never been to a workplace holiday party where at least one person wasn’t playing price is right to estimate what they spent on the event and and how much extra it would have been in bonuses if they’d skipped the party.

            One person’s celebratory atmosphere is someone else’s nightmare.

            1. Hari*

              I do remember that post! But no, everyone at that ad agency was pretty well paid for their work and most people besides a few entry level had been there for at least 5+ years. They were they type anyway who would rather have the workplace comfort extras (not uncommon for people to pull all-nighters at the job just to come back in before a bit before noon) rather than the bonus. In all honestly though I know that it was a special circumstance and most people I figure would rather have the bonus then a party with co-workers they probably aren’t all that close to anyway.

  5. Nodumbunny*

    My only caveat to Alison’s advice is be prepared that some suck-up is going to tell your manager “we wanted to give you a nice gift, but Helen raised a fuss about it, so we couldn’t”.

    Early in my career my (powerful, elected official) boss’s wife and the office manager were in cahoots to have the staff “give” the boss an expensive Christmas present that the wife wanted. I protested (quietly, to my immediate boss) and before long the wife knew I wasn’t going along with her plan. Made things quite uncomfortable for awhile.

    1. some1*

      This is what I was going to say. While I agree with Allison in theory, you basically have 2 choices: 1) Suck it up & pay the $5. 2) Be known as the (only) jerk who didn’t want to contribute and potentially have people hold a grudge against you for awhile.

      1. -X-*

        By going along with this you’re all a little complicit.

        Imagine if instead of one person pushing back half the people did. Push back. It’s good for everyone to resist nonsense and not just leave it to the brave/foolish few. Push back.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Or (3) assume that it’s highly likely that you’re not the only who feels that way, and others will chime in and agree. (Assuming that you know your colleagues well enough to assume that.)

        1. Nodumbunny*

          This hasn’t been my experience, though. What is the motivation for others to pipe up if you are taking the heat for them? My experience is folks are always happy for someone else to stick their neck out, even if they agree. Maybe I’ve worked predominantly with the lily-livered ;-)

          1. Jennifer*

            Yeah, I’m lily-livered and I would not want to deal with the possible ugly consequences of being the only person in the office who was against Boss’s Day. This could be part of their established office culture for all I know. The OP didn’t say how long she’s been working there, but it sounds recent if she didn’t know this was going on. In general, bosses are king and I would not want to be seen as not being on the side of the boss on a job, for any reason. Even if in this case it’s silly.

            1. some1*

              Nodumbunny & Jennifer expressed my point more eloquently than I did. I worked somewhere that I was ostracized after electing not to chip in $10 for a shower + buy a gift for an office baby shower. P.S. It was the mom’s 6th child.

              1. anonymous*

                I worked somewhere where we were all asked to contribute to a baby shower gift for an executive’s wife. The executive earned over six figures….they didn’t need my baby gift from my entry level salary.
                I would always be scolded anytime I didn’t want to gather together to sing Happy Birthday because I had plenty of work to do. And I did find out when you voice your own opinion on the issue it is not well received and all the other co-workers who complain about participating then deny it and will not stand up beside you

            2. Hari*

              Another +1. I would hate the feeling of being nickled and dimed (it seems like with all the other charities floating around OP is) but I would rather risk saying no to a random co-worker’s charity than risk getting on a boss’s bad side. Not to mention a NEW boss who probably hasn’t formed a solid opinion of everyone, including me, yet.

              I applaud those who wouldn’t do it but I don’t feel that people who would just go along with it should be seen as cowardly. Of course no one should be obligated to do these things by their co-workers and peers but as Alison’s blog highlights for every reasonable co-worker there is another who isn’t (probably another 2 or 3 for that matter). I would rather not chance my standing in the company over something so trivial as $5 if everyone else was doing so. If these types of givings are something, as OP puts, the company “takes pride in” I would evaluate if I really wanted to continue working in such an environment than to try and change the way everyone else does it. Going against the grain in this case could be a good way to be ostracized.

          2. Heather*

            I take the heat. I have no issues pointing out that this is misguided and sticking to it. So people resent me for a while? So what. They will either get over it or not. And if they don’t they really need to grow up.

            I’ve done this before – it wasn’t for Bosses Day but it was for the owners birthday. We were expected to contribute $10 to buy a gift. I said no. Feathers were ruffled. I didn’t care. I refuse to be forced to spend my money on a gift .

          3. -X-*

            “What is the motivation for others to pipe up if you are taking the heat for them?”

            1. Speaking truth and sticking up for people who do.
            2. Gaining reputation as an honest outspoken person.
            3. Helping change the situation.

            Props to Heather for doing this.

            “This could be part of their established office culture for all I know.”

            If it is, OK. But find out. Don’t just go along.

            I’ll add that I think the best bosses don’t like suck-ups. I guess some other bosses do though.

            1. Jamie*

              I agree with everything said here – including the props to Heather.

              This kind of nonsense won’t ever change as long as people meekly hand over the $5.

              1. Amouse*

                I agree as well that standing up against these sorts of things makes sense and I have done it as well in certain circumstances.

                One thing I will say though is that if you (in general) are constantly being the squeaky wheel and never collecting any grease (support from any of your co-workers who you have told you behind the scenes that they feel the same way) in front of your boss, well, at that point you need to decide how much speaking up is wroth it to you because it could be potentially damaging to your reputation at work and you aren’t accomplishing much to show for it.

                In some circumstances feathers need to be ruffled, in others the same objective can be met with more carefully navigated approaches. We’re never going to please everyone especially not at work, however, it’s also not always necessary to offend everyone to accomplish the same ends.

              2. fposte*

                Sure, but for the counterargument, in my workplace it won’t change because a lot of people like doing it. My main objections are taken care of by the fact that contributions are clearly optional and contributors aren’t differentiated from anybody else. At that point, if I kick up a fuss I’m valuing the principle over the people who are engaging in this, in a way that would be particularly deaf to our workplace culture. There are better contributions I could make here.

                1. Amouse*

                  I’ll agree with that too. It isn’t always done because of social coersion or whatever. I personally think people should only contribute if they genuinely want to and be made to feel the least amount of pressure as humanly possible to do so. A dollar amount should not be specified or required to sign a card. That way the gift or the card or whatever is truly genuine.

              3. Heather*

                Thanks. It didn’t change anything but at least I didn’t participate. I know people thought I was unreasonable but I guarantee it wasn’t the first time nor will it be the last. ;) I also don’t participate in office Secret Santas but that’s another issue

                Luckily where I work now has none of this nonsense.

            2. Hari*

              I think its pretty clear though that it is apart of the established culture, at least in OP’s case due to them always having a charitable donation being circulated around. I also don’t think its “sucking up” if everyone is contributing to it, on the contrary, if it is brought to the attention that there was only ONE person who didn’t participate that would come with its own stigmas attached to it (not fairly but I am just being realistic).

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                The thing is, though, that it often takes one person opting out and speaking up about it to get others to follow. And this kind of thing IS wrong.

