former boss sent large gift baskets to some of us, but not others

A reader writes:

Just a quick note to get an objective opinion. My horrible manager left for a new job in July this year. (Yay!) However, he stays in touch with upper management, in their personal lives — which is fine, BUT… he has just had large Christmas gift baskets delivered to two of his former direct reports, leaving the other three of us to watch the baskets being delivered. They were delivered to their desks, in the workplace. Is this weird? I mean, we knew he was a jerk when we worked for him, but this seems very strange to me.

Is is kosher to send gifts to the workplace, to previous employees, when one has not been working in a location for the previous six months? It’s not like we want his ridiculous gift baskets, but this just seems, I don’t know, a step above socially inept. Is this just a weird thing we can laugh about or what?

Yeah, that’s obnoxious. If he had, say, sent cards to two people who he’d had especially good relationships with — like a mentor type thing — I could see that. It’s discreet and not over-the-top. But large gift baskets, where it’s going to be obvious that he sent them to two of his former team and not the other three? It’s graceless, at a minimum.

But yes, laughing at it is your best bet. Celebrate the fact that he’s out of your lives, and enjoy this for the amusing weirdness that it is.

{ 22 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie

    Graceless yes.

    If this is just because he was moved to do something for the holidays and didn’t have their home addresses sending something less obtrusive would have been in better taste.

    If he wasn’t friendly with tptb I’d wonder if he was trying to woo them away to another company and sending a message to management…but it looks like this is just one of those weird ‘can’t believe he did that’ things.

    1. Josh S

      This guy is a jerk (which you know already) who lacks tact, or is even purposely trying to be offensive. Laugh it off, keep calm and carry on.

      Not that most of you care, but I likely won’t be commenting much in the coming week since I’ll be drinking away the stress with family for a few days. As I say — my family might be full of crazy, but they’re mine!

      Merry Christmas all!

    2. Rana

      Heh. My thought is that if you don’t know the home addresses of former co-workers, that’s a pretty decent sign that you shouldn’t be sending them fancy gift baskets.

  2. pidgeonpenelope

    That former manager sure is a jerkface. I agree with AAM and the others about laughing it off. He just made himself look bad and he wasted money doing so.

  3. EM

    What a nincompoop, and you’re correct, the best response is to laugh.

    I once worked for a jerk too, and I saw him at a networking event a few months after I left for another job. I did make brief pleasantries with him when I first saw him. I was later standing talking to a group of people, and he walked by me at a speed and distance so as to bump my handbag, which isn’t particularly large. Some people are just small people, and we’re thankful when they are no longer in our lives. :)

  4. JC

    Your former manager is a tactless jerk. Be glad you don’t work for him anymore. My old boss has yet to give me my goodbye present from over 4 months ago, but I get the feeling that she is holding it over my head so that she can lure me back into working for her part-time. I guess I should go out to lunch with her sometime though – I did learn from her how NOT to be a terrible manager after all!

  5. OP

    Thanks everyone — I was starting to wonder if working for him so long had just made me unable to judge what was normal behaviour ;) Whew, my instinct that it was odd is apparently correct. Another reason to be glad he is a “former” manager.

  6. Dan

    Honestly, I’m rather surprised about the number of strong opinions against the former boss. My first thought was, “If I don’t like the guy, and don’t want his gifts, I honestly don’t care what he sends to whom at the office.” I just don’t see how this rates any higher than a shoulder shrug and “move on” mentality.

  7. MW

    How do you know the baskets were from the former boss? Gift baskets don’t usually have a huge sign on them that says “From X.” It’s usually a small card or something in an envelope. So either you guys peeked–in which case, shame on you–or the people who got the baskets told you–in which case, shame on them. I’m not sure it’s really the old boss’s fault.

  8. OP

    Actually, they did have a big sign on them saying “From X”
    And I know in the larger scheme of things it isn’t important, but I did think it unusual and odd, considering he doesn’t work here anymore.

  9. IT Girl

    Of course he’s a loser for sending the gift baskets. But it got you riled up enough to write in to AAM, meaning he still has quite a big hold over you. Why is this? He doesn’t work there any more! Let it go.

    1. Sdhr

      But sometimes you need an objective point of view to confirm the weirdness. I think that’s why OP sent the email to AAM. Also, OP may or may not be riled up. We don’t really know.

      1. IT Girl

        Ok maybe “riled up” was too strong. But this boss left 5 or 6 months ago… The gift baskets warrant laughter and some break room gossip at most. Writing to an online advice column is definitely an overreaction.

    2. EngineerGirl

      If you’ve been abused by a boss long enough you start to lose perspective. The bad boss will tell you that YOU are the one wiht the problem when you see something off. So asking AAM if it is normal or not is actually kind of good. The OP needs to rebaseline what “normal” actually is.

      Blatently sending gifts to some and not others is inept at best, mean spirited at worst. Since we truly don’t know what ex-boss is thinking it is best to pick the nicest reason – ineptness.

      1. IT Girl

        I agree for the most part, except that this boss left almost 6 months ago! Long enough ago for OP to have regained their perspective.

        1. EngineerGirl

          You’ve never worked for a truly abusive boss for a long period of time, have you? It’s been almost 4 years and I still struggle with self esteem issues and question myself. It does help that my current (awesome) boss keeps telling me he’s thrilled that I am doing the things that former (horrid) boss used to yell at me for. It also helps that former boss is now the subject of a lawsuit by a contractor. Looks like it wasn’t me….

          1. mimimi

            I agree with EngineerGirl – an abusive situation, esp. if it went on for a while, can affect you for a long time.

  10. Lily

    I have difficulty letting things go. I’m afraid that if I don’t stay angry, history will repeat itself. That is, if I relax and forget, people will take advantage of me again. However, feeling angry so often is very stressful and I’m wondering if I can protect myself by detecting boundary violations and poor behavior from an AAM point of view instead of from my past experience.

    How have others succeeded in letting go?

    1. JC

      I think it’s an issue of separating aggressiveness and assertiveness. You can relax and just be yourself while maintaining an assertive boundary around you. Anger doesn’t have to be on the table at all. It takes some practice and mindfulness but it’s doable. You can even take assertiveness training courses if they are available in your area. If you don’t have the tools to change, you will only be stuck in the same situations over and over again.

      From personal experience, my inability to maintain boundaries is a result of my desire to please people stemming from dysfunctional family relationships. If this is a similar case for you, these are important elements to recognize and work through. Assertiveness can only take you so far – you also need to think about what you value within yourself and healthy relationships with others. Good luck!

  11. OP

    Thank you for your all your advice about the necessity of letting go, and some suggestions as to how. Very good advice, and a good reminder. New Year’s Resolution! Thanks again.

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