withdrawing a job offer, gifts from the boss, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Withdrawing a job offer when the candidate doesn’t communicate

I made a job offer to a candidate on September 3, and she called me back on the 5th to request a couple more days to make her decision since she had additional interviews the following week. At the time, I explained that we would be continuing the interviewing process as we waited for her response. It’s now been 10 days since she asked for more time and I haven’t heard from the candidate.

In the meantime, I have found a candidate who is both enthusiastic and well qualified. Am I obligated to call the first candidate and let her know we’re making an offer to somebody else? I feel like 10 days without an update from her makes it clear she’s not interested in the job.

Was it left as her needing “a couple more days” or was it ultimately left more open-ended than that? If she said “a couple more days” and it’s now been 10 days, she hasn’t handled this well. But if the latter… well, if the latter, ideally you would have nailed down a timeframe rather than leaving it open-ended, but if it was left open-ended, I do think you owe her a call now.

Generally, I don’t think you should revoke a job offer just because someone better came along; candidates are depending on your word (and possibly turning down other offers or quitting a current job), and doing revoking it will make all your future offers suspect to candidates who hear about it. But in this case, you were explicit with her that you intended to continue interviewing other candidates, so she was sort of on notice that this could happen. Given that, it’s not outrageous to call her and say, “We haven’t heard from you and know you weren’t sure you wanted to accept, and in the meantime we’ve found a candidate who we think is a great fit and who really wants the job, so we’ve decided to go with her.” But I do think you need to notify her, since otherwise you risk her turning down other offers, thinking that yours still stands.

2. Giving gifts to my team when one person can’t accept gifts

I am the new (since January) manager of the reference department in a small academic library. I have been here for three years, but previously reported to the position I hold now. Besides myself, my department has four other employees. Traditionally the library dean makes a Christmas (“end of semester”) lunch for the staff or takes us out to a restaurant. Additionally, each department head traditionally takes their department out for lunch. Since I have been here, every department has gone out to a rather expensive local restaurant and so going to that particular restaurant has become expected.

I do want to show my gratitude to my team for all their hard work this year, but I have always disliked the departmental lunches for a variety of reasons. Since I am new, I want to try to create a new tradition. Instead of lunching at a restaurant, I really want to make homemade gifts for each staff member (like a custom crocheted item). I know of departments head on campus that make homemade gifts for their departments, so this is not completely counter-cultural.

However, one member of my team is prohibited by her religion from giving or accepting gifts (restaurant meals are okay). I do not want to exclude her, nor to cause any kind of trouble regarding discriminating against her religion, but I really would rather create thoughtful thank-you gifts for my staff instead of just-another awkward lunch out. The only thing that I can think of is to ask her if I can make a donation in her name to a charity since she could not accept a gift from me.

I’d talk to her and tell her the options you’re considering and see what she says.

For what it’s worth, though, while I do know this kind of thing can vary by culture, I’d steer you away from homemade gifts (other than food). I’m interested to know what others think about this, but to me crocheting something feels like a fairly intimate gift, as well as one that comes with a high risk of being unappreciated (unless you really know people’s tastes).

Read an update to this letter here.

3. How can I best make use of my boss’s connection to a job I’m interviewing for?

I have a job interview coming up for a position I’m really, really excited about. My manager knows the person hiring for the job really well and has already mentioned I am great and those sorts of words in her direction. I’d be moving from one type of service to a totally diferent one, but there’s lots of transferrable skills and I know the manager recruiting came from a similar background. The person who has just left the post also did not have a typical background. What can I do to make most effective use of this connection?

So far, I haven’t asked/said anything to my (very supportive and basically dream) manager beyond that I’ve applied and would love the job. She’s asked how my interview prep is going and I’ve said okay – but she’s willing to help me out in any way she can. I know my weakest area is managerial experience so I’m trying to think up as many managerial skills examples as I can. But is there anything I should be doing to take advantage of this quite handy connection?

The best thing she can do is rave about you to the hiring manager. Her recommendation is likely to carry a lot of weight, so that’s where I’d focus her, to the extent that you can.

4. Handling an unenforceable non-compete agreement

My current company had me sign a noncompete when I began work with them. I’ve since realized that it’s so restrictive that leaving the company and complying with the noncompete basically means leaving either my city or industry! I’ve spoken with an attorney who says that under the laws of my state, what they had me sign is far too restrictive and almost entirely unenforceable. He suggested I not directly solicit customers I work with day-to-day (which I wouldn’t do) but said they could not enforce against customers I have had zero contact with.

So that being said, I’m going ahead with my job hunt. But I’m worried about how I tell a potential employer that the noncompete could be an issue. I’m willing to take on my company in mediation or court if that’s what it takes (I’m really,really comfortable that they can’t enforce it) but how do I tell a potential employer about this? When do I bring it up? What do I tell them? I’m worried that at an interview is too soon and potentially offputting (why hire an employee with potential “problems”) but I also worry that at offer or negotiation is too late. Help!

If your company has a history of trying to enforce that agreement or you otherwise think they’re likely to, I’d work with your lawyer to take care of it now — alerting your old company that you’re considering it not to be in effect and why. If you handle it preemptively, hopefully you won’t need to mention it to prospective new employers at all.

5. AAM questions

I find the range of questions you receive and answer fascinating. My question: Are there any types of questions you dislike and are less likely to answer here?

I try to stay away from questions that have been asked answered here many times before, although often there’s an interesting new twist that makes me glad to tackle it again. I also stay away from really lengthy questions (I have a suggested word limit on the Ask a Question page, but not everyone heeds that warning), as well as highly technical or legalistic stuff — at some point, those really require a lawyer who can get into all the details of the situation.

And if a question is being asked by a third party, it can make me less likely to answer (like a parent asking a question about a work situation that happened to their kid, which is a common one I get a lot). I figure the third party is a lot less likely to have all the details, and I don’t want to put a ton of time into answering something that’s more likely to have key details missing (or where the third party isn’t really in a position to do anything with the advice). That’s not a hard and fast rule; I’ve certainly answered plenty of third party questions before. But it can sometimes lower the chances that I’ll tackle it.

{ 570 comments… read them below }

  1. Sara M*

    Speaking personally, I would hate a crochet item and have to give it away. I’m allergic to dust and keep as few items as possible. Yarn items are the worst because I can’t dust them nor wash in hot. So I’d feel guilty and annoyed by a well meant gift that causes me trouble.

    I’d much rather have a great meal or a gift card to Amazon.

    1. Suzanne Lucas--Evil HR Lady*

      I would hate a crochet item or really, any item. I hate stuff like that. My house already has too much stuff. A crocheted item from a boss would induce guilt when I threw it away, but trust me, it would go in the garbage.

      Gifts from bosses to direct reports should either be consumable (chocolate, dinner, wine–if they drink), or something you absolutely know the person wants.

      Please don’t do the work to crochet an item for each staff member because your hard work will go straight to the garbage or the thrift store in many, many cases.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Gifts from bosses to direct reports should either be consumable (chocolate, dinner, wine–if they drink), or something you absolutely know the person wants.

        This is a perfect rule.

        And yeah, the issue with crocheted stuff is that the group of people who generally like crocheted stuff is much smaller than those who really don’t (maybe unless it has specific sentimental value, like it’s from a beloved relative). The intention is really kind, but I think won’t get the desired outcome, unfortunately.

        1. MK*

          I don’t want to be rude, but I am not sure the intention is all that kind. The OP dislikes lunches, so she wants to put a stop to them for her department. The OP obviously likes making homemade gifts, so she wants to do that for Christmas. I don’t doubt that she means well, but she is focusing on what would be preferable to her; since the goal is to thank her employees for all their hard work, that’s the wrong way to go about it.

          I think the best thing for the OP to do is sound her staff about how they feel about their Christmas tradition. If they love their yearly lunch, it would be better for the OP to grin and bear it. Maybe she could suggest another restaurant, as she sounds negative about the one they usually go. Maybe they would prefer a small party at the office, maybe they would like gift-cards better.

          In any case, unilateraly changing a tradition that appears to hold for her whole organization doesn’t sound like the best thing the OP can do straight after her promotion. Does she really want to be the manager who canceled the Christmas celebration at a fancy restaurant (expensive) and gave her workers cheesy handmade gifts (which usually cost more time than money)? Not to mention that making something the employee actually likes would require knowing them much more intimately than is usual. And that’s without going into whether the OP is good at this kind of gift; I have received homemade gifts from friends that were works of art and others that were only saved from the dustbin out of love for the giver.

          1. Career Counselorette*

            I agree- I was going to say that it does seem a little (albeit well-meaning) obtuse to see that the lunches were probably set up for a very salient reason (to accommodate everyone) and decide anyway that you’re going to completely ignore that reason and change things so they better accommodate you.

            1. Puddin*


              OP what is it about the lunches that you do not like? Can you still have a lunch but change the venue, food, timing, conversation topics?

              If you are really firm about giving hand made gifts, please do it in addition to the traditional lunch – or as others suggested consumables/gift cards. I don’t like most of the crafty things I get from family members and more than likely would not like one from my boss. If it were the only ‘gift’ I would feel slighted. Yes, there is heart felt work involved, but it might indicate to me a problem with our budgeting and therefore the bosses competence to manage it. And, as others have mentioned, it is strangely personal and almost assumptive in a way.

              Home made food might be a better ‘personal touch’ choice – again in addition to, not instead of the lunch. Of course, you would have to be cognizant of any dietary restrictions.

              1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

                Or do breakfast–my library department does a Christmas breakfast with our volunteers.

          2. Daisy*

            Yeah, this letter really irritated me for precisely that reason. She clearly doesn’t want to go to lunch for her own personal preference, but frames it as the crochet rubbish being more “thoughtful”. It comes across as her being a) really cheap b) really unfriendly (“awkward” to have lunch with your colleagues for an hour once a year? Really?), and there’s no way its not going to come across that way to her staff (especially as it excludes someone who used to be accommodated perfectly well by the lunch).

            1. OP-gifts*


              See my response above (about how I came up with the home-made gift-idea because of other departments on campus, not myself), and thank you for your honest perspective.

              Regarding the cheap, I am sorry if I gave that impression! I was certainly planning on spending almost as much as lunch in order to buy very nice gifts (or fancy ingredients, etc for gifts). I realize that my mentioning that it is traditionally a nice restaurant might have given the impression that I was trying to save money. Truthfully, the lunch out will cost my entire manager’s pay for both November & December (I don’t get paid much for being the manager), but I know that is one of the expected expenses of managing a team.

              1. LBK*

                It would cost you two months of pay!? Where the hell would you be taking them and how many people are on this team? Even if you’re only making, like, $20k as a manager, that’s about a $1600 lunch…

                1. A Dispatcher*

                  I think OP means two months worth of the difference in her pay between her old job and her new managers pay.

                2. OP-gifts*

                  Oops, apologies for the lack of clarity. I meant it will cost the amount that I get extra each month merely by being a manager (we call get equal pay, but the managers get a little extra). My little extra is ~$70 a month.

                3. LBK*

                  Oh, okay. That makes more sense. I was gonna say, if we’re talking in the 4-digit range for a work lunch, that should be covered by your employer…

                  At any rate, I would say that gifts can be an alternative but only if you really, really know your people. I did gifts once for a couple of my employees but I only felt comfortable with it because I’d known them and had personal friendships with them for years.

              2. Ezri*

                Maybe I read that wrong, but two months pay?? And would you be paying that out of your pocket? If so, I wouldn’t be thrilled about spending that much money as a Christmas celebration either. :/

                Perhaps there are cheaper alternatives, though. You could just go to a different, less expensive restaurant that costs less in total, though if other departments make a big show of how much they spend it *could* potentially be a morale hit. Though, honestly, it’d be a morale hit to be pressured to spend that much money every year as well.

                Another option is a potluck or other kind of ‘party’ that isn’t as rowdy as a party. You can put the thought and time into preparing some food items, and give everyone the option of bringing in a food item as well. That way everyone can get involved in the giving without any gifts, and the cost is shared.

                1. Ezri*

                  I see the pay thing was clarified above. Whew, that makes more sense! :) Disregard my original comments regarding the expense.

              3. Hiring Mgr*

                Hi OP, can you explain this? Surely you’re not saying that the lunch will cost two months worth of your pay?

              4. MK*

                OP, just to clarify that I wasn’t implying you were being cheap, just that it was likely to be perceived that way. I know homemade stuff can cost a lot to make, but most people associate them with thrift.

                1. OP-gifts*

                  Absolutely, and I really appreciate the chance to find out what other people’s gut-reactions would be.

                  Also, because I have many crafty friends, when I think of homemade gifts I imagine delicate lace, etc. This thread has helped me remember that most people’s experience diy is… not good. :) Example: http://pinterestfail.com/

              5. grasshopper*

                With regards to the cheap, sometimes homemade gifts can appear as though people are trying not to spend money.

                Homemade gifts make me think of when little kids make macaroni ornaments. Crochet brings up images of old lady doilies, which might not be popular with everyone. I know that there can be some quite lovely and artistic handmade crafts, but the perception is that is crafts mean you are just unloading unwanted stuff because you are unwilling to spend money.

                People who don’t craft don’t realize that the cost of materials (without even considering your time) could be the same as paying for lunch. Unless you are already a recognized artist or craftsperson, your items might not hold the same value to the recipients as they do to you.

                1. Loose Seal*

                  Unless you are already a recognized artist or craftsperson, your items might not hold the same value to the recipients as they do to you.

                  No kidding. I don’t do handcrafts for anyone that’s not a blood relative. I didn’t even hand-knit anything for my husband until we were married for two years. Then he promptly let the gloves he asked for get chewed on by the dog. So it will be a while before he gets back in the knitting queue. I would never make something for co-workers; the odds that they wouldn’t appreciate it as much as I think they should are high.

                2. saro*

                  Yes, as a ‘Selfish Seamstress’, I don’t sew anything for others. They think it’s way easier/cheaper than it is (and I’m a newbie).

              6. Molly*

                I think people are coming down on you a little hard! If you have myriad reasons for hating lunch, I’m sure other people might as well. I agree about gifts though; they can feel a little bit too personal when they’re home made, and I feel like so much time goes into them that I’d be more indebted to you than I was comfortable with. Plus, if you make someone really lovely mittens they like a lot, for example, but they already have a really great expensive pair of gloves, how awkward for them to not wear your mittens all winter!

                I think it’s a good thought, and I know the time and money (nice yarn can be expensive!!) you would put in would be a lot, but I would try to make it a bit less personal. That being said, I don’t think you sound like the grumpy cheep-o some people are making you out to be!

              7. Sidra*

                My boss does something I think is very nice – she gives us personalized cards with a few words of appreciation, and wishing us a happy holiday. The card comes with something small – a $5 gift card, some candy, etc. If you wanted to do something personal, you could include a few fancy cookies, homemade granola, or a homemade hot cocoa mix… or all of those things ;).

              8. Vicki*

                Wait, you _personally_ pay for this lunch?? I’m sorry, but a “tradition” that asks a manager to personally spend 2 months pay as a “gift” for your employees is ludicrous.

                Maybe your team could do a potluck lunch.

            2. Allison*

              I’d give the OP the benefit of the doubt, there are people out there who swear that homemade gifts are inherently more thoughtful than anything you could buy for a person, because you’re putting a lot of effort into an item made just for that person. But it is a very intimate kind of gift. If a friend or family member made something for me I’d treasure it, but if my boss knitted me a scarf, I think it’d be a little awkward.

          3. BRR*

            I also agree. If instead of going to lunch I got a crocheted item I would have rather gotten nothing. You should gift what people want.

            Since they already get one lunch at end of semester (Christmas) can you move your lunch to end of the other semester?

            1. OP-gifts*

              That is a good idea! This year, I’ll probably stick with December (since if my manager delayed the lunch their first year, I would assume they are finding a way to get out of it all together), but suggest it next year.

              Moving it would also remove any lingering religious associations regarding it being a Christmas lunch.

              1. Meg Murry*

                In order to take away the holiday association completely, does your college have a fall break and spring break (that your employees are scheduled to work during)? What if you did a lunch during those times – or a Friday before break lunch? In my mind, that would play much more as a “staff appreciation” luncheon than a “holiday” luncheon.

          4. Oryx*

            I absolutely agree. The only person I’m okay accepting crocheted items from are friends and family who know me well enough to know what I like in terms of style, colors, etc. So unless the OP plans on sending out a survey to her staff it’s probably not a good idea.

            That being said, I like your idea of asking the staff what they want. Maybe others also find the lunches awkward and something like a gift card would be preferred.

            1. Michele*

              I am with you both too! I accept crocheted items and embroidery from my Grams. I see them as a lovely keepsake and memory of her. If someone from work gave me something like that it would actually make me really uncomfortable.

              1. the gold digger*

                Yes! I have quilts and paintings from my grandmother. The quilts are lovely and they are useful. The paintings are OK but clearly by an amateur, but they were painted with love and they remind me of my grandmother so they are hanging on my walls. In the basement, but they are there.

            2. Shuvon*

              Listen, I crochet a lot. It’s my passion (in fact, I used to work part-time as a crochet and knitting instructor). But I wouldn’t change this luncheon without asking your staff, and I wouldn’t give them crocheted items.

              I’d like to suggest that you give them thank-you note instead of a crocheted gift, something personalized to say why you appreciate having them on the team. And maybe the luncheon could be smaller in scope, but ask them.

          5. OP-gifts*

            Oh ouch. I will admit that this hurt to read, but I am glad to do so because it is important to know that from the outside this looks like a selfish act.

            I really did not approach this as a I hate a, so I am going to make everyone suffer b. I approached it as thinking that the traditional lunch was a rather broken system (for a variety of reasons including not actually being good for group bonding, callous comparisons of how much each department head spent, etc). So, I tried to think of what I could do instead and looked to other departments on campus to find out what was done. Most do nothing, but several department heads make homemade gifts.

            Yes, I have experience crafting items (would anything be worse than someone who did not know how to make a craft try to do so for the first time when giving employees thank-you gifts? :) ) , but I picked that idea to try and mimic other department heads.

            I also wonder if there is a big cultural difference between academia and the private sector. When I suggested gift cards to my mentor (at another academic library), she was horrified at the idea, saying that such gratitude gifts should never have an apparent price tag.

            1. John*

              Another alternative is bringing in some breakfast items — some donuts or homebaked goods and some coffee. Then people can mingle to the extent they want without everyone stuck around a table. And it’s more affordable.

              1. Dasha*

                I agree can you do a lunch that’s less expensive or what if you did the breakfast John suggested and also a potluck for lunch or a less expensive catered lunch? That way you are doing two things and it is still more cost effective than just one. Just an idea :)

              2. Koko*

                I have a boss who does this a few times a year when we have a big win or have been working really hard towards a goal day. He brings in some pastries, fruit, yogurt, etc and spreads them out on a table in the center of our department in the morning. Some people just come and make a plate and carry it back to their desk, but others will stand around the area and chat for a while before getting started on work. It’s nice because it accommodates both the people who enjoy socializing as well as the people who appreciate the free breakfast but don’t see social time with their coworkers as a reward.

            2. Holly*

              I had a boss at a university library give me a gift card as my going away present and it was fine with me :) she was an asst dean, I was an archivist if the job titles make a diff.

            3. fposte*

              I’m in academics, which is why I guessed that you were probably paying for this out of your own pocket. While each institution is different, it would go down very poorly here to cut a big traditional lunch out on the boss in favor of crochet. Your mentor’s response isn’t about academics, it’s about gift cards being traditionally considered, like cash, somewhat tacky. I’m somewhat old school myself, so I get her point, but your staff is unlikely to dislike gift cards for that reason; I think the problem might be that they too would look like a bit of a comedown from an event.

              The department head competition stuff is stupid; however, unless you know the kind of lunches this unit has actually had, I wouldn’t dismiss the group bonding component, and you’ve got tradition on their side; if people really like them, cancelling them entirely is going to be a morale blow that I think it might be worth paying to avoid. I think it’s okay to dial that event back a bit to a less posh restaurant or a late breakfast out, which would also evade the problem of the staffer who can’t receive holiday gifts.

              1. Connie-Lynne*

                I agree with all of this — there’s nothing inherently wrong with gift cards overall as a work thank you, but there are people who find them tacky as gifts, regardless of the source.

                And, similarly, I’d run any change in tradition past your staff first. A nice luncheon out means both time and money from the boss — a gift card is just money; homemade presents will be perceived as just time. There’s not really much that can replace a lunch-out tradition that won’t somehow be perceived as less, which is why it is kind of a classic option.

                1. Koko*

                  Yes, and I think that it being tacky has less to do with knowing how much you spent (a lot of good gifts have fixed or narrow price ranges that are commonly known) and more to do with they don’t demonstrate that you know the recipient very well. A friend you’re close enough to exchange gifts with should be able to demonstrate how well they know you through the right gift–or so it goes gift-giving norms (in reality a lot of people are just bad at it, even when they know the person well).

                  So IMO that admonishment to not give cash/gift cards doesn’t apply to business gifts–I don’t expect my boss to know me as well as my friends and family.

              2. Lils*

                I also think you CAN do something to make the lunches more, er, palatable. You as the manager should keep your expectations high for the tone of the department and its interactions with others. People will always gossip and backbite to some extent, but you can do a lot as the leader to improve the atmosphere.

            4. Beebs*

              I’m in an academic setting, and give gift cards every year–I think the staff is very happy with them. No one at my institution (that I know of) does anything other than gift cards and/or lunch. Honestly, the handmade thing reads as a little too creepily intimate between manager/direct reports. And . . . I have a dear friend who makes handmade gifts every year. I appreciate the thought and the effort so very much, but I have no use for the actual items. And I have a completely unreasonable paranoia that if I give it to the thrift store she’ll somehow see it (I know . . . essentially impossible in a large metro area . . . but rational doesn’t always win). Just last night I threw a couple of things she’d made away, apologizing to her in absentia as I did so.

            5. Sarah*

              See, I worked at a university (academic journal in house) and my boss (tenured prof) gave me an Amazon gift card each holiday time to thank me. So, I’m not sure if it’s academia vs private sector, it might just be your mentor’s personal preference.

            6. Anonsie*

              It may just be institutional– I can’t say I’ve been all over in academia, but gift cards aren’t uncommon on the whole IME.

              Here’s the disconnect I think a lot of people are having: A nice lunch out is one of the few things that most people would agree is a nice thing to get from your employer. You keep saying it’s not working, but do your staff actually like it? Do they feel it’s “awkward” and dread going? It doesn’t matter if people gossip about the cost or not everyone talks to everyone or whatever if people enjoy it and want to go.

            7. Auditoholic*

              How funny that some would be horrified by a gift card! I look forward to my yearly gift card. Not because of the value (it’s truly less than it sounds like you’d spend on this lunch), but because I can go get something I like and not be stuck with something I don’t actually want and, sorry, but a handcrafted item would go straight to my goodwill pile. I’d prefer the lunch, but we’re all remote (as in don’t live in the same states) so we can’t have lunch together without someone getting on a plane.

            8. Molly*

              I work in academia and we got gift cards to a local book store. They weren’t huge, but I know my manager isn’t making THAT much more than I am, and I thought it was a really nice, thoughtful gift.

              Also, see above comment re: people are being a little harsh!