                1. Amouse*

                  and others rarely follow in my experience even when they agree. Then that person looks bad. I know cause I’ve been that person. My co-workers and I constantly voice the same concerns about various issues and when I bring it up at a meeting they sit there completely mute. It got to a point where it was no longer worth it to me to speak out about certain things because no one would agree with me in front of my boss and nothing changed.

                  Unfortunately some people are gutless. Speaking out is important but if people are too scared to show their support it’s potentially a great price for that person to pay.

                2. Amouse*

                  A smart manager will be able to spot when the other co-workers really agree and are just too scared to speak out though, hopefully.

                3. Hari*

                  YMMV, and I don’t know how much experience you have with this sort of thing, likely more than me, but I agree with Amouse. I’ve seen in many different cases, not just work related, when someone spoke up about something even when they knew that had everyone’s support, they were often left hanging out to dry by themselves when all was said and done.

                  But do you mean you think the idea of Boss’s day is wrong in itself or making someone participate? I totally agree with the later.

                4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I mean Boss’s Day is wrong in itself, for the reasons I described in the post.

                  And it’s also wrong to have even the whiff of a hint of consequences for not participating in workplace gifts.

              2. Jamie*

                “I think its pretty clear though that it is apart of the established culture, at least in OP’s case due to them always having a charitable donation being circulated around.”

                I don’t think you can equate the two things at all. I don’t like solicitations for charity in the office, either – but it’s a very different sentiment to collect for a good cause and to collect to give your boss some tchotchke.

                1. Hari*

                  I know correlation doesn’t equal causation, but I would bet in an environment that is known for its giving to charity would also probably feel that same giving spirit when it came to birthdays, departures,weddings and new babies. Not always the case but not an unlikely stretch either.

  6. Jeanne*

    We had a thing like this for Christmas once. We each had to give $16(!!) dollars for a spa gift. Then we each signed the card with “me”. She went around and thanked everyone except for my group, who she didn’t want to have in her group. Turned me off of all boss gifts.

  7. Jamie*

    I have never had a boss that would not be beyond embarrassed to be given a gift for Bosses Day. Not one.

    Because they know that there is a whole lot of resentment behind that $100 whatever and it’s ridiculous.

    The people who start this – what are they thinking?

    FTR – I like my boss and there is no way I would kick in for something like this…because I want it on the record that I didn’t contribute to his embarrassment.

  8. Anonymous*

    This makes me feel a lot better about my decision not to get a gift for my boss when I leave my current job. I’m a grad student, and all my predecessors (that I’m aware of) got the boss an expensive gift when they left. Seems like a very silly tradition to me, especially since I know he makes more than 5 times my salary.

    I’ll get him a card and write a nice note in it. I’m grateful for the assistance he’s given me. However, I think it’s stupid to buy him a gift. I have no idea what to buy him – especially since the last three departing grad students all bought him fountain pens!

    1. Rana*

      From my own experience, I’d far rather have a note expressing someone’s appreciation of me than some random trinket. I treasure the positive comments I’ve received from clients and students over the years, and save them in a special folder. The mugs? Not so much.

  9. Maire*

    Yeah, this happened at a former workplace of mine too.
    It just seems so juvenile to me; almost like trying to ingratiate yourself with a teacher or something.
    At Christmas, everyone was expected to give a donation for their line managers for a present. Our group gave £5 each(about $8?) but other groups gave £10 each( about $16/17), which I felt was completely ridiculous.
    One of my co-workers said she would just donate the money to charity, which seems sensible: to actually give the money to people who need it rather than someone on a good salary.

  10. Amouse*

    etiquette says that any gift-giving should be from a boss to an employee and not the other way around

    That’s interesting. Maybe it’s a carryover from the whole “get your teacher gifts for holidays” thing I was told to do as a kid but I always thought giving a boss a small gift around the holidays was a nice gesture. Maybe I’ve made bosses of my past feel awkward and never knew it. hmm. I’ve also done Thank You cards to mentors etc. when I’ve genuinely felt inclined to do so but I think that’s a different thing.

    Alison I usually agree with your advice but in this case depending on the OPs company culture, I think the e-mail response you’re suggesting (especially reply-all) could incite unnecessary drama. Maybe I’ve just worked in unnecessarily dramatic offices but people I’ve encountered who would send out a call for 5 dollars each for Bosses Day in the first place have tended to be those who would be offended by a reply all like that. Now, maybe that’s just that person’s problem and the OP should do it anyway but reply all’s like that have never tended to go over well and may just start gossiping and outcast the OP. The exception would obviously be if the OP has heard everyone talking behind the person organizing the gift’s back about how ridiculous it is.

    My opinion for whatever it’s worth is that it can be handled more delicately. I think the OP should just let the Bosses Day thing happen and those that want to contribute contribute but instead “reply all” with something like: “Would it possible to have the option of either signing a card or contributing money? For myself I’ve never really observed Bosses Day and I’ve had bosses who have felt silly about receiving gifts for it. A card might be nice though” That’s kind of a middle ground that would give other co-workers an out and gauge crowd reaction without out and out asking that the whole idea be kyboshed. After all people express thoughtfulness in different ways and the person organizing the thing might just be thinking she’s doing the right thing and feel really badly if a whole bunch of people then come after her telling her the idea is terrible.

    1. Amouse*

      PS: also “The option can contribute money if they are able or not if they aren’t” The whole making it mandatory everyone contribute a set dollar amount really bothers me.

    2. some1*

      “I think the e-mail response you’re suggesting (especially reply-all) could incite unnecessary drama. Maybe I’ve just worked in unnecessarily dramatic offices but people I’ve encountered who would send out a call for 5 dollars each for Bosses Day in the first place have tended to be those who would be offended by a reply all like that. ”

      + infinity!

  11. Janet*

    Celebrations at the office are such a nightmare when gifts come in. At my current job we don’t celebrate any of them and it’s a dream come true. At a past job, we were expected to contribute $5/each for Boss’s Day, $5/each for secretaries day, then $5/each for birthdays. Birthdays became problematic because two of the team members were close friends out of the office so they’d refuse to contribute to the team gift since they were doing personal gifts so the rest of us were encouraged to pitch in extra to match the usual $15 Starbucks gift card that was given. Then then baby showers, wedding showers, etc. It seemed like every month I had to give someone money for a gift.

    I’m much happier not celebrating any of it. I buy a few boring “Happy Birthday” cards and give those to people but that’s it.

    1. Amouse*

      HR does Admin professionals day for us which seems appropriate. I think gifts/celebrations at the office are one of those things you’ll never get every type of personality to agree on. I don’t mind contributing if asked not pressured to do so but I absolutely hate being pressure or pressuring anyone else. When my boss went in for surgery unexpectedly we got her a gift but basically the way I handled it was there’s a card people could sing whether they’re contributing or not, if they want to chip in for the gift they can if not that’s fine. People kept asking me how much they should give and it was so awkward. So many quagmires of clashing social etiquette opinions came up that it seriously made me wonder if indeed it was just a better idea to avoid gifts altogether. It should have been simple to do a thoughtful little thing. Instead it was so not.

