giving a gift to your boss, missing Christmas bonuses, ass-grabbers at the holiday party, and other holiday questions and answers

Wondering whether to get a holiday gift for your boss? Or to give holiday gifts to your employees? What about how to handle an ass-grabbing coworker at the company Christmas party?

Here’s a round-up of answers to 10 holiday-related questions.

1. Should I get my boss a gift for the holidays?

I just started a new job and I am working in a team of three. Should I get my boss a gift for the holidays? I would round up the other coworker, but had second thoughts because she is a temp. I don’t want to be gimmicky or a teacher’s pet, but I also think it might be a nice gesture. What would you suggest?

Nope. Etiquette says that gifts in a workplace should flow downward, not upward – meaning that gifts from bosses to employees are fine, but employees shouldn’t give gifts to those above them. This rule stems from the power dynamics in the boss/employee relationship, because otherwise people can feel obligated to purchase gifts when they don’t want to or can’t afford to – and managers should never benefit from the power dynamic in that way.

2. Giving a boss a holiday gift, part 2

I’m wondering if I should get my boss a gift this year. I work very closely with my her as I am her only employee. I started my current job just before Christmas last year and she gave me a bonus last year, as well as a very nice birthday gift. She treats me well, I respect her, and we get along fine. I’d like to get her a gift but I have no idea what to get her as she’s kind of wealthy and I’m far from, but basically I don’t know if it’s appropriate to even get a boss a gift if its not a group effort type thing since I don’t have any coworkers. What do you think?

Nope. See above.

If you feel you must do something, a card and some homemade treats would be fine — but don’t go beyond that.

3. My new coworkers want me to pitch in to buy our manager a gift

I just started a new job two months ago and so far I’m enjoying it. Another member on my team sent out an email asking for a $5 voluntary contribution to buy our manager a gift. I enjoy working with this team member and she actually spent a significant amount of time training me and getting me well prepared for my job. I also get the feeling that my manager understands that proper office etiquette is to have gifts flow downward. We recently did a secret santa, and she requested that anyone who drew her name to simply make a donation to any charity.

I’m just wondering how I should approach this? The other coworkers seem to be really into Christmas and probably won’t have an issue with this, since we all enjoy working with this particular manager. Also my finances are in good shape so $5 out of my pocket is not a big deal and I’m not sure if it’s worth it to be saying anything since I’ve only been here for 3 months.

This is a little more complicated than the two situations above, because you’re new and your coworkers are all doing it.

If you didn’t want to spend the money, it would be perfectly reasonable for you to say, “Unfortunately my budget won’t allow me to chip in.” But since you’re willing and it’s only $5 (and I know that not everyone considers that a negligible amount, but that doesn’t sound like the case for you), there’s an argument for just going with the flow on this one.

If it were a significant amount of money, I’d be more inclined to encourage you to opt out. And if you’d been there longer, I’d encourage you to steer your coworkers away from gifting upward, but that’s not a battle worth expending capital on when you’re so new to the job.

4. Should I get my employees gifts?

I’m new to an organization. We do a holiday gift exchange, but do I need to get my direct reports additional gifts as well? The gift exchange max is $30, so it is pretty generous already.

In general, no, managers don’t need to get their staff gifts. That said, you might discreetly inquire with other managers about the culture of the office on this; if it’s the norm for managers to do something for their staff, you’d want to have that context when making your decision. But absent some compelling pressure from your particular workplace culture, no. However, you could certainly make a small group gesture, like bringing in baked goods for people to share, as a marker of the season and general expression of good will.

5. Can my company refuse to allow spouses to attend the holiday party?

Can a government company mandate employees to attend holiday party without spouses? The day is start work at 8-12 and then at 12, leave and attend the holiday party. Can they really do that?

Absolutely. First of all, hosts of a party can limit the guest list however they want. Second, this party is during your workday, so it’s even more reasonable that it’s employees-only.

6. My coworker’s husband grabbed my wife’s butt at the company Christmas party

We just had a Christmas party at my company, during which one of my coworkers’ husband grabbed my wife’s rear end, while we were talking in a circle with other coworkers and their spouses.

My wife told me the next day as I had not seen what had happened (not sure anyone did, really). I intend to send him an email letting him know the inappropriateness and vulgarity of his act. Should I talk about it with my HR director?

There’s not much your HR director can do, since this was a non-employee behaving like a boor with another non-employee. They don’t really have standing to act. I suppose I could see an argument for saying something in case it’s a pattern (in which case they might tell your coworker to stop bringing her gross husband to company events), but aside from that, I think your best bet is to roll your eyes, write this guy off as a boor, and keep an eye on him at future social functions. (That means I also wouldn’t send that email — that’s unlikely to do anything other than cause tension in your relationship with your coworker, who isn’t the one at fault here.)

7. My company is closing the week of Christmas and making me use PTO or take it unpaid

My company is choosing to be closed after Christmas. They’re making me use my time off or take it unpaid. Can they do that? I’ve been paid all the other times when the company has been closed for a holiday.

If you’re exempt, you must be paid your full and normal salary if you work any part of the week. But if you’re non-exempt, they don’t need to pay you for time you didn’t work, so yes, this would be legal.

8. Working on holidays without extra pay

I work in Texas. I am a salaried employee working for a private company. My company has scheduled me to work on New Year’s Day – a company-recognized paid holiday. They do not give extra pay or provide a comp day. Is this legal?

Yes. No law requires extra compensation for working on holidays. However, since it’s normally a holiday for your company, you might ask about taking the holiday on a different day instead.

9. Can we ask about our missing Christmas bonuses?

We have gotten holiday bonuses for two years in a row now and were told that we would be getting a sizable one this year as well. We usually get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month, and we were told that the bonus would come along with our check on the 15th. Our check came and went, still no bonus, and we are really hurting for it as we look forward to using that money for the holidays and getting ahead on our bills. Nobody at work has mentioned it and we’ve spoken to our bank to make sure there are no pending amounts waiting to be deposited.

Do we ask about it or let it be? It’s getting down to the wire on Christmas shopping and paying the bills we were hoping on using the money for, so we are getting more stressed with each day that it is not here. We would not have been expecting a bonus, but our boss told us it was sent to the bank the same day as our regular check, meaning it should have deposited the same day, right? Is it understandable that we would want to know a date to expect it on? Why is there no communication about this subject? It seems almost rude to ask about it? What is a good way to go about asking, if at all?

It’s not at all rude to ask about it, because your boss was very clear about telling you (a) that the bonus would be coming this month, and (b) that it would be sent to your bank on a specific day that has now passed. I’d say something like this: “You had mentioned we’d see the bonus on the 15th. I didn’t receive it that day, and wanted to check with you about whether we should have still been expecting it then.”

10. Wine as a company holiday gift

We received an email this week saying: “As a thank-you for your hard work and commitment throughout 2014, Teapots PLC has chosen to gift employees with Christmas wine. The wine will be given to you this week – if you haven’t received it already. On behalf of the management team in the UK, we would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and we look forward to having a very successful 2015!”

I, personally, think this is great: a lot of us *have* worked hard and been committed to the company, despite its flaws, and it’s nice to have that recognised. On the other hand, there’s enough employees who don’t drink: some Muslims, some for other reasons. What’s my best way of mentioning this to HR without provoking them to shut down giving out wine (or other gifts) at all?

(Obviously this ignores the whole “should we give gifts to Muslims, Jews, Hindus (etc.) at Christmas at all?” question, but here in England most people will accept the intention behind the gift even if they don’t celebrate Christmas. I think.)

To some extent, it’s impossible to choose a company-wide holiday gift that will be appreciated by everyone (unless it’s money or extra time off), but there are some broad categories that it’s smart to avoid like alcohol (for the reason you mention) and turkeys and hams (vegetarians). And in general, a company should try to make sure the gift won’t make whole groups of people feel invisible.

If you want to speak up, I’d send a short note to HR saying something like, “Thank you so much for the wine — I really appreciate it! I’m looking forward to enjoying it, but I didn’t know if anyone had pointed out that our Muslim employees won’t be able to drink it (and the same for other non-drinkers, of course). I know it’s hard to find a gift that works for everyone, but I wanted to flag the religious issue in particular in case it’s something that had been overlooked.”

I don’t know if future gifts will be better — again, it’s hard to find something that works for a large group — but it’s reasonable to flag it.

{ 449 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK*

    #10 — The thing is, if wine is nixed, the gifts can only get worse from there :-)

    (This is not to say that I disagree with AAM’s approach, only that companies typically give out very terrible gifts, if they aren’t the type to just give cash)

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        I’ll tell you what’s really funny. Our business is business gifts, literally, we’re the company that people are buying their business gifts from which means

        1) We have to give employee gifts (in addition to the other things we do for the holidays) because it’s our business

        2) Because it’s our business, 99% of what other employees will appreciate receiving from their employers, our employees are sick of looking at by the time 12/15 rolls around.

        So, this is hard!

        What we’ve found works:

        1) Name Brands. We did BUILT double wine totes with wine (and nonalcoholic wine available for people to switch out). Also, Contigo tumblers.
        2) Blankets. Doesn’t matter how many we sell, doesn’t matter how many people already have a home. A high quality, high end throw blanket gets people excited. *I* get excited.
        3) Nice fleece jackets, with the emphasis on “nice”. Sizes are pain in the ass though.
        4) Cheeseboards! Nice ones! Retail quality, high end cheeseboards. They make everybody happy.
        5) Power banks. We did them last year. Everybody needs a power bank back up for their cell, but not the crappy low end mAh ones, have to give the good ones with lots of juice.

        I have no idea what the gift is this year. I prefer to be surprised rather than having to bend my brain to what is happening this year. You can only do a blanket once every five years or so.

        1. Helka*

          Having sparkling cider (or juice, or whatever) available for swapouts is a great solution if the company is giving wine!

          1. AVP*

            I enjoy alcohol and will never turn down free wine or champagne, but I think I might like sparkling cider even better! Must remember to invite some children over for New Years Eve this year so I have an excuse…

              1. Jamie*

                Me too – yummy. And for those who drink tossing a shot (or two) of vodka in there is very festive.

                I know, I’m gross…but I don’t like wine and had to McGyver it. Learning to love wine is my 2015 resolution.

            1. Maggie*

              I’m from the UK where cider has been drunk for over a 1,000 years. It’s pretty much a national drink but is alcoholic, from 1.2% to just under 8.5% ABV. Even at 1.2% it’s not something to give to children to drink. If it’s not cider, i.e. alcoholic, it’s just apple juice.

              What’s makes “sparkling cider” cider and not apple juice if it’s not alcoholic?

              1. Jenna*

                In the United States, or at least my part of it, Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider, a non-alcoholic sparkling apple juice, has been a traditional swap out for sparkling wine or champagne for decades. It may not be real Cider the way you mean it, but, is generally what is meant by Sparkling Cider where I am(S. California). We do also have hard cider, but, I’m afraid our cider industry was demolished during Prohibition along with a lot of others, and is not what it was.
                I understand that what we call “beer” out here in the states isn’t beer the way you understand it either(or at least according to the UK folk that I know).

          2. Emmy*

            I was going to suggest this too! I like it since it feels just as celebratory as wine, but it gives people the ability to opt out of alcohol.

        2. Katie the Fed*

          This is awesome. Several of these (Built lunchbags, contigo totes, cheeseboards) are my go-to gifts for people I have to give gifts for but have no ideas :)

          1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

            We sold an insane amount of cheeseboards this year because I got obsessed with them and we merchandised the hell out of them.

            It’s the perfect gift! << you know we used that in marketing copy

            My obsession next year is going to be slate cheeseboards. They. Are. So. Cool.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              That’s such a great idea. I love slate cheeseboards, but I can’t see buying one for myself.

            2. Blue_eyes*

              I totally bought a fancy cheese board for my parents this year. It’s become a family joke at this point that my mom insists on serving cheese and crackers every time we have guests, so I figured it would get some use.

            3. A Dispatcher*

              Ooooh I want one! Particularly if it comes with a cheese assortment. My local grocery even has lovely pre-assembled/cut cheese selections this time of year. Now I know what kind of hints to drop around my family next year, lol

            4. puddin*

              Who has cheese that lasts long enough to be put on a board? But then again, I am from WI – we cheese differently here. :)

              1. Persephone Mulberry*

                Cheese as a verb – well done.

                I kind of don’t understand the purpose of a cheese board – why not an ordinary plate/platter?

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  Many of them have the tools inside.

                  So I get out my beautiful cheese board I’m going to use a few times a year for entertaining, swivel it open, all the tools I need are inside, pull them out and swivel it closed.

                  Put the cheese on board – hard cheese, soft cheese, have all of the right tools that match next to the cheeses on the board. Throw so grapes on so I look really cool, possibly some bread and TADA, I look the Martha Freaking Stewart for once in my life.

                  Does not solve my mismatched silverware issues.

                2. A Dispatcher*

                  Depends on how you’re serving the cheese. If you’ve already sliced it, sure a regular platter is just fine, but I tend to like to just leave it in larger blocks and let guests cut what they would like, so having a wood or slate board is much better as it allows for your serving surface to double as the cutting surface.

                3. Katie the Fed*

                  They just look nice, plus you want something where the cheeses don’t slide and you can cut on. I have a friend who is a woodworker and he gave me a few as a wedding gift – I always put them out when I have people over.

                4. puddin*

                  Cheese Knives are essential to proper cheese operation! Would you carve a roast with a fillet knife, cut bread with a butter knife? I think not. Use the same knife for a variety of cheese and you will end up with a bloody hand (because the blade keeps bouncing off the parmesan) holding a smushed ball of creamy bleu cheese that you could not properly crumble-cut because you were using the same knife for all the cheeses! The proper cheese wire cutter can ensure evenly cut pieces for an elegant display and to ensure consist results when cooking.

                  OK Wakeen, there is your copy for next year’s cheese knife super sale :)

                  Seriously though, cheese knives are more than marketing. Seriously.

              1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

                Thank you for the idea! As my sister has kids we all go to her house for holidays and I was thinking I needed to start taking the lead of my aunt and start upgrading her hostess ware. My aunt didn’t cook, and decided the best way to repay my mom’s hostessing was by picking out a china pattern that matched Mom’s tastes and giving her a full set over about 5 years.

              2. Another unnamed*

                No slate cheeseboards, but my wife and I did get a full set of slate tablemats & drink mats for wedding presents. They’re quite heavy in bulk!

                1. cuppa*

                  My slate cheeseboard is hefty, but not unmanageable. I like it so much that I leave it out all the time, so I’m not getting it out of cabinets all the time.
                  I use it for appetizers and all sort of things other than cheese – it’s great.

          2. illini02*

            A cheeseboard, while nice, is something that, I as a single man would NEVER use. This goes to what I mentioned below as something I would just regift, as I could see people who don’t drink doing with wine.

            1. JB*

              It’s fine if you don’t think you’d use it, no one gift works for everyone. But I don’t see what being a single man has to do with it? I have plenty of single friends who are men who like cheese, or who entertain, or who go to family potlucks. Are you a single man who doesn’t like cheese or doesn’t like socializing? ‘Cause then I get it.

              1. Koko*


                I can think of several single men I know who would be all over this. They’re all into socializing and eating, though. The kind who host a big group of friends for dinner twice a month and have their own custom Google Map of the best restaurants in town and own whiskey rocks and wine glass charms.