            9. Sidra*

              I just wanted to second how lovely a breakfast buffet sort of thing would be. You could give everyone an hour or two in the morning to enjoy bagels, juice, coffee, fruit, etc., together in a conference room. Give a nice little speech about how great the team is, how you appreciate them, say your Happy Holidays, etc., and let them hang out for a bit or go back to their desks, as they prefer.

            10. Lucy*

              At the risk of sounding like the lazy one of this group – one of the things that I liked most about having a boss take you out for Christmas lunch – is that even if the food isn’t spectacular – you are getting out of the darned office (or library.. school place). It kind of has a special event-like feel like going on a field trip in school. Your gift is time away from work + food that you don’t have to pay for. Plus I feel like I get to see a different side of my co-workers outside of the office environment – which is a nice change.

              So if my boss replaced it with “here’s a thing – back to work” even if it were a pretty cool thing – I’d probably be disappointed.

              1. OP-gifts*

                Not lazy at all! That is something a lot of commentators pointed out: that it is the gift of an experience, not just the monetary value of the meal.

          6. Kelly*

            I read the comments before and after the OP commented. My initial reaction was that the OP’s idea of replacing the lunch with handmade gifts seemed cheap. I also work in an academic library and there’s a significant gap between what my manager makes and what the staff makes. If I’m a manager/supervisor making significantly more money than the people who report to me and new to the job, it doesn’t seem like a great idea to change the holiday gift giving patterns during my first holiday season in the role. If the OP is uncomfortable with the lunches, giving their staff gift cards to coffee shops, a local restaurant, or a book store are good ideas. As far as the person with religious objections to receiving gifts, hers could be termed a staff appreciation rather than a holiday gift.

            1. OP-gifts*

              Just to clarify, I was not trying to save money (I was going to spend the same amount of gifts as I would on food), and at my library I barely get paid more than my staff (which is another topic altogether… I need to job hunt :) ).

              However, I really value hearing your first impression, which is that gifts would be cheap and that I make significantly more than my team. I suspect that my staff would have those same impressions unless told otherwise, which would be inappropriate.

              1. Eden*

                I have to say, for me, virtually *anything* would be a big come-down after becoming accustomed to the nice annual lunch. If this is about showing appreciation for the employees, I’d find out whether the majority share your view, or if, like me, they look forward to it all year!

                As far as gifts, I have to echo everyone who said, after a certain point in life, you have enough “stuff.” I’m actually thinking for my future birthdays, I need to start giving things away rather than getting more stuff. This is why the consumables idea (and lunch) is such a great gift.

                1. Koko*

                  Seriously my favorite thing about hiring a new coworker is that it means at least one and sometimes two free lunches during their first week. (One for the entire 24-person department, and one for just the smaller team the new hire has been added to.) Not only is it a lunch I don’t have to buy that week, but they’re always long lunches where we get out of the office for a good 90 minutes and we’re allowed to order an alcoholic drink if we want (just one of course). I would never dream of taking a 90-minute lunch or drinking with my lunch if I was just sorting out my own food for the day, so it’s a big perk that I really look forward to!

          7. danr*

            A party at the office might leave out the person who can’t accept gifts. Dinner at a restaurant is simply food paid for by someone. It isn’t a party and isn’t a gift in the traditional sense.

            1. OP-gifts*

              Exactly. This same staff person does not usually eat at the numerous potlucks, etc that are held at the library throughout the year (though that might be also because our Dean says a prayer over the food, which is another issue altogether considering we are a public university). Either way, having food at the office would not work either.

              1. Michele*

                I am starting to think there may be more than religion playing a role in her behavior. I gave had the opportunity to work with many different faiths and my Hasidic Jewish boss was the only one to not participate.

                1. Koko*

                  I originally thought the employee is Jehovah’s Witness, who don’t celebrate Christmas or participate in any of its celebrations, including gift exchange. But JWs accept gifts at other times of year (except birthdays, which they also don’t celebrate), so that doesn’t seem to explain her not eating at the potlucks. I agree with you, seems like something more than religion going on there. But of course OP is wise to just respect her choices and not try to make sense of them.

              2. fposte*

                “Our Dean says a prayer over the food, which is another issue altogether considering we are a public university”

                Oh, boy. Yeah, that might be enough for me to excuse myself.

        2. OP-gifts*

          That is a good rule of thumb! Before this went to print, I had actually talked myself out of making anything homemade for gifts (though I am still waffling on gift-giving instead of lunching). When I came up with the idea, it was after talking to the head of our School of Nursing, who crochets beautiful Christmas ornaments for her entire school staff. However, she is very well established professionally, while from me (a twenty-something year old), I fear it would come off as juvenile. This is similar to how I have stopped making items for our library potlucks, because I noticed that many managers brought store-bought items.

          Thanks for the feedback, I forward to any other advice readers have!

          1. jhhj*

            I cannot imagine a worse gift for your staff than Christmas ornaments. Nothing says “We expect all of you to be Christian and will probably be at best uninformed and at worst prejudiced against people of other religions” than gifts for a particular religion.

            1. OP-gifts*

              In her defense, they are nonsecular ornaments (lacey snowflakes, etc), but you are right… it certainly would make some people very uncomfortable to receive.

              1. A Non-Christian Commenter*

                I don’t have a tree… what on earth would I do with an ornament, even if non-secular?

                1. Anna*

                  I couldn’t resist replying because I was in exactly in this situation a few years back, when my company had an ornament exchange. I was at a loss as to what to do with my ornament, but when I brought it home, my cat inexplicably fell in love with it, and proudly carried it around the house for days.

                2. Helka*

                  They make little hanging stands to display individual ornaments for those who don’t have a tree or who want to display a small hanging item year-round. Something like this. But yeah, it’s still a pretty awkward gift since the religious implication can’t really be stripped out of it.

                3. Joline*

                  Well, stuff like crocheted snowflakes my very crafty aunt would put up on her windows. Not as a Christmas thing, but as a winter thing. She also had window hanging pictures, etc., for other seasons.

                  It’s definitely not a usual thing and I don’t think it’s a great idea since most people would connect it with Christmas – but it can just be a kitschy decorative taste thing.

                4. A Non-Christian Commenter*

                  Wasn’t that show the best! I didn’t see it when it aired originally but found it later on Netflix and was outraged when I found out how short a run it had.

                  I feel weirdly honored to have made the same mistake as Dan.

              2. AvonLady Barksdale*

                I’m sure the head of your School of Nursing means very well, but unless you work at a strictly Christian institution (and even then I’d give it some thought), I’d advise against giving anything that even hints at “Christmas” or “holiday”. I’m Jewish, and I don’t celebrate Christmas at all– some Jewish people have trees, but I do not and I feel very strongly about that. To me, and to many, there is no such thing as a “secular” ornament. The only ornament I have ever received gladly was the paper version of my dog made by the owner of his doggy daycare– something very personalized and special to me as the recipient. Give me an ornament and while I will accept it as graciously as I can, I will walk away feeling very hurt, excluded, and misunderstood.

                1. Cool Beans*

                  I would be afraid to give Avon(lady) Barksdale a bad gift…maybe you would send Stringer after me! Sorry, couldn’t resist The Wire reference :)

                2. AvonLady Barksdale*

                  Thanks, Sadsack! Glad my rare burst of creativity paid off. And no worries about the gifts– even the king minds his manners. :)

                3. LizB*

                  I’m also Jewish, and I feel exactly the same way. There is no such think as a “secular” ornament. Our society tends to assume that Christianity/celebrating Christmas in some capacity is the default. Receiving an ornament at best reminds me that my religious practice is considered outside the norm, and at worst feels like the person is trying to subtly convert me. If someone I knew well made me something handmade and personalized to display in my home without calling it an ornament, I might feel okay about it… but I have no use for a Christmas ornament, nor do I want to find a use for one just to make clueless people feel better.

              3. jhhj*

                The only secular Christmas gifts I can think of are cookies. I am entirely okay with getting themed cookies. Or non-themed cookies.

                What in the world would I do with a lacy snowflake? If something can only be hung off a tree (or given to a cat), what am I supposed to do if I don’t have a tree? (Also, there’s often a lot of misunderstanding about what winter themes are really Christmas themes.)

                I wouldn’t complain, obviously, if I were in this person’s department (it’s too minor to complain about), but I’d certainly think very poorly of her as a manager.

              4. Kacie*

                I hate ornaments as gifts. I have never had a tree in my home, and don’t plan on it. What would I do with them, even a “secular” one? This created a very uncomfortable situation when I managed a public library branch. One staff member LOVED Christmas and all that went along with it. She had already special ordered an ornament for me with all the staff names on it when I started in September. When I made an off-handed remark about not being Christian and not celebrating Christmas, she was very upset and I got the ornament anyway months in advance. Awkward.

                1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

                  I hate ornaments as gifts as a default – but if we’re close there is no better gift for me. Because I am one of those dorky people who looks at each ornament before it goes on the tree and I remember where every one came from. I have very few “purchased on the box” ornaments – almost all have meaning for me. Which is why I don’t really want one from people of whom I’m not personally fond.

                  The one our realtor gave us with her company logo did not make the cut to get on the tree!

                  I have a couple of good friends at work (we’re friends outside of work as well) and we exchange ornaments each year. But we would if we didn’t work together and we wouldn’t if we all didn’t celebrate, have trees, and love ornaments.

                  But as others have said it’s insulting to imply everyone celebrates. I’d stay away.

              5. NoPantsFridays*

                While the very idea of an ornament is not secular… I hang them from a window using a suction cup with a hook. Works best for flat ornaments. If it were a bulb ornament, or something else that is not flat, it can’t hang straight down (because of the window).

                FWIW I know Christians who don’t have a tree, or decorate a non-evergreen tree outside with lights only (no ornaments) and have no tree inside. So it’s not even a religious issue for them, just a practical one.

              6. Felicia*

                Even if they are secular, it presumes everyone celebrates Christmas (why would you need a tree or ornaments unless you celebrated Christmas?). As a fairly secular Jew who has never celebrated Christmas that would make me uncomfortable (though the prayer over meals you mentioned would make me a million times more uncomfortable).

            2. JMegan*

              My friend’s son’s day care made “holiday ornaments” in December last year. And because her family is Jewish, the day care very thoughtfully had her son make…a menorah as his tree ornament.

              A well-intentioned fail, but a fail nonetheless!

              1. Jaimie*

                Ha. When my daughter was little, she went to a daycare where each classroom had a little area with coathooks and cubbies. The children’s nametags would change seasonally (fall leaves, rainboots, etc.). Her first winter, I went in there and found that her tag was a large Santa. Ummmm… we are Jewish. All the other classrooms had tags that were little parkas, or snowflakes, or something similar. Ours… Santas alternating with Christmas trees. After a hilarious texting discussion with my husband, we decided to say something, so I took a teacher aside and explained that this might be confusing for my daughter, as her understanding was (and still is, as it happens) that while Santa is real, he only comes to houses where Christmas is celebrated. And Christmas isn’t celebrated at her house.

                When I came back that evening, her tag had been replaced by a giant menorah. Huge. An absolutely tremendous shiny menorah. With the wrong number of candles, no less. I had figured they would change ALL the tags, not just hers. Ah, well. We got thru it, and changed to a more diverse daycare center at the end of the year (not because of that, I was changing jobs, but it did affect the way we looked at daycares after that).

                Bottom line: really, stick to secular things.

              2. TychaBrahe*

                I remember when our Christian lay-preacher choir master thoughtfully included some Jewish music for the winter pageant. The problem was that it was music more associated with Passover.

                1. Stephanie*

                  I grew up in an area that was pretty Evangelical Christian/Southern Baptist; there were a few Jewish families. Because of this, around the holidays, there would be an equally big deal made about Hanukkah as Christmas. It wasn’t until I became close friends with a Jewish person (uh…in my early 20s) that I learned Hanukkah isn’t that big of a deal. He was like “Eh, it’s only significant because it’s close to Christmas. The Maccabees were sort of a fringe group, depending on your interpretation of history. But hey, Jews like presents too.”

          2. Squirrel!*

            I don’t see how making food for potlucks is considered “juvenile”. Both of my managers make food for our potlucks, and I (the youngest in the group) always get something store-bought because I can’t be assed to make something for these people. The appearance of being juvenile is about how you comport yourself at work in your day-to-day dealings with people, not because you made cookies or brownies for someone’s birthday potluck.

            1. fposte*

              I don’t think it’s juvenile, but I think there’s a big shift from “You’re getting taken out to lunch!” to “You’re responsible for making part of lunch!” that I wouldn’t be happy about as a staffer. That’s no longer an appreciation, it’s just making me do different work.

              1. prchrldy*

                Yes, it has gotten so expensive to home cook that it would cost me more than it would to buy lunch in a high end restaurant.

                Holiday or celebrations cause a great deal of stress for those with food issues. I have asked people to bring in items for the local food pantry, explaining that I have limitations on what I can eat, and would like to know others who need food are benefiting from the thoughtfulness of gift givers.

                Any homemade food item , and some store bought food gifts, go into the trash even before I go into the house.

            2. OP-gifts*

              Sorry, I put too different thoughts too close together in my previous comment. I meant that making gifts might be juvenile.

              And then, I compared it to a different situation at work in which I had to evaluate what impression I was giving. If many other managers (and also all the male employees) bring store-bought food, I wanted to consider what impression I was making by making food. Not that the impression I was making by doing so was juvenile.

              1. Beebs*

                I agree that sometimes details like who brings what food can be telling. I will happily bake or make food for my staff, but I’m less eager to take it to management potlucks. I noticed that most of the men either brought something their wives made or stopped at the store on the way in while most of the women made really nice dishes. (With exceptions, obviously.) Lacking a wife to cook for me, I have steered more toward the store as the years go by.

                1. Lucy*

                  I once worked at a place where we did a staff potluck and our boss/owner tried to invite some of his business associates to it. Mind you – he didn’t ask them to bring anything – he just invited them to come. “Here is a lunch my staff has cooked – why don’t you come eat some?”. One of my managers had to bring him to the side and tell him it was not ok to try to give away the food we’d made for us. He got very flustered about it – but in the end they didn’t come.

            3. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

              Unless you’re a crappy cook , no one should care what you bring to the potluck.

          3. Turanga Leela*

            OP, just wanted to say I’m really impressed by your contributions here and willingness to listen to comments. It sounds like you’re being thoughtful about this whole thing.

            1. OP-gifts*

              Aw, thanks. I didn’t want to seem like I am stalking, but I had most of the day off, and I really am interested in what every thinks.

          4. prchrldy*

            1. I have learned to wait until I move, or go to another town far enough away to donate the big box I keep in the closet for handmade or otherwise inappropriate gifts. It would be *really bad* for the giver to cross paths with it again in the hands of an unfamiliar person. Especially in my line of work.
            2. My preferred gift is a nonrestrictive gift card. I can use it for gas, groceries, or something I’ve had my eyes on. Not everyone likes books or coffee. Thou shalt not project one’s own favorites upon another!
            3. There is nothing worse than being surprised by the cancelation of a tradition or special event without warning. Take the opportunity to open a discussion with your staff. Begin with “I’m new here…”
            4. Potlucks ummm… do the straw thing. Not many people want to schlep food to work in the midst of a holiday, the end of a semester, and the rush of getting to work. And it costs the staff for their own gift.
            5. A suggestion might be to arrange the work schedule so everyone gets a half-day off, if that is within your power. That and a minimum $25 gift card (lunch and tip would cost at least that) would be a nice opportunity for a manicure, time to shop, or to go to a school program.

            The very worst gift I ever received was from someone who knits/crochets. She had actually once made a scarf knitted out of cat fur (how could I lie about this??). As I reached into the gift bag it was soft and furry… I was very afraid… And when I pulled it out it was a black furry knit winter cap. I almost said something that would have been inappropriate given that it was a store bought fuzzy winter cap. It was also too small, and the static electricity in my hair would have lit the building.

            This might be a good way to start a conversation with your coworkers: what is the worst gift to you have ever received?

        3. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

          I agree, it is a perfect rule.

          I have homemade items at home from family and every time I see them I think of the person who made it for me. Homemade stuff is really personal and not really something usually appropriate from someone at work.

          Anything outside of the Perfect Rule (which is now a thing for me so it gets the title caps) has to be really dead on the money. Three times my boss hit it out of the park with me:

          1. HK white gold/amethyst charm as an inside joke, lucky talisman. (not inappropriately expensive (small and the stone is a chip) but super personal and funny.

          2. Back from a trip to Iceland she bought these really pretty necklaces for all the other women in the office, but I got a silk scarf because she knows I never wear anything besides my crucifix/miraculous medal on my neck and she thought it would go beautifully with one of my favorite sweaters and she was right.

          3. She knows I love Christmas Penguins to an unhealthy degree and she also knew I’d pass up the adorable Christmas Penguin cookie jar in the Christmas Raffle because someone else wanted it for his mom who was in the late stages of cancer and collects holiday penguin stuff. He didn’t get it in the raffle either as someone got it first, so we came back to our desks to find one sitting on each of our chairs.

          My husband can never figure out what to get me – I should tell him to start emailing my boss before gift giving occasions since she’ll always have the perfect idea for me. So personal gifts can work, but you need to really know the person and be dead on otherwise they will probably end up re gifting it.

          1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

            No, I have no idea why I capitalized christmas penguins, like they are some kind of trademarked item. Maybe a road show like the penguin capades?

            And she didn’t know it but a silk scarf was the last thing my mom ever bought me before she passed…so I burst into sentimental tears and when I explained my boss got teary too – so crying in the office isn’t always bad!

              1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

                Shut UP! As soon as we decorate this year I’m sending you a pic of my lawn. We have one from the same series. Just got it last year after Christmas so this will be the debut.

      2. Dan*

        You beat me to it with the thrift store. I was about to say that Goodwill is a great place for me to get rid of things that I don’t need/want but are too good for the trash. Saves me the guilt of throwing out “perfectly good stuff”, the hassle of Craig’s List, and from being a pack rat.

        1. D*

          Yeah, I have donated nearly all company Holiday gifts (replete with company logo) and all swag to one thrift store or another. One time I just so happened to “find” a brand new cheap logo-ridden messenger bag at the office and dropped it off at building’s lost and found, so I wouldn’t have to lug it home.

      3. A Bug!*

        I think that’s a great guideline. To elaborate a little, I think that’s because items in those categories are impersonal, and more importantly, easy to re-gift. First, because a person’s more likely to know someone who will be able to make use of the item, and second, because there’s less guilt attached to re-gifting something when you know the giver didn’t spend any time agonizing over the choice of present.

        If I were given a hand-made item by a boss I’d be distressed, because I’d know the person put more thought and effort into it than is appropriate for a professional relationship. I’d feel awkward receiving it, I’d feel bad for not liking it, and I’d feel guilty for re-gifting it (if I was even able to find someone who’d want it). Chances are good it would be tucked away until enough time had passed that I felt comfortable discarding it or dropping it off at a thrift store.

        I realize this sounds ungrateful. But when it comes down to it, personalized gifts are personal, and it’s just uncomfortable to receive a personalized gift from someone when I can’t (and don’t want to) reciprocate. The basic sort of preferences, sure – red wines or whites, dark chocolates or milk, favorite dinner spot and coffee spot, preferred online retailer? That’s all you need to know about a given employee in order to be the Best Gift-Giving Boss Ever.

        1. peppermint*

          Hmm. I love to knit/crochet. I agree that I’d never create something like the OP describes, and I give my own staff gift cards to a coffee shop at the holidays (I know they all drink coffee). However, I do give a handmade baby blanket as my standard “baby shower” gift (whether it’s for a friend, coworker, neighbor, etc). I don’t really view them as very personal, because I’m always working on one – it makes me feel like I’m being productive when I watch junk TV, and the motions are very relaxing. Sometimes I end up with a blanket finished and no recipient planned for it – at which point it just sits in my closet until needed. But these comments are making me rethink my approach.

          1. Elysian*

            I think as a baby shower gift its fine. At a shower people are asking you for gifts – its a fine time to give someone a ‘thing’ – they’ve invited the gift. Plus people having babies seem to need a lot of random stuff. Your coworkers generally though don’t need random stuff.

            I may not have expressed the ‘why’ well but I think a homemade blanket is a lovely shower gift (even for a coworker, if someone at work throws a shower) but a poor choice for a “we appreciate you end of the year holiday” gift.

          2. Diet Coke Addict*

            I feel like a baby gift is in a somewhat different category–babies usually receive plenty of fuzzy knitted items (bootees, sweaters, caps, blankets) and the intent isn’t quite the same. I’d be thrilled to receive a hand-knitted blanket from someone as a baby gift–and if someone dislikes wool or what have you, they’re easier to give away without the guilt of “They made this just for me!”

            1. Chinook*

              I am happy to hear that baby gifts are the exception to the “no-handmade gifts for non-family members.” Speaking as someone who will knit something for a baby (always gender neutral colours and with fool that is washing machine safe because babies are not clean), I like the idea of making something to keep a baby warm and safe (from frost bite). But once they are ableto express an opinion on what they wear, I only make items upon the request of the intended wearer. Plus, baby clothes often fit dolls and stuffed animals, so it is not like they won’t get used by someone else ever again.

          3. Dulcinea*

            I think that’s different; a baby blanket, handmade or not, is a standard baby shower gift. A “crocheted item” ( I wonder what it would be??) instead of a small party is NOT a standard Christmas gift for staff. The canceling of the party would bother me more than the gift itself if I worked at OP’s workplace.

          4. Jennifer M.*

            I agree with the other posters. For something like a baby shower, a handmade blanket is a more than appropriate gift.

          5. KellyK*

            I wouldn’t worry, I think baby gifts are totally different. Partly because, like Elysian said, a shower invites gifts, but also because personal taste isn’t as relevant. You would have to know a lot about someone’s personal style to knit or crochet them clothing that they’d actually enjoy, or a home decor item that would go with what they already have. It could be their favorite color and still not be a style they like. (For example, I like knitted items, but I really prefer finer knits—so a chunky scarf is not necessarily something I’d wear.)

            For baby hats and blankets, on the other hand, the kid’s too young to care, and as long as it isn’t an ugly color, the parents will probably love it. “Ugly color” is of course completely subjective, but all the pastels you tend to find baby yarn in are pretty widely liked.

            I knit baby hats, and I usually do pastels for people I don’t know, or for hospital donations. Blankets are pretty much reserved for family members, so those are based on their preferences. I did a green and purple blanket for friends because it matched the colors they were doing the nursery, and a red and black blanket with bats for my very goth sister-in-law whose nickname for the baby while she was pregnant was “Baby Bat.”

          6. VintageLydia USA*

            I got two homemade baby blankets from two different people and they are by far my favorite things from the shower. I think a baby shower is a totally different thing than a boss gifting her employee.

          7. Nerd Girl*

            Baby gifts are in a slightly different category. As a mom-to-be, you kind of go into the baby shower expecting one or two homemade blankets and might even be disappointed if you don’t receive one. Baby gifts are also the only place where it’s okay to get the recipient something she may not buy for herself. I had registered for a baby bag based on look but my co-workers chipped in and bought me a very nice Vera Bradley baby bag. It was not at all something I would have ever bought for myself but that bag was the best gift ever. :) Oh…and my kids still sleep with the crocheted baby blankets co-workers made for me nearly 10 years ago.