      1. Amouse*

        sign* though I suppose they could sing a song about whether they wanted to contribute. Some pretty creative stuff could come out of that :-)

      2. Heather*

        Flowers in the hospital (or at home afterwards) are ALWAYS nice -take it from someone who spent a month in the hospital and isn’t particularly a flower person- I loved all the flowers I got.

    2. -X-*

      Janet I agree with you that what you described is bad, but “nightmare” is a strong word.

      If you can, just ignore the drama. And letting it get to you – even subconsciously through words like “nightmare” – can’t help that.

      That said, I might actually get my boss a gift for surgery from some problem out of caring for them when they have trouble. But bosses day or birthdays or even normal holidays – no way.

  12. Juana*

    One of my former teams had a person “in charge” of holidays, birthdays, etc and she ran everything with an iron fist. I remember at one point being asked to sign a card for a former coworker’s 3 year old child who had a dental procedure done. I crossed my name off the routing form instead of signing it (the kid can’t even read!), and the card ended up back on my desk with my name highlighted. I wish I were exaggerating. :(

    I also remember when bosses day came around that year, everyone was expected to give money for a gift, at a time when the company had frozen salaries for 2 years and people were being laid off almost every week. I just ignored the request for money and passive aggressive comments about how I didn’t contribute, and still managed to be promoted. I think the gift (a spa giftcard) ended up embarrassing our boss since she knew we were all concerned about money and under so much stress we could have used spa treatments ourselves!

    In my current job I’m on a smaller team of 4 people, and when my manager’s birthday happened last week we voluntarily walked to the cafe next store and bought him a brownie. Definitely much better, and I think it was more appreciated than the over-the-top spa thing.

    1. Laura*

      Wow, your story about the card for the kid seeing the dentist legit should be in the AAM hall of fame book of stories (does this exist)? The fact that the “Director of Holidays” at your company took the time to VERIFY that all the crossed off names actually signed the card is a much larger indicator of inefficiency and general uselessness of many companies. Didn’t she have real work to do?!

      1. Juana*

        She did have real work to do and constantly complained that there was no time to do any of it, and wanted everyone to feel sorry for her because she’d have to work through lunches and stay late.
        Thankfully I don’t work there anymore, so can’t say whether she’s figured it out yet! I could probably write an entire “Director of Holidays” hall of fame book, but that story sticks out in my mind as the most ridiculous.

  13. Zee*

    All I have to say is that I hate it when they do that. It’s one thing on email so you have warning and can duck out. But at my workplace, they trap you in person! I hate it.

    A slightly similar question: If a coworker’s family member dies, do people put money in the sympathy card? If so, how much do you usually contribute?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve been on the receiving end of money in a sympathy card, and I found it completely bizarre. Why am I getting paid when a family member dies? I don’t get it.

      1. Jamie*

        Yeah – what is that?

        We did an in lieu of flowers charity thing for my parents, so we just took the cash in cards and donated it there.

        My husband is a police officer and they set up a fund when a fellow officer dies – to help take care of his family. But cash in cards? It just has a macabre birthday party feel to it I find disturbing.

        FWIW I never got flooding the bereaved freezer with casseroles afterward, either. I am just an internet stranger to you guys, and I bet some of you can imagine how delighted I was to have my home overrun with food. Cooked by other people. Not to my specifications. I mean strangers know this about me – how can people who’ve actually met me think this was a good idea. My food rules/phobias/and weirdness is legendary.

        Slipping someone a gift card to a decent restaurant with carry out is a lovely gift for anyone who is struggling in a way that can make meals difficult. Just having a baby, a death in the family, illness of family member. The one universal truth is meals need to be prepared so helping with that burden is nice.

        And yes, I realize I just answered my own question about why people send casseroles – it’s to be nice – but I still submit anyone how knows me would have stayed away from that.

        1. fposte*

          “I am just an internet stranger to you guys, and I bet some of you can imagine how delighted I was to have my home overrun with food.”

          Heh. Yes, yes, I can. We do organize food for new parents and, sometimes, the incapacitated, but that’s usually something informal done by a good enough friend to know what the recipient would actually appreciate (and gift cards for takeout are welcome as well).

          Overall, my workplace does a fair bit of gifting, fooding, personal-life-involving. It’s handled well enough that it usually doesn’t trip my curmudgeon switch (no Director of Holidays getting me to sign a kid’s dentistry card, thank heavens), and I understand that it’s actually a really important part of workplace satisfaction to some people. But I remain wary of its metastasizing.

        2. Natalie*

          I get why family members and good friends make food, but I would hate to make a casserole for a co-worker. Just ordering sandwiches for my office from a set menu is enough of an issue.

        3. Camellia*

          My experience with food and bereavement comes from my childhood in Tennessee. When someone died, all the family came in and stayed with other family members, of course – no one would have dreamed of going to a hotel, that would have been insulting.

          And since these family members, and sometimes even friends, would stay as long as possible (multiple days), everyone knew that would be a lot of mouths to feed so everyone brought food to the house, so that the grieving family would not have to think about cooking.

          Also, the visitation was frequently and all-day or at least a half-day event and you were expected to be there when it started and stay until it ended. It was almost like a family reunion. And the funeral home kept a steady supply of coffee and cookies/snacks in a back room for all the ‘guests’.

          Different culture, different time.

      2. Jenn*

        They do the same thing here! I think it’s a really awkward attempt to…………..actually, I have no idea what. But it’s happened more than once here, and I find it very clumsy and misguided.

        I think my one co-worker took the money and donated it to a local non-profit. But having to sit there at home, counting out all those bills? Reeeally weird, I think….

      3. km*

        My experience of some minority cultures/communities is that there’s an expectation/understanding that a death in the family is a massive financial hit that everyone should chip in for if they can. So it’s possible it’s not intended to be sympathy bouquet money but, like, “here’s a little help with buying that casket we’re assuming based on our cultural norms that you are not going to be able to afford.” There have been a couple times when I’ve been asked by co-workers in a community-based organization to chip in for a co-worker’s expected funeral costs. I found it odd at the time, but in retrospect I think I might have been missing some cultural cues.

        1. Blue Dog*

          Very common in certain cultures. Not tacky at all. In fact, expected. An obligation, of sorts.

          Every community has different cultural norms that no doubt seem strange to others. I could see how they wouldn’t necessarily translate into the work place, though. Which is why this stuff is best handled on a personal level and not through a “Director of Holildays.”

        2. Elise*

          The only funeral I directly helped with the planning was for my grandmother, so I don’t have a lot of experience. But, it was a simple funeral and it still cost over $6000 for casket, services, and burial. Unless the person had life insurance, there are a lot of families that don’t just have an extra $6000 lying around.

          The money is meant well to defray costs. If it isn’t needed, donating it to a cause the deceased cared about would be a nice way to honor their memory.