              2. illini02*

                I’m not a fancy cheese guy. Period. I assume you could find other uses for it, thats fine. My point wasn’t to make this an argument about what I do or don’t do. My point was just that while many people would find this to be a great gift, it would either gather dust for me or be re-gifted. Just kind of going on the trend of there is just about nothing that you can get to everyone would like (except maybe an Amazon gift card, but there are probably people against their business practices, so who knows), so worrying too much about that is pointless.

            2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              Would it change your mind if I described it as a fine piece of wood that you could put your jar of nacho cheese sauce on and make an attractive display to go with your bag of Doritios?


              1. Jamie*

                Sold me – and now I want a cheese board and I had never thought of that until this thread.

                I think AAM comments have been stealthily infilitrated by the marketing department of the Cheese Board Industry.

                (and I own sterling silver grape scissors – how do I not own a cheese board?)

        3. cuppa*

          As someone who has had to choose the company gift for sixty people, thank you so much for writing this out! It really is tough to find something that will be appropriate for everyone.

        4. Purple Jello*

          I want to work for your company. Those sound AWESOME. We do get gift cards to our local grocery chain. (I LOVE Wegmans)

      2. RobM*

        Even if actual cold harsh cash is seen as passe somehow, an amazon (or whatever) voucher means that whatever the person gets will be something they wanted.

            1. Koko*

              Me too! They’re as good as cash because I spend so much money there every month that an Amazon card frees up cash that I would have otherwise spent on Amazon.

        1. ECH*

          This year I am giving each of my three employees (and each of my family members, for that matter) a bill in a sizable dollar amount, along with a note to the effect of: “‘Gift certificate’ in the amount of $x … to spend on something that makes YOU happy … not your spouse, kid, pet, colleague, best friend, worst enemy, someone you don’t even know … YOU! Something that you would not have felt justified spending this amount of money on otherwise.”

      3. Koko*

        As a friend of mine who’s a tattoo artist is fond of saying, “I accept cash, cash, and cash. If you’re referred by a close friend or family member, I also accept cash.”

      4. Jamie*

        But everyone likes cash…

        What I want for Christmas is for someone to stitch this for me on a sampler.

        And cash.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      It is nice that wine is easy, but I did this one time after having completely forgotten that one of my employees is a recovering alcoholic. I felt terrible, especially because the wine was given out in a group setting, and everyone was trying to figure out why there was one bottle left and who didn’t get theirs. I apologized with a gift card to her favorite coffee shop, but ugh, I will never do alcohol gifts again, except as individual gifts to employees I know enjoy wine.

      1. Artemesia*

        A co-worker and I once bought a case of champagne and gave each of the secretaries, admins and other support people a bottle for Christmas (we 8 people to give things to — and the norm was small gifts for everyone) Before we did this, we made sure that this would be a welcome gift for each person on the list. I think you have to be very careful with alcohol as a gift. Our staff was pretty thrilled as while it wasn’t fabulously wonderful and authentic champagne. It was pretty good domestic stuff and a cut above what they were likely to buy — and by buying a case with a discount and joining forces, we were able to afford this fairly decent bubbly.

        My company dropped the Christmas party (yay) and went to giving free turkeys. There were tofurkeys available for any vegetarian that indicated a preference for one. Most people liked it a lot better than the party it replaced and the extra turkeys went to the food bank.

        1. MaryMary*

          When I was growing up, both my parents always got turkeys as a company gift at the holidays. My dad was in manufacturing and my mom was a teacher. I always thought it was a great company gift, especially with the modern option of tofurkey for the vegetarians.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            Tofurkey might not be the best. I know a bunch of vegetarians and I don’t think I’ve known any of them to eat a tofurkey – they mostly make casseroles for Thanksgiving, along with the typical sides.

            1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              I am one of more and more vegetarians who don’t eat soy or any processed “meat replacement” products. It think many people would be surprised how many veggies don’t directly replace meat with meat-like foods.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Exjob always gave certificates for turkeys at Thanksgiving. I hate turkey, and I live alone and never do the cooking on Thanksgiving (when I go anywhere, I go to my mum’s and she does the whole Martha Stewart thing). So my certificate went to a coworker who had extra mouths to feed. I appreciated the sentiment but it was kind of wasted on me.

          1. Katniss*

            My last job did the same thing, and it was just myself and my boyfriend living together. The first year we had a party so it got used well, but after that we just gave it to charity.

    2. Another unnamed*

      LW#10 here.
      Well, exactly. Here’s the email I sent to HR:

      “Thank you very much – this is appreciated!

      However, what about our Muslim (and other non-drinking) colleagues? Though I’m sure they appreciate the gesture, it might be nice to get them something as well…”

      I haven’t had a reply yet.

      As for the cash alternative, as I said downthread:
      The other argument [in addition to tax liabilities, at least in the UK] against cash is that the vast majority of UK staff are on some salary + bonus scheme, and everyone’s going to be given some amount of additional cash at Christmas (or shortly after, once they process the annual figures) anyway. Anything extra would just be lost in that, and wouldn’t be nearly as appreciated, I think.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          I’d rather err on the side of assuming that then just blindly giving gifts that they can’t enjoy.

        2. Helka*

          Even someone who’s not perfectly observant at all times might still feel rather put out at the implication that they are so unobservant that they’ll have use for a gift that violates their religious strictures.

        3. Cat*

          In this specific case, I agree that it’s good to be conscious of who does and doesn’t drink alcohol (and there’s a lot of reasons for it). But I have always found it really interesting that Americans, generally, are totally aware that many, many people are only culturally Christian. And I think most of us know that a lot of people are only culturally Jewish, but when it comes to other religions (or less common Christian groups like LDS folks), we assume Every. Single. Person follows the most strict form of the religion.

        4. Cath in Canada*

          I know one Muslim who drinks, but fasts for Ramadan, and another who doesn’t drink for religious reasons, but doesn’t fast for Ramadan. Both of them assure me that their hierarchy of observance is the correct one ;)

      1. AcademicAnon*

        My take is that it’s not an assumption, it’s a way not to be insulting by understanding another religion and what it’s important for them.

    3. Elkay*

      Apparently we’re getting gift cards this year, no-one knows where for. At a different company we got £200 of vouchers for department stores which were good because we could use them for buying treats and basics through the year, although one year the whole lot went on a kick-ass coffee machine.

      1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

        One year my boss kept talking and talking about how he was SO EXCITED about the really awesome gift cards we were getting for Christmas, and how proud he was to have been able to find the extra money for such nice gifts. Then we all got $10 Target gift cards. He was still excited when he gave them to us. I did get free cat litter, though.

    4. The IT Manager*

      The problem with cash is that I’ll bet the monitary value of the wine is worth more than the company paid for it if they buy in bulk so you go from getting wine valued at $10 (but really costing $5) to getting $5 which is negliable to large number of people. (Not everyone, but lots of people easily spend that much without thinking about it.)

      The same actually goes for most cheesey items companies purchase for employees, but wine can have an more easily compared value to items you don;t see at the grocery store.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. Wine or a turkey etc are very cheap purchased in bulk and seem more generous than the gift card or cash would be.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Yeah, but $5-10 worth of really good wine is a table ornament I have to re-gift, not even knowing its quality – no one in my family drinks, not even socially. (Not only did I watch some alcohol issues in my family growing up, but I’ve never tasted anything except *really* expensive Scotch that contains alcohol and doesn’t taste disgusting. The really expensive Scotch is merely ‘meh’ instead of actively disgusting….)

          I’d rather have a crappy gift certificate than something I can’t use, don’t want, and will either re-gift or forget in my garage while meaning to re-gift.

          You really can’t win, though, short of gift cards. This year, the boss gave us chocolates. I was thrilled…my coworker whose health issues mean they’re giving up sugar, not so much.

          1. fposte*

            As somebody else who tends to pass those along, I just give ’em to somebody else at the giving time (“Hey, do you want mine too?”). That way I don’t even have to bring it home.

            1. Jamie*

              I do that with the gift cards we used to get to a grocery store that had closed in my area. I always gave mine to the receptionist. I would do the same with wine or food – someone will appreciate it.

            2. Kyrielle*

              Thank you! I will keep that in my back pocket for if this ever happens in a situation where I can do it. (So far, work hasn’t ever done this to me – but a mortgage broker did once, and I think one other one-on-one gift. Alas, no other recipients to hand it off to. But now I have several ways to handle it if work ever does it! At least the wine won’t be wasted.)

          2. Zillah*

            Yeah, even “safe” gifts will often inevitably exclude someone. I’m allergic to chocolate, so I give any chocolate I’m gifted to my partner or my brother.

          3. Koko*

            A couple I know who don’t drink just hang onto gift bottles of wine to offer to guests when they’re hosting. That way they don’t have to actually buy any but can still offer it to people who want it. Of course, they don’t have any issue with drinking, they just both personally don’t care for it.

      2. Alma*

        Gift cards are often discounted when bought in bulk.

        I’d rather have a gift card to or a local grocery store where I can choose my own groceries – I’ve also re-gifted gift cards. There is not a Whole Foods within an hour and a half of me, but my hair stylist, who lives in that city, was thrilled with it.

    5. HR Manager*

      One of my companies used to do this, but never offered food. They did monetary and/or nice company swag (as in brand name bags, jackets, etc. but with company logo). It was really nice, though not without challenges. I recognize this as being unusual though, as I know the gifts ended up costing a lot, but it was a very much appreciated gesture and recognized by the employees (most – there’s always a few entitled ones in there).

        1. Hlyssande*

          As far as clothing goes, sizing and cut can be major issues, especially if the supplier doesn’t carry larger sizes.

          We all got fancy polo shirts (short sleeve for men, “long” sleeve for women, and they guessed at sizes rather than asking. Mine barely made it down to my pants and I never wore it and a lot of the other women had the same complaint. We would rather have had the men’s versions.

          A few years back I got a duffle bag instead of the nice embroidered polo that all the other 5 year employees got because their supplier doesn’t carry my size. The duffle is nice and I do use it, but I would actually like some company-branded stuff to wear at work (they almost always have very good quality items aside from the polo mentioned above).

          1. AcademicAnon*

            Yes, this. My department has shirts and other apparel you can purchase, but none of it is in my (large) size. Add in the complications that uni-sex shirts really don’t fit those whose chests are larger, male or female.

      1. MinB*

        My husband’s company does that a lot. He’s got a number of very nice jackets now – some for windbreakers, some for heavier rain, etc. Those always go over well. My favorite, though, was the really, really nice canvas tote with a small company logo on it. It’s bigger than standard reusable grocery bags, sturdier, and more comfortable to carry. We use that all the time.

    6. Marzipan*

      At my workplace when they wanted to give all the staff a gift (I forget why, it was to celebrate something-or-other) they gave us all the choice of either a bottle of wine, the latest novel by an acclaimed author with a connection to our workplace, or a donation to a particular charity – it worked really well.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Our company had an milestone and wanted to give everyone a gift. We all got a 1 oz pure silver medallion celebrating that milestone. I thought that was pretty awesome: it’s cash, but not just plain cash.

  2. Ann Furthermore*

    #3: My co-workers and I do something similar for our boss each year — pitch in $5 each and get her a coffee gift card that she can use at the cafeteria in our building. She always appreciates it. In return she gets us each a box of chocolates each year. Anything more would feel weird, or like we were crossing boundaries or something.

    Today we had our annual Christmas lunch, which included a white elephant gift exchange — our group, plus some others in the same business area. Someone picked a gift off the table that was about the size of the Russell Stover boxes of chocolates our boss gave out, and someone pointed that out. My boss laughed and said, “If someone is giving away my Christmas gift, I would call that a CLM.” (Career Limiting Move) It was pretty funny.

    1. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      We do the “white elephant” gift exchange too (with the rule that you can’t spend ANY money). There are usually once-read popular books, re-gifts, etc. – stuff people are perfectly happy to get out of their house! People seem to like it.

      I appreciated that Allison pointed out that $5 isn’t negligible to some people. It’s easy to say, “oh, it’s just $5, what’s the big deal”, but those little things can add up if your money is tight. I also hate asking employees to take on the task of an extra shopping trip to pick up secret santa gifts or whatever – it feel like an unnecessary imposition. I always bring wrapping paper or gift bags for those who don’t have the stuff at home. It’s silly, warm, and takes about 20 minutes.

      1. Sarkywoman*

        Yeah, I’m in the UK but £5 can be a lot. I’m the only person not participating in today’s Secret Santa and I’ve had a bit of pressure about it. Someone pointed out if I drank less coca-cola I could afford to participate. Sure, I probably could, but a £5 gift wouldn’t compensate for having to deal with me without sugar & caffeine!

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Ugh. Pointing out “problems” with people’s spending decisions is a short cut way to alienating them. No one wants to be told “give up this so you can do that”.

          1. Sarkywoman*

            It got a little more awkward as a kind colleague has, with the best of intentions, bought me a present anyway. So now I’m the charity case. Can’t deny she meant well, she’s a lovely lady, but now I’m the person who spent nothing yet got a gift in front of everyone. *shudder* I feel so awful right now.

            1. AmyNYC*

              If you’re good at baking, make some treat to share with the office. It’s pretty cheap to do, and almost everyone likes cookies

              1. Sarkywoman*

                Heh, I’m no good at baking, unfortunately. I’m very good at eating cookies and we can’t be good at everything! ;)

              1. Sarkywoman*

                No, this is someone else on the team. I tried to buy her a drink to thank her on the team outing tonight but I think I offended her :(

          2. AdAgencyChick*

            Srsly. It would be so tempting to respond with, “Well, if you have an extra fiver, how about you use it to buy a roll of duct tape to keep your mouth shut?”

            1. Sarkywoman*

              LMAO, this actually made me laugh because one of the presents was wrapped *entirely* in duct tape. We had a good chuckle while the recipient tried to tear into it.

      2. Carey86*

        When we collect money for gifts at work (for example, a gift card when a co-worker has a new baby) we pass around an envelope for cash as well as a card. Each person signs the card in private in their cubicle and then puts whatever they can contribute (or nothing) into the envelope. Then it’s passed on to the next person. It keeps people from feeling obligated to give money they don’t have but no one is excluded because we all sign the card. So far it’s worked pretty well.

        1. Ludo*

          This is how we do it, too. We have a manila envelope that gets passed around. Everyone signs a card and puts whatever they can/want to contribute into the envelope. It isn’t tracked who gave what or how much because the thought is that this helps removed the obligation from the giving.

      3. Kyrielle*

        We did a Secret Santa this year and I was amazed how much I disliked it compared to the gift swap.

        In prior years, we have had a “bring something worth 5-10 that would be nice to get, wrapped nicely” and then you draw numbers, pick and open a gift or steal someone else’s (in which case they pick and open a gift), etc. I loved that!

        Picking out a specific gift for a specific person while tied by a $10 spending limit? Arrrgh. I got someone I theoretically know, but nothing I could think of was reasonable in that limit – and we only had a couple weeks to pull it off. While doing all the other Christmas stuff.

        I got a decent gift out of it, and I think what I gave was okay, but I would have vastly preferred the old ‘grab and swap’ method, where anything nice within the range is a reasonable contribution. So. Many. Options.

        1. C Average*

          It’s funny: I’m 100% with you on this one, but apparently I’m in the minority.

          We used to have a big, loud, uproariously fun white elephant exchange that I honestly looked forward to every year.

          A few years back, due to some individual requests, the big department-wide party went away and now the individual groups within the department do what they want, usually either a Secret Santa sort of thing or nothing.