          8. JMegan*

            I have a friend who does this too, and her blankets are lovely. We even joked about another of our friends getting pregnant just so she could get one of T’s blankets!

            I think the difference is that baby blankets are pretty much guaranteed to be useful if you have a baby. Whereas something like the OP suggests, unless you know your staff really well and know what they like and would use, it’s a bit more of a crapshoot.

          9. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

            Hand made baby blankets for a shower are so exempt from that rule. That is a lovely gesture and will be treasured. Please, don’t stop doing that.

            My sister is like that with cross stitch – she does the most gorgeous and elaborate pictures and everyone who sees them is in awe of her talent and the intricacy involved. She does them because it relaxes her and once she covered every wall in all of her siblings houses (teasing, but seriously – they are some of the nicest things in my house) she does them of different sizes and has them framed/matted professionally and donates to an animal shelter for their auction. They get upwards of $25-50 for the little ones, several hundred dollars for the medium sized ones, and one large one fetched over 1K. The animal shelter makes money, she keeps her hands busy, and their regulars ask in advance of the auction if they can get a preview of her stuff.

            Anyway – she does nursery cross stitches for anyone she knows having a baby, and that’s in the same league as baby blankets – always welcome.

            When I helped the kids make a handcrafted gift it was gluing googly eyes and wrapping a pipecleaner around a candy cane to go in the cocoa care package for their CCD teachers – no one would pay money for that. :)

          10. Mints*

            Agree with others that babies’ gifts are an exception. Partly because showers invite gifts. Partly because babies don’t have a “taste;” baby stuff all looks pretty similar. And there’s a temporary sense to everything used for babies, and parents give away tons of baby stuff, without it really being “regifting” like it is for adults

              1. Mints*

                Ha! And it’s a great excuse when parents get rid of horribly ugly or terrible sloganed clothes. “Oh no the baby ruined it” as code for “I gave it to Goodwill”

              2. Hillary*

                I remind myself to share the very easy washing instructions when I give people quilts – I forget that people who don’t craft think they can’t go in the washer.

                I give quilts to friends, acquaintances and coworkers when they’re expecting babies, mainly because I like having something to work on. I’ll admit that the better I know someone, the more customized and better quality their quilt is. I’m always thrilled to see one of my quilts show up under a baby on Facebook.

      4. Tinker*

        I’ve got this rule for basically everyone, including close friends. I think the transience of such a gift is actually something of a feature — it provides a notable experience that is out of the norm rather than being a contribution to the person’s household, or at least meets an unfortunate accident under the sink and is never seen again.

        On the receiving side, I have received minor non-consumable items from bosses, but the top item in that line is a Christmas card that was done in watercolor, which if it is some sort of major effort is at least one that I’m ignorant of. I knit and sometimes crochet myself, and I’d be horrified if someone from work gave me virtually any such item. From my perspective, it’s firmly beyond what I would consider to be a weird amount of effort in the context of the relationship.

        (Also, I cannot think of a case where someone outside of my closest circle has ever gifted me clothing without my input and not had it go distinctly awry. In my case, it’s kind of hard to go right unless you understand that “frilly, gathered, and possibly lilac” is entirely missing from my wardrobe and that this is not an accident. More broadly, you never do know what sort of toes you’re stepping on in terms of personal taste and/or personal history with such items.)

        If the personal touch is really required, so far as I know cookies have not yet been outlawed. (If anything, the cookie spectrum has… expanded. At least hereabouts.) One can even spell out the applicable employee’s name in icing, if one must.

        1. KerryOwl*

          I had to tell my mom that I never wear floral patterns. I never even really noticed myself that I never chose floral patterns, but too many Christmases in a row I was receiving clothes that were really not for me, and I finally realized the pattern . . . pattern. (I actually am all right with a floral if it’s particularly graphic, but that’s a distinction I’m not going to burden Mom with having to make.)

          And I agree about consumable presents, especially for parents! I’ve about run out of original ideas for these people and they keep having birthdays! So interesting beer, etc it is.

          1. HeyNonnyNonny*

            Sigh…my mom still thinks I dress and decorate like 10-year-old me. Adult-me is not pleased with the periwinkle gifts.

            1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

              I’m the opposite – I have to remind myself I shouldn’t still want to decorate like 10 year old me. (And I’m in the process of trying to convince dh to paint the master bath periwinkle…because that’s one step toward agreement on the bedroom going pink.)

            2. the gold digger*

              My mother in law, even though she has been in my house and indeed, slept in my bed in my bedroom for nine days, thinks I am a person who wants

              1. Cheap pressed board nesting tables made in China and painted with hummingbirds and hibiscus
              2. A vase with blue asters and butterflies painted on the outside
              3. A gift certificate to a spice store in Texas, which is not where I live and ignores the fact that I do live near a rather large mail-order national spice company
              4. A sweatshirt with kittens and butterflies appliqued on it (that one never actually got to me – she ran it past my husband first and after he gasped in horror, he told her that it was not something I would wear, which led to a discussion of why not and what was wrong with me, anyhow, which is I think her favorite topic of conversation)

            3. Mints*

              Heh, 10 year old me was on the way to my punk phase, and sometimes my mom has bought herself things, decided it was too punk for “an old lady” (her words, actually: “muy señora”) then gave it to me. This has happened more than once and I’m always really amused by it

            4. Tinker*

              My mom is distinctly invested in the concept that Women Should Look Like Women and has kind of sketchy boundaries regarding the matter of appearance. I’m on the transmasculine spectrum. Hilarity ensues.

            5. Pennalynn Lott*

              I am 47. I love cats. The real ones. Ya know, furry and purry, with claws and teeth and a propensity to puke on the carpet. I have five cats and would probably get another if Boyfriend didn’t put the kibosh on it.

              Because of this, my mom buys me something cat-related for every gift-giving occasion and then some. Cat statues. Cat bookends. Cat magnets. A pink cat hoodie (it’s the only pink thing I own). Cat candles. Cat measuring spoons. Cat blanket. Cat sweatshirts. Cat t-shirts. Cat socks. Even a “Crazy Cat Lady” action figure (with accessories!). Other than a few items with my own cats’ images on them, I have never, ever, not once in my life purchased any cat-themed products for myself. Ever.

              She lives with me, so it’s not like I can just re-gift the stuff. So my house is now covered in cheesy cat kitsch.

        2. Phoenix*

          I knit and sometimes crochet myself, and I’d be horrified if someone from work gave me virtually any such item. From my perspective, it’s firmly beyond what I would consider to be a weird amount of effort in the context of the relationship.

          The only times I’ve given a coworker something I’ve knit or crocheted (aside from a handmade baby blanket for a close coworker’s first baby), it was a hat I was making just to use up some yarn. Someone admired it out loud, and I gave it to them when I finished it later in the day. It was likely going to go into my “bin of charity hats”, which either go to friends who’ve come over and forgotten a warm hat or to the charity bins that pop up around Christmas, so giving it away immediately wasn’t far from its original purpose!

          Otherwise, as a knitter, I rather agree with you – it’s so much effort to be putting into something for a coworker that it definitely becomes a little weird.

      5. Lisa*

        My old boss got us personalized (mostly cube) gifts.

        -Walking Dead calendar for me – with cut out zombies, I got glue sticks and a bunch of us created some.
        -Cube artillery for one guy that had a history of getting people attention with nerf stuff.
        -A fake firefly in a jar for a woman from w. va
        -Bakeware for the office baker with a list of suggested items to bring to the office.
        -Light-up musical notes (like xmas lights) to hang in a cube for a musician.
        -Soccer stuff for another guy.

        It was so cute, and it meant that he knew us. The manager after him got everyone mugs, candles for women, and keychains for men, and cheap crap from vendors that were obviously thrown it to fill in the bags. Her gifts were clearly bought by the company, while the old director purchased them himself as they never would have let him expense stuff like that. We all kind of were like ‘really, no thought put it at all’ with her gifts and a Merry Xmas card (two employees were jewish), but he made us feel great with handwritten notes for each person highlighting their contributions to the team and a small gift that said he paid attention to us as individuals.

      6. Elizabeth West*

        Thank you, Suzanne, for posting exactly what I was thinking. I’m doing a purge right now, and little tchotchkes and stuff like that are all going bye-bye. Crocheted stuff makes me think of those toilet roll covers and granny square pillows from the 1970s.

        The restaurant thing is fine and it won’t exclude anyone.

      7. BethRA*

        “Gifts from bosses to direct reports should either be consumable (chocolate, dinner, wine–if they drink)”
        This may not be nearly so simple as is seems, though. Lots of people don’t drink – and don’t want to discuss they whys of it. I would be it’s far more likley you’d run into religious restrictions on food items than one banning gifts, generally, and then there are always food allergies or other dietary restrictions. I say this as someone who once had to learn how to make vegan, gluten-free holiday cookies for her colleagues.

        I’m not saying don’t do it, I’m just saying it’s not that simple.

        And for the record, if my boss or coworker knitted me a tea cozy, no I’d never use it and yes it’d probably be regifted or sent to goodwill. But I would very much appreciate the thought and effort.

        1. AdAgencyChick*

          See, I’d be afraid to get rid of the item because…well, it’s from the boss. So is she going to get upset if I give away or throw out her painstakingly handmade item? I mean, it’s unlikely she’d be able to find out, I guess, but since I’m a worrier, I’d worry about her asking about the item and having to either lie or produce the item at some point.

          So…another voice saying OP, please don’t do this.

        2. jag*

          Who cares.

          I don’ t drink at all and my boss has given me nice bottles of alcohol a number of times. It doesn’t matter. I re-gift them or toss them.

      8. Anonsie*

        One of the higher ups here has an amazing combination of homemade and consumable– his family keeps bees and he gifts people jars of honey from their hive. And it is gooooood. Apparently they all get together to process the honey periodically as a family activity.

        This has the bonus of being something most everyone can use at some point, but also not being so perishable that they have to use it immediately. Even if you hate honey for some reason, odds are good you have honey in your house anyway for guests or baking or something.

        So that’s my suggestion: OP, keep some bees. Get bees on elastic so when they try to leave they get pulled back.

      9. Elizabeth*

        Good rules. Only one I would add is a broadly usable gift card–VISA, Amazon, etc. In my non-profit world of non-bonuses, it’s about as close to cash as you can get and very appreciated.

      10. Koko*

        I love this rule! One of my favorite maxims is: “Every gift you give someone is putting them one step closer to a bigger house with a bigger mortgage.”

        I live in an efficiency apartment and it’s obvious to me that most things aren’t worth the real estate they take up. I believer our consumer culture and the tendency for most people to buy more house than they can afford are intimately linked. People don’t need the space for themselves to eat, sleep, and socialize comfortably. They need space for all their stuff. So just about every suburban home has a basement and extra bedrooms and closets full of stuff that hasn’t been touched in years, but the owners probably spend 90% of their time in 20% of the house’s living area.

    2. Stars and violets*

      I agree. My mother used to crochet lots of stuff and there seems to be nothing worse for collecting dust.
      I wouldn’t like anything handmade form my manager; much too personal. Also, what’s wrong with the lunch? Just because she doesn’t like it doesn’t mean her staff feel the same way. Perhaps, OP, you should ask them.

      1. OP-gifts*

        Hi, several readers suggested I talk to my team, and I think I will. I hesitated because I was worried asking what people wanted for a holiday gift/celebration would get out of hand, but I think I can frame it in such a way that it is not offering carte blanche.

        1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

          Or maybe if a holiday party/lunch is not their bag, they would appreciate a Fun Meeting.

          I am also a librarian, and we are having a meeting this Friday. The reasons for this meeting are complex, and it is not a necessary meeting, but we are turning it into A Fun Meeting. There will be Starbucks to go coffee and I am making some muffins and gingerbread. We will eat and do some ideas brainstorming.

          (Part of this is that I am the one in charge of/benefiting from this meeting, and it was going to be a little different anyway, but it coincided with the realization that we needed a little something to break up the monotony. )

    3. Anonie*

      OP#2: Please, please, please! Rethink giving a gift. I love the holidays but I don’t want gifts from my boss or my coworkers. Going out for a nice lunch is so much better and a good way to get to know your coworkers. Come up with a “get to know you” game while you are sitting at the table to start the conversation. I know you think it is thoughtful but no one wants crocheted items. They will just end up in the trash or as a while elephant gift.

      Your staff will know you appreciate them if you treat them with the respect they deserve. When you give gifts people feel obligated to give a gift. If you have to do something, bring in a great treat for the office to enjoy as a group.

      1. OP-gifts*

        The idea of a game is an excellent one! I know that most commentators have assumed that I want to do something other than a lunch selfishly, but truthfully they have always seemed awkward and uncomfortable for the entire team. While we talk wonderfully at work, somehow we all can end up stilted and uncomfortable when we are sitting at a lunch table together. I like the idea of using something to start conversations and keep them going.


          1. OP-gifts*

            :) I HATE party games for that reason, but I didn’t want to say so (have already been flamed enough today for seeming to consider only what I want).

            Maybe something more low-key than a game, like just having some small-talk questions prepared?

            1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

              To be fair no one has flamed you. They posted how some things could be interpreted, but no one got personal, vicious, or hostile to you.

              I know I’m being pedantic but flaming gets tossed around a lot, including here sometimes, for anything less than 100% approval and validation. Disagreement =/= hostile messages.

              1. Anonsie*

                I’ve noticed a lot of people are using “flamed” nowadays whenever a lot of people disagree with them even if the tone is still civil, for what it’s worth.

          2. Anonie*

            When I say “game” it is not an actual game it is a metaphor meaning asking what was your best vacation or worst vacation or funniest vacation. What is your favorite movie etc. Something to break the ice and get people talking. Not some formal here are the rules and everyone where a sign on the back of their shirt so people guess who you are type of game.

            1. the gold digger*

              We actually did a fun icebreaker with my office. Everyone wrote down three things that people might not know about them and then we tried to guess who the person was. For example, one person wrote that he did not learn English until he went to kindergarten – that they spoke French at home. Of course, we all knew who he was because he is always talking about his French-ness, but it was still kind of fun.

              1. Windchime*

                We did this once at a happy hour with co-workers. It came naturally out of a conversation–one woman shared that she had once been a contestant on The Dating Game TV show! Someone else shared an interesting fact and it was really fun. One person shared that they were an identical twin, and another had trained formally for years as a classical opera singer. It was really a fun time.

            2. Anonsie*

              I like my mom’s semester start icebreaker for her students: what was the last book you read or movie you watched, and did you like it?

            3. Mints*

              Oh, I’d like to suggest two truths and a lie again! (I am copy and pasting this from an old thread) (I am lazy)

              It can be as boring or as wacky or as professional as you want. The game is you say three things about yourself, and one is false. The group usually votes, and then you reveal which are true.

              (I was born in California, I’ve broken a bone, I got my license at 17.)
              (I’ve been in this role more than two years, I love excel, I have the only key to the sever room)
              (I was once groped by a drag queen at a gay bar, I was motorboated by a friend, I sprained an ankle from stilletos… the same night)

              It can go in any direction, so the organizers usually go first, to set the tone and give everyone time to think

              1. Amy*

                I find ‘two truths and a lie’ falls really flat a lot of the time. A lot of people are too literal and don’t realise that the truths should either a) tell people something about your personality/lifestyle or b) be something really interesting or unexpected.

                I’ve been in far too many ice-breakers where the lies are like “I got married on April 24th”, and it turns out that actually they got married on April 25th. That tells me nothing about them, except that they suck at ice-breakers and probably conversation in general if they think that’s a witty ‘gotcha’.

        1. Nikki T*

          Does the restaurant cater? Is there a way to get the meals delivered and have a party in the office? In A large conference room or whatever, maybe it will be less awkward.

          1. D*

            I think this is a great idea, if everyone hates going out to lunch, bring lunch to them. They can hang out and chat for awhile and it’s far less formal, so people can move around and mingle (which they can’t do in a restaurant), and it can wrap up when it feels natural to do so.

            If lunch is awkward for people, I agree you need to stay away from the games. I wouldn’t trade lunch for a game. It would really look like you’re doing this on the cheap. You might be able to get away with providing lunch in a conference room, and depending on the group, play a game like heads up or something like that. Like the previous poster said, this could be misery for some. It really depends on the team.

            If lunch is that painful, I’d go with the consumables as gifts.

          2. OhNo*

            My thought exactly. I always feel awkward with lunches out because I know I will have to sit with these people and make conversation for X amount of time. If you have it at the office, people can duck in and out as they feel comfortable, which might help with the stilted conversation.

          3. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

            This is such a good idea! A lot of the awkwardness of restaurant lunches is that you’re stuck talking to whoever sits directly next to you. If you brought food into a conference room you can talk to different people when you’re up getting a drink or whatever.

            Plus, if cost is an issue, catering would probably be cheaper than a lunch out in that your tip will be less and you can provide your own drinks.

            1. POF*

              I agree while heartedly. I used to take my group out for lunch and they would really ( very rudely ) run up the bill. They’d order $$$ entree’s , appetizers and then a few gems would order dessert to go. I usually booked lunch at a higher end restaurant, but it got too expensive. The year one of my staff wanted to know if they could order off the dinner menu – was the last year we went somewhere $$$.

              The following year, I had an emergency vet surgery for my dog, our van died and my father became seriously ill and I had to fly last minute $$$ to see him. I wasn’t going to go into debt for the XMAS lunch. So I picked a less expensive ( Chinese / Thai restaurant that my small group loved. It was’t “as special” since we occasionally did take out there, but it was scrumptious, we got out of the office and I could afford it. I was called out for being cheap. I never hosted another holiday meal and I clearly spelled out why.

              I have done catered meals once in a while, they can be quite nice, more affordable and less wasteful ( I had people over ordering to take stuff home and bragging about it ).

              I also tried a set menu one year and 2 greedy guts badgered the waitress and made a scene to have the real menu.

              I am personally happiest with a gift card. I got an Amazon card last year and just loved getting it.

        2. Lisa*

          Conversation games seem forced, and are torture for some as they try to think ahead of something appropriate to say. Why not let them choose from some team-building exercises. Everyone has little groups on a team, you can let those groups compete against each other for a day off or something. Think scavenger hunt vs. 5K.

          Or ask for suggestions. I had a job once that had us leave early on a Friday and go to a movie together. Then we got drinks and dessert afterward, which the movie helped to get conversations going. It was a break from work, and everyone liked it. Or give the gift of time. A planned or unplanned – go home at noon. Planned is best since people can take off early for a weekend. But, unplanned on a wednesday allows a mental health break that doesn’t involve anyone, but the employee. But make sure people don’t have deadlines or are stressed about finishing things where any event or time off would actually force working late or on a weekend to finish on deadline.

          1. M. in Austin!*

            haha we had the same suggestions! I really think a movie would be so fun. And of course, as always, time off is a great gift!

          2. Laufey*

            Please, no competitions. We’re going to determine who gets a free day off my which clique-y group is best at a scavenger hunt or pictionary? Either give everyone the day off or no one.

            No getting to know you games. This is a work lunch, not summer camp. Coming prepared with small-talk questions is part of a manager’s job, in my opinion.

            But Lisa also makes a good point. A free paid day off can be nice (but if people are busy, let them take it at another time.) And if they won’t get paid for it, don’t do it. There’s nothing quite like being out $X per hour in the holiday season for a misthought gift.

            1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

              Paid time off and money – as Miss Manners says it’s hard to offend an employee with those.

              Seriously – best gifts ever!

                1. TychaBrahe*

                  My last boss would occasionally let us leave early, but would announce it so late that I’d miss the train that left before mine. So “leaving early” meant sitting in the train station for two hours.

      2. ella*

        Oh, I hate “get to know you” games. Also, they work together in a fairly small department, I would think they would know each other already?

        I’d be happier going out to lunch and I’d be happiest if that was as unstructured as possible. Every year my library has a staff breakfast and we acknowledge people who have reached career milestones (5, 10, 15, 25+ years of service) and the library director gives a little “state of the library” speech. That’s just about the perfect amount of structure for me. I can enjoy breakfast, enjoy my coworkers’ company, and applaud people, and nobody’s asking me to make a standing structure out of marshmallows and popsicle sticks.

        OP, I’ve seen suggested in other posts (and maybe it’s below, I haven’t read all the comments yet) that the best ‘thoughtful’ gift a manager can give is a card or a letter thanking each person individually for their work and acknowledging thing(s) they’ve done over the past year that made a difference for the department, or observing things they do well. If you want to be thoughtful, I think that’s the way to go (though I’d take them out to lunch too–and if you’d rather take them to a less expensive place because you don’t get paid a ton, I think receiving honest, kind, and individualized holiday cards would make it way less likely that people would notice or care that you didn’t take them somewhere as fancy as some other department head.)

      3. Squirrel!*

        “Get to know everyone” games are terrible. If you have even one antisocial, introverted, or shy person in the group, you will make their lunch miserable. Unless you know for certain that 100% of your team is outgoing and would be completely into this, I suggest you pass. Go for something that allows people to do something by themselves, like a holiday-themed trivia game or something. First place gets a huge candy bar, second place a regular-sized one, third place gets some bite-sized ones. :)

        1. Arjay*

          Get to know you games can also point out, in a sort of ugly way, if some people know each other better than others. I joined a team at church where we started out by playing two truths and a lie, and everyone but me already knew which thing was a lie for the person I was assigned. It really made me feel like the odd person out instead of contributing to building a team.

          1. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

            Or you wind up with someone like me, who has a painful, weird past and when you ask about it and I’m truthful, it makes everyone feel bad.


          2. Mints*

            Oh but these people are bad at the game. I might make them do it over if it was too easy. Ideally nobody can tell, and if everyone gets it wrong, you win your round

        2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

          ITA – I like the people with whom I work (for the most part) and I’m clenched just thinking about this.

          I really like the breakfast suggestions people have tossed out. Way cheaper and IMO yummier (I don’t like to eat early, but nothing beats breakfast food and pancakes for dinner is perfectly normal.)

    4. StarHopper*

      I very much agree! Maybe it’s my own bias, since as a teacher I never get lunch out, but I would love a free lunch!

      Also, as a knitter myself, I would feel uncomfortable making anything for non-family members that wasn’t specifically commissioned. Too much work for something that might go unused.

    5. My 2 Cents*

      The only crochet item I like as afghans, and I don’t think you’ll go to the effort of making me one, so don’t bother.

    6. KarenD*

      Delurking for the first time because I actually have experience to the contrary …. one of my former bosses was a very skilled woodworker and one year he made me the loveliest little trinket box – a real work of art. Technically, it cost him nothing (He used rosewood and teak left over from a bigger project) but it was so beautifully crafted that it was clear that hours had gone into it. I still treasure it (can you tell?)

      But the gift was meaningful because that boss and I had been together for years at that point – he’s one of the best mentors I ever had and he knew me very well. Given that op-gifts is somewhat new in her role as manager, the first holiday season might not be the best time to break with tradition. I would just do the lunch, as it has always been done in that department, and take feedback later on how the employees feel about it.