        3. Mints*

          YES. This.
          If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, and all the adults are working, the lack of one revenue stream combined with the sudden funeral costs are a huge burden.

        4. anon*

          Agreed, the money is given when you are chipping in to help with burial costs or family expenses. In my experience this goes across cultures and is more closely related to class, being much more common in the working-class or service industries. Many people in that demographic don’t have health insurance, much less life insurance to take care of funeral costs.

          1. Jamie*

            I had no idea.

            My mom was a nurse – the cash in the cards all came from patients who loved her – not people who knew us – we’d never see this before. We just donated it – I had no idea the intent was to help with the funeral. If we’d known we’d have given it back.

            1. fposte*

              Now we’re way off topic, but I think that giving it back would have really upset people, because it’s like you’re rejecting the sentiment as well. Donating what they gave was a great solution–it honored their wish to recognize your mom’s passing and allowed that to help somebody else.

              1. Jamie*

                You’re right – just felt bad sitting here, decades later, thinking about people who were just trying to help us out through a difficult time and I had just been annoyed they didn’t make the donation to the charity themselves.

                New perspective is always good.

                To get back on topic – there are a lot of women here who clearly dislike the gifty thing at work…but IME I don’t see it as much in predominately male environments.

                When temping in a place where there was a lot of woman I would get hit up weekly for something for someone I barely knew. Since moving into IT in manufacturing? I’ve haven’t been asked to open my wallet once.

                Pure anecdata – just my observation – but men seem a little less prone to pass the greeting card and cash sign up sheets around.

                1. Guest*

                  Same here. Gift giving at work (and trying to ostracize anyone not in on it) is something women do in the workplace far more than men seem to. And at the risk of stereotyping even further, the further down on the totem pole they are, the more they get into this.

                  I’ve always understood money given at deaths was for the sudden expense of a funeral. When my uncle died (due to lack of health insurance), I was pretty sure there was no life insurance to cover funeral costs, or anything else, so I sent my aunt a check for $50 – all I could afford at 22. Awk-ward was getting a handwritten thank-you note. In my book, grieving family members ought to be exempt from thank-you note duties.

      4. Amouse*

        That’s bizarre.

        My boss does things that I find really awkward when bad things have happened to people in our office. Say a co-worker’s father dies, she’ll go over to their house unannounced with plates of food. She did the same thing when my co-worker had a miscarriage and was at home for a few days following. To me, my boss showing up unannounced at my house bringing food when I’m home like that would be horrible. I don’t want to have to entertain her unexpectedly and what if my house is a mess? My co-workers felt the same way. She’s never done this for me and I hope she doesn’t. I live away from home so it’s less likely to happen. I come from a large city whereas I live in a small one where many people (my boss included) were raised on farms. I’m thinking the whole “When bad things happen we show up randomly with food to help” thing might come from that. To me it just weird.

        1. JT*

          Giving money when there’s a death in the family may seem odd, but it makes a lot of sense to me and is common in some cultures. Cash is almost universally helpful – and death can bring a lot of problems & expenses. Back in the day in many cultures people would contribute food (dropping by with some stuff — or even a casserole nowadays) or other forms of support.

          Now it’s money. I think that’s good. It’s the best gift unless you know exactly what someone, possible in stress or distress, needs.

          Donating time to help directly is great too – but sometimes that isn’t feasible and the presence of another person around can cause stress.

          My wife had a baby recently – the opposite of a death in the family but also stressful mentally and financially. We got a lot of gifts, and generally the best were baby clothes (we needed them obviously), food in the days immediately after she got home to save us time, and cash. Cash is great. All gifts were welcome, but some are more useful than others.

          Also, it’s unfortunate that the boss Amouse described caused stress by showing up with food, but I am very doubtful that that person expected to be entertained or even cared about the state of the house. There was as death and they were trying to help. Food (in this case just saving the time of cooking or even ordering food) and money are fundamentals almost everyone can use. And in the case of food it can be use for other people that pop in to express condolences.

          If that happens to you, just say thanks!

            1. Amouse*

              Yes. Exactly. It’s kind of like visiting a really sick person in the hospital. It’s nice to visit them but if they’re exhausted and need rest or heavily medicated and in pain you really don’t want to stay there all day.

              1. Jamie*

                Exactly. As Miss Manner’s says – if you cannot provide (welcome) practical assistance and company is not wanted you can still give something – the gift of privacy.

                I think I got that quote pretty close – it’s been a while.

                1. JT*

                  Money and food are not practical assistance. Someone we knows has a death in their family and it’s invasive to give them help?

                  I’m amazed at how extremely upsetting other people trying to help must be to some of you.

                  I’m a fairly private person, and it is annoying to have people help me if I haven’t asked. But it’s not that big a deal and it’s a far nicer world if people try to help a lot when it might not be needed than just assuming it’s not.

                  The introverts and private people here need to chill a little and be a little more open-minded. Or be more assertive if you can’t have guests – if someone comes by to drop off something when you family wants privacy just say “Thanks for the casserole. It’s actually not a good time for a visit.” Take the food or cash and turn away. Done. No reasonable person would begrudge you in a crisis.

                  I had people trying to give me gifts recently that I did not want. In one case I shot it down easily. In another I just said thanks and ignored them but they handed me the gift anyway. So what. I haven’t even opened the gift – it’s something I know I don’t want. And it’s not a big deal. It’s a far better word that people err on the side of giving than not giving. If I did need it, that would be great.

                2. fposte*

                  I think helping is fine, but turning up unannounced, at the home of somebody who isn’t feeling well or with somebody with a new baby, is not. In those situations it’s not simply saying “It’s not a good time for a visit”–it’s a woken up baby and that’s only sleeping a few minutes a day and won’t get back to sleep with a still-wobbly mother; it’s the need to painfully negotiate stairs to get to the door that takes a while to recover from, etc. Fortunately, it’s easy for people who’d like to help to check in advance if a visit would be acceptable, so it’s no imposition for them and will do a lot more help than a casserole sprung upon people unawares.

                3. Amouse*

                  JT you’re being unnecessarily harish here in my opinion and assuming a lot based on us not wanting unexpected drop in guests i ntimes of crisis. I echo was fposte above me said. I’ve been raised in a culture where showing up unannounced like that to “help” is just not a good idea. I resent you basically making assumptions about how nice we are based on that. I consider myself a very kind person if I do say so myself and I try very hard to give assistance to people I care about in need of my help but I also try to be considerate in how I give it. Like i said, I get my boss’s intention and I know her heart is in the right place. For that reason I;d thank her and accept her help greatfully shouls he show up on my dorrstep. But it is not how I would choose to “help”. I don’t think soemone who just lost a family member and is at home wants to see their boss at their house. I just don’t. The only exception is if you have a close personal realtionship with your boss or know them outside of work.