          You’re totally right: It’s really hard to find something interesting and affordable for a colleague you don’t necessarily know well.

          I have a lot of company collectibles and memorabilia in my cube area from my years at my company, some of it rather valuable. Last time we did a Secret Santa, I gave a coupon for the recipient (someone who also likes company swag) to select an item from my cube. (I put away a few items I was unwilling to part with before extending the offer.) I think she liked it a lot more than she would’ve liked some random purchase. She got a one-of-a-kind item that can’t be bought anywhere, and it’s still displayed on her desk with her other company collectibles.

          1. Koko*

            But couldn’t you give the same generic $10 gift to a specific person that you would have contributed to the white elephant exchange? Or are you saying that it feels like there’s more of an expectation to make the gift personal if there’s a designated recipient in mind? I would think it’d be even easier because there’s a whole range of gendered generic gifts (men’s toiletry kits in leather cases, men’s cologne, men’s gloves; women’s bath sets,women’s perfume, women’s gloves) that you wouldn’t want to put in a group pool in case the wrong gender person ended up with it, but would be perfect to give to a coworker you don’t know very well but whose gender you know!

            1. Kyrielle*

              In our office, there was an explicit expectation to “get to know” your recipient (without giving yourself away) and get something appropriate for them. I would happily have contributed two bars of EXCELLENT scented soap to the exchange-swap.

              I do know my recipient well enough to know that he would have no interest in those excellent bars of soap. Thus, giving them to him is a fail. And most gift certificates/gift cards, any more, don’t come in $5-$10 denominations, so that escape is really not an option either.

              I can’t imagine giving a co-worker a gift as personal as cologne or perfume, especially if they don’t wear any scents to begin with – that can be a very personal thing even if you wear them, and maybe they only wear one. (Or like me, they might be sensitive to some chemical scents and allergic to some natural scents, so care is needed.) A toiletry kit could be taken as “hey, clean it up there a bit” or “you could use this” and again, I’d hesitate.

              Gloves didn’t occur to me…that could’ve worked, though honestly, doesn’t one generally have those if you need them?

            2. C Average*

              It just somehow feels a little more high-pressure.

              For a white elephant exchange, I could always give alcohol (very popular around here!) or paraphernalia from a popular local sports team and know that SOMEONE would want it.

              When I buy something specifically FOR a person, I have to think about how that person specifically will feel about the gift. If it’s too carefully chosen, it can feel overly personal. If it’s too generic, it’s just . . . well, really, why bother? None of my colleagues NEED another Starbucks gift card or case of beer or coffee mug, but that’s what they’re gonna get when I am trying to find something inoffensive and without potential subtexts for less than twenty bucks.

              The sheer unpredictability of the white elephant exchange made it fun. The sheer predictability of a Secret Santa exchange makes it boring.

            3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

              I think that white elephant normally means that you don’t buy the gift – it’s something you have but don’t want. It might be a re-gift, or even a used item – or a gag gift.

          2. Jamie*

            I’m jealous. Sometimes I feel like the only person in the world who has never done a Secret Santa or White Elephant type thing. This may be the holidays cloaking my real asocial self – but it sounds fun.

            (I would be the easiest person in the world to buy for 0.75 Hello Kitty marshmallow sucker from Walgreens and I’m thrilled – and the person who had be gets change back from a single.

            1. C Average*

              Our exchange was especially fun because people would often hang onto gifts that had attracted a lot of attention from the previous year and bring them to the NEXT year, leading to a second stealing war over the same gift.

              Also, I know some people aren’t fans of deliberately crappy gifts, but one of the highlights of our exchange was seeing who would wind up with a year’s custody of a decade-old canister of cheese doodles. They were–not kidding!–seven years past their sell-by date, and they were one of the favorite department conversation pieces. The guy who got them the final year of the exchange is still with the company but in a different department, and he STILL has the canister of cheese doodles proudly displayed in his cube.

        2. Koko*

          I’ve never cared for the gift-stealing games. There’s always a couple of crappy gag gifts that end up in the mix because someone thinks that having more and less desirable items is “part of the fun,” so there’s always a couple of unlucky people who brought something nice and ended up with something crappy. And even though I know intellectually it’s “just a game” I still feel sort of slighted when people steal a gift from me. I’m the kind of person who never takes the stealing because I feel too targeting someone who seems to have something they like and taking it from them. My type is far more likely to end up with the crappy gag gifts when the dust has settled. I’ve just never really liked the sentiment behind it.

          1. Kyrielle*

            I did happily steal a gift from a coworker one year in one of those, but it was a lovely soap set, and he was making faces at it like it had barfed on his lap. I thought that was a good time to snag it. ;)

      4. Ann Furthermore*

        Yeah, these days $5 is no big deal for me, but I remember all too well the days when it was, and I try to be mindful of that and pay it forward every now and then. My daughter’s school has quite a few families who struggle to make ends meet. A couple times a year we (the PTO) do some fundraising which includes an auction. Each class or grade does a project that people bid on, and parents are supposed to chip in a few bucks to cover the cost of making it. Last year, the request was for $3 per family. I gave $20 and told the teacher to keep it and use it to help cover the cost for any families who weren’t able to contribute. I’ve been in the position where spending even 3 unplanned dollars can be a big deal, and it really sucked…and I was single, without kids to worry about.

        And speaking of paying it forward, and Christmas, I read a story last week about an anonymous person who went into a Toys R Us somewhere near Boston and donated $20,000 to pay off every single layaway account. Made me tear up.

        1. Zillah*

          I heard about that, too! I love stories like that – it reminds me that there are a lot of good, kind people in the country.

        2. ThursdaysGeek*

          I read about someone in the Kansas City area who anonymously gives away thousands of dollars and this year had the local cops distribute it in $100 bills. Each cop was given about 10 bills, and they would generally pull over people in dented, older cars. The people thought they’d done something wrong and were going to get a ticket, instead they got a $100 bill. So, not only did some people who really needed some extra money get some, but it came from the cops in a time when the cops are not always considered the good guys.

      5. Alma*

        “Not cost any money” is a great idea. And yes, the gift bag, wrapping paper, tissue paper, ribbon, etc can easily add up.

    2. Rachel*

      That’s what we did at the last few places where I’ve worked – everyone in the department pitches in for a gift for our supervisor. It’s generally a gift card – Starbucks, Kohl’s, etc.

  3. Dan*


    I gotta ask… for an event that’s held in the afternoon during a workday, few people’s spouses would attend even if there were no restriction. And if there’s so few spouses attending, the awkwardness for the spouses that do attend increases significantly, further limiting the spouses who would voluntarily attend. Since few spouses like attending their spouse’s holiday party, why would you subject them to that? I’d be thankful if I were in your shoes.

    My company-wide holiday party was basically an onsite happy hour with light appetizers. I actually really liked it.

    1. Bwmn*


      In a former life I used to be invited to a number of embassy events – and a few of these embassies would throw their parties on like a Tuesday at 2pm. Definitely the most budget conscious. While bringing partners to the evening events would range, seeing a partner at the afternoon events was basically unheard of. One year a newer guy brought his wife to this 2pm party, and I just felt so bad for her. It was basically just a step up from her joining her husband in the office during the afternoon. For those in various foreign services, there’s definitely sympathy for accompanying spouses abroad, but this just ended up being strange.

    2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      My school’s beginning-of-the-school-year party for faculty & staff was on a Wednesday at 4:30 this year, in a part of town not very accessible by public transit. My husband was very much not able to make it. Actually, I was surprised at how many people’s significant others were able to attend.

  4. Dan*


    The offender and the victim are both non-employees. What would one report to HR? Further what would one expect HR to actually do?

    1. Juli G.*

      What I would possibly expect HR to do is prohibit spouses from attending these parties. It’s really all that can be done. Some companies may jump to the nuclear option and some wouldn’t.

      1. LMN*

        Or prohibit the attendance of this particular spouse, who’s shown that he can’t keep his hands off people.

        As for “That means I also wouldn’t send that email — that’s unlikely to do anything other than cause tension in your relationship with your coworker, who isn’t the one at fault here,” maybe tension is warranted. If someone is bringing a guest to work events and that guest is fondling people, that needs to be settled, and it needs to stop.

        And it’s not a crazy argument to think that someone is responsible for the behavior of a +1.

        1. MK*

          However, it is very likely that the coworker is not aware of her husband’s behavior. So, the OP could end up either in the middle of his coworker’s marital crisis, if she believes it happened, or having made an enemy of his coworker who will see him as a crazy person whose crazy wife slandered her wondeful husband. Also, I think it’s a big stretch to claim someone is responsible for the behavior of another adult.

          1. A Dispatcher*

            Absolutely! How many friendships have been ruined (or at least temporarily very much soured) when friend A tries to warn friend B about B’s significant other for whatever reason. Friend A almost always becomes the bad guy in that situation and not the SO. And this is between FRIENDS; a coworker has not even close to that amount of loyalty to you, and I can easily see this coming back to bite LW in the behind unfortunately.

            1. Brandy*

              Too late for OP, but this is one of those things where the in-the-moment reaction is best (IMHO). If it had been me, I would have turned to the offender and said, “you just grabbed the wrong ass,buddy. Your wife is over there.” He’d either have made an honest mistake and embarrassed, or be publically called out. Then it’s handled in the context in which it happened, and you and your husband can move on, leaving your coworker and her husband to argue about what did or did not happen.

          2. LMN*

            The LW and his wife are already in the middle of whatever’s going on. They were put in the middle. When someone’s ass was grabbed. Keeping the peace isn’t always the best route, even if it’s often the easiest (in the short term at least).

            And yes, at any party, I would except a guest’s +1 to behave, and I would expect the invited guests to make that clear to the people they choose to bring. I would definitely expect the invited guests to deal with the obnoxious behavior of their +1 and apologize for it.

            By the way, in the letter about the alcohol-free work party at a restaurant–a party at which even the +1s of the employees were expected to abstain from drinking–that rule was generally assumed to be perfectly reasonable, and the implication was that the LW should not drink so that his SO wouldn’t get in trouble with her boss. Maybe this company just needs a clear no unwelcome ass grabbing rule for employees and their SOs.

            1. Anna H.*

              Exactly, this is inappropriate and should be called out because someone did something wrong. I generally don’t need a white knight to save me but I would want my husband to empathize and do something about it.

              1. Alma*

                I like Brandy’s answer “Hey, your wife is over there…”. Priceless. However, the spouse did not reveal what happened to her employee spouse until the next day.

                Doesn’t anyone else view this as an assault? What if there was another incident OP doesn’t know about? Is the act worse if he grabbed hard enough to leave bruises? or was the breast instead of the butt? Might the employee spouse feel emboldened this year?

                Mentioning this to an appropriate person might be a good thing.

        2. Dan*

          “And it’s not a crazy argument to think that someone is responsible for the behavior of a +1.”

          Crazy, no, but we’re all adults and responsible for ourselves. I am not my spouse, and vv.

          1. LMN*

            I would expect to be held socially responsible for the behavior of a +1 at an event. Legally, of course, is a different matter, but social ramifications are perfectly reasonable (as in, no more +1s for LMN at parties, or maybe just no more LMN).

    2. HR Manager*

      I wonder if this had happened to anyone else. If more than one person stepped forward with concerns about this guy, I suppose HR could actually ban that person from future events. Pretty extreme circumstances though – not just one drunken evening of poor judgment.

      1. Zillah*

        I’m not really comfortable calling grabbing someone’s ass “just one drunken evening of poor judgment.”

        Getting up on a table and singing the national anthem is poor judgment. Spending ten minutes telling your coworkers about your digestive problems is poor judgment. Grabbing someone’s ass goes well, well beyond that. I think that violating another person’s space like that – and, legally, committing sexual assault – is well worth a ban from future events.

        And the OP also didn’t indicate that the coworker’s husband was drunk in the first place.

      2. Preston*

        I agree with HR. Also banning the spouse could have consquences for the actual employee. You could turn a good employee into one that isn’t or even to one who is a liability.

        1. Zillah*

          Hold on – what about this actual employee, whose wife was groped? You’re worried about the fallout to the employee whose husband groped someone, but you don’t seem at all concerned about the fallout to the employee whose wife was groped. Why does the spouse of the perpetrator get a pass over the spouse of the victim?

          Because that’s what you’re saying here, and it’s complete garbage. There may not be much HR can do, but they shouldn’t fail to take action because they’re prioritizing the feelings of one employee whose guest was physically invasive and sexually inappropriate with another employee’s guest.

          1. LMN*

            Yep. And why shouldn’t this issue have negative ramifications for the employee whose husband did this? She’s already proven that she carries some risk to her coworkers and their partners because the person she brings to parties groped someone (and may very well do it again, and may very well have done it before). What if the LW’s wife never goes to another work party–what are the ramifications there?

            I’m honestly really surprised at the reaction on this one.

            1. Preston*

              Two employees, two victims really. But the spouse of the employee who did the grabbing, why punish her? She didn’t do anything?!?!

              1. Zillah*

                The OP’s wife was groped. Who’s the other victim, exactly? And how is banning the OP’s coworker’s husband “punishing” the coworker inappropriately?

  5. Dan*


    The word “we” is so frequently used in this question that I can’t tell if all employees didn’t get their bonus or one particular person didn’t get their bonus. Is this a case of a husband/wife team that works for the same company? If so, that would make the situation a little less confusing.

    1. fdgery*

      Yeah, I was confused about that too. At first I thought the LW was just referring to all the employees collectively as “we”, but then they said “nobody at work,” which made me reconsider. It does sound like it’s two people who live together, since they’re talking about being able to use the money for the holidays and getting ahead on their bills. It would be kind of strange to me if they were saying that all the employees rely on bonuses for the holidays.

      1. Mimmy*

        I just re-read that part, and you’re right…I too was thinking the writer meant all of the employees at first. It doesn’t change the answer though. In this case, go in with the assumption that it was an oversight on the employer’s part.

  6. Ashley*


    My company’s doing weird things with this one. They’re closing Wednesday, December 24th through Thursday, January 1. They’ve asked us to come in on Friday, January 2 or take PTO.

    It’s perfectly legal and all, but it feels like a real morale killer.

    This is of course in addition to an email the company received during last week’s extreme storms wherein they told us to consider our safety in commuting to the office or take a day off. All the school districts in our city and in many of the surrounding communities closed, but not us! (I stayed home, for the record. The streets around me flooded to the extent that I effectively had a moat. And I lost power for 6 hours.)

      1. Rachel*

        It is! When I worked at an ad agency, we always closed the week between Christmas and New Years. (We did have to have a skeleton staff there due to a couple of larger clients’ needs, but that was covered by people who volunteered to work – each person worked one day that week and then got a comp day to use in January.) Of course, our fourth quarter was the most stressful time of all due to all the Thanksgiving and holiday advertising and we all really needed that week off! : )

      2. Persephone Mulberry*

        Morale killer feels a bit strong, but there’s probably a sense of pointlessness in being asked to come in to work ONE day out of a week. I know when my kids’ school schedules fall that way, I was always wonder “why bother?”

            1. Jamie*

              I’m with you guys. I would spend that day making the most awesome task list for what I planned to do next week. And you know most managers will cut you out early that day.

              This is pretty nice of them actually, if they are paying for the rest of the time.

        1. Meg Murry*

          The most annoying part about January 2nd requiring using PTO is that most companies that go on use-it-or-lose it PTO policies make you use a day of your new for the year PTO for that day – which always makes me grumpy to start the year down one PTO day. I never understood why it was so very important that I had to take it from the new PTO – especially if I had unused days to “lose” from the previous year.