    7. M. in Austin!*

      I agree! Honestly, anything someone from the office would get me would just be another item to clutter up my home. Bosses/coworker probably can’t/shouldn’t

      OP #2, if you don’t want to go the food route, I have a few suggestions! You could take everyone to a movie in the afternoon (people can vote on the movie, or you could split into groups!). Or go to a museum or something. The best gift (in my opinion!) would be paid time off out of the office. So if you can’t give your team a half day off, try going somewhere! Just make sure it’s during work hours (don’t encroach on *my* time!) and give people the opportunity to weigh in on the activities!

      1. Kimmy*

        I’d like to point out that it’s probable that at least one person will smile and go along with the suggestion of something like a movie or a museum trip, but in truth hate the idea. Even if you ask them individually. (Then, they either suffer in silence or complain bitterly to everyone except you.) I should add that their reason may be something they don’t want to share. I know someone who cannot see movies in theaters because of the trauma surrounding the horrific Aurora, Colorado theater shootings near her house a couple of years ago. It’s a very understandable feeling but she doesn’t want to talk about it. She would be very caught off guard if her supervisor asked her to see a movie in connection with her job.

        Also, for what it’s worth, I would be super weirded out if my supervisor gave me something she’d made as a gift, unless it’s edible.

        1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

          I would hate an outing. If we don’t have to work why can’t I go home? Lunch would be okay because it’s short and there is food – but an afternoon together doing stuff you’d normally do with friends or family would be an odd blurring of lines to me.

    8. Janet*

      Yes, a gift card! Starbucks, Amazon, VISA. Please don’t make me a gift.

      At my previous job, it was a tradition that bosses gave gifts to staff at a holiday departmental luncheon. Most got gift cards or bottle of wine (although I also think alcohol gifts are awkward). My boss made gifts from ideas she found on pinterest. It was very terrible. I got a tiny candle that smelled like nothing and sat in plain jar, a jar of liquid potpourri that grew mold before I could use it and a homemade salt scrub that didn’t work. It was honestly annoying and it all ended up in the trash.

      1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        I’ll tell you the Starbucks marketing team earns their money – every other vendor gift last few years comes with a Starbucks gift card. We have two people who get all of them because no one else likes it – so they make out like bandits.

    9. Daria*

      Yep, pretty much any non-food item gets a smile and a thank you, but is likely to get chucked in my thrift store pile ASAP. Money, Amazon, or a lunch would be much more of a “work” gift to me. A homemade (non-food!) item feels a bit too personal for anyone who does not really know me, and I hate it when somebody put so much work into an item that I know that I’m not likely to keep.

    10. Angora`*

      2. Giving gifts to my team when one person can’t accept gifts
      Sorry, the crochet item comes across as cheap and I hate them. It would end up in the trash. If you do not want to do the lunch; do a gift card to amazon, starbucks, restaurants, etc. Get a group of them for the same dollar amount and let your employee pick them out. I had an employer that did the luncheon and the $50 gift cards. It was great … one year you might get something you don’t like because you’re the last one to choose, but they can trade them or give them as gifts themselves. This particular employer I really enjoyed the luncheon, we were a close knit group. But other employers I hated the luncheon because it forced me to have interaction with my boss and coworkers on my own time.

    11. Human Resources Manager*

      So agree with this; the last company I worked for did Secret Santa and the person who chose my name gave me a bunch of small home made (crocheted) items and honestly, I was ticked off. She didn’t pick anything from the list we each submitted and I ended up with a bunch of stuff I neither liked nor needed. Everyone else used the lists they received to choose appropriate gifts. So don’t do this, it puts the recipient in an awkward position and they will not appreciate it.

  2. Artemesia*

    Homemade craft items take enormous effort and yet especially in a workplace where you don’t know people and their homes intimately, they are likely to be unappreciated or worse. If the norm has been a nice lunch, getting a handcrafted item is likely to disappoint. The odds of it being something that works for their home or wardrobe is low. Nice tins of homemade candy or cookies might be well received, but decorative or wearable items are IMHO unlikely to be valued and the possibility of ridicule is high. This is not what you want as a new manager setting the tone for your relationship with staff.

      1. Sophia*

        Yeah, I echo everyone who says keep the lunch! Or you can see what people want though I suspect they’d prefer the lunch

      2. Squirrel!*

        You would be “crushed” if you received a homemade gift rather than food? That seems a little extreme to me…

        1. Anonsie*

          Hey, I love handmade stuff like this (I am from a family of knitters and crocheters and I dabble) and I would still be pretty bummed to not get that lunch.

        2. Eden*

          I actually would be crushed, particularly in this situation, where the lunch has been a tradition for so long. I’m sure I would actively look forward to it, and getting instead some strange crocheted item (I can’t think of any non-strange crocheted items, sorry) instead would be kind of a kick in the teeth.

          However, I also live for food (I get it that not everyone does–my husband would take a food pill if it were available), and unlike what seems like the majority here, I truly enjoy getting to spend time with my coworkers outside of work. Perhaps I’ve been very lucky, but I have worked with terrific bunches of people, and virtually all my friendships were initially forged at work (even if in some cases that was 24 years ago!). I would totally keep the traditional lunch, since to me, everything else seems like the result of some cost-cutting measure (even though the OP specifically said that wasn’t the case–it’s just how it is likely to be perceived).

      3. krisl*

        I’d much rather have a meal at a nice restaurant or even a good sandwich shop than a handmade item from someone who might not really know my taste in things.

  3. Dan*


    Why have you placed the burden on the applicant to follow up with you? There’s no reason *you* can’t follow up with them, right?

    It just seems really passive-aggressive to “feel” like they’ve taken too long without getting back to you. Candidates follow up with employers all of the time, there’s no reason you can’t do that here.

    Granted, they’re probably stringing you along trying to see if a better offer is going to come through, and don’t know how to ask you for more time.

    Just call them and see what’s up.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sure, there’s no reason the OP can’t follow up with the candidate, but it’s not crazy to read something into the fact that the candidate has let it sit for so long without circling back (especially since it sounds like it’s been a full week longer than originally agreed to) or at least establishing a timeframe for circling back. I’d read something into that too (unless the candidate is very junior, in which case I’d be more likely to think they’re just unaware of norms around this stuff).

      1. Dan*

        I might be misreading something, but I didn’t really see anything to indicate that any sort of timeline had been established or agreed to. The OP mentions “the candidate asked for a few more days to think about it, we told them that we’d continue to interview.”

        I just don’t see any clear timeline established here, or that anything was really agreed to at all. In fact, the “we will continue to interview” line almost sounds like a “no” to me.

        The OP asks if s/he’s obligated to call the candidate and tell them that they’ve rescinded the offer. S/he wasn’t asking if they should read anything into the lack of communication.

        All of the professional offers I’ve received have always had clear timelines printed on them. They’ve also been very flexible if I wanted more time. I see now that those offers are written the way they are for exactly this reason.

        But I see a crap ton of ambiguity in the situation, and the OP should just cut to the chase and pick up the phone. They come across as really passive aggressive. Sure, it isn’t crazy to read into things that the candidate isn’t terribly interested, but when the OP is asking, do they owe the candidate follow up? Uh, yeah! Why wouldn’t they? What’s so hard with a simple phone call? You get all kinds of questions from people who are afraid of being direct with others, and most of the time you advise that being direct is the way to go. It’s no different here. In fact, I think it’s even more important.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I read it as the candidate asked for a couple of more days, the OP said “sure but we’ll have to keep interviewing,” and now it’s been 10 days without the candidate getting back in touch. I didn’t read the letter as passive-aggressive, maybe just a drier writing style.

        2. Elysian*

          I’m with you on this one. I would be livid as a candidate if you just moved on and we had never set a specific timeline for deciding on the offer. I would handle it this way: Call the candidate. Set a timeline. “I understand that you needed more time to think about the offer, but its been 10 days and we need a decision. Can you make a decision by Friday?” If not, tell the candidate that the offer is rescinded and wish her the best. If she can, wait for her answer and go from there.

          1. Ezri*

            I agree, primarily because the OP hasn’t mentioned whether or not she has contacted the candidate since the ‘few more days’ conversation.

            I remember Alison’s post about a candidate who dropped off the earth and re-surfaced a few years later applying for another job – she said that she did contact the candidate a couple of times to let them know ‘We have other candidates, we need your decision’, etc. Has OP done this? If so, then I think she is more justified moving on and sending the candidate a notification that she has done so.

            If, however, the ‘few days to decide’ conversation did not explicitly set a timeline and OP has not tried to contact the candidate, I’d recommend following up before withdrawing the offer and saying pointedly ‘We have other candidates, we need your decision by x’. Then the ball’s in her court. Pulling the offer without any attempt to follow-up seems… icky, to me. But as I said, I don’t know whether OP has tried to chase her down or not.

            Other folks have mentioned as well that this could be indicative of the candidate’s work-ethic, responsibility, etc., and I do think that’s valid. OP will have to use her judgement based on the conversations they had to determine whether this is the case.

          2. Artemesia*

            I read ‘we will continue to interview’ as we might move on; I think it is fine for the OP to call the applicant or leave a message that says ‘Since we had not heard back from you in two weeks, we have moved on and will be hiring someone else; we wish you well in your future position.’

            To ask for a couple of days and then disappear sends the message that the candidate is not seriously interested, especially since the OP indicated they were continuing to search. The best approach though would have been to call after 2 or 3 days and if the person was not ready to commit to say ‘we cannot hold the position longer and may offer it to someone else.’

            I really cannot imagine that anyone interested in a position would think no contact for 10 days was appropriate.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Exactly. This just isn’t how interested candidates conduct themselves; it screams “not that interested,” and the OP has a responsibility to take that into account. She already put the candidate on notice that they’d continue to interview people, and the candidate has let a whole week go by beyond the “couple of days” they asked for. The OP is totally justified in not wanting to hire the person at this point.

              1. Hiring Mgr*

                If the OP decides to go for the new candidate, does it make sense to hold off on communicating with the first one until after the new one accepts the offer? Just in case something goes wrong with the new candidate.

            2. Angora`*

              I agree with you, but if I was the interviewee and was offered a job, but the employer told me they were still doing interviews I wouldn’t take them that seriously. Two mistakes were made by the employer here: The employer should have told them they “wanted a response back by day/time if they are interested, if they didn’t hear back by that time they would go with another candiate,” and “not volunteered that they were still interviewing’.”

              The interviewee failed to respond which tells me “they aren’t that interested,” or they are hoping another offer will come through that they want more, but aren’t willing to walk away from this one,” or are “plain inconsiderate which means you really do not want them.”

              The employer has to eat this one since they didn’t set a deadline for a response. Call and ask if they are still interested and follow-up with an e-mail as documentation that you have done so. Even if you like the other candidate better, you still have to follow through with the job offer to the original one. Call and tell them that if they are interested, please respond by xxxx. Give them a window of one business day in order to respond. Do not call them at 4:00 p.m. asking a response by 5:00 p.m.

              If they accept it, go forth with the process. If not, you have the candidate that you suspect will be a better fit. One thing about interviews, etc. You may have a candidate that you are really excited about, but once they come in the door you do not know how well they will fit and perform in the new job. But if you really like this candidate and are not 100% of the original one … do this. Hire the current one, hope for the best. But be sure to reach out to the one you interviewed later with a phone call and a really nice letter because you may want to reapply if the original applicate does not work out or bails at the last minute. This is where you want your networking to take place. If you do not respond to the 2nd candidate at all, totally ignore them and would like them to apply for another position in your organization, or rehire them if the one you are hiring, bails on you ….. if you totally blow them off, they may not be reapply to your organization or they may perceive you as inconsiderate and rude. This ” so and so ” cannot even let me know that they offered the job to someone else, well they are a disorganized and unprofessional employer and I’m not sure I want to work for them.

              We have had to go back to the 2nd choice applicant recently because someone quit the 2nd day of the job. If we had left a bad impression they may have refused to even consider it.

              1. blu*

                Why wouldn’t you take them seriously? The OP was very clear about what the organizations intentions were. I feel like people always complain about having to guess at the meaning of things in hiring process, but in a case where they are very clearly stating their intention, you say you would disregard that as a candidate?

                Also, although rescinding offers should be avoiding, this company is under no obligation to move forward with this person to their own detriment. If they find someone better for the role, they can certainly hire that person. Especially in a case where they told the candidate they would continue to interview other people.

                1. Angora*

                  If you make a job offer, your interview process should be over and done with. An offer should not be made before you have interviewed for that very reason … you found someone you like better.

                  But if I was made an offer, but told they are still interviewing I would get the impression that they had reservations about hiring me. Look at it like dating ….”If you are dating someone and really like them, they give you the impression that they are are serious, that they want to go forward with this relationship, but want to have a few more casual dates to really make sure you are the one.”

                2. blu*

                  Ah ok, you meant you wouldn’t take them seriously about the offer not that they were going to continue interviewing. Got it. I’m not sure how I would take that either.

        3. Oryx*

          I don’t know if it’s necessarily passive aggressive, but it’s certainly passive as I don’t understand why, if the original candidate said they needed “a few days” (which I read as, oh, 3-5), the OP has let it go as long as 10 without hearing back and not following up. Sure, a strict timeline would have been better, but if I hadn’t heard from the candidate after a few days, maybe so much as a week, I would have called myself to see what’s up.

          1. Colette*

            I could see a couple of reasons for not following up. First of all, a job offer is pretty significant to the person being offered the job, but less significant to the OP, who is still doing her job, including interviewing other candidates. Secondly, if the candidate asked for a couple of days and did not follow up, that’s information about their follow-through and how they’d behave while doing the job.

          2. Aam Admi*

            I remember a similar situation my director faced many years ago. He was hiring a senior engineer to head a critical defence project. HR made the offer (by postal mail) to the candidate who said he needed a few days to decide. Then no one heard from him again – several reminder letters were sent & calls were made but no response. Assuming this person was no longer interested, my director offered the job to the second best candidate. He accepted and started work immediately.
            A year later, candidate # 1 writes a letter to HR saying he is now ready to start work. HR told him that the job had been offered to someone else because we did not hear from him. This person filed a complaint with the CEO about how my director and HR were cheating him out of this job. Apparently he could not accept the offer earlier because his dad was sick last year and he had a right to have the job back when he was ready to take it. We were in an industry where people knew what projects everyone was working on. We had heard that this person had taken a job elsewhere and was now trying to come back to us because that job did not work out. Of course, we were not going to hold a job offer for a year no matter how good a candidate he was.

              1. D*

                Yeah, maybe I’m jaded, but that sounds like bs. Who would ever assume a year later that a job offer would still be valid?

        4. Colette*

          I don’t see it as passive aggressive, and I think a lack of follow up for 10 days is a pretty good sign that the original candidate isn’t going to accept (except, possibly, as a last resort).

          I agree they should call and let the candidate know that they’re moving on since they haven’t accepted, but I don’t think the OP owes the candidate any more than that.

          1. Dan*

            Not arguing any of that. My only point is that the op should just pick up the phone and call. No reason not to. After all that was her question – do I owe the candidate any follow up? Uh yeah! It’s not difficult!

            1. Colette*

              I think what I’m struggling with here is that I don’t think they owe the candidate anything here – the candidate gave a vague but clear timeline and didn’t get back to her. I do, however, think the OP should respond to reduce the possibility of the candidate coming back weeks or months later ready to accept the job. In other words, I think she should respond for her own convenience, not because she owes it to the candidate.

              1. neverjaunty*

                On the other hand, what if the OP a calls the candidate and finds out she has been trying to reach the OP without success? Spam filters eat email, voice mail crashes, assistants lose messages.

                1. Colette*

                  It would be odd if those things happened only to the candidate. If the OP has ongoing communication problems, then that’s a possibility, but otherwise, I wouldn’t believe it.

                2. neverjaunty*

                  It’s not whether the candidate is credible or not; it’s that “I haven’t heard anything” and “the candidate has not tried to reach me” are not the same thing. If OP calls and gets “Uh, Gmail was down! For a week!” then yeah, whatever. But it would be super awkward for OP to write off the candidate and find out that her assistant forgot to forward her OP’s message.

                3. Colette*

                  I think it really is about whether the candidate is credible. Why would it not be?

                  If I were in this situation and I called a candidate who lied to me (or at the very least told a far-fetched story), that would be a sign that not hiring them is absolutely the right choice.

                4. fposte*

                  I’d be stunned if she was trying to reach the OP to accept the position and let it go just with email and no response, and I really doubt that she’d have failed contact in three different media with it being all at the OP’s end. And if she’s calling to tender regrets, it doesn’t really matter that they didn’t get to the OP.

                  Hiring managers do owe it to candidates to be vigilant about things like spam folders, but if for some reason one candidate hits obstacles on voice mail, email, and human assistants (and postal mail, which I’d try at that point), that’s one of those unfortunate circumstances things that can indeed lose you a job and isn’t really anybody’s fault.

        5. John*

          If a candidate took 10 days, unless they were a really special candidate we were desperate to land, I would move on, as well, but would let them know. Clearly, they’re not that excited about the job. Otherwise, they would at the very least have gotten back in touch again to say, “Please, can you give me just a few more days? I really want to sure I’m making the right choice.”

          Instead, this feels an awful lot like stringing the employer along in the hopes of getting a better offer. Would I want someone starting who I know felt the position was their second or third choice?

          And if they don’t know the norms, well, they are probably clueless about lots of other norms they’ll need to succeed in the job.

          1. Chriama*

            Yeah, it sounds like this candidate is hoping for an offer from their first choice and hoping the OP will continue to wait. I’d move on, but it’s basic courtesy to let the original candidate know since you already extended an offer.

        6. Maggie*

          I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t like OPs response and that’s exactly right — it sounds like they are moving on without the candidate. I would be confused too.

          OP, it could totally be that the cadidate is taking advantage of your kindness (or is getting her own bad advice) but I would do a “just to be clear, if I don’t hear from you by ____, we are moving forward with another candidate”.

          1. Artemesia*

            But at this point they really don’t WANT this candidate anymore, so it is time for the informative call or email, not the deadline email.

            1. fposte*

              I don’t think we’d even be allowed to do that here. We’d need to have either a deadline missed by the candidate or a final contact with them before we could move on once an offer was made.

              Really, what I wish (probably along with the OP) is that she’d put a deadline on that answer, because it would have given her a clear route to take.

              1. Elysian*

                Agreed – if there was no original firm deadline, that was a problem (for both people – either the candidate or the manager should have set a deadline). Now we’re just batting clean up.

    2. My 2 Cents*

      I think the employer has every right to be pissed. As an applicant, you interviewed and convinced me that you really wanted this job, and now I have offered it to you. You’ve kept me hanging for almost 2 weeks now because you want to see if something better comes along. Absolutely unacceptable!

      I am offering you a job, which is livelihood, and you’re saying “I’m not sure I want to commit to you.” How inconsiderate will this person be when they actually work for us? Yikes!

      1. LBK*

        People juggle offers all the time, though, and people reject offers that aren’t right. Just asking for more time to consider isn’t unusual or wrong, especially since our culture insists on perpetuating a tradition of employers withholding all salary and benefits info until the end of the process.

        To look at it from the employee’s side: it’s pretty rude for the company to seem interested in me for weeks of interviewing and then undercut my salary request by 10%, no? Should’ve just told me ahead of time what you wanted to pay me and we could’ve avoided the whole mess. Not that that’s what happened in this situation per se, but you can’t make that call until you find out the details, and you usually don’t get those until the actual offer.

        1. Colette*

          But the candidate hasn’t rejected the offer. It’s absolutely fine if she does – that’s how it goes – but not responding is inconsiderate, and I agree it shows a lack of interest.

          1. LBK*

            I agree that the extended timeline here isn’t right, but My 2 Cents’ comment made it sound like the entire idea of asking for time to consider is wrong – like you should just be happy for any job offer you get and take it.

    3. The IT Manager*

      It seems obvious to me that there’s one of two things happening here.

      1) Applicant decided that she didn’t want job and just chose not to tell LW and LW’s company. Maybe because she wants to avoid ackward conversation or figuring that turnabout is fair play and company’s don’t tell applicants when they’re not selected.

      2) Applicant is still hoping for an offer for her preferred choice and is still trying to keep LW’s offer on the back-burner. She’s avoiding contact because she doesn’t want to be forced to make a decision yet.

      I agree, though, that all LW has to do is call or email appicant and say that given her lack of response the offer is withdrawn. “A couple of days” and even “a few days” is certainly less than 10 days. Your company is clearly not her first choice and given you told her you’d continue interviewing, I think this is perfectly fair. Any rational person already knows that she’s more than used up her consideration time.

      1. Colette*

        I think there’s a third option here, which is that the applicant thinks that a job offer means she can wait as long as she wants to decide. That’s not true in most cases, but that’s some people do believe it.

        1. LBK*

          Yeah. I think sometimes candidates can lose sight of the fact that a) the employer presumably needs someone doing the job ASAP, so every extra day is further behind their department gets on their work, and b) they probably aren’t the only person in consideration or that the manager would be happy to hire.

  4. Zahra*

    If you don’t want to do departmental lunch, can you have a caterer come in with a buffet that people can help themselves to, but aren’t obligated to eat together. Of course, they might feel pressured to work while eating or take a shorter lunch break than if you would have gone to the restaurant. To be fair (and you can call me entitled on that one), I consider that longer lunches is a perk that goes with going out to the restaurant for Christmas lunch. It makes for a shorter day and it’s really appreciated that my boss isn’t watching the clock on that particular day, whether or not the boss was really making sure that everyone worked all their hours on a regular day.

    1. Collarbone High*

      Good point about the longer lunch being a perk. It’s not just the food, it’s the overall feeling that the back half of the day is more relaxed, that you don’t have to eat at your desk or rush back after lunch, since the bosses are at lunch with you. The rest of the day often ends up being casual or even shortened as well, in some offices.

    2. OP-gifts*

      I honestly hadn’t thought of that, mostly because we do watch the clock pretty closely and get back to work, because we work in a service department that is kindly covered by a volunteer from another department while we are at lunch.

      However, this gives me the idea that if we DO have lunch this year, I could try and find a way to make it more relaxing. Perhaps telling everyone that I will cover the service desk after lunch, and to take their time getting back to the office?

      1. Melly*

        If you can push the celebration (maybe not a full lunch) back to the mid- to late-afternoon and let people go home early after a short celebration, that would feel like a treat to me!

        1. Maggie*

          I concur! And maybe bring homemade snacks to tide everyone over until the late lunch. Boom, perfect boss gifts.

        2. OP-gifts*

          I would have LOVED this when I was an employee. I’ll confer with the member of my department and find out if they would rather have lunch at a traditional time, or mid-afternoon (the later may become more a of tapas, snacking event) followed by the rest of the day off.

    3. Contessa*

      If it were my office, I would prefer a catered lunch in the office to going out to a restaurant. I despise work meals where I’m trapped somewhere trying to make awkward conversation with people I barely know while having a panic attack (literally, not figuratively–I have panic disorder) because I might order the wrong thing and somehow breach every rule of etiquette at the same time. Ugh, it’s awful. And yes, I’m thinking of our annual department Christmas party *at a bar* while I write this. It’s the only time I’m sad around free alcohol.

      Then again, I’m well aware that I’m painfully socially awkward, so YMMV on this one, I guess. I agree with everyone else about asking your team, OP #2. There might be other people who really love the lunch at that one restaurant, who would be sad that you changed it–or maybe everyone actually agrees with you that it’s not fun, and they all want to do something else.