          1. Amouse*

            yeah I realized after i wrote it that it sounded overly ungrateful. It’s not that i don’t get what my boss is trying to do by doing this. The sentiment is honourable and i would just say thanks if she did it. I was just pointing out that it seemed unusual to me because I’m from a big city and my bosses probably didn’t even know where I lived let alone would show up unexpectedly. I’m sorry but her approach does seem invasive to me. I do get the sentiment though.

            My comment had nothing to do with whether food was useful or helpful – of course it is. It was my reaction to the way it was done. Picture your wife and you on no sleep in your pyjamas with a crying baby and your co-workers showing up out of the blue to “help”. Family is one thing but co-workers or your boss is another unless you’re very close. But that’s just my opinion.

            1. PJ*

              I’m with you, Amouse. I don’t like drop-in guests at any time, so when I’m in crisis mode it’s even worse.

              1. JT*

                If I was in a crisis with huge practical stress and someone turned up with food or money I’d take it and say “Thanks, now is not a good time for visits.”

                And that’s it. That’s it.

      5. Anonymous*

        Co-workers giving money or something when a co-workers family member died is just weird. However not giving a card or not saying anything in this situation can be rude/insulting. I recently had a family member die and felt very unappreciated and not respected, because most people couldn’t even be bothered to acknowledge it. I didn’t want a card or money, but an honest “I’m sorry for your loss” (even if you despise the person) goes a long way.

    2. Juana*

      In my experience, money in sympathy cards has gone toward flowers for the funeral or whatever organization the family requested donations for. I’ve given $10 when the donation was going to a museum in someone’s name, but probably wouldn’t give anything if the money were just going into a person’s pocket. That’s just really awkward.

    3. Daisy*

      I understand chipping in for flowers or a donation in the family’s name, but not just handing over cash like that. Death is not a “gift” occasion.

      1. Jenn*

        For some reason it reminds me of a scene in a mafia movie: “Here, take this grand and buy yourself somethin’ nice. You’ll feel better”.

      2. JT*

        Money is an expression of support. It is support. We can help friends and family in an concrete way with money.

    4. KellyK*

      Money in a sympathy card? Ick. To me that seems really tacky and I’d find it bizarre to be the recipient of that. Flowers? Sure. Donating something somewhere in the deceased’s name? Nice, but maybe a little much unless it’s a tight-knit company or people there knew the deceased. Cash? Nooooo.

  14. Anonymous*

    Every workplace has a little “tax” on employment like this. You don’t have to contribute. For me it is “Stuff the Bus” (pencils & backpacks for low income kids), financial help for foster kids ageing out of the system, donations for teachers, donations for families with severely disabled kids, and donations for interns leaving us to go to college. [sigh] All very worthy!

    When do I get a donation? I have never gotten a single donation in my life. It’s kind of a bummer. I am not even a boss or a secretary so that’s out. :)

    I need “National Peon Day” to be recognized by Hallmark ASAP.

  15. Anonymous*

    As the most senior employee (in position and pay) in our department, I usually buy the ‘boss’ a something (a plant or whatever) on behalf of the whole department. The note says from ‘all of us,’ but I don’t ask anyone for money for it. I got it in my head that it would be a bummer if all the other bosses got stuff and ours didn’t, so I’m willing to take one for the team, even if the team doesn’t ask me to.

    I’m a manager now, and I would be horrified if my team spent any amount of money on me.

  16. Mike C.*

    Wedding and baby showers at work?! Why in the heck should any of my coworkers be asked to chip in for my personal decisions? Especially when those choices might not be taken (in type or in amount!) by others?

    This whole thing crosses a line.

    1. AnotherAlison*

      I somehow fell of the baby shower list. I think it has more to do with not being a member of the department that’s always having someone get married or give birth rather than me being the company outcast. But, I’m my own department of uno and sit right in the same area, so it’s awkward when they all do the at-work shower thing and I’m not included. I wish they’d do it on their own time to avoid the two-way awkwardness. People at work threw me a shower at someone’s home at my previous job. That’s better for both the people who want to participate and the ones who don’t, imo.

      1. Amouse*

        The weirdest baby shower thing that happened at my work was when this pregnant lady decided she was having a baby shower for herself then gave a co-worker an exclusive guest list excluding many co-workers and had her send it out. I wasn’t invited lol (my life was ruined!*sarcasm)
        I only found out because my co-worker who sits across from me was and asked if I was going (case in point of this being a recipe for awkwardness!) So this would have maybe been not awkward if she hadn’t decided the shower was happening at work right when most people were finishing work and would be passing by that meeting room. She should’ve either had it outside of work or just invited all the women. The way she did it was totally bizarre albeit hilarious.

    2. Anon*

      Well, I mean, it’s someone who you spend upwards of 8 hours a day with who’s going through a major life event. It shouldn’t be obligatory, but sometimes you do want to recognize it.

    3. JT*

      If you don’t want to give to a baby shower, don’t. But the reason people are asked to chip in, at least in some cases, is affection for co-workers and celebration of happy but expensive things.

      Some of us are actually friends with co-workers. And even if I am not friendly enough with mine to hang out much after hours, friends sometimes celebrate with gifts. It’s not about fairness (“Oh, A chose to have a baby but B didn’t so it’s not fair to give gifts to one and not the other”).

      If there is pressure to give to these things, that’s BS. But asking isn’t necessarily pressure – especially if it comes from a peer (it shouldn’t come from a boss). They’re asking is an opportunity for you to express friendship. If you don’t want to, just say no. No big deal.

      1. Jamie*

        I agree with this – it’s always the mandatory aspect that bothers me, not that people who spend a lot of time together want to celebrate some milestones together.

        Baby stuff is the one thing I will go out my way to buy – I can barely know someone and if I hear their cousin’s neighbor is pregnant I want to get something adorable and fluffy – maybe with little ducks…

        But I digress. Yeah, if it’s not mandatory I see no harm in it. It’s not like it’s the kind of thing you need to keep even with your co-workers. I mean, people older than me have had more birthdays and hence more birthday gifts – I’m okay with that. And I’ve had three kids and three showers…trust me, no one is financing child rearing on the back of a baby shower :).

        1. JT*

          Well, I can understand pressure to participate, but can someone please explain to me this “mandatory” stuff. Who at the workplace says it is mandatory? How is this possible?

      2. anonymous*

        If I am friends with my co-worker and want to buy a gift for that person I will do it on my own. For someone to go around and “ask” people to contribute is nonsense. JT, it is pressure because most people don’t care to contribute but do so reluctantly to not appear as the “one” who didn’t chip in. People should buy a gift on their own if they want or get together with other people you know who are close friends with the person. But soliciting money from people who otherwise would not have purchased a gift for that person is ridiculous.

    4. Heather*

      That’s another thing I refuse to participate in. If people are that good of friends it should be done outside of work. And I’m not chipping in for someone I barely know. Or want to know.

      I seriously need to start a Congrats you’ve stayed single/child-free tradition. /sarcasm

        1. Crazy Cat Lady*

          It IS called leaving work early and going out drinking. Being able to do that is better than any awkward wedding/baby gift from coworkers I don’t know well.