          1. Dan*

            My company addresses “use or lose” by capping your leave limit to one week over your accrual rate. IOW, if you get 4 weeks leave/yr, once you hit 5 weeks, you stop accumulating.

            It sometimes drives me nuts because I had the same amount of leave at my last job, and would plan a year out to take it in a lump sum. There, we were allowed three weeks carryover. So I could roll three weeks to the next year, and take four for leave, meaning I could take off seven weeks straight.

            Here, the most I could do is five, because once I hit my limit, I stop accruing.

            At the same time, it does solve the “use or lose in the last two weeks of December” problem, because everybody hits their limit at a different time.

          2. Jamie*

            Does your company pay out what you lost from last year? If so just consider that one day of payout to be the day you’re using and take it “without pay” so you keep your full PTO going into the year?

          3. Cath in Canada*

            We can carry a few days’ unused vacation over to Jan-March of the following year, with prior written approval from a supervisor, but it’s discouraged unless there are special circumstances. However, they made an exception for Friday January 2nd this time around, which is great! I’m taking that day off using my 2014 vacation time, and my boss just had to sign the usual leave approval form.

        2. Chinook*

          The “why bother” of coming in for one day can be answered with “year end paperwork.” There are absolutley people who will have work to do before a fiscal year end that can’t be done until other people finish their work. At this point, I don’t know if I need to come in on the 24th or the 2nd (I am taking the week off in between and can login from home) and won’t until the 23rd. As well, coming in on the 2nd allows me to do a year end roll over of data without people playing in my sandbox, mucking it up.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I get January 2 as a stat holiday, but the previous Saturday (the 27th) is an official work day to compensate. This is national policy (I’m a government employee), but I do live in a country that doesn’t celebrate Christmas, so the 25th is a normal work day as well.

    2. Graciosa*

      I regard this as a fantastic gift – for the cost of a single PTO day, you can get a week and a half off. Alternatively, you can choose to spend the day in the office with few or no other co-workers and use the time to get a head start on any projects you want for the new year with no interruptions.

      I’m not seeing the morale-killing aspects here.

      1. Mel*

        Yeah, as someone who only gets Christmas, half of Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Day, that makes me a little grumpy.

        1. Windchime*

          Yep, me too. That’s how much time I am given off for the holidays as well. I’m taking the entire week of Christmas off, but I have to use 3 1/2 days of PTO to do it.

        2. Serin*

          When I worked at a church, someone before me had negotiated (in lieu of Christmas bonuses, which they couldn’t afford to give anyway) to close the entire office from Christmas Eve to January 2.

          I had to go in for a couple of hours during the week to prepare bulletins, but it was lovely.

          This year I have the same days Mel does, and it’s going to be sad not to have a big chunk of time to spend drinking hot cocoa and reading whatever book I got for Christmas.

          On the other hand, health insurance is nice to have.

        3. ThursdaysGeek*

          Last year, we only got Christmas and New Year’s Day. This year they added a holiday, adding Christmas Eve. I’m the opposite of grumpy — I work for a company that adds holidays! :) (Last year, they added Veteran’s Day, but I’m not holding my breath for next year.) I guess it’s all in your perspective.

      2. hermit crab*

        Exactly! We just get the U.S. federal government holidays, and I feel like that is already pretty generous.

      3. hermit crab*

        Exactly! We just get the U.S. federal government holidays, and I feel like that is already pretty generous.

    3. Oryx*

      I only get the 25th and 1st off per the company, the rest I have to use PTO to cover all of the days your company is giving you at the cost of *one* PTO day. That’s actually really very generous of your employer.

    4. Vin packer*

      My spouse’s work does this stuff, too. Can’t complain about getting a week off, but it is a little annoying. Kind of a sad-trombone way to end a nice break.

    5. HR Manager*

      Because they didn’t close the one extra day? People’s morale will sink because the company gave 7 days of free vacation rather than 8. Really?! Our company is doing the same thing and people are completely psyched.

  7. Lee*

    Before reading this I just happened to see that my former boss’ new student workers gave her a Christmas gift. If this had happened while I worked there I would have felt awkward and guilty. Even now I kinda feel bad I never got her anything.

  8. Seal*

    #1 & 2 – As a manager with an employee who yet again gave gifts to everyone in the office despite having been nicely told it wasn’t necessary to do so, I very much appreciate Alison’s advice on this. It is VERY awkward to receive a gift from an employee, particularly when as a rule I do not buy gifts for them. The rest of my employees are annoyed because everyone agreed that we would do a holiday potluck lunch in lieu of any gift-giving. After the holidays I am going to have to have another, more direct conversation with the gift-giver about respecting our office’s etiquette and my previous instructions regarding gifts. Even though I intend to address the problem as her not following instructions, it still promises to be an awkward conversation.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      An easier way to frame it might be “while this was a kind impulse, it makes other people feel they should be doing it too, and then we suddenly have a very different culture around gift-giving, and one that we don’t want because it means people feel obligated to spend their money at work.” (As opposed to “you didn’t follow instructions,” which is harsher where gifts are involved. Especially if she was told something more like “it’s not necessary” rather than “don’t do it.”)

      1. Seal*

        Yes – this sounds like a better way to broach the subject. Although based on past history with this particular employee I suspect the conversation will end with my saying “don’t do this again” and some hurt feelings, no matter how nicely I say it.

        1. Kyrielle*

          Maybe suggest that if they want to do something big and nice, that they could do it either for the potluck, or that same week, in edible form and for the office as a whole (rather than for individuals)?

          One doesn’t need to cook – if, like me, they’d rather spend money, there’s a LOT of food items that can be purchased and brought to a potluck.

            1. Kyrielle*

              Shrimp cocktail, cookies, fudge, good chocolates…if you take pity on the people most over-looked, a tray of vegetables or fruit. Those are often in short supply. All sorts of awesome options.

    2. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

      It makes me so uncomfortable when this happens! For a number of reasons, I don’t have extra money to buy employee’s holiday gifts (I’m really not even doing gifts for family for the last few years). But i get that some people are “gift people” – I am not one of those! In some cases, it feels like they just get joy out of giving gifts, and I hate to squash it if it’s fun for them in the absence of reciprocation, but it does create a sense of mutual obligation.

      1. Scarlett*

        Oh yes – I am definitely a gift person who feels great joy just by doing it, but I totally understand how it can feel uncomfortable or like too much, so I’ve learned to reel it in on my own. I’ll always be a very gift-y person, for people I love, though.

      2. chrl268*

        What about a card and little piece of chocolate?

        I like to recognise that the people I work with are rather awesome. I spend maybe $2 on people (including my manager).

        1. Algae*

          I had a boss that gave us all a card thanking us for our work with a scratch-off lottery ticket in it. I thought it was a nice gift; acknowledged us, only a dollar or two an employee and we had fun joking about who was coming back if any of us hit it big.

        2. Persephone Mulberry*

          I think that a token “goody” is far enough removed from an actual gift (in a good way) that it puts the emphasis on the card. Well done.

        3. Ashley the Nonprofit Exec*

          I think that’s very kind and would be appreciated. Smaller gifts like that don’t carry the same social obligation to reciprocate.

      3. Purple Dragon*

        Sheldon Cooper said it best
        “…….the foundation of gift giving is reciprocity. You haven’t given me a gift, you’ve given me an obligation.”

        This year I bought one of those bags of individually wrapped chocolates (Mars Bars etc – the tiny ones) and put them in a bowl at the end of our cube for everyone to help themselves. I get to be gifty and no-one feels like they have to reciprocate.

    3. Dan*

      “As a manager with an employee who yet again gave gifts to everyone in the office despite having been nicely told it wasn’t necessary to do so”

      Well yeah, that’s the problem with being too soft. Of course it’s not necessary to give gifts. It never is, so telling her that may not be clear, and in fact might actually be just a polite way of saying thanks.

      1. Sue*

        OP #1 here. Yikes, I rounded up our temp and bought our boss a gift! The temp seemed to think it was a nice gesture, so I didn’t get the sense they felt obligated. I also was less of a brown nose as I wasn’t doing it by my self. I understand what everyone is saying, but my inclination was to get our boss a gift, and I couldn’t quite shake it. We are planning to give our boss the gift tomorrow, so I can keep everyone posted!

        1. Graciosa*

          Please try harder to shake it in the future. As a manager, the only gift I have ever received from employees is the gift of discomfort at having one of my direct reports hand me a present. I realize that this wasn’t the intent, but it is invariably the result.

          If you are truly unable to muster up the self-control to manage your gift-giving impulses, at least convert it to a general (edible) gift for the whole department – or even multiple departments if yours is too small. Bringing a treat for the team – which the boss can choose to share or not – does not produce the same discomfort, appear to be a bid to curry favor with management, or generate unwelcome concern about whether reciprocity is required.

          1. Shortie*

            I’ve had this happen before, and it was very uncomfortable. I don’t buy gifts for my employees as a rule (too many different religions and eating rules, etc. in my work group), so it created this awkward situation where my employee had bought me a gift, but I hadn’t bought her anything. And I couldn’t reciprocate unless I bought everyone something, so I ended up just not doing anything except saying thank you.

      2. Fucshia*

        I agree. “Not necessary” = not required. It does not mean “not allowed” or any other form of “do not do this”.

    1. Jen RO*

      It would be funny if the comments section here hadn’t proven time and time again that it’s absolutely true…

  9. Lillie Lane*

    “My coworker is a harlot”….”ass-grabbers at the holiday party”….loving this week’s headlines!

  10. Brooke*

    #1 and #2 – Trust AAM’s advice here. You do not need to purchase a gift for your manager.

    I manage a team of 5. I generally give them $25-50 gift cards because I realize that I get a nice year end bonus and a higher salary built, in part, on their hard work and want to share the wealth a little more directly than is accomplishable within our company bonus policies.

    But it defeats the purpose if my employees then trun around and spend their money on me. All they owe me is another year of good work. If they feel compelled to do something more than that, a heartfelt card (even better – with specific details about what they appreciate about my management style or our working relationship … feedback in that direction can be hard to come by) would be much more meaningful to me than $50 worth of anything.

    1. Artemesia*

      Absolutely agree. I felt lucky that gifting up was not the norm where I worked. I got a token gift — something costing between 5 and 10$ for each of the 8 support staff that did work for me. I got something different every year, but gave everyone basically the same thing — it might be fancy holiday bread from a bakery or a cooky assortment but be several different flavors, but basically the same. I tried to get things they would be able to take home to their families that would be a treat. I think that is a sort of double win — they get something they can use (and goes away unlike tchotkes that just add clutter) and it is a message to their kids and husband that they are appreciated at work.

  11. AnonymousRue*

    Ugh, I wish more people knew about the gifting up being inappropriate. I got a group text today stating that two other co-workers got together and thought the entire team (8 people in all) should all pitch in $5.00 for our boss. They have already picked out a gift! Everyone else replied saying that was a great idea. Now I either participate or look like an asshole. I have the money, I just really hate feeling like I don’t have a choice.

    1. Jessica*

      I saw this happening in another division where I work and they were really nasty about the people who chose not to participate. I’m glad the people in my division have more sense.

  12. ruthy*

    Gift giving question part a million:

    I know aam’s view on bosses and office gift giving and generally agree but I’m curious about what she or the readers would think about it in the following context:

    My office of 8 people is doing a secret Santa with a £5 limit. The boss is included in the secret Santa. I think this is ok and feels normal to me, esp cause it’s got a low limit and I feel it would feel more odd to exclude the boss than to include her. I’m curious if others feel this sort of situation is generally exempt from the gifts to bosses piece of etiquette? Or if it would feel odd to anyone.

    I guess it might also depend on the people and office culture a bit. For some minor context we do tend to have a very informal office and also as far as I am aware, everyone in my office likes and has a good relationship with each other and with the boss.

    1. ACA*

      I wish my six-person office did Secret Santa – it would be so much easier (and cheaper!). Instead everyone is expected to buy gifts for everyone else, no price limit, and there’s no hope of changing to anything else because This Is How We’ve Always Done It. (At least we get to go out to a fancy restaurant for lunch or dinner, though.)

      1. C Average*

        Can you suggest it? Are you sure everyone else actually likes How We’ve Always Done It?

        When I first began working at my current company nearly eight years ago, we had a huge department-wide white elephant gift exchange which (I’m gonna be honest) I loved and still kind of miss. (It was raucous and alcohol-fueled and I can see how it wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I thought it was really fun.) Apparently a couple of people over the course of the year approached their managers within the department and told them they’d prefer to do something smaller within their own groups. There was surprisingly little resistance. Even though it was a longtime tradition, the first year it went away, everyone kind of shrugged and said, “OK.”

        Now many groups within the department do Secret Santa-type things or nothing at all, and new hires are surprised to learn that we ever had any kind of department tradition.

        Sometimes all it takes is a person or two willing to speak up.

      2. Tris Prior*

        Oh man… BTDT. Small company, we were all horribly paid and buying for each of our 5 co-workers was hard for most of us. Except my one co-worker who had a wealthy husband and who was just working there because she genuinely enjoyed doing the job; she did not need the money. She threw a FIT when a) I gently suggested we draw names instead and b) I suggested that a $25/person spending *minimum* would cause a hardship for most of us. Sigh.

        I wasn’t even spending $100 total on family, friends, and people I was actually close to. And I was expected to cough that up for co-workers? I liked them all fine, but, just no.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Ugh! I come from a family of 6 kids, who are now all married, some with kids and grandkids, parents still living (fortunately we do a rotation in my family). I married into a family of the same size, with 5 siblings still living, also with some kids and grandkids. I like giving gifts, I have the money, and try to do a token gift for many, but I may not spend $25 on my spouse, and certainly not on most of the rest of the gifts! No way would co-workers get more than my family.

      3. fposte*

        That’s how our gift exchange evolved (or, actually, I think I may just have decreed it)–low-paid people were starting to feel they had to give gifts to inappropriate numbers of people. We’re a gifty crowd, so I knew it couldn’t be squelched entirely, but a low-ceiling gift exchange channels the impulse while capping the burden.

  13. Z*

    #10 Company-wide christmas gift? How about a gift card for say $15 – 20 (or roughly how much the wine is) for one of the dominant grocery or department stores in your country? That’s practically the next best thing to money because pretty much literally everybody uses these kind of stores.

    1. Apollo Warbucks*

      In the UK there are tax implications for gifting cash or cash equivalents. The last thing you want to give your staff for Christmas is a tax liability.

      1. Another unnamed*

        LW#10 here! The other argument against cash is that the vast majority of UK staff are on some salary + bonus scheme, and everyone’s going to be given some amount of additional cash at Christmas (or shortly after, once they process the annual figures) anyway. Anything extra would just be lost in that, and wouldn’t be nearly as appreciated, I think.

        1. Maggie*

          I wish the “vast majority” of UK staff were on a bonus scheme, especially post-recession. Not to mention all the minimum wage staff, zero hours staff, temp staff etc. Maybe you mean in the City of London finance district?