      1. Cater-pillar*

        Yup, I have anxiety issues as well and would hate being forced into a restaurant lunch with co-workers I wouldn’t choose to spend time with outside of work. Catering would feel so much more relaxed. Just make sure you have something available for the vegetarians and vegans, also! I would be really impressed with a manager who volunteered to cover someone’s work so the rest of us could lunch a little while longer–people may assume lunch is being paid for by the company, but volunteering for work you don’t normally do really shows you’re there for your team and are willing to endure slight discomfort for their benefit. But I also agree with Melly in that it would be even more of a treat to be able to go home early after an afternoon party if OP could swing it.

      2. Kimmy*

        I had no idea other people felt this way! I had panic attacks for years when I had to eat in a restaurant with people I didn’t know well. Wellbutrin keeps them at bay now, but I well remember the feeling.

    4. ella*

      My boss brought in several waffle makers once, and lots of waffle toppings (including insane things like ice cream and chocolate omg so delicious). Just randomly one day, for no reason. It was amazing.

      1. Maggie*

        Aww we did that one year. It was a ‘manager breakfast’ and all the dept heads wore corny aprons and slaved over the breakfast stations. Great day.

      2. RL*

        I was in charge of organizing a Brown Bag Lunch and Learn recently and was bumped from my room at the last minute. We ended up changing it to a breakfast event and I was worried about attendance. My manager volunteered to make waffles and had another manager make breakfast burritos. It was much better attended than any of our Lunch and Learns.

    5. sr*

      Brainstorm: OP what about a consumable (wine, chocolate) for those who can accept gifts and a random shortened day for everyone?

  5. ZSD*

    As an employee, I’d rather be taken out to lunch than given a homemade gift. It needn’t be an expensive lunch, though. I’d be much more excited about new Thai restaurant ($9 per plate) than a steakhouse ($25).

    If you do decide to knit things, make sure they’re things people would only use at home, so even if they hate it, they can burn it but then tell you how much they love using the blanket you made. If you give them something like a sweater, they’ll feel like they have to wear it to th office, even if it’s not to their taste at all.
    But I’d go with an affordable lunch.

    1. dragonzflame*

      Agreed. I still remember the dinners and lunches at my first workplace, in those halcyon pre-recession years. French food, three courses, and freely-flowing wine. Ah.

      If you really feel you *have* to do the handmade thing, think about stuff like cookies and fun jams/preserves/chutnies. I had a boss who would regularly make banana cake for the office when he had overripe bananas at home. I’d find it really weird to be given a crocheted beanie or something by my manager but would be thrilled with a couple of jars of plum jam or tomato relish. (As someone who sews and knits, I am VERY choosy about who gets hand-made presents!) And if they don’t like the preserves, they’re an easy regift.

      1. Jessa*

        I’d have a huge problem with homemade food, when you don’t know your workers well enough to know if they can eat it. Religious issues and tastes aside, I had a boss who DID know me and was told year in year out for seven years that I’m allergic to mustard and swore blue that he’d leave the 1/4 teaspoon of the stuff out of his quiches and NEVER did. I’d start to stick a fork in and turn and ask “did you leave the mustard out?” and he’d turn six shades of green and check to see if I’d actually eaten any. A restaurant I can pick something I can eat, or that I like to eat. I’m just as likely to throw out a gift of food as any other home made gift.

        1. Chriama*

          Yeah, I also don’t really like homemade food in general even from friends. I don’t really like baked goods, and due to issues with extended family I really can’t trust anything that isn’t factory-sealed. Also, I’m a super picky eater.

          1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

            I”m just picky – unless you know me well enough to know I love that particular thing the way you make it it’s probably a waste. And office pot-lucks, glad we don’t have them. The odds of my liking something savory that I’ve never had before are maybe 1000 to 1 and I won’t chance it.

            Besides every since seeing that episode of Horders where the woman freaked out because her son wanted to toss all the spoiled and rotting food because she had a potluck coming up it’s the first thing that pops into my head. I know the odds of that are slim to none – but my brain is a deer in headlights thinking about it.

  6. Dan*


    At first I thought “intimate” was a funny word to use in this context, but the more I think about it, the more it fits. Yes, a hand-made gift, particularly one that requires time, is too personal and awkward.

    I happen to like meals out, so a hand-made gift would be disappointing. It would also be really weird coming from my male boss. Now I’m stuck trying to figure out what to do with this thing. Do I frame it, do I hang I it up? What do I do with it? If I do hang it up in my personal living space, now I’ve got this thing not just from my work, but from my boss staring me front and center. When I’m at home (without my work computer open as is the case right now) I really try to do and look at things that keep my mind off of work.

    Much as AAM’s post yesterday about the HR person not being allowed to be friends with the rank and file, the same is true here. You as a boss are asking something of me as an employee that isn’t quite appropriate.

    I wouldn’t want to throw it away, but I wouldn’t want to display it prominently either. It’s just awkward. Stick to something I can shove in my stomach.

    1. OP-gifts*

      Thanks for the feedback!

      Ironically, I have been implementing new changes and procedures to make the department operate a little more professionally, and all this feedback has made me realize that a gift of this kind would be the entirely wrong tone when I am trying to make things MORE professional. Rather than making me seem accessible and caring, it would come off as silly.

      1. John*

        OP, as you can see by all the responses, gifts are quite the hot button, eh? Kudos to you for putting this level of thought into doing this the right way.

        1. OP-gifts*

          All of this discussion is great because I had thought of this a little thing, but now I am realizing what a HUGE impact this could have on the moral/ perceived value of my team.

          1. Windchime*

            As a fellow knitter/crocheter, I do have to say that your heart is/was in the right place, OP. Lots of people don’t understand the time and commitment it takes to create handmade gifts of this nature. Hopefully most would still appreciate the sentiment, but I am very choosey about what I create and who I give it to. It represents a lot of my time and besides, I like nice yarn and it’s expensive! So stick with the traditional lunch for your employees, and save your beautiful crocheted items for those family and close friends who you know will appreciate them.

  7. Dan*


    Who says your future employer has to know anything about a contract and/or agreement that they are not a party to? I wouldn’t bring it up unless there is a specific question asking if you are bound by a non-compete that would cause them problems.

    And if that question is present, as AAM says, nipping it in the bud now is the way to go.

    1. Lucky*

      Employer #1 can sue Employer #2 for hiring an employee in violation of a noncompete (for claims like “interference with a business expectancy” or “interference with a contract.”) The employee is stifled because, even if s/he is confident that a noncompete is unenforceable, her/his new employer may not be, and may decide it’s not worthwhile to hire her/him and risk a lawsuit. So, the employee is better off negotiating out of the noncompete before accepting a new job.

        1. AMSB*

          While that may ultimately be the case, Employer #2 will likely be sued by Employer #1 and will then have to spend a considerable amount of time and money in attorneys’ fees to reach that conclusion. It would be best to avoid the whole situation altogether.

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Actually, someone trying to enforce a non-compete writes lawyer letters to the new employer also, trying to scare the new employer into terming the employee.

      We’ve gotten letters about new employees who didn’t even have a signed non-compete. We don’t scare easily and love a good battle, but if you have a signed non-compete you better disclose. When disclosed to us, we review the non-compete before making an offer. We’d be pretty pissed to make an offer to someone who knew they had a signed non-compete and then get the lawyer letter after.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        Non compete overreach is really really common in sales organizations. It won’t be that big a deal to a new employer who is seasoned. Just don’t surprise them with it after your third week on the job.

        I don’t do the final job offer formalities, HR does, but I’m 99% certain that we ask about non-competes standardly, at offer. If we were hiring from a direct competitor, we’d ask in first or second in person interview.

      2. Graciosa*

        If the employee is at a level to receive stock options or grants, non-solicitations may be included in the grant (slightly different from a non-compete, but still important for a new employer to know about). This is probably not directly on topic, but your comment about letters from the old employer to the new one reminded me that this is a fertile area for such correspondence.

        I am regularly amazed at the number of people who don’t read the terms of the grant when they receive one.

      3. M. in Austin!*

        Interesting. Do you think OP should give potential employers a paper copy of the agreement along with a letter from an attorney saying it’s not enforceable? or would that be too much?

        Also, what stage in the process should this person give the potential employer this info?

    3. TM*

      LW#4 here. One of my major issues is that it prohibits me from working with any past or current customers, a list I don’t have access to. I feel a potential employer should know if hiring me poses a legal risk, but I actually have no way of knowing if it applies or not. As far as I know, my company has never had to try to enforce the noncompete (people that I know who have left the company also left the state or industry). I fear that trying to tackle it with my company now will alert them to my job hunt- and since I’m in a small industry where job hunting is hard to begin with, I’m hoping to avoid getting fired.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I believe I know the kind of wording to which you refer. If I’m correct, we’d yawn, especially if you have no access to the list. But we’d want to know that it exists and we’d like to have a copy of it to review.

        I don’t know how other employers handle these things.

        1. TM*

          Thanks! When do you prefer potential hires let you know? You said before offer time- I’m worried about looking like a potential problem if I bring it up at an interview, and don’t want to put myself out of the running by accident.

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            I’m sorry, I meant at offer.

            We would probably ask during interview, if we were hiring from anywhere within our industry, just because we are used to it but, AT offer is when you’d expect somebody to say.

            (Mind, if its a strong non compete, which yours isn’t, it’s a bit rude to leave it to at offer… I have literally never seen a strong non-compete attached to one of our hires, but I’ve heard tell of them.)

      2. neverjaunty*

        Why isn’t your lawyer helping you navigate this? He or she is the correct person to advise you on how you would handle the agreement if you took a new job. It may be a situation where, once you give notice, you give your employer a “don’t even think about it” letter from your attorney. It may be that noncompete agreements are a dead letter where you live and employers do not enforce them, but just use them to keep employees (who think they are legally binding) in line.

        1. TM*

          I felt that “When do I tell a potential employer- at interview, offer, or other?” was a question for someone in the hiring business, since it’s not really a legal question. I haven’t taken a new job yet, and was looking for some insight into how to handle it during the hiring process- not once I have the job or once my company takes me to court over it. It’s hard to get all the details in a short letter (and still stay anonymous!) but I felt this was a better place for my question. It didn’t occur to me that my attorney could draft a Don’t Even Think About It, so thanks!

          1. neverjaunty*

            I don’t *know* that your attorney can do such a thing, but that’s why you ask your attorney. ;)

            I don’t think it’s a bad question to ask here, but “what are the legal implications of this?” is, and it would not surprise me at all if your lawyer had dealt with this same situation (or even your employer) before.

            1. TM*

              True! I’m comfortable that it’s not enforceable and comfortable that my lawyer will be able to represent it as such if it comes to it. I’m just torn about the etiquette with a potential employer- revealing in an interview and being seen as a potential liability vs at offer time and being seen as withholding information.

              1. Chriama*

                That’s a fair concern. You look like you’ve done your research, so I think waiting until the offer stage would be ok (other commenters correct me if I’m wrong!). Tell them you have this contract your attorney has assured you it’s unenforcable, but if your old company tries to intimidate them you have a letter from your attorney to hand in along with your resignation.

                I get that you might not want to make waves in your current job before you’re ready to leave, but I think as long as you tell them before the offer is finalized (so after they offer the job but before you sign any paperwork) you should be ok.

              2. Erin*

                As a former corporate recruiter, I would often ask candidates if they had a non-compete (especially sales candidates.) So if asked, do tell. You’d be surprised how many candidates said no and then backtracked at offer stage. If you are not asked, I would bring it up around the time of the final interview but before offer. Be prepared to share it with them and that it may delay things for a bit if they want their lawyers to review it. I am not an expert, but I don’t see it being a deal breaker to medium or larger companies or any company that does a fair amount of hiring.

    4. danr*

      I’m not a lawyer, but I watched some non-compete fights from the sidelines. Since the OP is in an industry that uses non-compete agreements, chances are that his new firm will have their own. They will know about other non-competes out there and know how to handle the problem.

  8. Collarbone High*

    #2: Does your entire department dislike the lunches, or just you? If your staff looks forward to this lunch all year, your idea isn’t going to go over well.

    Disclosure: I’m a big believer in “experiences, not things,” so I’d much rather have the chichi lunch. I’m also allergic to a lot of common yarns, so if I opened a gift my boss had crocheted for me, it would quickly turn into a bad sitcom where I try to express enthusiasm for the item without actually touching it (slapstick!) and then feel guilty about giving away something that she spent so long making (character growth!).

    1. Dan*

      I’ll give the OP the benefit of the doubt and say that “expected” doesn’t necessarily mean “wanted.”

      But I’m with you on experiences. I travel all over the world, and buy very few knick-knacks and trinkets. I’ve got a couple when they’re interesting enough, but I don’t buy stuff for the sake of it.

      What I do is take a lot of photos and the good ones get blown up into 20×30″ canvas prints and hung on my wall. I’m trying to figure out where I’d hang the crochet from my boss, and the ensuing “what’s that?” from people eyeing my photos. Then there’s the inevitable sideways glance when I tell them “oh the boss crocheted that for me!”

      So yeah. Consumables please!

    2. OP-gifts*

      Everyone in the library loves food (we can hardly hold any event without having to somehow include food), but our department lunch has always seemed awkward for everyone. Several readers have suggested I find ways to make the lunch more congenial & social-able, rather than ditch the whole concept.

      I really like your point about “experiences.’

      And oh, no, I never even thought about fiber allergies! That would make me feel horrible!

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      My first year working on the team where I stayed for 8 years, our holiday “lunch” was a cooking class. It was awesome. Something like that might make a good compromise, and your religious employee can still participate. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive; you can find, say, candy-making classes in most towns at reasonable rates.

  9. EE*

    I’m really curious about the ‘variety of reasons’ why the OP doesn’t like the lunch tradition. How can it be so offensive when it’s such a simple, straightforward and no doubt appreciated way of thanking a team?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      We’ve seen lots of complaints about those sorts of lunches here before — reasons include things like the restaurant choice not taking everyone’s needs into account (which often gets harder when you’re factoring in vegans, allergies, etc.), people who have trouble eating out at all (picky eaters, very restrictive diets), the group just not socializing together well in that context, etc.

    2. Stephanie*

      They can be pretty awkward if your team doesn’t socialize a ton or has a bunch of independent workers who don’t interact with each other. An old team of mine tried one once and it was painfully awkward.

      1. GrumpyBoss*

        I once had a manager who, by his own admission, was incapable of making small talk. Yet he insisted on regular outings for holidays and “recognition”. They were the most awkward and uncomfortable experiences with someone setting the tone that nothing you have to say outside of the work at hand is interesting or relevant. I dreaded these outings.

      2. OP-gifts*

        This. ;) Some other posters have suggested things like a game to help conversation flow during the lunch, and I think I will investigate such options to try and make the lunch a more pleasant experience this year.

        1. Joey*

          Oh god, id avoid it like the plague if I was expected to play a game as part of a lunch. Cheesy if you ask me.

          Id much rather talk about normal social stuff like the food, good restaurants, or hear random funny work stories from my boss or peers.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Well…. while some people like those, others hate them. And the latter trumps the former.

          There’s literally no one way to approach this that will please everyone (which it sounds like you might not have fully accepted yet), and the best thing you can do is avoid things some people will despise (games, structured ice-breakers, food they can’t eat because of allergies or diet restrictions), etc. If you have the option, go with time off, as everyone loves that.

        3. Traveler*

          Rather than a game – just come prepared with a couple of conversation starting questions ready in your head.

      3. Sadsack*

        Our annual holiday lunch is painfully awkward, but I guess I’d rather have lunch than anything else, really. Our VP treats about 20 of us, but I think it would be weird if he gave us individual gifts, even if they are gift cards.

    3. fposte*

      My guesses: it’s a pretty big bill and that we’re talking the OP covering it personally; dietary issues are a problem for some; it’s an issue for the whole reference staff to be out at one time.

      I’d still suggest trying to find a way for the lunched to work, though. The time a homemade gift takes to create unfortunately can make it much more meaningful to the giver than to the receiver, which leads to ruffled feathers all around.

      1. Stephanie*

        The time a homemade gift takes to create unfortunately can make it much more meaningful to the giver than to the receiver, which leads to ruffled feathers all around.

        Heh, I’ve been there with baked goods. My dessert contribution of a homemade lemon chess pie with a coconut crust (or whatever I’ve baked) elicits the same reaction as someone else’s dessert contribution of Safeway cookies. It’s like “Gee, thanks! I could have saved time and bought sugar cookies.”

        1. Elysian*

          Yup. I’ve been here – with my family. I’ve given up on making thoughtful gifts of baked goods and jams and whatnot and now just make a charity donation in their name.

        2. Diet Coke Addict*

          Yeah, I quit doing that after my homemade fudge and brownies were met with less reaction than a tin container of “Belgian” cookies from the store. OK, store-bought it is!

        3. LisaG*

          Yep! I’ve learned to let it roll off my back a bit, but I still get disappointed when people don’t appreciate the food I’ve made for them. If people don’t seem to like my homemade foods better than store bought, I just stop making food for them! I once made my mom’s delicious pistachio cake for my high school friends and all they could say was “eww, it’s green!!!” Well yes, it is pistachio cake after all.

            1. LisaG*

              I don’t seem to have my mom’s recipe on my computer, but google found me what seems to be a very similar recipe. I would use chopped pistachios instead of walnuts (it is a pistachio cake after all!). And my mom sprinkles granulated sugar on at the end of baking for a sort of crispy sugar topping.

              (Found on adirondackbaker [dot] blogspot [dot] com.)
              Oven: 350 degrees F
              Spray a 13×9 pan with vegetable or baking spray. Line pan with parchment or waxed paper (if you have it).

              1 white cake mix
              1 box instant pistachio pudding mix (4 serving size)
              1 cup water
              3/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
              4 eggs
              finely chopped walnuts (1 cup)

              2 tablespoons butter
              1 cup confectioners sugar
              3/4 cup water

              Bake cake:
              Mix together cake mix, pudding mix, water, oil, and eggs. Beat 2 minutes. Scrape bowl and make sure it’s well mixed.

              Pour batter into prepared pan. Sprinkle finely chopped nuts over the batter. Bake 40 minutes or until cake tests done with a toothpick or springs back when lightly pressed in the center.

              While cake is baking, prepare glaze:
              In small saucepan, melt butter and stir in water and confectioners sugar. Whisk until well combined. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and boil gently for three minutes. Remove from heat.

              When cake comes out of the oven, let it rest for a few minutes and then poke holes in it with a skewer or toothpick (about 1/2 inch apart all over the cake). Distribute glaze evenly over top of cake. It will sink into the poked holes.

        4. KellyK*

          All the bakers with ungrateful friends and family can feel free to send me your lemon chess pies and pistachio cakes, and I promise to be appropriately appreciative. ;)

          But yeah, you’re right—baking is hard work, and if it gets the same reception as a storebought gift, why bother? Especially if you’re doing everything from scratch.

        5. John*

          In fairness, I’ve been in situations like that and you feel compelled to bend over backwards so that those with no baking skills or ability to afford nice desserts don’t feel less than. But unless you’re a crummy baker (LOL), I bet they love your lemon chess pie with coconut crust a lot more than those Safeway cookies. I’m salivating thinking about it…

        6. Traveler*

          I love the homemade stuff, and I love to bake so I like making it as well. The only time I hate the homemade stuff is when said baker/chef has to wax poetic about all the time they spent on it, and then INSIST I have some because everyone else loved it (when I know based on ingredients I don’t want it or am allergic to it). Those are pretty specific personality types though, and tend to be the same people that make everything at work high stakes.

          1. Traveler*

            But I am with you on spending all the time, and people fussing over discount Entenmann’s. Safeway’s iced cookies are like crack though.

            1. Stephanie*

              The sugar cookies with an inch of frosting that changes to accommodate the holiday/time of year? I love those things.

        7. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

          I am sitting quietly next to fposte waiting for a slice of lemon chess pie also. Please.

          Seriously – that sounds delicious and your co-workers suck. I don’t bake a ton for work but the weekend of mother’s day I was missing my mom and went crazy and over-baked her best recipies like homemade pecan rolls with homemade caramel glaze, chocolate eclairs (homemade creme de patisserie, my own pate a choux, and choc ganache from scratch) – when I do this I get hand written thank you notes from coworkers and annoyed because they won’t shut up about it. At Christmas I over bake and bring in cookies a couple of times a week and you’d think no one ever had a homemade kolachki before.

          They eat the dunkin donuts people bring in, but at least mine appreciate the difference.

          Recipe for your pie in the Sunday open thread or is it a secret?

        8. Gene*

          Thanks for reminding me, I need to make Christmas fruitcakes so they have time to adequately age and absorb brandy.

          Raves from family and friends last year, and they less than a month to age.

        9. Sadsack*

          Maybe we are saying thanks to both, but in our hearts we are really, really more thankful for your homemade goodies than the Safeway cookies!

      2. fposte*

        To be clear, I think handmade gifts can be lovely for family or friends–it’s just in a professional setting where the personal labor doesn’t really effectively translate to the recipient.

  10. C Average*

    Another “no” on the homemade gift.

    I really only want perishables and ephemera from my colleagues, or nothing at all. I have too much crap already, and I prefer to choose my own too-much-crap rather than receive it from others. Also, I hate it when office gifts turn into an arms race. I’m not really inclined to buy presents for my colleagues, and that’s an easier position to take if they don’t buy or make presents for me.

    (I know I sound like the Grinch. I’m not. I just hate the concept of meaningless obligatory gifts in the workplace. It’s uncomfortable.)

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Not a fan of crochet either. But I can appreciate the time and effort spent making an item.

      “every department has gone out to a rather expensive local restaurant and so going to that particular restaurant has become expected.”

      By expected does it mean “Oh we have to go to Chez Posh”? Is there another nice restaurant nearby which might better suit the team?

      1. OP-gifts*

        Honestly, I’d rather pay the extra $ than be the only manager whose team went to a different restaurant. (and yes, as I think through that scenario, I wince and realize the same is true if I am the only manager who gives gifts instead of lunch). * sledgehammer of obviousness *

        1. Fee*

          OP – are you saying the lunches are awkward because they take place in this particular restaurant? If so then I don’t understand why you wouldn’t want to be the only manager to offer your staff an alternative; as it seems like a simple solution and one they’d appreciate. If they’d feel more comfortable there then I really don’t think they’ll care if it costs less.

          If the lunches are awkward because your staff are not used to/don’t enjoy socialising together, then I think the suggestion above of a small in-office celebration and letting them go home early is the best alternative.

          1. OP-gifts*

            The latter (are not used to socialising together). Unfortunately, in-office celebrations are probably not going to work either (several reason, some related to the religious issue). So I think a brisk lunch (with me trying to get small talk going as much as possible) followed by some time off for the rest of the team will be the best bet.

            1. D*

              I guess in the corporate world people are more accustomed to putting their game face on when they need to get together for one reason or another?

    2. OP-gifts*

      Not Grinchy, truthful! Thank you for posting your thoughts, I REALLY appreciate the feedback everyone has given. Honestly, after reading you post I had the horrified realization that giving a physical gift might start off a chain of gift-giving, which I really don’t want to get started (I would never, ever expected my employees to give me anything). Lunch is more clearly given with no expectation of reciprocation, I think.