          I’m well on my way to being a childfree spinster, but I’ll shrug at chipping in for a wedding or (first) baby shower gift for someone in my small (<20) department, but the expectation is that it won't come up very often. Especially since our industry is so hard on personal lives. Then again, when it has come up, it was a situation of "Give what you feel like based on how well you know/like the person, and we'll use the total to buy a bigger ticket item off the registry." And usually the boss or someone said "I'll chip in whatever the group doesn't in order to buy Gift X, so don't feel obligated as toward any amount." The only time it was awkward for me was my very first job, when my new boss was getting married, and I had no idea what was expected. Thankfully a manager I had at the time said I should give $5-$10, tops, since I'd just started.

  17. Lisa*

    These manufactured holidays only benefit one type of employee, and that’s the employees of Hallmark (and similar companies) who are paid based on the profits generated by manufactured holidays.

    If I were in the boss’s position, I’d be enormously uncomfortable receiving a group gift on Boss’s Day, for a few reasons:

    1. That means someone on my team thinks that I’m the type of boss you kiss up to by guilting your peers into kicking in for a gift. Yikes! That’s one thing I’ve somehow done wrong, and now it means I need to start showing everyone on the team more actively that my appreciation is given for great work, not meaningless gestures.

    2. Now everyone on my team has gotten the subtle impression that they are to pretend they have no criticism or feedback for me, and instead act like I’m the BEST BOSS EVAH OMG WE GOT YOU THIS DO YOU LIKE IT?!?! which means my to-do list now ALSO includes prying criticism out of my employees with a crowbar until they realize I actually DO want to know when my management style isn’t helping them.

    3. I don’t like a lot of random gifty items, so I now have a probably useless $100 trinket that I can’t get rid of without seeming like a total jerk.

    Honestly, the only thing I can think of that would be a good use of $100 on Boss’s Day would be if the team took themselves out to coffee together and bonded some.

  18. Your Boss*

    From my own point of view Boss Day is the biggest pathetic excuse of a holiday. I don’t want people giving me any gifts, collecting money, brainstorming what to buy. Please, please don’t do it. It is embarrassing for me as a boss, and it is unfair to my employees. If you want to show me some appreciation just do your job, and do it right.

  19. Victoria*

    When I was right out of college and flat broke, eating on $40 a week, I was working in a call center and was constantly being hit up for $5 here for a baby shower, $5 there for a coworker’s birthday, and then finally $10 for boss’s day. I wound up breaking down into tears in my boss’s cube, telling her I was going broke with all of these gift giving occasions that were being presented to me as mandatory by my coworkers. She was horrified, and the incessant email bombardments finally came to an end.

    1. JT*

      Wow. Good for your boss to end that.

      I was more assertive when I was that young and would not have believed they were mandatory. How could they be? Shame on your co-workers for tricking you like that.

      1. Seal*

        The previous manager of a department I now head mandated that all employees regularly contribute money to a “kitty” to cover cards, presents and office parties. Since that policy broke quite a number of rules at our institution, when I took over the department I immediately put a stop to it, much to the relief of my employees. I still don’t know how the previous manager got away with it, although I suspect her employees (who she routinely terrorized) were too afraid to speak up.

        For that matter, I put an end to all individual birthday parties and celebrating every little holiday on the calendar in favor of all-inclusive end-of-the-semester potlucks, which works out to 3 parties a year (fall, spring and summer). Given that our department has tripled in size since I took over, we would have been celebrating some event almost every week, which given our work schedule isn’t possible. Plus the vast majority of the staff (myself included) HATES celebrating birthdays and the like at work. Participation is entirely voluntary. So far everyone is fine with our new system, but if even this limited celebrating proves to be unpopular or too much for the group, we’ll stop doing it. As a manager at an institution that sadly pays its employees far too little as it is, no way in hell am I going to institute mandatory monetary contributions to parties and the like.

  20. Robin Bayne*

    My office started a new tradition last Christms, we all took whatever amount of money we’d normally spend on each others’ gifts, including the boss, and donated it to a needy family we found through a church. Such a relief and a good deed, too.

  21. Anonymous*

    I think we should all just ignore boss day until it goes away. The only time I’ve had to acknowledge it was when swirling at a lenders. My boss expected to be told all the time how much we loved her. But it wasn’t so horrible because it was a small office and everyone made bonuses. Plus she celebrated all of our birthdays the same way with expensive gifts.

    The thing that’s really got me right now is how our company has posted a little info article on the intranet about boss’s day. Is that a subtle hint? I am a boss, and god forbid any of my direct reports get me a gift. I’d hate to know they felt obligated to spend their money on me when they already think I make too much. Conversely, I hate to be in a position of sucking up to my own boss.

  22. Hello Vino*

    Ugh, I hate fake holidays like this. How about just working hard and getting things done on Boss’s Day? I’m sure most managers would prefer that to a card or gift.

  23. Anony*

    I think the same should be applicable to birthdays, and other celebrations, not to be a party-pooper or anything.

  24. Anony*

    I think that what AAM said is ok but you would risk that reputation if not everyone agreed.

    I’ve had this happen to be except with a team of 20, it was for birthdays. So every few weeks, the same organizer would send a team e-mail asking for $5 for a card, cake and small gift. Yep, $100 for one person’s bday. Rather than say anything, most of us would just ignore the e-mail and the select few would contribute. Pretty soon, it was obvious that no one was particpating in giving $5 each time.

    I think with a team of 20, you are most likely not the only one that will not particpate.

  25. Anon*

    I work for a company where every Christmas we do an “owners’ gift” for the five owners. While it is presented as “optional” (but only because I am the person who has been appointed to send out the email…) it is pretty much expected that everyone donates. My first year sending out the collection email, I was reprimanded by an older colleague for not specifying that everyone should give $20. I was mortified and responded that I didn’t feel comfortable specifying an amount let alone making it feel mandatory. The gift was always something for the office but it started going into things that in my mind were legitimate work expenses. As in things the owners should be paying for, not us. Finally last year we started doing a donation in the company’s name to a local charity but I still dead sending out that email and collecting money every year.

  26. Anonymous*

    I have never even heard of “Boss’s Day” and I am sort of horrified that this even exists! It reminds me of how when I was a kid on Father’s Day I would say, “when is Kid’s Day?” and my dad would say “every day is Kid’s Day!” Every day is Boss’s Day, isn’t it? Ha.

    I have always been under the impression that it was bad form to buy your boss a gift because they make more money than you and it could be perceived as ass-kissing. The only time I did it was when my most recent boss left the company because I really liked her, and I figured it was okay because she was my soon to be ex-boss.

  27. CRP*

    I think Boss’s day feels more forced politics than showing appreciation for a work relationship

    Once upon a time I worked in a department where the department head was both feared and despised by the entire team under her (this is not an exaggeration- aside from two managers that she brought in who had climbed the ranks with her at previous companies, she was the most hated manager at that company). Yet strangely on “Boss’s Day”, people still felt gingerly obligated to give her chocolates, cards, and stuffed animals as a showing of gratitude. She later sent out an email picture proudly displaying all of her trinkets and how “proud” she was. Ugh….