          1. Another unnamed*

            Sorry, Maggie: I meant UK staff in our organisation. The bonuses are typically something like 50% based on individual effort (i.e. performance review) and 50% company performance; we have had a year or two where the company performance part was zero…

      2. Maggie*

        Too true. I used to work for an employer that gave us gift vouchers at Christmas and we then paid tax (as an itemised amount) in our January pay. Still, there was a net gift. Small food and drink gifts aren’t usually taxable (it is at the discretion of HMRC) so employers often like this as there is no admin for them. An average bottle of wine would normally be tax-free but a luxury hamper wouldn’t. But giving alcohol to staff is a touchy area for all the reasons above. Cash or a gift card from a manager as a personal gift is not taxable but a cash/voucher gift from the organisation itself is.

      3. HR Manager*

        In the US too. Just that many smaller companies ignore it, don’t know about it or both, and larger companies can’t police all these things that managers often do without checking in.

  14. Apollo Warbucks*

    #10 I’ve been responsible for getting office gifts for my office of about 200 people for a few years and found everyone would accept a gift no matter what religion they were, the gifts are always presented as a thank you for a years hard work.

    Don’t under estimate the drinking culture in the UK, wine is a very well received gift, but I’ve always had a stash of non alcoholic sparking fruit juice or something similar to offer those that don’t drink.

    1. Carrie in Scotland*

      Oh yes, there are some very nice non alcoholic drinks that look very appealing in their bottles.

      I do drink, but I don’t drink wine – any wine – thus it’s always re-gifted somewhere else.

      1. Miss Chanandler Bong*

        There are so many holiday parties & dinners at this time of year that it’s nice to have some bottles on hand to bring!

    2. UK Nerd*

      As a Brit, I see wine as one of the standardised gift trifecta: wine, chocolates and flowers. I’ve been given a lot of wine, which irritates me slightly as I’m a non-drinker, but I don’t take it personally when it’s the same gift everyone else gets. I just accept and pass it on to someone who’ll appreciate it.

      Having non-alcoholic bubbly as an option for those who don’t want wine is a really good idea though, and I’d mention that if saying anything to HR. People are far more inclined to listen to problems when they come with attached solutions. And I’ve just found out M&S do a non-alcoholic sparkling muscato – there’s Christmas dinner sorted.

      1. Another unnamed*

        To be honest, a decent sparkling moscato could be a good option when my wife’s told me I’m driving home! I’ll have to watch out for that one.

      2. Apollo Warbucks*

        In my office I found that people that didn’t drink didn’t want to have a bottle of non alcoholic wine either. There are still several creates kicking around from 4 years ago I haven’t been able to get rid of.

        1. Miss Chanandler Bong*

          Sparkling cider might be a better option than NA wine? I’ve found that often nondrinkers don’t enjoy the taste, so now it’s something that they don’t like that won’t even give them a buzz. Sparkling cider has that festive feel while also being delicious.

          1. UK Nerd*

            I’ve never actually seen real non-alcoholic wine, although I’ve heard it exists. I was thinking of sparkling grape juice.

            (I still haven’t got used to the idea of cider not being alcoholic in the US.)

  15. Another unnamed*

    Re gifting up: I agree that it should be the exception, not the rule: but I don’t think it should be *entirely* inappropriate. My immediate manager is excellent: he’s an advocate for all 12 of us on the team, shields us from the worst excesses of management and of clients, and puts in a lot of effort to make our lives easier and more productive. I don’t regret for a moment that we all chipped in and bought him a present :-)

  16. Crow*

    I violated the “no gifts for your boss” rule my first year at work. In retrospect, I still would have bought another copy of The Best Of Queen, but I would have kept it and let him keep the old beat up copy he nicked from me.

    Re #8: I’ve worked through every paid holiday our company gives us at one time or another, with the exception of Thanksgiving and Christmas. They’re good, however, at letting me take the holiday at a later time. Definitely ask about that. I’ll be working in the field on New Years Eve and Day, so I feel your pain.

    On the other hand, I’m not super bothered about making up minor holidays. I never did take a day off for Columbus Day/Veterans Day this year. If New Years slips by me, I won’t be surprised at all.

    1. C Average*

      If one had to come up with a go-to gift, The Best of Queen is a very good one! I’m having fun imaging how various people in my life would react to receiving The Best of Queen for Christmas. (I’m sure my boss already has it, as we’ve discussed the fact that one of the very, very few things we agree on is that Queen is the best music in the world to sing along with in the car.)

      1. Kelly L.*

        I’d think I must have left something in the car for two weeks.

        /Good Omens

        (Seriously, though, I’d love it.)

      2. Crow*

        My boss and I always act out the Wayne’s World scene when Bohemian Rhapsody is playing, no matter if we’re in the car or the office.

  17. Rebecca*

    #9 – unless the company has a written policy on bonuses, as in everyone will receive a certain percentage or amount each December XX, I wouldn’t count on this money to pay bills or buy presents. A bonus is just that, something extra, and depending on the financial health of the company you may or may not get one. My company just gave us a small bonus this week. It’s a percentage based on our gross wages, but it’s less than we received last year because our overtime work was greatly reduced this year. I’ve heard people complaining that their bonus is so much less than last year, they were depending on X amount, etc. I’m not even getting into that. At this point, with no raises, etc. any extra money is better than NO extra money.

    1. Kelly L.*

      Sure, but in this case the boss actually said it was deposited, but it’s missing. I think it’s different when one has actually been told it’s definitely coming, vs. when one just assumes there will be one.

      1. reader*

        Yes being told it’s coming is different them assuming but either way you should never count on a bonus for your every day expenses.

        1. Kelly L.*

          It’s not their everyday expenses, though. OP wanted to use it for the extra expenses of the holidays and for getting ahead on bills–i.e., their normal expenses (housing, food, regular bill amounts, etc.) are covered, but they had made plans for the extra money once they were told it was coming.

          In any case, yes, you (general you) can’t depend on there being a bonus at all, as a general rule, but that doesn’t make it OK to renege on a promised one, no matter what the employee plans to spend it on.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Addendum: especially without any communication. It’s one thing to say “Sorry, guys, we can’t do the bonus after all because (business reasons).” It’s another to say “You’re getting it on the 15th” and then nada.

          2. reader*

            I believe that Christmas spending is part of the regular budget. You should never spend what you don’t already have. As I said below the bonus is a treat. do something extra after you get it not before.

            1. Zillah*

              I disagree. Christmas spending certainly isn’t part of my regular budget – I always get something for the people I’m close to, but how much I spend depends a lot on what my financial situation is. I agree with you in general about spending a bonus after you have it and not before, but when you’re specifically told that you will be getting a bonus with your next paycheck, that’s a different situation.

              1. Kelly L.*

                Agree. My Christmas spending is based on how much discretionary income I have that year.

                And @reader, the OP hasn’t “done” anything extra with it yet. It would be one thing to lecture the OP if, say, she’d written checks against that money before she had it. But she’s talking about spending she’d like to do with it once it’s there. Nothing’s spent yet except in her head.

                1. reader*

                  This from OP says they counted on bonus for Christmas, etc.
                  “It’s getting down to the wire on Christmas shopping and paying the bills we were hoping on using the money for, so we are getting more stressed with each day that it is not here.”
                  This is why I think bonuses should not be tied to the Christmas season.

                  Yes – as they were told the bonus was coming and when they should ask about it.
                  But in the future all spending (that includes Christmas) should be budgeted for. Then if you get a bonus you can be more generous.
                  My husband and I draw up a budget every year. It’s based solely on the wage income as of January 1st. Everything above and beyond that received during the year (bonuses, raises, investments, gifts, etc.) is extra and put into savings for future expenditures. This is one way we’ve been able to cover extra expenses (all those sports camps) that come with having children.

                2. Jamie*

                  Right – and this has come up irl conversations for me lately and I’m confused on how it’s an issue.

                  People knowing what they are getting or making sure it hits before rather than after the holiday doesn’t make it a “Christmas gift” – it’s still compensation. But lets face it, a lot of people spend money on gifts or travel at the holiday and making sure they have it before gives a company more morale bang for it’s buck.

                  If bonuses are discretionary they don’t have to do them. Most do because they want to share the profit, it’s a retention strategy, thanks for work well done, etc. Nice at any time but if it can give someone that extra burst of happiness because they can do that extra thing, or fly Mom in for the holidays…why not?

                  My bonus doesn’t typically change Christmas at all – although one year we did the family gift of a TV which we wouldn’t have otherwise – but my kids are older so even if we were doing something like that they would totally understand it wouldn’t hit until after the holiday – we’ll do X then. And I don’t make so much money that a little extra doesn’t come in handy this time of year since the Christmas season is also spring semester tuition season…but for people who live more check to check and have small kids the bonus hitting before Christmas can be the difference between Santa being able to do a little something special and not.

                  If there is no reason not to – pay before the holiday. And yeah, people shouldn’t spend what they haven’t got and no one should count on money based on previous years…but if it’s promised and a date was given heck yes ask where it is (nicely.) But even people who will use 90% of their bonus responsibly can still get a kick out of having that extra 10% to splurge.

                  And even if I wanted to cash mine in singles, roll around in it, and then bury it in the yard that’s my business. But it would still be nice if I had it to do on Christmas day if I so chose. :)

    2. reader*

      Agree, very much so. Husband and I worked for a company many years ago who traditionally gave bonuses at Christmas time. It was nice but not something that my husband or I counted on or included in our budget. Oh the grumbling that occurred when the bonuses changed. First they were a week later then usual, then the next year they were less. After I left the company they stopped giving them at all. Many employees counted on this for their Christmas spending and acted as if the bonus was part of their regular compensation. When the bonuses were reduced you would have thought someone had put a gun to their heads and robbed them.
      You should live off of your regular salary and anything extra should considered a treat be a treat.

      1. HAnon*

        Do y’all remember that Christmas movie with Chevy Chase where he is counting on the holiday bonus to build a pool in his backyard and they kidnap the boss because he isn’t giving bonuses that year? Must have been some kind of bonus :p

        1. Mimmy*

          Just watched that about a week or so ago! I don’t remember if the boss actually promised it, or if Chevy Chase’s character just assumed it was coming (I tend to zone out in the beginning of movies).

          1. NotMyRealName*

            He assumed because not only had he gotten one every year, he’d also invented a new cereal varnish that the CEO was pretty proud of.

      2. Artemesia*

        Many times people are recruited with the bonus as part of their expected salary so it is a bit of a bait and switch when that changes.

  18. Not So NewReader*

    #6. Wow. I guess I would tell my boss that my spouse and I will not be attending this year and tell her what happened last year. Then I would explain that I realize that there is not a lot the company can do about it, so we have found our own solution. (I’d say it in a tone of voice that was not vindictive, just matter of fact.)

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      That seems like overkill…I would (if I were the spouse) stick with staying on the far side of any group from Handsy McHusband and call it a day.

      1. fposte*

        It’s also not clear how the wife responded–she may feel she handled the situation effectively and that ass-grabber presents no future threat.

  19. illini02*

    While on #10 I do agree with Alison, I have to ask, would people really be bothered by these things? I luckily have no allergies, and I participate in many of lifes vices (I don’t smoke though), I feel even if I didn’t indulge in certain things that I would still just graciously accept and re-gift or something. I’ve gotten enough innocuous gifts that I had no use for, and I just smiled, took it, and did whatever I wanted later. While I do get the thought, and I think OP is very considerate of others, it makes me wonder are we just so sensitive as a socity now that even GIFTS have to be scrutinized.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not about being so sensitive as a society (although I might argue that you are very sensitive to the appearance of sensitivity in others — I’ve noticed you regularly point this out and seem really bothered by it!). People can accept a gift graciously and still feel like it would have been nice if their employer had been more thoughtful if they wanted to thank them, by not giving them something they have a widely known blanket ban on using.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      There’s no point in giving a gift that a segment of the group can’t or won’t use. The point of giving a gift is to be generous – to think of what THEY would like, not you. If they can’t or won’t use it, it’s not very generous, is it? And it’s not acknowledging that in a diverse workforce, not everyone will be able to use that gift. And as managers we DO have to scrutinize our actions – I like that I have a diverse team and I want to ensure I respect that.

      1. illini02*

        Its kind of like what I was saying before. There is almost NO gift that everyone will like, so you go for what you think MOST people would like, then other people can do what they want with it, whether its give it away or throw it away. I do think it depends on how significant that segment of the population is who can’t or won’t use the gift is. If its just a handful of people, well sometimes that happens. Granted, if its a bigger company, you may not really know how many it affects, but I think you can get an idea.

        1. Katie the Fed*

          No, that’s not at all what I was saying. There’s a big difference between “a gift that not everyone will like” and “a gift that several people CANNOT use because of their religion.” Surely you understand the difference, right?

          1. Kyrielle*

            This! I don’t like alcohol. I would not enjoy that gift. But giving it to me is not insensitive the way that it would be if you gave it to a Muslim or someone who is a recovering alcoholic (and you know about it).

            Actually, food and alcohol are both pretty risky because there’s illnesses that revolve around their mis-use, and you really don’t want to trip over that, IMO. (And I say that sadly, because honestly, chocolates I can have are my favoritest gift ever to get…but for someone who has struggled with an eating disorder, they could be a major problem.)

            I’m sensitive to tree nuts. Accidentally giving me chocolates that are made with them will make me briefly sad (because I can’t eat them), and I adore my boss for getting ones for us this year that don’t have any nuts, but that’s a gift I can’t use (but can re-gift), the same (in my case) as alcohol…or as a jersey for a sports team I don’t care about (which is, uh, all of them).

            But giving a Muslim or a recovering alcoholic wine is a level of fail that’s different from “they can’t use this gift”. It’s not the same as giving someone a book they have no interest in (or already own).

  20. Katie the Fed*

    If people really want to give the boss something, I’ll tell you that nothing warms my cold management heart more than a sincere note in a card saying that they appreciate me. I’ve learned that management can often be a thankless, difficult job, and knowing that someone actually appreciates what I do goes a long way. Because at the end of the day my team is all that matters.

    1. Graciosa*


      This would be a gift that any manager would truly appreciate.

      One of the ironies of really good management is that it can appear effortless. It never is, but if the manager is effectively shielding the team from politics and churn that would distract from getting the work done, those individuals will never fully realize how much goes into making this happen. They also don’t see the manager agonizing over hiring and disciplinary decisions, salaries and budgets, work assignments and development plans, or any of the thousand and one other things that occupy most of our brainpower even as we’re smiling encouragement to the team.

  21. TotesMaGoats*

    I’m preparing myself for the sound thrashing I’m sure to receive for my comment. (girds loins)

    I would say, in my experience, that not gifting up is going to depend on the circumstance. I’ve had bosses who I loved dearly, who gave me opportunities for growth and freedom. I always got them a little something. A cute pin from Kohl’s, for example. Or a scarf. I brought wine back for another that I knew would appreciate it. Others got a card only and maybe I made cookies.

    Most of my staff give me a gift of some kind. I get everyone something. Some years, it’s more than others. That’s our dynamic. It works for us. This might not be true for your office. If it’s not, then follow etiquette.

    1. Another unnamed*

      Nope, definitely with you there. A lot depends on the working environment: at some of my previous jobs (e.g. restaurant cleaner) it would have been the weirdest of weird to give *anyone* a gift, for example.

  22. Dawn King*

    We did a gift for our manager this year, but it was a photo of us, her team. I thought that walked the line very nicely because others wanted to actually take a collection and get something for her. She actually cried and loves the photo more than anything else we would have given her.

    1. C Average*

      Awww. That’s awesome. (If it’s half as cute as your panda avatar, I’m not surprised she loves it!)