    3. Miriam*

      One of the reasons the OP may be having such a hard time with this issue is that she is trying to apply social rules (i.e., you give gifts to friends, and money is an insult) to the workplace (where it is not an insult to give the gift of money–indeed, that’s the reason your employees come to work every day). If the OP wants to “show [her] gratitude to [her] team for all their hard work this year,” then she should give them a year-end bonus. Unless these folks are socializing outside of work and are truly friends, a better way for a manager to recognize superior work performance is to give her employees money.

      However, if the OP wants to show appreciation for who her staff are, rather than the work they do–in other words, the manager and her staff are all friends and socialize outside of work, and she values their friendship–then social rules apply rather than work rules, and she should give them homemade gifts or take them to lunch. (Although this brings up another question of why a manager is good friends with her subordinates, as it is generally not a good idea.)

      I understand that some managers have an easier time arranging lunches rather than bonuses, because there may be less paperwork involved. In some academic environments, the money for a lunch comes out of a gifts fund and doesn’t have to approved by higher-ups in the university like a bonus possibly would. But still, managers should at least consider giving bonuses to their employees for a job well done.

      1. fposte*

        She’s paying for the lunch herself–it’s not coming out of the university funds at all. (And while there may be universities where a manager could choose to give bonuses, I haven’t encountered one yet. They’re not in the academic culture and therefore the academic budget isn’t likely to take them into consideration.)

  11. Emma*

    I disagree about the noncompete. I think you should wait until you have another job offer and then bring it up to the new company. This might be industry-specific, but a lot of companies are used to having their lawyers review new employees’ noncompetes and can be a resource to you in fighting your old company if they try to enforce it. If you notify your old company now, you are basically inviting them to sue you, and I’m assuming the company has stronger resources than you do and could win out. Plus there’s a chance they might never know you are competing anyways, so why bring it up?

    1. Elysian*

      I agree – bring it up with the new company, but not until the offer stage. I think a lot of companies know these silly things aren’t enforceable (they must have lawyers, too, right? this is a pretty well-known area of law…) and they just put them in to try and manipulate employees preemptively. Chances are they’d never try to enforce it and your new company would know that, too.

    2. TM*

      It’s peripherally in the legal industry so I imagine it would be familiar to a potential employer too. Current company would definitely know where I went (small industry, own professional organization). I’m really confident I would win if they chose to enforce, but I’m worried about disclosing that to a potential employer. I’ve never had a noncompete or worked where they are common so I don’t know the protocol about revealing at interview or offer time. Thanks!

      1. neverjaunty*

        Wait, are you talking about a conflicts check? That is VERY different than a simple noncompete agreement.

        1. TM*

          No, I’m familiar with conflicts checks and it’s not the same. It’s hard to explain all the details and still stay anonymous, but definitely a noncompete!

  12. Chrissi*

    My manager generally gives a gift at Christmas and takes us all out to lunch in the spring as well. I don’t know what the objections are from the OP for #2 to lunches, but they are really well received. She’s very generous and encourages us to get whatever we want. (She generally uses Groupon btw). Somehow it goes over much better than the gift, which, bless her, tends to be a little sexist (lip gloss for the women this year) as we can all enjoy it (even those w/ dietary restrictions). I don’t know what to say other than maybe the OP should reconsider? Honestly, the lunches are so nice and allow our team to really bond when we don’t have as much of an opportunity otherwise. And everyone eats lunch pretty much every day, whereas with a gift you are guessing at what they might value or find useful.

    1. OP-gifts*

      Can you think of anything in particular that your manager does to make the lunches comfortable and enjoyable? I like your point about how she encourages you to get whatever you want… nothing would make it more uncomfortable than a manager who winces when you order dessert. :)

      1. John*

        As a host, I think it’s important to draw people out.
        “Amy, how will you be spending the holiday?”
        “Hortense, whatever happened with that crazy neighbor who was spraying Silly String at passersby?”
        “Has anyone else seen that Toaster Struedel commercial with that annoying kid?”
        “Has anyone seen that new Meryl Streep movie yet where she plays a drug-dealing biker?”

        Just stuff to get people talking and laughing so they aren’t staring at the table and praying for it to end.

        1. Traveler*

          Beware the toaster strudel commercial if you know people that are German. I’ve known a few now that find it highly offensive in addition to annoying.

          1. Elysian*

            I googled for “Toaster Struedel commercial with that annoying kid” and it came right up. Now I understand both comments!

      2. Chrissi*

        My boss is very good at separating work from personal time. So once we hit the door, we don’t talk about work whatsoever – it’s purely social and she’s a good conversationalist, so she can get the conversation going in the right way. She always picks the restaurant and makes reservations ahead of time (and usually gets a Groupon). It tends to be a nicer place and she always chooses something in a trendy part of the city that is a little further away, so a place that we don’t normally go for lunch. She makes it clear ahead of time that she’s paying. When we get there, she usually orders appetizers for the whole table – usually saying something like “I’m going to get the Ceviche, anyone else interested in also getting the …”. She orders first, and we take her lead.

        Honestly, I doubt that much of that is calculated – other than her knowing that we’ll follow her lead when it comes to ordering. It’s kind of just how she is. I think she really enjoys taking us out to lunch that one time per year and enjoys being generous and it really shines through.

  13. Stephanie*

    #2 – Adding another “no” on the homemade gift for all the reasons mentioned above. Additionally, I think crocheting things for everyone might give off a not-great grandmotherly vibe to your employees (kind of like how turning into the Office Cookie Girl gives off a mom vibe). Since you don’t like the lunch, is there any way you can just give your employees the equivalent cost in cash or general-purpose gift cards (like to Target/Amazon/Walmart)?

    #4 – OldJob had some crazy noncompete where you couldn’t work for any of the clients for two years after departure. That always seemed excessive and unenforceable to me.

    1. Cara*

      I had the same thought about the mom/grandmother vibe. Even if other (female) department heads are crocheting ornaments and such, I wouldn’t want to emulate them. I really like the idea John posted above about bringing in breakfast for the department in lieu of going out to lunch, maybe supplemented with a small consumable gift they can take home like a small box of chocolates or a bag of locally roasted coffee.

    2. Cautionary tail*

      That ain’t crazy.

      This is crazy: My noncompete at toxic-old-job was that I couldn’t work anywhere in the industry across the entire United States and Canada for a year. Although it was called a noncompete agreement it actually included a lot of other stuff too. The penalty was that I would forfeit any moneys I had ever earned and would ever earn, and that they would get any money I had after I died (i.e., possibly my life insurance, stocks earnings, etc.) There was a clause thatby signing I already agreed that I was in the wrong and granted them the authority to enforce the agreement and that I agreed with whatever enforcement they were to do.

      I negotiated it for three months after I had already started working there. Essentially whenever they brought it up I would acknowledge it then shove it aside because, hey I was already employed. Finally I negotiated it to the point where the whole thing was neutered so even though it had the restrictions above, there was no penalty if I did break the agreement. After I left there I went to another company in the industry, only 20 minutes away from toxic-job and there were no issues.

      1. Davey1983*

        Mormons can give and receive gifts. Mormons can’t consume certain things (alcohol, tobacco, etc.), but no restrictions on gifts.

        1. The Bookworm*

          Thanks for the correction. I’ve worked with both Mormons & Later Day Saints – and didn’t remember which was which.

          You and “Just Visiting” may have saved me from a future faux pas.

            1. bridget*

              It’s actually the opposite – all Latter-Day Saints are Mormons, not all Mormons are LDS.

              “Mormon” is the overarching group for all sects that are based on a belief in the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith’s restoration, etc. Since Joseph Smith’s day, Mormons have split off into several sects. The largest and most recognizable one descends from Brigham Young and is based in Salt Lake City. There are many other sects like Community of Christ, F(undamentalist)LDS, Apostolic Union Brotherhood, Strangites, etc., that all identify as “Mormon.”

              And others are right – Mormons are gift givers and receivers.

                1. bridget*

                  I grew up mainstream LDS, but my guess is that because the RLDS church (and I suppose the FLDS as well) have “LDS” in their name, that they are Latter-Day Saints. Some (many?) RLDS do not believe in the Book of Mormon as literal scripture, so maybe that’s the reason one would claim to be a Latter-day Saint but not a “Mormon.” It may ultimately come down to how you define both terms, which obviously people and groups might disagree about.

                  When I was referring to “LDS” above, I meant that the Salt Lake mainstream group is “LDS” because they legally own the name “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [TM].” The leaders of that group often suggest that their members to call themselves LDS, not Mormon, in part to avoid this kind of “brand confusion.” I should have been more specific that I was referring to this specific term, not the general idea of being a “Latter-day Saint,” which could have as generic a meaning as “one who follows the correct religious ideology near the end-time of the world.”

        2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

          Mormons love gifts! In fact, we love gifts so much that half the time you attend church you walk away with some kind of little doodad or handout or refrigerator magnet. Or we used to, until the leadership started discouraging it. But there are always the holdouts. :P

    1. Just Visiting*

      Jehovah’s Witnesses can’t receive gifts tied to a birthday or particular holiday. Despite the “holiday/end of semester” smokescreen, it’s fairly clear this is a Christmas party.

      1. Aloe Vera*

        I had no idea that a religion had this restriction! This may be a dumb and not-PC question, but are there other ways that religions can affect the workplace in the same way that this gift-giving issue does?

        1. Aloe Vera*

          A better way to ask this question might be this: “How does your religion impact you as a professional in the workplace in ways that others may not expect?”

          1. Jean*

            Not a dumb question and not non-PC. You’re asking a straightforward question respectfully.

            Short answer: Depending on a combination of ethnic, national, or religious heritage and individual choices, some people may choose not to eat or drink certain foods or beverages; to avoid physical contact (even shaking hands) with colleagues; and/or to cover their heads or otherwise make clothing choices that differ from the usual Western-style outfits (“western” in the sense of “ordinary American or European business clothing” not “Stetsons and cowboy boots or long gingham dresses” :-) ).

            I say “some people” because I don’t want to imply that all people with X heritage or Y or Z religious affiliation act the same way. There’s a lot of variation.

            How this plays out in the workplace ranges from no big deal to lawsuits. It all depends on
            1) whether the workplace has low-key traditions or formal requirements (e.g. voluntary participation in a home-baked cookie exchange, or strict rules–based on safety considerations or institutional tradition–about appropriate headgear)
            2) whether the employee feels he/she can comply without compromising his/her own beliefs.

            Specific workplace examples? One person following the Jewish & Muslim rules about not eating pork will just order something else at a business luncheon. Another person will prefer to avoid eating at any restaurants not specifically designated kosher or halal, meaning that the entire business is formally supervised by Jewish or Muslim religious experts (often but not always ordained clergy). The first case may not get noticed by onlookers. The second case usually requires the employee to speak up to explain why he/she may join the group going to ABC Steakhouse without actually eating anything.

            1. Jean*

              P.S. When I said “lawsuits” I was thinking about cases involving men–whose traditions involved growing a beard or wearing turbans–working in correctional services or for the armed forces. I know that these matters have been litigated and changed over time but I can’t recall any specifics! Sorry.

            2. saro*

              Very well said. I’m Muslim and generally go along with Christmas/Holiday lunches and will do a Secret Santa/White Elephant but don’t do anymore than that (no trees, carols or anything overtly religious). I don’t give any other gifts but would if it was part of the office culture to give a monetary gift to support staff.

              1. LucyVP*

                I’m Jewish and do basically the same.
                I join the staff Christmas luncheon and participate in the white elephant game but I dont help trim the tree or decorate for the holiday. Luckily, the staff at my currently organization is fairly secular – nothing too ‘jesusy’ happens at the holidays. The staff throw a Christmas party for our volunteers which I help plan and impliment, but it isnt religious as much as an end of the year thank you.

                The fact that I don’t eat pork or shellfish almost never comes up because there is almost always a vegetarian option when food is served for the staff.

            3. Chinook*

              I would also add that some Christian traditions have certain times of year where certain foods are restricted. This means that the person you normally go to lunch with or participates actively in a social activity may not want to participate, or will change the way they participate (hopefully in a low key way but it is always noticeable when the known chocoholic passes up the chocolate fudge cupcakes from a well respected bakery).

              1. fposte*

                I’ve never heard of a chocolate restriction–is this a Lenten thing where the restriction is self-chosen, or is there something I’ve missed?

                1. Diet Coke Addict*

                  It’s a fairly common thing for Catholics to give up for Lent–maybe not chocolate specifically, but sweets or desserts or what have you.

                2. fposte*

                  Right, that I’m familiar with; I don’t consider that a religious restriction per se, though, in the way that a meatless Friday or keeping kosher is.

                3. Diet Coke Addict*

                  No, you’re right, it’s not a restriction in the sense of kosher or halal or meatless Fridays–it’s purely a personal choice.

                4. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

                  Also, Orthodox Christians (Greek Catholics, Greek Orthodox, etc.) might go vegan for Lent. This is also catching on in stricter Protestant and evangelical congregations. I once helped a woman whose Baptist congregation was cutting out all animal products as a Lenten sacrifice.

              2. Auditoholic*

                Yes, we ran into this with a new manager. A large portion of our workforce happens to be Catholic and lent is taken fairly seriously. The manager was trying to do something fun by having a Mardi Gras celebration, but she was going to be out on Tuesday so she wanted to do it the day after, Ash Wednesday, which meant that no one who observed could participate in the food, which was a major part of the celebration!

              3. LibrarianJ*

                Or certain times of year when fasting is required. As a Catholic, there are two days a year when I’m required to fast — a very small, barely noticeable amount, but somehow it’s still led to awkward conversations every year, especially since I usually make a point of staying subtle and not really telling coworkers that I’m fasting (or talking about my religious traditions at all).

                I know that Ramadan also requires fasting, although to a much greater extent.

          2. Katie the Fed*

            We had one Mormon employee who threatened to file an EEO complaint (during her first week) if people continued to curse in the workplace, because it was against her religion.

            However, we’ve had plenty of other Mormon employees who have never mentioned this. But cursing isn’t something that anyone needs to be doing, so while it didn’t really endear her to her colleagues, it was a pretty correctable situation.

            1. A Dispatcher*

              Seriously? Not only is that ridiculous (though I do agree in most workplaces there is no need/room for swearing, though my job isn’t one of those, thank goodness for me), but it doesn’t even make any sense. As far as I know it’s not against the religion to hear curse words, but rather to say them*. I would be totally fine with an employee who is offended by hearing language like that (for religious or other reasons) in the workplace asking the offenders to stop, but violating freedom of religion, um, no. That would be like demanding coworkers not eat bacon if you were a member of certain religions.

              *someone correct me if I’m wrong. Though I can’t imagine a religion could possible make something someone else around you does a violation against you, because that simply makes no sense

                1. Katie the Fed*

                  that was kind of the biggest thing. Like, if you’re new to the team, that probably isn’t the best way to meet your coworkers – because they’re going to be worried about anything they say/do around you.

            2. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

              Yeah, that’s ridiculous. We’re taught not to swear ourselves (although I can tell you that not everyone obeys ;) ), but we have no restrictions on what other people do. I don’t like hearing or reading profane language, and try to avoid it if at all possible (Chrome extensions are awesome), and if I know someone really well I might ask them to refrain from swearing around me, but in the end I have no control over other people’s vocabulary. and an EEO complaint is waaay over the top.

              Gosh darn it, other Mormons, stop making the rest of us look bad!

              1. bagworm*

                Also raised LDS – OK. This really isn’t going to mean anything to most anyone but you but your comment just reminded me of a journal entry from when I was about 8 where I was devastated that my mother would not be spending eternity with our family because I heard her say “gosh”.

                1. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

                  That’s hilarious. My mom wouldn’t let us say “crap” when we were growing up, and to this day I only say it when I’m *really* mad or frustrated, like other people who mostly stick to the milder swear words but let an f-word fly when they’re super upset.

          3. Case of the Mondays*

            There are some religions (I believe conservative southern baptist) that frowns upon members of opposite sexes being alone in the same room/car. This can put a big damper on meetings/lunches/travel.

            1. Evan*

              I grew up in a fairly conservative Southern Baptist church, and we weren’t concerned with that at all. The Baptist tradition emphasizes individual churches’ autonomy, though, so I’m sure there are some churches who would frown on that.

        2. Apollo Warbucks*

          In my office there are a few Muslims employees and during Ramadan, they slightly alter their working hours because they are fasting between sun rise and sun set, it works well for them to be able to start work at 7:00 and finish at 15:00, and generally it works better to have any meetings early in the day.

          I work with a Jehovah’s Witness who can’t accept gifts for birthdays or Christmas, or join in the end of year parties or celebrations, whilst I understand, it would be nice for him to join especially as they are not religious celebrations but a reward for a years hard work. I always make sure to give him a thank you card at the end of December just so he knows is work is valued.

              1. dahllaz*

                They don’t celebrate religious holidays (obvious reasons), birthdays (people were beheaded during birthday celebrations in the Bible), or national holidays (putting a nation before God).
                As for end of year celebrations, that is a more individual thing. But as those are often thinly vieled holiday celebrations, there will probably be a lot more that don’t participate than those that do.
                That’s what I remember from studying as a kid, before I decided it was all not for me.

                1. bagworm*

                  My first act of civil disobedience was in third grade when one of my classmates who was Jehovah’s Witness declined to say the Pledge of Allegiance. My budding little liberal self decided if it wasn’t appropriate for one person to say it then no one should be saying it and I refused, too. My teacher wasn’t quite sure what to do with that and my very conservative, Mormon/LDS parents still can’t quite figure out where I came from (although they love me nonetheless).

                2. ThursdaysGeek*

                  “They don’t celebrate religious holidays (obvious reasons)” – I never could figure out those obvious reasons, since a good portion of the Law was describing holidays and how to celebrate them.

      2. Michele*

        I had an employee that was Jehovah’s Witness and holidays and birthdays were the worst. She would never participate in birthdays OK fine but boy when Christmas time rolled around she was all about what the gift was going to be from our VP this year. She would not participate with the rest of the team in Secret Santa because it was against her religion, fine. We were a very tight knit team that actually knew each other well enough that Secret Santa was really fun. I ignored it but it was very upsetting to my team when 1 year we all got cash from our VP for Christmas in a Christmas card. They were upset to the point that they all approached me about how she would never participate with everyone else but the minute cash was involved she was the first one in line. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the situation but I had to tell the to let it go. It’s between her and her God.

        1. madge*

          I grew up JW and have many family members who are still active. It’s possible that the cash from VP was viewed by her as more of a year-end bonus type gift, as opposed to Secret Santa, which is obviously all about Christmas. I’m not sure why that would upset your team. If it makes them feel better, JWs spend their lives watching everyone else get gifts (we had random gift days throughout the year in my family and most JWs I knew did the same thing). ;)

    2. JoAnna*

      I believe the Amish don’t give or receive gifts either (especially from non-Amish), but that isn’t really relevant to a workplace context.

      1. Aunt Vixen*

        It could be. :-) My high school had a groundskeeper who happened to be Amish. He was evidently in a more relaxed community given that he a) was willing to take the job in the first place and b) drove a golf cart around the place to tote heavy things or what have you. It may have been the case that using modern devices and appliances was okay as long as they didn’t belong to him. I don’t know how he got to work but I assume it was in a van such as one often saw full of Amish folks being transported to their jobs doing cleaning or construction work.

        Anyway, I have no idea if that fellow was ever offered a gift-type bonus by anyone in charge, or if he could have accepted it if he had been. But there he was in a workplace, is my point.

        1. Anonsie*

          I don’t want to pretend to be extremely knowledgeable on this one, because I’m not. But at least in the Amish communities around where my family’s from, technology isn’t strictly prohibited the way people think. It’s that they discourage it from being a central part of your life, for a lot of the same reasons that you often hear people worry about the average individual’s increasing dependence on technology in any community.

  14. The Bookworm*

    Another “no” vote on the crochet items for people at work. The only crocheted stuff I have are afghans my grandmother made. (She passed away years ago) I keep and use them for sentimental reasons.

    But if someone gave me one-it would go to Goodwill.

  15. GrumpyBoss*

    #1: I think you have two facts here that need to be separated. Fact 1: you have an offer extended to someone who hasn’t been in contact. Fact 2: you found someone you like for the role. I don’t think fact 2 should have any impact on what you do with fact 1.

    If someone has an offer in hand and has disappeared without a word for 10 days, I think you have to consider that this is a person who isn’t necessarily all that interested in the role and is using your offer to help negotiate a counter with their current employer or another offer. I get not being certain on the compensation, wanting to discuss with a spouse, and additional consideration about the life change of the job. But 10 days without a word? This is not someone who is passionate about joining your team.

    I’d rescind the offer and not make any mention of the other candidate. It’s not as relevant here as the fact you have someone who is disengaged, and they haven’t even started working yet.

    1. straws*

      I was trying to figure out what was bothering me about this question, and you’ve explained it exactly. I could understand needing more than a couple days, but no followup contact at all would send up a red flag for me.

    2. tesyaa*

      Our group once made an offer and the person didn’t get back to us for a long time, about a week. It turned out she was on her honeymoon, and when she came back she did accept the offer. However, she didn’t stay in the job long, so the story doesn’t have a completely happy ending.

    3. AMSB*

      I think I would be careful about flat out rescinding the offer. Instead, they should reach out to the candidate and ask him/her their status and perhaps set a deadline (even just 24 hours) for their response. If they just rescind the offer without the further communication, they could open themselves up to a lawsuit if the candidate relied upon the offer in turning down other employment and/or if the offer could be considered an oral contract for employment. It would be a cleaner situation if the candidate rejected the offer.

      1. D*

        I think that’s a good idea. Chances are candidate #1 isn’t interested and holding out for another offer, and this offer, at best, is Plan B, but there may be the off chance of extenuating circumstances.

  16. Joolsey woolsey*

    Another no on the crochet gift I’m afraid, I’d also stay away from home made food, if my boss gave me homemade food it would go straight in the bin because I don’t know how clean their kitchen is or if they washed their hands before making it and I have food allergies so it’s just not worth the risk! Buy a big box of chocolates for your employees to share at work so the employee who can’t receive gifts can still be involved and not feel left out and take them to lunch, it’s just once a year for goodness sake!

    1. Formica Dinette*

      I agree with you on the homemade food thing. I don’t have food allergies, but I don’t eat homemade food from anyone I don’t know extremely well because so many people are just not that hygienic when it comes to making food. Most of my co-workers don’t fall into the category of people I don’t know extremely well.

      Yes, I know restaurant kitchens and workers are often not super clean either. Just let me have me neuroses, OK? ;)

  17. Just Visiting*

    #1: Crazy thought, but it’s possible that the interviewee is sick. Or there was a death in her immediate family. Or… I can’t really think of anything else. Have you tried calling her? Ten days is a long time to wait but I also think it’s worth reaching out one last time, even if you have to leave a message on her voicemail.

    1. Jean*

      >Ten days is a long time to wait but I also think it’s worth reaching out one last time

      Yes, I had this thought also. Disasters and emergencies are rare, but they do happen. It’s nice to reach out one more time. (And next time, be more clear about parameters for getting back in touch.)

      1. Ezri*

        I think that’s my thought – it gives OP the moral high ground because she is making the effort to communicate. At the very least, OP can ask the candidate why they haven’t contacted in ten days, and if the answer is unsatisfying withdraw the offer due to fit concerns. But I’m on the side of contacting the candidate before withdrawing.