  28. Third Time Poster*

    Hallelujah–so glad to read I’m not the only Scrooge who feels this way about these gifting occasions!! Exactly as so many posted–it feels all-kinds-of-wrong that employees are pitching in money that might very well mean they have to give up some little luxury for themselves that week in order to give a gift to a boss who’s making so much more than they are. Ugh. I hate it. It’s interesting to hear that so many bosses/managers say they hate it, too!! Ours always seemed happy and delighted with the gift!

    But what I really wanted to say is to those who find it weird, creepy, awkward, etc., to give a card with cash to someone who’s had a death in the family. I do see what you’re saying, but here’s my story: A close family member of mine died very suddenly and tragically. I live in a different state. The economy had taken a toll on everyone. It was a non-question that I would travel to the memorial service, but, in addition to my grief, I would have to spend a significant amount of money to get there. Now, normally, my department would send flowers to the funeral home. As it was a shocking, unexpected death, I had no idea what funeral home was handling the services until days later. I worked remotely, from home, for my job, as did most of my coworkers. One friend/coworker called to ask if she could stop by my house. She handed me a card, which seemed oddly bulky. I thought maybe it had a “prayer towel” or something in it–(who knows? I live in the Bible Belt!) :-) I opened it after she left, and it was a wad of assorted bills. I cried. They had “passed the hat” around when they had all been in the office for a staff meeting that day, and the card contained an odd number of dollars….like $89, or something like that, which in and of itself seemed very sweet–like they had cleaned out their wallets and given me their all! At the staff meeting was the first they had heard of my loved one’s death, so people evidently just gave odd amounts of money that they happened to have in their wallets. I was so touched by it. The card said it was to help with my travel expenses in lieu of flowers. I can’t begin to tell you what that gesture meant to me, even though some might have thought it odd or awkward. Not everything in live is all neat and tidy and can fit into a pretty box.

    One other thing I want to say–I know we all use it, but can I just say that I hate the term “boss.” It seems somehow archaic to me. Manager, supervisor, director, or team leader are all wonderful. Boss….not so much. I would find it weird to introduce my manager to someone out of the office (like if we ran into her/him at a store) as, “This is my boss, Tina.” As it happens, I ran into one of my most admired directors like this one time…one of the BIG administrators. She introduced me to the person she was with as, “This is my coworker, Mary.” (Big gold star for her!!)

    Rant over. :-)

  29. Sandrine*

    We don’t really have that here, but if we did I think the coworkers would start a riot, especially at my company.

    I did a cake for my Boss’ birthday in June, mostly because we’d been joking about it a few days beforehand, and well we get along reasonably well with him, so I thought “Why not ?” . (Bonus points for my deflated ego, too, as my coworkers loved the cake) He almost cried because he felt touched, kept the card someone got that we signed (not everyone, but it didn’t matter at this point) and all is well.

    Boss even asked if we wanted to celebrate upcoming birthdays, we thought it was neat to appreciate the coworkers and after consulting us over that he sent us the list of birthdays for the team. Mine is in July, I don’t get a party, sniff :P .

  30. Kerin*

    Hi all,
    After reading your great advice and all the helpful comments, I chose to speak with a few of my co-workers to gauge their feelings on giving our manager a gift. Turns out they were all equally horrified by the idea and were planning on totally ignoring the request. We decided that I would speak to the person who originally proposed the request to come to a compromise.

    I spoke to the original emailer and expressed the majority of our
    team’s concern over the extravagant gift for someone we barely know and suggested a much smaller amount or just a card. She then emailed everyone asking for $2. I still know for a fact that many are going to ignore this request based on all of the reasons that I and the
    everyone else has mentioned.

    If I was not friendly with the original emailer I would have sent your
    suggested email in a heartbeat, but I did not want to offend her. I
    know it would have gone over well given that my sentiments are shared by over 75% of our team.

    Also, through talking with some more experienced members of our office I’ve come to learn that this “holiday” is apparently recognized
    throughout several departments in the company, a fact that I find

    I’m hoping that everyone will come to their senses and see that a card is way more than sufficient. I agree wholeheartedly with one commenter that observed, “every day is boss’s day.”

    Thanks again!

      1. Amouse*

        As one of those dissillusioned by speaking up at work I will try not to stop speaking out for things that are worth it. I should have known there’s be no inspirational theme music, montage and the entire army of my co-workers standing behind me when I did it. Life’s not a movie? What? :-)

        1. Jamie*

          Think about what you’re doing for future generations of workers, though.

          If our ancestors had a time machine and could plop down in our modern offices they would probably marvel at how cushy most of our jobs are. Free coffee. Indoor plumbing. Leather recliney chairs. Smart putty!

          So someday the future office workers will look back on us and honor the stands we made against forced donations, mandatory holiday parties, and the worldwide ban on microwaved fish in the office.

          We really are doing good work.

          1. Amouse*

            True no one ever said speaking up paid immediate dividends or even any at all within our lifetime.

            Wait a minute indoor plumbing? Microwaves? What kind of opulence do you work in?! (just kidding)

  31. Jill*

    Ugh. The dreaded collection! I get around these issues by saying, “Oh I’m afraid I’m going to opt out of your collection – I’m already doing something for him/her on my own”. Then I do what I feel is right in that situation, based on my own budget, and my own feelings about the person/issue in question. Sometimes I’ve done more than what the collecter was going to do….soemtimes I’ve actually done nothing. But using this statement has always gotten people off my back.

  32. Lanya*

    Hallmark would make a lot more money if they decided to invent “Employee’s Day” in addition to “Boss’s Day”.

  33. Meghan*

    This is so appropriate for me right now. Our President’s Executive Assistant just sent out an office wide email to remind us underlings that Bosses Day is next week.

  34. Elizabeth West*

    Ick. I hate workplaces where you are expected to give all the time. I’m there giving my work. Leave me alone about your charity drive. And I would feel really weird giving my boss a present. I usually just say “Sorry, I just can’t afford to contribute to these things all the time.”

    With the fundraising thing, someone may not want to support one–for example, I refuse to give any money to Boy Scouts of America because of their blatant homophobia (I’m straight, but it annoys the crap out of me) and subsequently avoid the popcorn drive. In some workplaces, it would be difficult to refuse one and not another without people getting upset. I think it’s better just to not allow that sort of thing in the office at ALL.

  35. Diane*

    When my much-beloved boss retired, some of his fellow directors decided we all needed to chip in $100 to get him an automatic rifle. Those who didn’t care for weapons were told to suck it up because it was a gift for him.

    1. Laura L*

      What??? Did people actually pay that? That’s insane. If I’m spending $100 on anyone, it’s on myself.

      1. Jamie*

        Agree – sometimes I read things like this and it makes everyone I’ve ever worked with seem so sane and reasonable.