    2. Jamie*

      That is sweet that your boss loves that. Tbh I don’t know what my reaction would be if people at work gave me a group pic of themselves. I’d be more than a little befuddled…but I have no heart so there’s that.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Maybe in a different setting with a different group of peeps?

        I can see that working really well at some of my former employers. But other employers, it would become a dart board or something. I think for the employees to come together and agree that this is a good idea tells a lot about the dynamics of that workplace.

        1. Jamie*

          Oh it wouldn’t be a dart board for me – I like the vast majority of people I work with. Unless it was a funny joke thing I just see pics as something sentimental and I want to look at pics of my kids or some of my family – big fan of pics of pets and old photographs…I just wouldn’t find the sentiment where I want to look at my co-workers! Not that they aren’t all lovely and great looking – just feels personal to me.

          Don’t get me wrong – I love looking at other people’s pics and seeing their lives and cool stuff – but I’m assuming as it’s a gift it’s framed for display and if I am going to look at something framed it needs to either fill me with love, sentiment, or crack me up.

          Totally ymmv issue and I’m an outlier on this I’m sure….and I’d also quit before I posed for a pic for my boss which would be up there with getting a root canal with no Novocaine while walking on coals…so it’s probably just me.

  23. Persephone Mulberry*

    Since we’re on the subject, any advice for when you’re on the receiving end of a “nicer” gift from your manager than your coworkers? The gift itself wasn’t anything special, but it was clearly different from and more expensive than the variations-of-the-same-item that my coworkers received. I pretty much just avoided bringing up the subject and was grateful no one asked me point-blank what I got.

      1. Persephone Mulberry*

        I kind of suspect the subtext was “thanks for not quitting after all” (it was a rough year). It was along the lines of everyone else got a scarf and I got a fancier scarf+hat+gloves.

        1. fposte*

          Oh, I was hoping it was something you could pretend was discounted/regifted, but when it’s obviously what other people got + more that’s not really an out.

    1. Incognito*

      Nothing wrong with that – I get little gifts from my boss all the time no one else does. Sometimes not so little like electronic gear and a spendy laptop bag…fun little things every so often.

      I just assume it’s an unspoken message that she likes me best and doesn’t want me to quit. And that I’m her favorite.

      I have no problem with that.

  24. Thorina*

    Re #6 – While I recognise that HR can do nothing about non employees and there’s not an easy resolution, but I don’t really feel all that comfortable with AAM’s answer as it implies that an appropriate response to someone being sexually assaulted is to roll your eyes and get on with life. Having lurked here for a while, I know that is not something that Alison would condone, but it does come across a little icky to me as written.

    1. Judy*

      Well, the appropriate response isn’t for the husband to defend his wife’s honor, either. There isn’t much the company can do, and for the husband to take it up with co-worker’s husband becomes problematic, in the “you poached my property, bro” way. If the wife wants do do something personally, that’s on her, but besides supporting his wife, there’s not much the husband can do.

      1. Zillah*

        I don’t know – to me, I’d expect my partner to stick up for me in that situation, not because he’s the man and I’m his property, but because the incident happened on his turf. I do get what you’re saying, but I think this being his party changes things. (Though are we sure that the OP is a man? I didn’t think the letter specified.)

        1. Vin packer*

          Oops. Yeah this. More concise than my comment below. (And I totes assumed OP’s gender, too. I’ll retreat now.)

        2. Jamie*

          ITA – and it may be wrong but I’ll admit if this were me and my husband didn’t have an issue with it and could work with Handsy McGrabsmyass without a problem…I’d have a problem.

          And it’s not a gender thing because if someone’s SO were shitty to my husband at one of these things I’d have a problem.

      2. Vin packer*

        It’s not necessarily “on her” to do something personally. This was a work function for the husband–it’s not unreasonable for him to be the one to deal with it, because it’s his thing and these are his people.

        If he’s just, like, puffing his chest with no regard to her feelings about what ought to be done in the situation and embarrassing her further, then, yeah, that’s gross of him. But it’s okay for him to act as a representative member of their team.

        Personally, if someone from my husband’s side of our social Venn diagram behaved appallingly and my husband was like, “if you want to do something personally, that’s on you, but I’ll be supportive from over here,” I’d be pretty annoyed.

        1. fposte*

          But I also think if the grabbee shamed the moron into the ground and came back to mention the incident to her spouse, the spouse doesn’t need to pick up the battle, as it’s been handled. Dunno whether this was the case for the OP or not, of course.

          1. Vin packer*

            For sure. I’d be equally annoyed if he decided to obnoxiously rescue me after I’d already dealt with it my own way. In fact, early in our relationship, when we went to his good friend’s wedding and I was handily groped by the groom(!), I angry-whisper-hissed him off of just such a ledge.

            I’m assuming in good faith that the OP isn’t being a macho butthead here.

            1. Zillah*

              Hmm. On one hand, I agree – if this was a purely social situation and the wife had already dealt with it, I don’t think it would be the OP’s place to get involved.

              However, this isn’t a purely social situation, so I think this goes beyond the OP fighting their wife’s battles for her. This is on some level the company’s business, and I think they should be aware that one employee’s guest did something so outside the realms of what is socially acceptable behavior.

              1. Vin packer*

                I might agree if it was the coworker who was the groper. But the fact that it was someone who isn’t actually part of the company makes me think it’s just enough of a grey area that it wouldn’t be worth overruling the wife’s wishes to let it go, if she feels strongly about it.

                But we have no indication that OP 6’s wife wants to let it go. So that’s really the kind of point only a cow cares about, and I am still very much Team Say Something.

          2. Student*

            While I agree with your general point, that is like a 0.1% response to these kinds of incidents. It’s far more likely that the OP’s wife got very embarrassed and uncomfortable, and said nothing until she was back home with the OP. It’s far more likely that she feels violated and/or upset but also like she can’t do much about it.

            OP #6 – unfortunately, there is really very little you can do about this. Cops don’t respond well to sexual assault calls, especially days after the event, if there’s no obvious physical damage like bruises, and no witnesses beyond your wife and perpetrator. Your company doesn’t have any authority over it, especially now that the party is over.

            You might want to talk to your co-worker, in a calm and factual way, because she’s in the best position to cause consequences for the jerk that molested your wife. The immediate response will be angry and defensive, though, so this is probably a bad idea if you work closely with her; however, after getting 5x of these reports from unrelated people at different events as her husband continues to assault other people, she might see the light and divorce him, or at minimum stop taking him to company parties. It won’t be the kind of immediate satisfaction that you and your wife are hoping for, though, so don’t hold your breath.

            On your end – please talk with your wife. Listen to her. Validate her feelings. Make sure she doesn’t blame herself. Encourage her to speak up in the moment if this ever happens to her again. Come up with some good one-liners for putting down such horrible behavior, as a catharsis. Most importantly, convey that you’re on her side, and always will be. That’s the most important thing you can do. You can’t give her justice this time, but you can give her support.

            1. Cassie*

              Why are there jerks who do this? I got my ass groped/grabbed briefly recently as I was walking down the street, by some punk-ass kid (or young-looking 20-something) riding a skateboard. He, of course, skated off faster than I could yell at him but I would have loved to knock him off his skateboard and then proceed to whack him with said skateboard.

              But I’d probably get charged with assault, especially if he was a kid.

              What a sad state of affairs it is that people can’t attend holiday parties at work or walk down a busy street during the middle of the day without getting touched inappropriately… *sigh*.

      3. Bwmn*

        For this reason, I think that going to HR is actually the best way avenue open. If the OP is a man, then him going after his (assumed) female coworker or her husband could be interpreted as bullying the female coworker.

        I think that the assault should not be treated lightly – but I also don’t think that the response is for any kind of “man to man” confrontation. What we do in our personal lives or want from our relationships, so be it – but in a professional context – the subtext of a man coworker interfering or exerting force towards a female colleague could really end up blowing up in the face of the OP.

    2. Vin packer*

      Yeah, I have to disagree pretty strongly with the advice for #6. It’s true that it’s really not an HR issue, and an email is probably a bad idea. But the idea that OP has to shut up to keep the peace is messed up, because the relationship with the coworker is ALREADY tense–she just doesn’t know it.

      It could be worth saying to her, look, I want you to know that your husband grabbed my wife’s ass at the Christmas party and she did not appreciate it; I’m not going to make a big deal about it but it was not okay. In a fairly neutral tone. And let the coworker do whatever she wants with that information.

      This is assuming the wife is okay with him saying it, of course.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think that’s a good response.

        I once received a proposition from a coworker’s husband in an email (!) after an office holiday party and after 10 minutes of “do I forward this to Coworker?” I ended up just rolling my eyes and moving on (while forever marking the dude in my mind as a disgusting a-hole), and for me an ass-grab would be in the same category … but I do know that for plenty of people the latter is much more egregious, so I get the disagreement on this one. Some of it depends on how the wife is reacting, I think.

        1. Vin packer*

          Ughhhhhh. Grooooss. That 10 minutes of, what do I do? is just the worst. Honestly, I probably would have done the same thing as you, personally. I just always try to support people who do want to speak up–if they do it well (key “if”), they’re kind of doing us all a favor.

          Scalding showers for everyone! Happy Holidays!

        2. Zillah*

          Oh, ew.

          I’d probably do the same thing with that kind of email, but personally, once someone physically touches me or threatens me, they’ve crossed a line for me. YMMV.

    3. BethRA*

      Granted that HR doesn’t have an obvious role to play here, but if this happened at one of our events, I’d want to hear about it. Because the only way to know if this isn’t an isolated incident is if people let us know.

  25. Tower of chocolate*

    Company I temped at last year gave these towers of gourmet chocolate to all the senior executives for the holidays. One day they just appeared on all their desks around the office, these beautiful towers of boxed chocolate, with fancy bows. This is a big company so there were a lot, and a lot more lower employees that got nothing. It bugged me. I felt at the time that it was something that should have gotten sent to their homes. I thought maybe I was over reacting but after reading this perhaps I wasnt.

    I will say that my boss did offer me some, but I felt bad taking it so I said no.

    1. some1*

      You weren’t overreacting. It’s rude to give gifts in a setting like that when not everyone is getting something.

    2. Chriama*

      Yeah, that’s kind of sketchy. Unless there was a specific employee equivalent (Christmas party on company time? Time off with pay?) then it seems like a deliberate exclusion of the “have-nots”.

      1. Tower of chocolate*

        They did throw a holiday party for all the staff and individual departments did take staff out to lunch, which was nice. But the senior execs still participated in that as well. It just seemed off.

    3. brightstar*

      When I worked at a law firm the lawyers all got oodles and oodles of gifts from clients, plus a bonus from the executive staff, and we were told we had to get the lawyers we assisted something. It made me a little resentful that they were getting thousands in gifts and the two lawyers I assisted went in together on a $25 gift card for me.

      1. Tower of chocolate*

        Ouch! That blows. And what a lack of awareness and it was totally selfish on their part. They really couldn’t pull together to do more than a $25 gift card?

      2. Artemesia*

        My husband was a partner in a small law firm. When the gifts rolled in at Christmas, they were subdivided among the entire staff including the partners. It was common to get say a gift basket and for various people to get a thing or two from it. The boss who hogs all of the goodies arriving from clients creates a sort of stingy tone in the office.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          This is what Exjob did. Anyone who got a gift basket from clients or vendors put it out for everyone to have a grab at it. And we had a vendor who always brought in a massive ham and sandwich fixings. I liked that, because the office people would get basket-type stuff often but not the people on the manufacturing floor. With the ham, EVERYONE got a sandwich. Another brought ice cream but I always let the shop people have mine (I didn’t need to be eating it anyway, LOL).

      1. Tower of chocolate*

        Yes! It was kind of like that. These executives are paid over six figures and I remember thinking that there was a big disparity there. These were really huge gifts too. At least 6 boxes of chocolate in each tower. I’m guessing at least 100 chocolates in each. I mean, who can even eat that much chocolate? In my small group there were maybe 10 people and the director and her boss got this gift. The company really could have gifted everyone a small box of chocolate for the same price.

        Interestingly my parents worked for this company my whole life. I remember them getting gifts mails to our home. Since then Mom has retired but my dad still works there. He literally has the most tenure of any employee there. The company was 3 people when he started and now it’s been sold twice to major corporations and has 20k+ employees world wide. He’s been there 37 years and no one else from the early days are there. My dad DOES NOT get one of these gifts because he’s not an executive, he’s an engineer. It feels really messed up.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          If I were a manager there, I would assume a gift like that was to be shared with all my subordinates, that this was a team gift for each team. It sounds big enough for that.

  26. Graciosa*

    Any comments on how to politely refuse a gift from a subordinate? I have accepted a few in the past to avoid embarrassing the giver in a very public setting – and my current team is thankfully not showing impulses in this direction – but I would like a tactful and graceful way to respond if this ever comes up again. I’m really hoping it doesn’t, but the number of people who think gifts to the boss are a kindness has me nervous.

    I don’t mind accepting a homemade food item (if not excessive) but anything more sends my brain racing into analyzing the scope of the problem (and a gift from one of my direct reports is a problem) which leaves little brain power left for figuring out what to say. I would love to hear suggestions for how to respond.

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I don’t think there is a way to do that. I think you need to prep them ahead of time that you don’t want them to give you gifts. In the moment, I think all you can do is say a gracious thank you and there’s no need. I can’t think of any wording that wouldn’t make someone super embarrassed.

    2. Chriama*

      How rude would it be to refuse the gift? Something to the effect of “I really appreciate the gesture, but I don’t want to create a culture of obligation around the holidays. I would much rather you (and your coworkers) spend your money on yourself and your family.” I think definitely anything over ~$20(individual) or $5/person (group collection) and you should refuse. Anything under you can accept but emphasize the caveat that from now on they shouldn’t get you stuff.

    3. HAnon*

      Could you fudge a little bit and say that you really appreciate the gesture but it’s against the company’s policy to accept? then it would not be as personal and the gift giver would feel like it was a top-down command instead of a preference.

    4. Artemesia*

      This is a policy that should be made clear on the front end. When someone is standing there with a gift it is too late. The announcement should be made in late November (and can have a cookie clause )

      1. fposte*

        I love the phrase “cookie clause”–that’s exactly what I was thinking. And I’d probably include language about bringing in homemade treats “that we could enjoy sharing,” so it becomes less of a gift to the individual.

    5. looking forward*

      I have accepted the gift and while expressing my appreciation for the gift, also explaining that I would also appreciate not receiving one in the future and why.

  27. some1*

    #5 is what we did for the holiday party when I worked for the government. I don’t get why it’s such a big deal to be without your spouse for a few hours. It’s a work event more than a social one. If you weren’t having a party that afternoon you’d be at work and your spouse wouldn’t be there — it’s not like your work is asking you spend a Saturday night without your spouse.

    1. Graciosa*

      Yes, a work event is absolutely work. I remember discussing one with a family member who made just that comment (and sounded surprised, which surprised me). Some are more enjoyable than others, but it is always work. It matters how you behave (drink, dress, circulate, greet and thank the hosts, etc.) far more than it would in a purely social setting. Looking at some of the stories of misbehavior at the holiday party – and subsequent career impact – I’m amazed that there are people who don’t realize this.

      Kudos to the sponsors for acknowledging this by scheduling it during normal business hours and leaving the evenings free for truly social events of the employees’ choice.

  28. long time reader first time poster*

    Last year I was brand new at my company, and when my team bought our boss a gift for xmas I just rolled with it, even though I knew it wasn’t the done thing. It was a gag gift and he loved it so much it was worth it.