      2. Michele*

        You really never know. I was unemployed during Super Storm Sandy with no power for 7 days. I live in Manhattan. I had to do a phone interview with my phone plugged in at a rec center 5 blocks from my apartment. The person interviewing me was very understanding and the interview did go well but I hope I never have to do that again.

  18. Puffle*

    #2 I think that you might be thinking more about what you’d like to do rather than what your employees would appreciate. You say that you want to make a new tradition and you really want to make handmade gifts, but would anyone else be on-board with that? Another possibility is you could sit your team down (one on one or ask a group) and ask for their suggestions. Say that you want to do something different this year and ask what they might like to do. You could also have a suggestions box or something similar. People might say that actually they’d really rather not receive gifts.

    Alternatively, buying people gift-cards for a local restaurant/ coffee shop/ etc might be the way to go. If you’re feeling uncertain about individual tastes/ food allergies, you could just ask which restaurant/ cafe/ deli etc each person likes. It’s something that’s easy to re-gift as well.

    1. AnonyMouse*

      Yeah, if you’re set on doing gifts rather than a lunch, gift cards are usually good (the more general interest, the better). Doesn’t necessarily solve the religious issue, but I agree with Alison’s advice on that one!

    2. A Dispatcher*

      I like the idea of suggestions. Do you think your company would be open to letting you offer the afternoon off in lieu of lunch? That seems like something that would be appreciated and able to be taken advantage of by your whole team as it’s not a physical gift.

      1. OP-gifts*

        That is a good idea! Even if I still do lunch (which after all the advice I have gotten, seems like the best idea), it has been suggested that if I give everyone time off after lunch, it might make lunch more relaxed.

      2. Mister Pickle*

        I was going to suggest this, too, but I slept in too late and A Dispatcher beat me to it! :)

        But yes – I’m okay with a free lunch (although, let me get this straight: the manager pays for the lunch out of their own pocket? I would expect that the workplace would reimburse the cost!) but I’d surely love and prefer a free afternoon off. If you could work it as a surprise, that might be nice. Call a meeting at noon; take attendance, then say “Seeya Monday!” or somesuch.

        Although it still might be good to sound out a few people for their opinions. One problem with trying to do something new is that some people might be grumpy about it: there may well be people who are looking forward to that free lunch. Not that you should necessarily cater to their every demand, but – it might be nice to get a feel for if anyone is going to be unhappy about a ‘tradition’ being broken.

        Finally – one good thing about lunch at the same restaurant every year over home-made food gifts is that people with special dietary requirements have had time to cope with it: people know the menu and know which dishes are vegan, which have peanuts, etc.

    3. Elkay*

      We had an email go round a few weeks ago giving us a rough per head budget and asking what we’d like. The options were Christmas party, vouchers or a hamper. I’d bet dollars to doughnuts we’re getting one of the latter.

          1. Elkay*

            Yes, hamper like picnic hamper full of food which you rifle through on delivery then hand out the bits you don’t like to other family members. Didn’t realise that wasn’t a common expression!

              1. tt*

                lol that makes so much more sense now!

                “basket” is the word I’ve heard used to describe those types of things. I just couldn’t visualize hamper.

                1. fposte*

                  It was an East Coast term, probably due to Anglophilia, till at least the mid-20th century as well.

                  (I love gift hampers. All the little things tucked into the box!)

        1. Sarahnova*

          Christmas hampers are a… tradition, I guess? in the UK. Large department stores will sell, e.g. a cheese and biscuits hamper, a wine hamper, a mixed foods hamper. My old employer used to give us all a Christmas hamper.

      1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        What classic story talks about a gift hamper? Is it Little Women when they take stuff to the Hummels? I remember being a kid, grade school, and reading a story about a hamper clearly containing gifts and had the same thought and looked it up to learn the non-laundry definition.

        A Christmas Carol, maybe? Does Scrooge send a hamper to the Cratchit’s after he’d lost his mind?

        This is going to be bugging me all day. It was some classic story I read sometime before 4th grade. Someone help or I’m going to sit in a corner mumbling to myself trying to remember.

        Heidi? Did Clara send a hamper of gifts after Heidi went home at some point?

        Maybe Heidi?

        1. Aunt Vixen*

          Internet to the rescue!

          Little Women, chapter 12 “Camp Laurence”:

          There goes the man with the tent! I see Mrs. Barker doing up the lunch in a hamper and a great basket. Now Mr. Laurence is looking up at the sky and the weathercock. I wish he would go too. There’s Laurie, looking like a sailor, nice boy! Oh, mercy me! Here’s a carriage full of people, a tall lady, a little girl, and two dreadful boys. One is lame, poor thing, he’s got a crutch. Laurie didn’t tell us that. Be quick, girls! It’s getting late. Why, there is Ned Moffat, I do declare. Meg, isn’t that the man who bowed to you one day when we were shopping?

          xroads.virginia.edu / ~HYPER / ALCOTT / lwtext.html

          (The word does not seem to occur in A Christmas Carol.)

        2. DeAnna*

          In Frances Hodgson Burnett’s A Little Princess, Ermengarde gets a Christmas hamper from her aunt and sneaks it up to the garrett to share with Sara and Becky, but they get caught by Miss Minchin.
          /Children’s lit fanatic

  19. Visiting*

    I would wait to throw away your custom crocheted item only until I reached home. If I stopped for gas, it would never make it in the house. Just don’t.

    I agree 100% with all who said it was too personal, too grandma-vibe, and simply clutter I don’t need.

    I honestly want no gifts of any kind from my boss. We are not friends and it is just not necessary.

  20. Not So NewReader*

    Gifts and lunches. Neither one inspires me, really. I would rather have a boss that just focuses on being decent all year round. Sometimes I think that it is easier for people to give a gift/lunch once a year than to strive to be fair-minded and even-handed year round. One company, the dreaded lunch was the source of many jokes. It was extremely awkward because there wasn’t a solid working relationship in place to begin with. And lunch once a year did nothing to build that relationship, either.

    1. LBK*

      As long as the manager is doing those things consistently, though, there’s no harm in adding an extra bonus of a free lunch or something like that. Good management and perks aren’t mutually exclusive.

  21. AnonyMouse*

    #1: If you left the amount of time the candidate would have to consider your offer open-ended, I personally think you should really check back in with her without pulling the offer. Like people said upthread, she might be sick, or have lost a relative, or she could just have misunderstood the amount of time she would have – none of those would necessarily mean she wasn’t enthusiastic about the position. I would get back in touch and tell her you’ve been happy to give her time to consider, but at this point you really do need a final answer or you’ll have to move on. If she says yes, when can I start, I’d stick to your original offer. If she says no or delays, you already have another great candidate lined up.

    #2: I don’t think managers should normally give homemade gifts either, but just to add another perspective – some people are truly wonderful at making little crafty useful items! I’ve received some homemade gifts over the years that were definitely preferable to a lunch from really skilled friends and even one supervisor. I typically do think managers should avoid them, but if your manager is a crafts superstar, you might get something great.

    #4: FWIW, sometimes noncompetes being legally enforceable isn’t really the point. I once had an offer from a company that’s notorious for their restrictive noncompete, and it was pretty much universally agreed that no, they probably couldn’t enforce it…but it wouldn’t matter, because they would refuse to do business with companies or people who broke it, and in that particular industry, they were a bridge that no one could afford to burn. It wasn’t right or fair, but it was true. So OP, just a heads up that before you decide not to follow the terms of the noncompete, you may want to consider the other potential consequences this could have for you.

    1. TM*

      LW#4. It won’t burn bridges between my company and a potential employer, but it may between me and my company. I’m comfortable with that- I’m over the low pay/bad benefits/zero room to advance. I’m grateful for the experience but will accept a burned bridge as the price I pay so I can keep moving on/up in my industry!

      1. AnonyMouse*

        Alright, good to hear that you’ve given that component of it some thought! And in terms of what to say to new prospective employers while you’re looking around for a new job – with the example I mentioned in my previous post, people who started interviewing while they were still at Company A discovered their noncompete was so well known in the industry that most places they interviewed already knew they’d be subject to it, so they didn’t really have to worry about how to bring it up. Fortunately in that case, their skills were in pretty high demand, so some were able to figure out ways to work around it, or got offers for after their noncompete period ended, etc etc. Not sure if this is at all relevant to your industry/company, but just something to think about.

        1. TM*

          Thanks! That’s what I’m hoping for- that my skills are worth the risk. I’m not sure if my company’s noncompete is well known or not- the people I know who have left the company have also left the city or industry- but I guess I’ll learn by jumping in feet first!

  22. A Dispatcher*

    Re the answer to #4: wouldn’t this approach alert her company that she is looking and therefore put her on shaky ground with her company and possibly out of a job (and still stuck with having to apply for jobs while being under this non-compete (enforceable or not)?

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I came here to post the same thought. There has to be a better solution that involving a lawyer to fight your current employer. That’d probably be the best advice if it was a previous employer, but not the current one.

    2. TM*

      LW#4 here, this is my big fear! It’s a small industry and I really don’t want to leave my city but I’ve been job hunting for a year with no luck since I’ve been abiding by the noncompete and avoiding almost all potential employers in my city as a result. I don’t want to alert my company that I’m job hunting, since it definitely puts me on shaky ground. I can’t predict if they’ll even try to enforce it (and in the process alert my coworkers that it’s not enforceable) but I want to avoid putting a potential new employer in a sticky legal situation if at all possible.

      1. TM*

        Nope- still employed with them. I love the work but not the company, and won’t leave without a signed offer in hand (per your advice!), but I don’t know the etiquette behind when and how I tell a potential new employer about it. I don’t want to knock myself out of the running and be seen as a liability if I bring it up at interview, but also don’t want to be seen as withholding info if I wait until they offer.

      2. TM*

        And sorry if my question was at all unclear! I tried to keep concise and keep my anonymity and may have missed some info along the way.

  23. Lizabeth*

    The best holiday party/lunch I had was an early evening of bowling with food provided. It worked because we were doing something rather than trying to come up with non-work topics of conversation in an awkward sit down lunch.

  24. Question Mark*

    I hate to see questions along the lines of “I interviewed 7 days ago and they said they would get back to me, but haven’t heard anything / what do I do / what are they thinking”. I’m sure you get tons of those and sometimes choose to publish some that are unique, but in general this is one I see over and over and the question now annoys me. If they are AAM readers, they should know your advice is right on and is always the same: Follow up once, then move on.

    1. fposte*

      I think AAM gets enough new readers all the time and that this kind of tea-leaf reading is so prevalent that it’s worth a reminder now and then :-).

        1. LBK*

          I’d be curious to know what your visitation statistics look like. Do people tend to become regular readers, or does most of your traffic come from one-off people looking up old articles? Not sure if you have that kind of data available but I think I’ve seen you say that the commenters actually make up a small percentage of the actual traffic you get.

        2. Question Mark*

          I just re-read the original question (#5). I though you were asking readers their opinion on questions we like reading and I didn’t realize this was a reader was asking you. I think the title threw me (AAM question). I was just trying to provide you with honest feedback, but probably came across like a jerk. Sorry!

  25. Just tea for me, thanks*

    For #1: I do feel you need to let the candidate know that you have moved on. It would be beneficial to let her know that 10+ days does not equal “a couple of days”. Obviously she is not that interested in the position, otherwise she would have contacted you already.

    For #2: please don’t give them any crochet items. If you don’t want to do a lunch, but want to do something else, get them all a gift voucher. Make it something that everybody can enjoy. Where I am from there is a certain gift card that can be used in many different stores. I am at loss as to how to solve that with the employee who cannot receive gifts, though.

    1. fposte*

      I think “something that everybody can enjoy” is probably wishful thinking, though. There’s almost nothing that’s universally popular, especially when it’s a change from something else. I don’t actually enjoy gift cards, for instance, and in my job, a spontaneous afternoon off would actually be a spontaneous afternoon where I have to complete my work without support from other colleagues. That doesn’t mean people shouldn’t give gift cards or afternoons off.

  26. Kat A.*

    Not to complicate matters, but giving food or wine has never been a good idea where I’ve worked.

    Food allergies — even if the employee isn’t allergic, they may not be able to accept the item if a family member is.
    Observant Muslims and Jews don’t eat pork.
    Some people may be vegetarian or vegan. Just ask the vegan in my office who got a Hickory Farms gift pack with meat and cheese. The look on her face was priceless.

    You never know who is an alcoholic. Don’t go there.
    Some observant Muslims I know and a few people of some other faiths do not drink alcohol.
    Then there are those who simply choose not to drink. Yes, we exist.

    But, for the love of office politics and all things holy, please don’t crochet! This is not the 70s.

    OP #2:
    If the *holiday* lunch at a restaurant has worked out so far, then please rethink your decision to stop it. At a restaurant with a diverse menu, people can order what they want.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      If she only has 4 employees though, she should be able to figure out what will work/not work, right?

    2. OP-gifts*

      I completely agree about gifting foods (I rarely eat any homemade food stuffs I am given). Restaurants, wherein everyone can pick what they want, are much safer!

    3. Sarahnova*

      Eh, if this vegan got given a cheese’n’pork gift pack, I’d smile politely and give it to my husband (or regift it somewhere). It’s difficult when people totally fail to cater for me at, say, work meals, but only a fraction of a percent of the population shares my eating philosophy; I don’t expect to be always catered to. Plus my expectations of gifts from an employer is low.

      1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

        I’m the same way with wine. I have a drink occasionally, but never wine but I love getting it as a gift because I have a lot of wine drinkers on my obligatory Christmas gift and it’s an easy re-gift.

        1. fposte*

          Yes. In general, I reject the notion that a work gift should be something that it’s known I personally like. It should be well-meant and inoffensive, and I should receive it in that spirit whether I relish the thing or not. What happens to it after that is nobody’s business but mine.

    4. Turanga Leela*

      While it’s definitely worth being aware of allergies, religious restrictions, and so on, I still think it’s fine in general to give food or wine. A box of chocolates or bottle of wine can easily be re-gifted, and many people will enjoy them. As someone said upthread, there’s no such thing as a holiday present that will make everyone happy, but a lot of people will be delighted with food items.

      Obviously, if you know a particular employee won’t be able to use a gift, it’s thoughtful to give that person something different.

  27. De (Germany)*

    I am absolutely baffled that someone would ask for “a few days” to decide on a job offer and then not call for more than 10 days, even to say that she needs more time or that she isn’t interested anymore. If those interviews at other companies are so important that she lets you wait for over a week, even a few days after the interviews she had “the following week” I’d say she doesn’t sound all too interested in the job.

  28. Kat A.*

    One more thing for OP #2:

    There is no way you can give everyone in the office a gift and leave out one employee. No way.

    Lowering office morale and facing consequences of accusations of discrimination aside (because, let’s face it, you have options that will include that employee but are choosing to do something that excluded her based on her religion), it’s just plain wrong to exclude someone like that.

    OK, I’m off my soapbox.

    1. OP-gifts*

      You are right about morale. Even though my intent would be to talk to her and find another way to thank her, I would still be (metaphorically) hanging up a big sign up saying “this person is different!”

      Follow-up question: Yesterday I had a large bunch of flowers, and not all of them fit in my office vase. So, I offered the rest to my departments. Obviously, the one coworker did not accept any. From a legal standpoint, do I need to avoid ever offering anything to my department, since that excludes her?

      1. Michele*

        No, I don’t think you need to avoid ever giving her anything. Maybe she doesn’t like flowers and that is why didn’t take them.

      2. KerryOwl*

        Man, I hope that a person who has a religious policy of not accepting any gifts ever would understand that this is NOT the cultural norm, and would not make a big stink about minor stuff like this. Accommodations should be made in BOTH directions.

        1. madge*

          I didn’t read this as the person making a stink. Also, accepting/giving Christmas gifts is very serious to JWs (especially the stricter ones) as it is considered the same as celebrating the holiday. There is no making accommodations. The JW employee can quietly let her manager know that she doesn’t celebrate, and graciously accept whatever happens. No need for pity or judgment from colleagues.

          Although I’m no longer active, I still don’t celebrate Christmas (out of habit – I wouldn’t know where to start – ha!) but after a lifetime of not being included in holidays, it doesn’t phase me and I know many others who feel the same way. What does irritate me is when someone with good intentions tries to disrupt the office tradition to include me. The last thing I (and many others) want is to kill the fun.

          Also, my preference in (viewing) lights and trees is similar to Clark Griswold’s so bring it on!

      3. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You’re complying with her request not to receive gifts. There’s no legal issue there.

        The law doesn’t require you to treat all employees the same. It requires you to accommodate religious differences (with some limitations), which you’re doing.

        1. Joey*

          That’s an interesting accommodation. I wonder if you didn’t give her a monetary gift that others got if she could argue that money in her paycheck isn’t a gift?

    2. Sam*

      I had a manager who reported to me who could not accept gifts. At end of year, I gave very, very nice, personalized office supplies to each manager (we had very tight budgets and the supplies we got from the company were terrible and we had to jump through hoops just to get really crummy ballpoint pens) I gave them wall calendars with pictures that were meaningful to them, really nice pens, padfolios, stationery, some other stuff and a box of nice blank thank you cards and said basically thanks for all your hard work this year, here are some things to get you started for next year. Their year end bonuses were their “gifts” I suppose, which this manager could accept, and somehow just framing the year end things as necessary office supplies for the new year felt less like a “Christmas gift” and no one batted an eye. It helped, of course, that I didn’t put wrapping paper or bows on anything, it was just presented matter-of factly, but it was clear that I had shopped and chosen each item for each person, rather than gone to the supply room and grabbed a handful of Papermates.

        1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

          As someone who could never keep a stapler longer than 6 weeks without breaking it, if someone would have given me the one I have now ages ago I’d have considered it the best gift ever.

          Shouldn’t jinx it, but over 2 years now and hasn’t jammed or tried to bite me once. And it’s the perfect shade of pink and was only $12.00.

          But ditto – love office supplies – and I’d be able to rationalize a loophole with anything work related like that if my religion forbid accepting gifts. Although not accepting gifts is so counter to everything I am as a person I’d be far more likely to join a religion that requires people pay tangible tribute to me.

  29. Katie the Fed*

    What I’ve done for the last two years for the day before Christmas is something edible and a nice card. So, a gourmet goodie (Costco is great for this stuff) or a box of homemade cookies, and a really nice holiday card where I write a personalized note to everyone telling them how much I value them, etc. They’ve all really enjoyed it – the card especially. I think it’s nice for them to hear in a non-appraisal setting that I like and appreciate them :)

    Please, OP #2 – rethink this gift. You’re a new manager and it’s easy to make big missteps, and I think this is one. Just pick up some nice edible things, or treat the team to pizzas, or something.

    1. OP-gifts*

      Based on the excellent advice I have gotten, I am definitely moving forward with just the regular holiday lunch, but I really like your idea of a sincere card in addition!

            1. A Dispatcher*

              Oh my god I forgot about that site. Between that and pinterest fails I will now be busy all day. Who needs sleep, eh? (I work nights, so days are my sleep time)

              1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

                Don’t hit it while at work. Regretsty and Passive aggressive notes I learned about here and fell through the rabbit hole. Those are home only sites or you’ll lose hours you’ll never get back.

  30. BRR*

    When I started reading this blog I knew nothing about work culture (which was unfortunate because I already had had a job and been fired from it). Reading certain things numerous times was the only way they sunk in (when I first found the blog I was job hunting and read through a lot more than I’d care to admit). Apply and assume you didn’t get the job, don’t try and crack the code the hiring manager used because it doesn’t mean anything more than what it means, and yes, it’s legal. I’m not sure I would have adopted these reoccurring lessons if not reading them multiple times in different manifestations.

  31. Purr purr purr*

    OP4: AAM’s advice is very sound. You want to be pre-emptive. I recently signed a contract with a non-compete specifically because I knew it was unenforceable. The clauses have to be both time-restricted and geographically-restricted apparently. My contract stated that I wasn’t able to work in the entire province afterwards! It sounds like yours would fall down on the time-restriction, although you didn’t see what the time limit is, because not being able to work in your city is considered geographically restrictive. But like AAM said, seek advice from a lawyer first to make sure that your clause is definitely non-enforceable.

    1. Purr purr purr*

      This is why I shouldn’t comment so early in the morning. To clarify, not being able to work in your city would probably be considered sufficiently restricted geographically, i.e. it’s just a city and not a state-wide restriction. For future reference, you should consult a lawyer before you sign a contract with a clause like this!

    2. TM*

      LW#4 here. It falls on two counts: it has no geographic restriction, and it restricts me from working for people I have no contact with in the course of my job, both of which have been ruled not enforceable in my state (they can restrict me from working with customers I see all the time but not from every customer of the company, which is what my noncompete says). I didn’t realize how restrictive it would be when I signed it! I’ve consulted with a lawyer now who said he wished all his clients had such clearly unenforceable noncompetes. My major concern now is how to reveal it to a potential employer without it putting me out of the running for a position.

      1. Purr purr purr*

        Ah OK, yeah I don’t even know why companies bother to write things like that in their contracts. Maybe they’re hoping that someone will blindly follow it! Is there a time limit for it? Part of me would be inclined to not mention it at all and to be wary about updating anything (like LinkedIn) with the new job details during the non-compete time limit and then the other part of me would be inclined to be honest about it and explain that you consulted a lawyer who explained it wasn’t enforceable. I’m sure the future company will have had experiences with the clauses before so their reaction might help you decide how to handle it.

        1. TM*

          It has a reasonable time limit, but there’s definitely multiple facets that make it almost entirely unenforceable. I know what they’re trying to do, but they make it so overbroad that it’s just totally a lost cause, which is nice. I don’t have to navigate the legality of it any more, just how to tell a potential new employer. I’m hoping to move to a larger, more experienced company so here’s hoping it’s not new to them. Thanks!

  32. reader*

    #5 – For those who read everything published here or by any particular “advice columnist” it can seem that the same question occurs over and over again. You need to remember that for that particular letter writer the subject is new to them. New readers don’t always have the desire or the time to read through all the archives.
    Also I’ve come to realize that when the subject of the advice isn’t currently pertinent to the reader it doesn’t necessarily stick with them. And as BRR states sometimes you need to see something multiply times to get it to stick.

    1. danr*

      Well, my first question to AAM was a variation on something that I saw in the archives but sent in anyway. It was answered here to make a point from another direction. I’ve seen the same general question since then, much more than once, and always with a slightly different twist.

      1. reader*

        This, too. Sometimes it’s not exactly clear if a similar situation would have the same answer. Nuances do make a difference.

  33. Purr purr purr*

    OP2: I understand you don’t like the department lunches but I think it would be a good idea to ask what others think before changing it. For me, personally, I love department lunches, especially at special times of the year, and would appreciate a free meal more than a homemade gift. Maybe you could go to a different (cheaper) restaurant? Or find some other activity people would enjoy instead?

  34. Oryx*

    OP2, instead of going offsite for food could you do something on site? I’ve done this at multiple jobs, often potluck style, where the food gets set up and people can eat when they choose. This takes away some of the awkward forced socialization that comes with restaurants and if it’s potluck everyone will, presumably, bring at least one thing they can eat which helps with dietary restrictions (food and veggie trays help add to it a bit, although as a former vegetarian I always appreciated when people brought in items I could eat and would let me know it was okay for me). Sometimes it’s not just the free food that people like but the break in the day, the casualness that comes with a holiday day where things are a little bit more relaxed and you can eat and hang out with co-workers if you want.