  36. Anonymous*

    My bosses don’t do anything for ME on Admin Day, so I’ll just reciprocate.

    “Boss’ Day.” PLEASE!

  37. Jeb-Ray Gumpeater*

    When is “Peon Engineer’s Day”? I’m really looking forward to the gifts rolling in from my boss on that day :-)

  38. ECH*

    My employees gave me gifts on Boss’ Day for a couple of years for which I was very grateful, because it showed they cared. They haven’t done anything recently but they have other things on their minds and I’m OK with that. They show their appreciation in so many other ways both personally and by doing their work well.

  39. ECH*

    P.S. The only reason I remember it’s Boss’ Day is because I see ads saying so in the local newspaper.

  40. A. Nony Mous*

    My current manager ranks in the top 3 worst managers I ever had in my career. I don’t know how badly I would react if I had to submit myself to giving them any appreciation given how bad they treat their direct reports. If anything, I would live to give them a taste of their own medicine. Fortunately for them, I am extremely professional and they have no idea how much I hate them. I am currently looking for a new job, so it will resolve itself when I leave.

  41. Anonymous*

    Ugh! Now I know why I was so annoyed at having to take a dish for an evening meal for our board to show my “appreciation.” I didn’t know the board, and at least one member never came into our building! I couldn’t refuse, though. It was clear this was a mandatory, annual thing. And luckily I got to just take drinks, which, yep, cost more than $10 & I only made $10/hr.

    No, we workers were not welcome at the board meeting, either.

  42. Elijah*

    Well tomorrow is the big day? Who’s contributing to this BS??
    I know at my work it tends to be the couple older ladies that have no other employment prospects that are always up the bosses butt that try and start these $$$ drives for our rich boss (bosses day, his bday, Christmas). Plain sucks. And they are the types to let the boss know you didn’t contribute and he is the type to hold it against you! I need a new job!

  43. Lisa*

    I just got an email to contribute $35 the boss’s bday gift. $35 x 18 employees = $630 for a gift card, cake, pizza, beer, etc. And all of this will be after hours so you look horrible if you don’t attend.

    That is too much! Someone complained that money was tight and since they don’t work on the scheduled day to go to the party if they could contribute less. She got a scowl. The HR person really scowled at her! The reality is, most of us might be over 60k, but the majority are still paycheck to paycheck with our bills. If it was for less money fine, $10 ok, but $35 is extravagant especially with so many employees being forced to contribute.

      1. Lisa*

        Only the boss, since we added so many employees we stopped the cake per employee (again when it was only the masses, we got a cake, no gift card, no beer, no lunch). According to the HR person, the boss “deserves to be recognized” cause he has had a tough year (she says this for his xmas gift every year too). I am waiting for the xmas gift next. I don’t care if he is going to be 50 this year, its a lot of money that can’t be expensed the way cakes / bonuses are part of cost of doing business. This comes out of our money, which the HR person sees our salaries so to her she thinks we make a lot therefore its a tiny amount compared to salaries that are over 60k but some of the entry level people are at / below 35k and i think its wrong to imply its mandatory then get upset when we question her. How do you tell the boss how you feel about her actions when its HIS birthday in question?

        1. Jamie*

          I just want to say this is ridiculous and I don’t care if every one of you made 6 figures.

          This is so elitist and unreasonable I would set fire to $35 before I could bring myself to contribute to this. Doesn’t your HR have more important things to scowl about?

          This is where the strength of numbers comes in – I cannot believe that the vast majority of your co-workers aren’t just as outraged. So just don’t. They can’t fire everyone – can you imagine the series of unemployment hearings over people getting the axe because they didn’t want to pay for the bosses cake and beer?

          Too many people chicken out and just hand over the money and silently resent it. Seriously – if a couple of you hold firm it will give other people the courage to do so.

          And even if you work with a bunch of cowards take heart in knowing you’re totally right on this – it’s absolutely ridiculous and a good boss would be mortified that this is happening.

  44. Lisa*

    Unfortunately, not participating is seen as not being a team player, which ends up hurting you later. Its not about getting fired, but conveniently not given a review and therefore no raise or bonus because you arent considered a team player. It does suck, but that is the message that is sent and it is loud and clear.

    1. Anoymous*

      This is wrong on so many levels that I can’t even BEGIN to fathom it! I agree with Jamie.

      They are holding you hostage, essentially. They know that people may be scared to push back.

      I sure as hell would. I would also start looking for another job.

  45. Lisa*

    The boss prob has no clue she is setting the high $ amount, and that she is basically saying its mandatory by her scowls. I can afford it, but hate it. I really want to tell him after the party, since 1/2 the office seems ok with this, and only a few of us have issues with it.

    What exactly do I say to the boss about what occurred?

    – Hey Bob, Happy Birthday! While I’m happy to celebrate anything with cake, I think you should be aware of something… Linda has taken it upon herself to be the bday coordinator, and sent an email around telling us that $35 would be collected per employee. She may not have known that her email implied that giving $35 per person was mandatory, but her response after the email is what I am concerned with. When a few of us commented that money was tight at the moment, Linda responded rather badly and we felt obligated to contribute to your party based on this response. Choosing to contribute less was not received well by Linda, and I thought you should know that we were made to feel like whiners and / or not team players by not giving her $35 each. I don’t want to make a big deal out of it, just thought you may want to know how it was perceived by some employees.

    1. Jamie*

      I think that’s excellent. I probably wouldn’t do it while he was licking frosting off his fork, but this is exactly the kind of thing he should hear.

      A decent boss would definitely want to know that this was being done in his name – because anyone with any sense of decorum would be so embarrassed and want it to stop.

      1. Lisa*

        Is it wrong to write a check to the company? She’ll have to cash it and then account for it later… yes, very passive aggressive, but I can’t help but want to.

  46. Bella*

    Bosses Day is pretty lame. But, there are some great bosses, who are always thinking about others, always picking up the tab. (Mine likely spends $1000 a year on our group.) So, I think it’s proper to treat them with the same respect one day a year, if that be an anniversary or a birthday.

    But, group gifts? As someone stated above, it’s best that it’s motivated by the individual. If someone wants to do something, they’ll do it on their own. Press for money, and GOOD LUCK. You may as well pack your bags. Some people are barely making it, some are fed up with taxes and the rising cost of living, some are offended you’re asking when they generally do something anyway. So, just do your own thing, quietly. It’ll likely be more appreciated and you won’t end up on people’s hate/depise list.

  47. Corbin*

    In my experience there is usually an ‘office manager’ type, or other ‘obnoxioux force’ in an office driving these employee contributions. Whether it be Boss’s Day, or a ton of other reasons to wield a guilty shadow over working folk’s wallets. I’m guessing only the ‘worst’ of Bosses would want any gift and usually a butt kissing office manager who reports to that boss is the culprit. Employees gifts [meals, bonuses, etc.] are paid for by the company, not your boss. If he/she needs anything more that respect and hard work to appreciate you, then find another job – or just get together as a group and stand up to that pesky office manager.

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