    This year they wanted to do a gift again, and I just kept my mouth shut and chipped in. Again, I know it’s not ‘correct’ but our office is very close knit group and I’m okay with going against the grain here. We do things differently a lot of the time. I think you need to know your office dynamic, and if you do it’s okay to break the ‘rules’ sometimes.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, I definitely don’t intend to imply “you are a bad person if you give in and do this / you have a moral obligation to refuse.” I just want people to know that there’s zero obligation, it is against the etiquette, and many (although not all) bosses will be uncomfortable with it. And for the love of Hanukkah balls, don’t ever make your coworkers feel pressured to chip in. But from there, I leave it to you!

  29. brightstar*

    I’m still debating whether or not to get my staff some type of gift. The debate is that one is a Jehovah’s Witness and while I could say “This is for the great job you do” I don’t want to be disrespectful of her religious beliefs while also treating all my employees equally.

    1. Another unnamed*

      It depends on your relationship with this woman. Ideally, you could pull her aside for a quick chat: “Hey, Jane, I was going to get people a Christmas gift. I really appreciate the work you do, but I don’t want to offend you by giving you a gift you don’t believe in: of course I don’t want to just leave you out either. What would you prefer?”

      That way, you can tell her the meaning behind the gift, while letting the actual tangible object be up to her discretion.

      1. Bwmn*

        You could also change the phrase “Christmas gift” to “end of the year gift”.

        People of other or conflicting faiths aren’t unaware, but times like this there’s no harm in using PC language and offer an end of the year gift to celebrate everyone’s hard work.

    2. The IT Manager*

      Hmmm, my mom is a teacher and I think that she doesn’t give the Jehovah’s Witness students gifts because we’re no fooling anyone by calling it a end of year gift.

      You should definately check with her.

    3. Gwen*

      I would check with her. I have family who are JWs, and they’re definitely strict about any attempt/offer to “wiggle around” the no-gifts/holidays (wouldn’t go have dinner with some other family the same weekend as Thanksgiving but not on the actual day, for example), and I don’t think a “THESE presents are Christmas presents, but the one for you is just because I think you’re great” would fly with someone who’s observant.

    4. Dr. Johnny Fever*

      Absolutely check with the employee first. The problem with the celebration is idolatry; you may unwittingly present her with an idol regardless of intention simply because of the context in which it is given. I have experience in this area – I’ll bet she’ll be relieved at the prospect of having the choice to opt-out rather than choose to self-ostracise or reluctantly follow along.

      Don’t offer an end of year gift. It still fits the context of seasonal celebrations, and the compounded lie would not help in acceptance of the gift.

  30. HRC in NJ*

    I like to give token gifts to my team lead and manager at work. What I do is give their pets a gift “from” my cat. This way I still have the fun of giving, but technically the gift is not for them!

    1. ProductiveDyslexic*

      Have to ask: does this mean you give them half-dead mice and birds? These are the most typical cat–human presents in my experience :)

      1. HRC in NJ*

        HA – I don’t think these would travel well through inter-office mail! And besides, the gift is from my pet to their pets, not from my pet to the humans.

  31. A. D. Kay*

    Regarding #6: I bet the ass grabber’s wife would be mortified if she knew. Does the OP know whether she is aware of her husband’s actions?

      1. some1*

        Or defensive and in denial. I’m not saying the wife shouldn’t be told, just to be prepared for that possible reaction.

        1. A. D. Kay*

          Some1 and Fposte, I had had the same thoughts about the wife’s potential reactions. This is one of the letters I hope gets an update.

  32. Miss Chanandler Bong*

    The gift-giving culture in my office is for everyone in the department to give everyone else something small (an ornament, a pair of socks, homemade fudge, etc). In this case, I give my manager the same thing I would anyone else (she is also the person in the department I work closest with). After reading these comments, I’m thinking of maybe a handwritten card about how much I’ve appreciated her mentorship & management also/instead. Thoughts? (This is the end of my first year on the job so last year I was basically exempt having only worked there a couple of days.)

    [Also, last week someone sent around an email asking for donations for a gift for our Executive Director. I groaned inside, but then a day later, she sent another email saying our ED had requested we not get him anything. It warmed the cockles of my heart. He’s a really nice guy, and the kind who knows the names of EVERY employee, including the interns and temps, so this just made me like him more.]

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That kind of note is basically the only gift an employee could ever give me that I’d actually appreciate. It removes the gifting-up issues, and it’s something I’d actually like (unlike most of the stuff that usually falls into the “workplace gift” category, which for highly picky people like me generally becomes something we need to figure out how to get rid of). And in fact, I wouldn’t just like it, but would actively treasure it.

  33. AM*

    A coworker once gave everyone little mini bottles of liquor. As a recovering alcoholic, I was very unsettled by it and gave it to another coworker, ASAP. I felt very anxious having alcohol in my desk, even to bring home to the boyfriend who drinks. I would be uncomfortable being given something like that from the company. We got a set of gloves, a hat and a scarf from work this year and I thought that was nice.

    1. cuppa*

      I do drink, but there is a strict no alcohol on the premises policy at my workplace. It kind of works out well.

  34. C Average*

    I haven’t read all the comments yet, so maybe someone’s already said this.

    I’m gonna be the Grinch here: If you are not a member of my family, can you please just not get me anything?

    I have too much shit already.

    I’ll bet YOU have too much shit, too, and if YOU give ME even more shit, I’m going to feel like I have to reciprocate, and we’ll each have one more unwanted item taking up space.

    If you are my colleague and you like me, show it to me all year round by being friendly, helpful, and pleasant to be around. I’ll do the same for you. When the holidays come around, let’s have some small talk about our holiday plans and wish each other a merry whatever and walk away empty-handed. Can we please do that?

    And if you’re my employer, cash or gift cards are always welcome but, honestly, you’re a great employer all year. You offer an interesting, challenging, enjoyable workplace with a great environment and great benefits. I believe in our mission. I don’t love my role every day, but I love coming to this place and working for this company every day. You’re doing a lot right. You don’t have to give me a present. Really.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Word. I make a conscious effort (and often fail miserably) to not accumulate stuff. It’s wasteful and creates clutter. I want experiences, not things. I don’t want a token $10 gift you picked out but doesn’t suit me at all because you barely know me.

      1. Cath in Canada*

        Our city government has a great advertising campaign every year of “create memories, not garbage” – encouraging people to buy concert tickets, volunteer to babysit, etc. instead of creating landfill waste. I already try to buy a mix of experiences and stuff for people – e.g. this year, hubby is getting hockey tickets and a crock pot – so it’s a nice little reminder to think creatively!

        1. Katie the Fed*

          that’s really nice. Research actually emphatically shows that when you spend money on experiences, versus things, you tend to be a lot happier.

    2. Shortie*

      Agreed, and I would extend that to family as well. The best gifts I can receive are kindness and time. I don’t want stuff or fattening food, and I don’t want the people I care about spending their hard-earned money to buy me things that I don’t need. If that makes me a grinch, then so be it. There is far more empathy and kindness behind my sentiments than it may seem on the surface.

      1. ProductiveDyslexic*

        Well said. There’s a money saving guru in the UK called Martin Lewis, and he wrote a good post about this called “Is it time to ban Christmas presents”.

    3. cuppa*

      Even my family pretty much sticks to consumables these days for Christmas (usually wine, coffee, or tea). I travel for the holidays and it works out because we use it, we appreciate it, and it doesn’t take up much room in my car.

      1. Jamie*

        Consumables – yay. Last year I was leaving the office and my boss pushed a couple of boxes of candy at me. I had my hands full and I refused, she insisted, and I was secretly annoyed as I didn’t need anything else to carry.

        OMG – when I tasted it my eyes rolled back in my head. It was so delicious I went on line to order it for everyone in my family. Saw the price and didn’t do that – because not cheap – but I can’t stop thinking about it. We’ve been talking about it for weeks now – I can taste it if I just close my eyes and think happy thoughts.

        So yeah – never look a gift box of peppermint bark in the mouth I always say.

      2. ThursdaysGeek*

        I’m getting my parents something I know they’ll like! TP, dishwasher soap, and laundry soap. They’re in their 80s, they don’t need more stuff, they don’t drink, don’t want candy. So I’m going to get them something they still need and use.

        A co-worker here decorated some TP as snowmen for our work adopted family, and it’s adorable. It makes me want to give TP to everyone.

    4. MammaBair*

      I’m completely with you on that! I don’t want any more junk that I have to throw away. My administrative assistant was so sweet and got me this little bath set. Unfortunately my skin is SUPER sensitive and I can only use about two products without breaking out. I thanked her, took it home and tossed it in the Good Will basket. I’d never give anyone a bath product b/c I know how I feel about getting them. I defiantly appreciate the gesture, but I don’t like getting gifts. I try to give consumable gifts (nice tea, coffee or other food items). I just know how I am about junk and don’t like to pass junk on to others.

    5. NoPantsFridays*

      I agree with both of you (C Average and Katie). I’m trying to be more minimalist, and kind of already am, in that I don’t like to have a lot of stuff. Experiences, OK. Gift cards or cash, great. Consumables (food) are OK too, especially if I can share them. Once they’re gone/eaten, they don’t take up space. But a lot of gifts just add clutter that I don’t want. Thankfully, my circle of friends aren’t big on gifts and neither am I.

    6. HR Manager*

      Ugh – this. This is what drives me batty about every contrived holiday gift-giving thing. I’m being forced into Secret Santa this year – my least favorite of these activities. Since I barely know the person I got, this person is getting random generic tchotchkes and trinkets. I try to stick to things that they can keep on their desk or make use of in the office, so it doesn’t clutter their home. I’m not a neat freak, but I do realize I have way too many stupid knick-knacks already.

      You insist on getting me something because you’re in the holiday spirit? Get me a bag of m&m’s or something that I know won’t clutter my house!

        1. fposte*

          I specifically listed post-its on my wish list this year and was delighted to get some in our gift exchange.

    7. Jessica*

      A-freaking-men. There’s enough stress and expense around the holidays without everyone having to worry about what they’re gonna give their coworkers for Christmas.

      Honestly, does anyone really think less of a coworker who doesn’t give them a holiday gift? NO, UNLESS THEY’RE CRAZY!

    8. Joline*

      I’m pretty amped that my parents have decided that only children get presents at actual Christmas this year. And then the big family gift is that in February they’re taking me, my brother, his wife, and their two young kids on an all-inclusive vacation somewhere sunny for a week. No clutter and I get a break from minus temperatures!

    9. themmases*

      Same. Even my family– even members of my family that I know want to cut down on the gift madness– get me things I don’t need and can’t use. I feel bad in the moment when I can’t (or can’t bring myself to) reciprocate, and I feel bad when I go home to donate or throw away something that I know was intended to be a nice gesture.

      I don’t really even want consumables this time of year; I get fed plenty at parties.

    10. Student*

      The best thing I did this holiday season was negotiate a gifts cease-fire with nearly everyone whose opinions I care about. I nearly have a full gifts cease-fire this season. The only exception is my mother-in-law, who just won’t stop with the gifts.

      I don’t like giving gifts. I don’t like receiving gifts. Even people I’m good friends with, I have no idea what to buy them. They have so much stuff, and such complicated preferences, that I feel like I can’t possibly pick out something they’d like.

      I am one of those terrible rude people who doesn’t send thank you notes, hoping that others will stop giving me things. I am quietly getting rid of nearly anything I’m given – monetary gifts get donated, everything else is trashed or donated, and all those unnecessary holiday food/candy gifts get left in the company lunch room with a “free” sign. I can’t think of the last time someone bought a gift for me without my direct input where I was actually, genuinely fond of the gift.

    11. Not So NewReader*

      Spot on. We collect so much crap over the years. I don’t need more coffee cups- the 50 I have are doing well for me. I don’t need more tree ornaments- I can comfortably decorate three good size trees.
      I feel this way about family gifts, too. I had one relative that agreed never to exchange gifts. And it turned out to be the neatest relationship. Because we weren’t thinking about shopping and gifting we were freed up to really listen to each other. We did end up giving low cost or no cost gifts to each other through out the year. We each had times where we would spot an item for a buck and get it for the other person. It was actually kind of fun.
      By contrast, exchanging gifts with other family members was PURE STRESS.

    12. Amanda*

      My family has really cut back on the gifts as my parent’s house is pretty stuffed already, my brother and I don’t have too much disposable income and none of us need more stuff. Unfortunately, I just got married and my husband (who loves my family) is so excited to shower them with gifts. It’s very sweet but it’s been a challenge to try and coax him to calm down a bit.

  35. Olivia Pope*

    This post clearly states not getting your boss something which I completely understand but this year I got my boss a small something. She is so sweet to me and always has my back. Do you think it makes her uncomfortable to be the recipient? Does anyone else get their boss something? I know the advice here states not to but it seems like people do it. Just curious how many people “break the rules”?

    1. TotesMaGoats*

      I do and I have for years. Others have said that it really depends on the office dynamics. Giving a gift might be a no-no from an etiquette perspective but it’s not going on your permanent record.

        1. Boo*

          Oh my god that reminds me of this one PA I worked with, who got her boss lingerie from Ann Summers. The boss seemed genuinely delighted. That was such a weird workplace…

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I think it depends on the culture, the relationships of the people involved, and what the actual gift is. If it’s a gift someone can use at work, that’s probably ok, as long as it’s not expensive. Like a funny calendar or something, sure. If it’s something more personal, I’d skip it.

      I dunno. I just can’t imagine anyone on my team giving me gifts. It would be really odd.

    3. C Average*

      Can I throw out another perspective here?

      You love your boss and that’s great.

      But what about your teammate who doesn’t love your boss? What about your teammate who doesn’t have the money to get a gift for the boss?

      When you bring her a small something, you’re the person who bought the boss a gift and the others become the people who didn’t buy the boss a gift. If the others become aware that you bought her a gift, they might feel pressured to do so as well. And awkwardness ensues.

      I totally understand where the impulse comes from, but I’m with Alison on this one. When you buy your boss a gift, it’s not just between you and your boss. It has the potential to impact your team in awkward and unwanted ways.

      1. Olivia Pope*

        Luckily it is just her and I on the team :) But the dynamics would definitely be different if there were other people. We are also a very small office, I did just give her the small gift I got and she loved it, it was definitely a more thoughtful gift under $25 that totally suits her, I dont want to say what because other coworkers read this. I think we are one of the workplaces that may be an exception. I don’t feel pressured to give her a gift either though. The hard reality part is I would like to have something to give someone else when they give me something :-/ This will definitely help in the future though in different workplaces, teams, and culture.

    4. Shortie*

      Olivia, your boss obviously may have different feelings than I do, but as a manager, I get very uncomfortable when an employee gives me a gift. They would never know it because I’m sweet (if I do say so myself, hahaha) and smile and say thank you. But I reallllly wish people would not gift up. Your mileage may vary.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah, I would be really uncomfortable. I don’t think I’d mind too much if they went in on something small together, but it’s REALLY not necessary or expected. I make more money – I can buy myself what I want :)

      2. Jamie*

        I feel the same way. A tin of homemade cookies or treats is lovely – not necessary and I wouldn’t notice if it wasn’t done – but lovely. Anything beyond that and I’m uncomfortable no matter how much I like them or how sincere I feel it is.