    1. OP-gifts*

      Unfortunately, onsite food probably won’t work out for a variety of reasons. Based on the advice I have gotten, it seems best if we continue to do lunches out & I just try to make them more congenial. And maybe give some extra time off after lunch if I can.

      1. madge*

        I think this option is best, OP. I stated upthread that I grew up not celebrating holidays and while I think it’s wonderful of you to take your employee into consideration, honestly, she’s used to not being in on the gifts. Don’t make yourself crazy overthinking it.

        I’ve routinely given colleagues and my bosses small “holiday” gifts in the summer or January; it’s our joke. A colleague who bakes holiday cookies takes a few and puts the “do not” slash across them with icing and leaves them on my desk. Some give me their standard gift with a card that says, “NOT Christmas”. Depending on your employee, maybe something like that could work if you go the gift card route (which I love, being in woefully underpaid academia). Or maybe my offices have always been full of sarcastic weirdos like me. ;)

  35. Anon132*

    No offense to OP#2 but if I had the choice between a lunch and a gift I’d probably just toss, I’d probably pick the lunch. Can you do an awkward catered lunch? At least that eliminates the travel time to the restaurant.

    1. OP-gifts*

      Unfortunately, onsite food probably won’t work out for a variety of reasons. Based on the advice I have gotten, it seems best if we continue to do lunches out & I just try to make them more congenial. And maybe give some extra time off after lunch if I can.

  36. LisaG*

    #2 – I agree with others that the crochet gifts is probably a bad idea in this situation (especially since one of your employees can’t accept gifts!). But I did want to speak up as someone who has often given knitted and crochet gifts to coworkers. First, I’m not a manager so the hand crafted gifts have all been given to my peers. I also don’t try to guess what people might like. I usually give a crocheted hat or booties for a baby shower. Often after I’ve given a baby gift another coworker will express their admiration, and ask if I can make them _____. Then I usually ask lots of questions about what they want/like and often show them pictures of possible items and have them choose their favorite and suggest a color. I love making things and it’s always fun to have a new project (and as someone who’s been knitting for years I certainly don’t need any more hats/scarves/mittens for myself!). I also usually stick to hats, scarves and mittens because they are quick and easy, don’t require exact sizing, and feel less intimate than something like a sweater.

    TL;DR – I knit and crochet items for my coworkers but only when they have “commissioned” it.

    1. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

      I absolutely think baby gifts are the exception to this and I can’t imagine anyone not loving them.

      Because in a weird almost spiritual way someone put thought and effort into welcoming your child into the world – which is a pretty profound time for any parent whether it’s your 1st kid or 10th. The sentiment is so sweet – it’s a tribute of good will to your baby.

      So those of you who are baby crocheters and knitters don’t stop – the world needs as much love and kindness as it can get. :)

  37. Graciosa*

    Regarding #2, I worked for a department once that had a great solution to the gift / recognition issue – they asked everyone once a year what their preferences were. There was a standard form given to every person (a few hundred in this case) that asked how you would prefer business-social invitations to be addressed, what your shirt size was, and asked for more detail about your preferred forms of recognition (lots of prompts – if you checked perfume, there was a line to provide your brand, which sports teams you followed, etc. plus blank space to fill in anything not suggested). You may have been able to put dietary restrictions on the form as well.

    If your status changed during the year, you were responsible for notifying the department secretary, and no one complained about name choices on invites to the Christmas party. The shirt information saved gathering it every time there was a company program with a t-shirt or polo, and the recognition information let managers choose small rewards that people would truly enjoy.

    I always wished more companies would do this.

    1. Cara*

      The shirt thing reminds me of a comment Jenna Fischer (who played Pam on The Office (U.S.) made about how unnerving it was when she would gain or lose weight, because she had to let her manager know and they’d sent out an email putting everyone on alert that Jenna is now a size 6 instead of 4.


      I think the form you describe (and the requirement to update your preferences throughout the year) is a little overboard. I’d be a little wigged out if I had to let someone know I gained 20 pounds, or that the new person I’m dating is allergic to the perfume I used to like, or whatever.

      At my company, you get to choose milestone gifts from a catalog. They are generic and kind of stupid, but you do get to choose. For random “great job” recognition gifts, managers typically do gift cards. Those are the best.

      1. Anonsie*

        Oh cripes that would make me so nervous.

        I think it’s different, though, if you work somewhere that regularly has a need to have tshirts made for everyone, or some other type of gear that needs sizing. The one time I had a job like that, we had sizing/type info for all our gear on a list somewhere by team so that they could make sure we always had what we needed. It said that I needed the S size uniform shirt, short chainsaw chaps, the over-glasses style safety goggles, small gloves, etc. My college job had a similar deal where they knew what fit needs all the people who wore costumes had so they could dole them out appropriately. It makes sense in a setting where your employer actually has to procure the right size for you.

    2. Jamie =^_^= (in lieu of avatar)*

      My shirt size? No….I’m not filling that out for my employer. Besides, is there a woman alive who can answer that?

      T-shirts – it’s one size. Sweaters it’s another. Button downs…well I’d need a comment section where I tell them if I get it to button over my chest and not strain then it’s way too big everywhere else and the shoulders are halfway down my arm so I could only wear it under a blazer.

      I would find that so intrusive to have to list your size anything for work. Unless you want to know what size bonus check I’d like – I’m happy to pony up that information.

      1. Shell*

        I swear I must be the only woman I know who loves button-downs (blouses? I am fashion-impaired and never know the proper names for those things). Button-down + dress pants or jeans = not having to worry about how to dress!! Although I’m built pretty small and straight so I usually have surprising amounts of luck with button-downs off the rack.

        That being said, clothing sizes vary so much across brands I think a size chart would be useless, even for the same type of clothes. I think tees are the only exception to this rule where small for one brand usually (not even always) translates over to small in another brand. A size 2 button-down could be a size 6 button-down elsewhere. Clothes shopping is hard.

        PS: if it’s not too weird, Jamie, why no HK avatar?

        1. fposte*

          There was a bug yesterday–if you put a login for an avatar it exposed your email address to the person posting after you.

            1. Shell*

              Thanks fposte and Alison for cluing me in :) The things I miss out on when I don’t check the site for a few days!

    3. Graciosa*

      If you don’t want to get a polo, you didn’t fill it in (or wrote NO SHIRTS- no big deal) and the information was not circulated beyond the admin staff that did the ordering for shirts (or manager for other recognition items). For those worried about different sizes for different styles, our generic company program shirts were either t-shirts or polo shirts, and the form just saved the secretaries from asking for S, M, L, XL, etc. every time.

      I did not mean to imply that different people don’t have different preferences – what I liked about the form was that there was a standard way to express those preferences! This saved your manager from guessing whether you would prefer tickets to a concert or a sporting event, or a gift card for dinner in a restaurant or movie passes as a small recognition item.

      I’m a big fan of asking people what they want (but not just as they turn in Big Project, which kind of spoils the subsequent surprise).

    4. Jen RO*

      I think asking for sizes is a great idea. My company guessed and it fit tricky when 300 fleece jackets arrived and you had to fight to get one in your size. A simple spreadsheet with size and preferred color would have been so helpful.

    5. abby*

      We get a lot of clothing items with our logo (a well-known non-profit organization). But we always get samples to try on first, as shirts and jackets really vary. My shirts range in size from S to XL – true! Trying on ahead of time is great.

      Because we’re non-profit, we do a holiday potluck and are able to take the rest of the day off, paid. Some managers purchase small token gifts for their staff. It’s very low-key to avoid an feelings of being left out.

  38. TotesMaGoats*

    #2-For the first time I was finally able to take all of my staff out to lunch as a thank you. My office is big on food. It’s a big bonding thing for us (and our waistlines). They had worked so hard this fall to get the enrollments we needed and had knocked it out of the park. I’d never been in a situation before where I could take everyone to lunch but now I am. My staff were so appreciative. I set up a google doc with the lunch options around our office and they voted. And then we voted again for a tie breaker. Everyone was satisfied. We do give gifts at Christmas to each other. Since I know my team pretty well, they get individual gifts suited to their tastes. When I was new, though, it was a more generic gift like a GC or food. I would wait a year and get really settled in your role before nixing a long standing tradition of a luncheon and think twice about the handmade gifts. Unless you have a side business for this stuff (where people actually willingly buy it), it might not be as neat as you think it is.

  39. Allison*

    A lot of people are harping on the gift, and I’ll admit I threw my 2 cents in there upthread, but that’s not the issue is it? The OP has an employee who can’t receive any gifts, and that’s the issue at hand. So let’s focus on solutions to that rather than continuing the anti-crochet rally of uselessness.

    Come to think of it, I’ve never gotten a “gift” from an employer. The two jobs I’ve had since I’ve started working were all about the Christmas parties and Yankee swaps . . . although each employer did give extra time off around the holidays. Could OP #2 plan a party for her department, and have the employees vote on what they’d like to have served? That would skirt the gift giving (the party would be the gift) and may be preferable to lunch if there’s more flexibility in what’s served. Unless the issue is that the department doesn’t socialize well, in which case I think the best alternative is to give people extra time off, either a specific day or afternoon, or extra time off to use during the holiday season at their convenience. A lot of people could use an extra day of vacation or PTO to either travel, prepare for the holidays, or recover from festivities.

    If the OP gets along well with the employee who can’t receive gifts, another alternative is to give (normal) office-y gifts to most employees but take the religious employee out to lunch at a place of her choice. OP would need to have some conversations to make sure this will fly, but it’s worth exploring at least.

    Is there something that would make everyday life in the office more pleasant or enjoyable that the OP could spring for as a “gift” to everyone? If it’s one addition or upgrade that benefits everyone long-term, surely that could be another loophole.

  40. Nerd Girl*

    #2 – I have to be honest here and say that I would be very upset if my manager decided to give me a homemade present over the luncheon. The reason? I seldom eat out and look forward to the few times a year my workplace picks up the tab for lunch. If I knew that I would be eating at a nice restaurant (you know, one that doesn’t have a drive-thru or playplace) and my manager decided to give a present I didn’t need or want instead I would not be happy about it. If your intention is to add a personal element, may I suggest that while at the luncheon you give each employee a personal note or card. I’ve done this for teachers at my kids school along with a $5 gift card to a local coffee shop. The teachers have always told me they like the note better than the gift card. :)

  41. Rebecca*

    #2 – We traditionally get a $25 gift card for a local grocery store during the Holiday season, and we go out for a nice meal at the local community college culinary arts department. Yes, people have dietary restrictions, but those can be handled ahead of time. As far as not being able to accept a gift due to religious reasons, would it be possible for this person to donate their gift card to a food bank? Or, if they are not physically allowed to take it at all, find out where they would like the donation made? I’m not sure what religion would prohibit a gift to charity that would help to feed a hungry person.

    I echo the “no crocheted” item sentiment. I have a few crocheted items that my Grandma made, and she taught me to crochet, but these are very personal things to me.

  42. HR Manager*

    When I’ve encountered candidates who are unwilling to commit, it’s very important to keep a dialogue during the process. It doesn’t have to be every day or every few days, but from the employer side, I’ve made very clear expectations on when we should touch base again, and then from there decide if more time is warranted. In this case, it doesn’t sound like a time frame was set, but it’s not totally off-base to assume a candidate would keep in touch. I think 10 days of incommunicato is more than enough reason to cut the strings at this point. I’ve withdrawn offers via email, so a brief email that is either ‘since we haven’t heard from you…and we’ve found a qualified candidate…” I would just make sure the other candidate is accepting the offer first.

  43. nyxalinth*

    I guess I’m weird. Maybe because it’s never happened to me, but i just wouldn’t find it odd or disturbing to get a handmade (as opposed to homemade, that does indeed conjure up images of pasta crafts and terrible Christmas scarves) gift. Tons of talented people on Etsy would agree.

    I’ve done hand-painted silk scarves, and gave two to friends one year. One friend loved hers. The other thought it was weird and disturbing (mind, we’d been friends for years, not just a casual half-assed friendship, but I guess I thought we were closer than we were. Plus, she was something of a snob and would sometimes bring up how she and I moved in different social circles. We weren’t friends much longer, but it was mostly due to her being a snob, not her saying she felt weirded out by my gift.) Anyway, I’ve since decided family and friends with whom the discussion has come up prior and they loved the idea from now on.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      I made a hand-panted silk scarf once in school and had totally forgotten about it until just now. It was very cool actually and I would love to receive one of those. Crochet though, not so much. That’s what makes gifts for people you don’t know very well, like coworkers/subordinates so hard, preferences vary greatly.

    2. Diet Coke Addict*

      I think it’s not the handmade gift, it’s the giving a handmade gift to one’s employees. A handmade gift is (usually) terrific among friends–it shows that you care about that person on a personal, individual, deep level, enough to spend your own time and money to create something unique for them and very special.

      Whether rightly or wrongly, gifts in a workplace tend not to follow that standard, and a boss taking several hours and her own money and devoting that to gifts to her employees comes across as….a little tone-deaf, too personally-involved, not in-tune with the company culture, etc.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      In addition to it being a very personal gift, as others have pointed out, a big problem with it is that it’s highly, HIGHLY taste-dependent. There are loads of people to whom this stuff is just not to their taste, and it becomes an item they’ll never use or appreciate that now they have sitting around, and it’s uncomfortable to throw it out because someone put time into making it for you, but you’re never going to use it.

      I think sometimes people don’t fully realize how taste-dependent these items are to other people.

      (As an example, I cannot think of a single scarf I’ve ever received as a gift that I would wear — I apparently have very specific tastes. Same thing goes for house decor, with only a couple of exceptions.)

      1. OP-gifts*

        I think is is why after reading the comments, I have started backpedaling way, way away from any kind of gift, even consumables. Any kind of gift is not going to suit everyone (and a homemade gift is just adding a dose of guilt-sauce on top). Even if lunch is awkward, it is fleeting awkward (not “how do I donate this without her seeing it at a thrift store” awkward).

    4. Oryx*

      But those are handmade gifts you are giving to friends. I’ve done that before and received them. It’s different when the handmade gift is coming from your manager or you are giving it to your employee. Even among co-workers there are some I would consider giving a handmade gift to and others I wouldn’t, based on our level of outside work friendship.

      1. fposte*

        I was thinking that handmade gift = love, and it’s therefore weird to get one from somebody whose relationship with you isn’t love-based.

        1. nyxalinth*

          That makes sense. Ive been told throughout life that I don’t think in the same ways others do–who knows why.

  44. JMegan*

    OP-Gifts, I haven’t read all the comments yet, but it seems you have really touched a nerve here! I’m with the majority in the “please no crocheted gifts” category (although I can see you’ve already come to that conclusion yourself).

    But what I really want to say is, it’s clear to me that you’re being thoughtful about your team’s preferences and expectations. It doesn’t look selfish to me at all, rather it looks like you are exploring your options for changing this particular tradition. I’m sure your team will appreciate the effort you’re putting in, regardless of the eventual outcome.

  45. Meg Danger*

    I really like that you (Allison) answer similar questions from slightly different perspectives (See #5 above). I think the repetition helps me remember your advice better and apply it to my own professional queries. For example, yesterday I helped a friend talk through how much notice to give his current employer (and why), and whether or not the position he is considering moving into is actually his “dream job.” These are both topics you have explored many times on this site, and the repetition is definitely appreciated.

  46. Ann O'Nemity*

    she called me back on the 5th to request a couple more days to make her decision since she had additional interviews the following week…. It’s now been 10 days since she asked for more time and I haven’t heard from the candidate.

    In #1, the candidate requested a couple days because she was interviewing the next week? It seems like she was asking for more than 2 days. Lot of people say “a couple” when they mean “a few.” And if you only count business days (not weekends), you’re talking about 6 days. That doesn’t sound as egregious. Since the OP is set on moving on and making other offers, I think they owe candidate a phone call or email regardless, but especially when you factor in the timeline.

    1. Oryx*

      Somehow I completely missed that line about the other interviews. Either she was given another offer and accepted and decided not to tell the OP or she’s still waiting to hear back from one or some of those with offers.

  47. Random concerned citizen*

    I think commeters were a bit harsh to OP #2. I don’t find OP’s question selfish at all. She is simply baffled with office gift giving now that she’s a manager. I find her question honest and forthright. I would be equally baffled. Can we all be a little nicer please? Name calling, judgment & accusations are not what this blog is about.

    1. LBK*

      While there can be some piling on here, I do think having multiple people have such a strong reaction can be a valuable data point if the OP can take it at face value and not emotionally/personally. Sometimes it’s hard to realize just how badly something may come across until you’ve gotten feedback from a bunch of people. Isn’t it better to have random internet commenters say this is a bad idea and comes across as selfish/cheap instead of the OP trying to recover from her employees thinking that?

      1. OP-gifts*

        Yes, this has been very helpful, and I have tried to make sure I am being very graceful and thankful in the comments to everyone for contributing all this advice.

        I also know that the written word can easily be misconstrued. I understand why some readers thought I was a selfish, miserly, inappropriate weirdo based on my original question, but I also understand that most commentators may not mean to be as harsh as they come across. Patience and understanding!

        However, I’ll admit to being scared to ever ask a question on the internet ever again. ;)

        1. Mister Pickle*

          OP-gifts, you’re being waaay too hard on yourself! You’ve been the epitome of grace during this thread, and I personally hope you’ll become a regular here.

          1. Stephanie*


            Agreed. It probably did feel like you were getting piled on. Even if crocheted items aren’t to most of our tastes, I think it still says something that you’re even considering employee appreciation (I’m sure there are many managers who say the paycheck/benefits are the appreciation).

            1. OP-gifts*

              Well, in this case my team’s paychecks are definitely NOT sufficient appreciation for the work that they do. :)

  48. TangledKitty*

    I currently work in a craft store, so my perspective might be a little skewed.

    I just started to crochet, and for me, it depends on how much effort you put into it. If you’re making extremely intricate gifts for everyone, it’d be a little strange. However, I think something you can make simply and quickly (like infinity scarfs, coffee cup cozies, etc.) would be okay if you happen to know everyone’s personal tastes and can cater to them. Baked goods might be the easier way to go, assuming no one has allergies.

    1. Loose Seal*

      The odds that OP truly knows everyone’s taste are low. Taste is a very individual thing and it changes over time.

      [Digression from the topic to remind everyone that we have an Ask A Manager group on Ravelry (a yarn/fiber website) that everyone is welcome to join!]

      1. TangledKitten*

        I believe it was mentioned she only has 4 reports, it is possible. True, it is unlikely, but not out of the ball park.

        Regardless of what she does, there will be risk involved. Baked goods were suggested as a “safer” option, as were wine and chocolate. I don’t see these options as anymore risky than crocheting something for them, because of person tastes/lifestyle. The only thing that would be truly safe would be a Visa gift card or something similar, or to stick with the current lunch tradition since no one has kicked up a fuss about it.

        Personally, I would prefer a handmade gift, but I’m a crafter and constantly make handmade gifts. I also listen to customer’s crocheting projects (which are mostly gifts) on an almost daily basis, so maybe the personal element of it is desensitized for me. You’d be surprised how personal coneversations can get, despite being a glorified cashier.

  49. Weasel007*

    #2 – I’d be very very uncomfortable to receive a home made gift from my boss, unless it was baked items. The OP says she dislikes the luncheon idea, but I really do think it is the best choice for apprciation in this type of situation. We’re talking about a nice restaurant once or twice a year at most. We generally can be uncomfortable for a 2 hour lunch once in a while.

  50. Richard*

    On #2 – I don’t feel the need to repeat everything or “me, too”. So three thoughts:

    1. There’s a value to departmental lunches and other team-building activities, even if they’re awkward. While I don’t think people should be tortured, I do think that if they don’t know how to interact with a dozen people who are in the same field, working at the same place, for an hour, some more practice isn’t a terrible thing. (Absent those who go into panic attacks, etc.)

    2. If you are coming up with activity ideas that don’t please everyone, one solution (assuming we’re talking low-budget activities) is to increase the frequency of them. That way, when someone misses the December meeting, no one cares whether they did it because they didn’t like laser tag or because they felt uncomfortable with it on religious grounds. They’ll meet again in January.

    3. On potlucks – one thing I’ve found works in my environment (your mileage will vary, I’m sure), is to pick up the cost of the meat myself. We tend to do team cookouts in the nearby park in the spring and fall, and by bringing my grill, my gas, and my meat, I’m implicitly contributing more of the cost of the meal than everyone else. It ends up feeling less cheap for the team. Other groups I work with do similar things – this can make things less awkward for those with specific dietary restrictions, as they can bring in a one-dish meal that works for them.

    4. No matter what you do, the least risky thing is to not change tradition, because when you go to another alternative, people will find the problems with it. That’s true even if the same people would like the new idea better than the alternative. And that’s just life – it’s something you’ll find hitting you year after year as a manager, every time your employer changes some policy or benefit, there will be people grumbling about the change.

  51. Student*

    #2 – Please keep in mind that office gifts are a very different dynamic to personal gifts. I think you’re really mixing the two up here, and it is pretty far outside the professional norm.

    Personal gifts are given to friends, family members. They’re tokens of affection, and as such, they don’t need to be something that both parties are 100% guaranteed to like. It’s a way for the giver to demonstrate she’s thinking about and cares about the recipient. Home-made gifts are 100% appropriate.

    Office gifts are not a token of affection to your team members. Office gifts are a managerial tool; they are a moral-booster, a way of recognizing performance or milestones. To be effective, they absolutely must be something that the recipient likes, and the giver’s feelings on the gift is immaterial. It’s a business transaction. As such, you really need to thing about what rewards your team members would genuinely like, instead of what would be fun and cheap for you to give. If they like the lunch thing, keep doing that. If they want a material gift, consider gift cards or things that you know they will use. If giving gifts would mean excluding one of your team members due to religious considerations, then think about the impact that will have on that employee’s moral – sounds pretty counterproductive to me. Keep in mind, too, that the power dynamic in your relationship pretty much means that your employees cannot ever tell you to your face that they don’t like your home-made crochet gifts.

    1. OP-gifts*

      I think you are absolutely right, but I just wanted to clarify that the idea of making homemade gifts was based on what other departments on my campus do, not my own idea.

      When I thought about trying something new instead of lunches, I looked to other departments on campus to find out what the professional/cultural norm was (because I specifically did not want to anything that was far outside the professional norm) . From the advice I have gotten today, I can see that steered me in the wrong direction and that I probably cannot follow the example of my peers.

      1. BRR*

        Thanks for contributing all day and taking the advice well even if at times it might have felt like piling on. I have found in general the only two gifts all employees love from their manager/employer is extra money or time off. It was nice of you to put the effort into thinking about your employee appreciation.

        One more thought, could you let them pick a restaurant?

  52. Natasha*

    I notice the letters”OP” comes up in people’s comments. I would like to know what does “OP” stands for. Thanks

    1. OP-gifts*

      Good question! It means “original poster” …when the original poster uses it as their comment-name, it can make it easier to keep track of who started the conversation.

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