        1. De Minimis*

          For us it just isn’t allowed to give a gift to your boss, with some very limited exceptions [usually for major events like retirements, birth of a child, and marriage.] I think even then it’s pretty limited.

    5. Chai Latte*

      I got my boss a gift. It was just something little (chocolate covered almonds & cashews-he is always eating them & he is a bit of a nut…). It’s only him & me in our department, and he mentioned getting me a gift & his higher-ups (CFO, ED), so I figured it would be okay.

    6. Jen S. 2.0*

      For me, “but it seems like people do it” just isn’t a very good reason. That is what advice columns like this one are for — to let you know whether those things people do are appropriate. There are a lot of things that people do, even in a well-intentioned manner, that aren’t necessarily the best idea. As evidenced just by this thread, lots of subordinates very nicely give their bosses well-meaning gifts that are still not a great idea. A gracious boss will receive a well-meant gift graciously, and I really do understand that folks mean well and do this from a good place in their heart, but that still doesn’t make it a good plan.

      I just feel like the reasons not to do it (power dynamics, brown-nosing, making other team members uncomfortable, the odds of buying something inappropriate, creating odd obligations and expectations, et cetera) are stronger than the reasons to do it, which usually are “But I want to!” or “But I feel weird not giving something!” Those are your own issues that have nothing to do with the appropriateness of workplace gifting. There also are ways to give your boss **something** that’s not a gift you have to go out and purchase.

      (Semi-related side note: Are the people who give gifts to their bosses even though they know it’s not considered a good idea also the same people who bring gifts/food to events where they’ve been asked not to bring anything? I am not one to put “no gifts” on an invitation because I was raised never to mention gifts on invitations. But if I’m asked not to bring a gift, I…don’t bring a gift. Apparently that’s not universal?)

      1. Jen S. 2.0*

        I should have added that I actually don’t think it’s the end of the world to buy your boss a teeny something, especially a consumable, like food or similar. But I don’t think it should be encouraged, and if you’re wondering whether you should, the answer usually is no.

      2. Olivia Pope*

        “but it seems like people do it wasn’t my reason”, I saw an item thought my boss would love it and got it. I was curious because the etiquette is obviously NO but I was wondering IRL what actually happens, I am early on in my career and have been in jobs where it hasn’t been appropriate.

        I would think if anyone felt that uncomfortable receiving they would say you don’t have to get me anything or have a more serious conversation.

        I noticed a few other people in my org get their bosses gifts, I think we are just a funky group.

        1. Shortie*

          As a manager, receiving even token gifts make me very uncomfortable, but I only say “thank you.” I don’t say “you don’t have to get me anything” because people seem to almost never take the hint on that one. I also don’t have a more serious conversation because that just seems ungrateful or like overkill. So I smile and say “thank you” but remain suuuper uncomfortable. All that being said, if I received more than a token gift, I would refuse it because it would be inappropriate to accept.

  36. Rita*

    #1/#2 – I used to be an executive assistant, and my boss was awesome and we had a great relationship. He loves Snickerdoodle cookies, so every Christmas (I worked there for 5 years) I would make him Snickerdoodle cookies as a gift.

    1. VintageLydia USA*

      I think food gifts fall under a different category if for no other reason than they’re sharable.

  37. Sunshine DC*

    Re: #2 I get that “home made treats” may seem like the nice alternative, as though you’re not spending money on your boss, as AAM suggests. But in reality, making something homemade can involve a trip to the supermarket to buy supplies, an hour or more labor in the kitchen, then time on the cleanup. That sounds like much more money, time and effort. It’s much easier and stress free to spend 5 minutes (and in the end, probably not much more money) to just buy something nice. Should we (I’m asking seriously) then take that and make it LOOK like it’s from home?

    1. Katie the Fed*

      No – just don’t get anything. I think the point is – if you REALLY want to give something, then homemade is ok. But nothing is absolutely fine too.

    2. Miss Chanandler Bong*

      Well, for some people, the holidays are a time of baking/cooking anyway. Also, if you make cookies your gift for, say, 25 coworkers/acquaintances/children’s teachers, etc, then you may have spent $50 and 3 hours in the kitchen, but that’s still better than a $5-10 gift for everyone. It really only works if you’re baking-inclined to begin with (I don’t like sweets, but I love baking, so it’s a good excuse for me to bust out some family recipes at the holidays). And yes, you can totally buy a tin of cookies and repackage them as gifts. I might not pretend they’re homemade, though, and just say “Oh, Trader Joe’s has the best Christmas cookie selection! So much better than anything I could make! Enjoy!” (Also, you could hit a favorite bakery and bring non-homemade treats for the department as well.)

      1. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, that’s the key. It’s really only an easy/cheap gift if you’re bakey already. I’ve had it suggested when I’m really…not, and at that point you have a lot of supplies and staples to buy that a habitual baker would have already.

        1. Jamie*

          Not really. Baking isn’t like cooking where you can have spices in the cabinet. The only thing really stapely about baking is salt, baking powder, and baking soda and those are under $2 a piece I think. Also some extracts which can be pricier – but not a given.

          Everything else, sugar, flour, chips, nuts, butter, eggs – that’s all consumed. I’ve gone through 20 lbs of flour this year easy and not even into the swing yet – almost as much sugar.

          If you get fancy you can spend money…cookie presses, special molds, stand mixers, etc. but none of that is needed for holiday baking. I don’t even bother getting a pastry bag for my chocolate eclairs because a freezer bag with the tip snipped off works perfectly. That’s my fanciest trick (my pate a choux, ganache, and creme de patisserie all made from scratch) and all I need for that is a couple of cookie sheets, a freezer bag, a mixing bowl, spoon and pot.

          When my mixer was broken I baked just as much – I can hand stir/whisk most recipes just fine.

          I’m not saying baking is cheap – it absolutely adds up – but there is no greater expense to the person doing it for the first time as opposed to people who bake a lot…assuming people have an oven and a mixing bowl.

            1. Jamie*

              We have a billion people reading this – anyone out there know anything about logistics? I need to ship a batch of eclairs!

              They are on the agenda for this weekend and I so want to send you some…I’d have to send the creme de pattisierie separate so the shells don’t get soggy but I can ganche them from here and include instructions on how to fill.

              So – logistics people – I need a way to overnight a Tupperware container of fancy pants custard and an airtight container of pastry shells covered in ganache.

              (I am very proud I learned to do this – you have to change the oven temp mid-batch and rotate – which always makes me feel very impressive. I also came up with a version for someone with diabetes and they love it so for anyone out there looking to bake for people who are cutting down on sugar I’m happy to share.)

              Off to google how to overnight delicate food.

  38. Jules*

    #6 From one women to another, if a man randomly grabs you, you can feel free to say, “Get you hands off me.” in a very loud and clear voice. The problem with suffering in silence as not to rock the boat is that the offender keeps on doing it. Once you tell him off in a loud and clear voice in front of other witnesses, they probably would be scared and think twice about doing the same to another women. Not your job to think about other women but you shouldn’t have let anyone get away with sexually harrasing. I utilize sarcasm and looking in his eyes would have said, “You hand is on the wrong person, buddy.” But then again…. I am a battle axe so no one typically mess with me.

    1. A Dispatcher*

      Agree – I also think in general the best time to address these things is when they are happening, but I do understand the wife may have felt very uncomfortable “making a scene” at her husband’s work party. I put that in quotes because defending yourself from harassment shouldn’t be seen in a negative light, but we’re still fighting that uphill battle.

      1. some1*

        I don’t blame her whatsoever for not saying anything in the moment. She may have been in complete shock.

        1. fposte*

          We don’t know that she didn’t say anything in the moment, though. The OP just mentions hearing about it later–no details on what actually the wife did.

        2. Zillah*

          Yeah, this is super common, I think. Even people who are generally assertive can be taken aback and unable to really form a response.

    2. A. D. Kay*

      It’s not very helpful to anyone experiencing sexual harassment to tell them what they “should” have done in a given situation. As some1 already mentioned, the woman may have been too shocked to do say anything. It takes a lot to overcome decades of social conditioning to not make a scene. Plus, there are some situations where reacting loudly would actually put a woman in danger (not at a Christmas party, probably, but in a street-harassment scenario). Another factor is the age and experience of the woman. I would respond a lot differently now than I would have at, say, age 23.

      1. Vin packer*

        Agree. But, in Jules’s defense, I thought she was just making a general PSA since we’re on the topic–not necessarily blaming anyone who doesn’t speak up. (Or who tries to speak up but just ends up sputtering nonsensically, like me. Sigh. Maybe I’ll get better as I get older?)

      2. Katie the Fed*

        Yeah, and I’m someone who often thinks of the perfect response a few hours later. I’m usually so surprised in the moment I don’t do anything, and then later am second guessing all the things I could have/should have done.

        That being said, anyone grabbing my butt is likely to get an elbow to the face just as a reflex.

      3. Jules*

        As past victim myself, I think a LOT more about how to protect myself. But what I want to put out there is, a women don’t have to suffer in silence. It’s not YOUR fault when someone sexually assult/harras you. It’s theirs. You should not feel embarrased when it NOT your fault. I suffered in silence for 10 years until my mental break down which brought it all to light.

        I wish that someone had told me that it was ok to save myself from this behavior. The same reason why I teach my daughter about who and what someone is allowed to touch. I want every women out there to know that it’s ok to defend yourself. It’s ok to speak up. It’s not drama when some stranger hand is on your ass. Try cop a feel on a police officer and they’d take you in for assult. Why should anyone else take it in silence? Even if it’s my husband’s boss I would look in his eyes and say, ‘Wrong person’ before walking away.

  39. HAnon*

    Couldn’t the person in charge of the gifts just send out an email with two options, and let people pick? Say, wine or giftcard in comparable amount? That seems like it would take care of the problem. Our office manager sent out a similar email with three options asking people to vote for their top choice…you can’t please everyone, but asking for input seems like the best way to please the majority of people.

    1. Another unnamed*

      Yes, they could – but whichever department coordinated and executed the gifts didn’t think of that!

  40. Don't want to be a Scrooge, but....*

    I had a similar question as #4. Although there’s no official policy, my company allows managers to budget for small holiday gifts for staff. While the practice is fairly common, it’s not universal. Due to some financial shortfalls in my division and yadda, yadda, yadda… there’s no money left for gifts. So my question is – do I pay for the gifts out of my own pocket? It would be 9 employees in total.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      We have no budget for gifts – can you imagine taxpayer outrage if I were buying cheeseboards on the taxpayer dime? :)

      I usually do something small – this year I’m baking an assortment of cookies for everyone, and a nice card.

    2. HR Manager*

      Just take them out to a lunch or something. I assume your employees may be aware that financials aren’t as good (if not, shame on them!). Of course there’s always one who is grumpy and has come to expect these little extras and gestures as a given, but most employees understand that when the revenue isn’t rolling in, it means these niceties go away.

      1. Sadsack*

        Just taking nine people out to lunch can be expensive if it is not in your budget, personal or work, to do so.

        I think a team would be thrilled to be told to leave extra early one day just before the holiday. That would be a real treat that isn’t coming out of your pocket or the dept. budget, as long as it doesn’t impact the team’s work getting done. What is a couple of hours really?

        1. Jamie*

          Extra time off? Best. gift. ever.

          If that’s in a manager’s power look no further – the one thing which will make everyone happy.

          1. Sadsack*

            It is one of the best feelings and most appreciated gestures when my manager comes over at 3pm and whispers, “Psst, get out of here.”

    3. Joey*

      It’s a nice gesture, but I just don’t agree with folks that say you should dig into your own pocket for subordinates. if the company doesn’t budget for it the company doesn’t budget for it.

      Besides what do you get for 9 people without spending a lot of time or money that’s not a throwaway?

      1. Jamie*

        I agree – I’d be uncomfortable if a boss bought me something out of their own pocket. It would feel like a personal thing rather than work and I’d feel obligated to do something in return.

        Because if it’s a professional thing the company should be paying for it so if a boss goes out of pocket it is a personal gift. Too blurry for me.

        And no way would I go out of pocket for work related gifts. Friends with whom you happen to work is a totally different story – but not people based on them working on X or being in department Y.

    4. Omne*

      It’s a personal decision with no right or wrong answer. Where I work many managers don’t give gifts, which is fine. My government agency also won’t allow budgeting for food or parties. When I was a new manager I was in charge of a group of all new hires/entry level employees. $5 for a holiday lunch was a problem for some of them. I started paying for the food brought in from a local restaurant for lunch and just continued it every year. The deal is they get to vote on the menu items and I’ll cover it. We do family take out trays. They’re responsible for beverages/desert and any holiday activities they want to plan, I stay out of planning. I also spring for pizza a couple of times a year. I have kept doing it as I’ve moved groups.

      Nobody is forced to participate or contribute to anything and almost everyone seems to appreciate it. Granted with a group of 20 or so and inflation the holiday lunch is starting to get a tad pricey, this year it was around $250.

      As others have mentioned it all depends on the dynamics of where you work.

  41. Julia*

    I think #10 should keep her comments to herself. She has no idea whether all Muslims at her company don’t drink. Not everyone is equally devout. Besides, as adults they are free to re-gift a present like everyone else does, or make a comment about it if they are concerned.

    As a devout Catholic I don’t eat meat on Fridays (or if I slip up and forget it’s a Friday – it happens once in a while – I make a charitable donation). If there was a weekly Friday BBQ at work, I would be ticked off if another employee took it upon themselves to speak up for me.

    Since most Muslims don’t observe Christmas, most probably don’t care one way or the other.

    1. Katie the Fed*

      Given that the spirit of the gift is generosity, there’s no harm in pointing out that everyone might not be able to partake. If I were doing something that might be ignorant of some of my employees’ culture or religious restrictions, I’d want to know. Part of being a good manager is being truly respectful of diversity.

    2. Another unnamed*

      #10 here: Not sure why you assume I’m female; I never have been and never intend to be! ;-)

      It’s more that the company is effectively giving out gifts to *most* of the employees, and leaving out a few. Maybe I was worrying too much.

    3. Helka*

      Muslims aren’t the only non-drinkers out there. There are also certain strains of Christians who abstain, as well as people who don’t drink for non-religious reasons, such as medications that interact poorly with alcohol, past alcoholism or a family history of it, etc. Or people who just choose not to drink because they don’t want to.

    4. Elsajeni*

      I can see both sides of this. On the one hand, it absolutely can be annoying for someone else to take offense on your behalf — I’ve had people make a scene about something I had decided to let go, on the grounds that it was offensive to me, and I would absolutely have preferred that they keep their mouths shut. But this is also something that people might not feel comfortable speaking up about themselves, since that would amount to saying “I don’t want this gift you gave me.” I think raising it in a non-confrontational way, especially if you have a constructive alternative to offer (like the suggestions upthread about offering people their choice of wine or sparkling cider), is fine.

      1. fposte*

        Yeah, I think it can be mentioned without somebody taking offense, and it sounds like that’s how it was done in this case. And at least in my workplace it’s pretty common for people to do inclusivity checks anyway, so this wouldn’t be an unusual observation to make.

    5. Amanda*

      You have a good point. My husband is a Muslim who drinks and I don’t think he would be thrilled with people speaking out on his behalf.

      I do agree that wine isn’t a terribly great Christmas gift idea in this particular situation but I think the OP is better off making a general statement as to it’s somewhat of a polarizing gift rather than singling out a particular group that may or may not be offended.

  42. ZSD*

    Re: #7 PTO and exempt/non-exempt status
    My husband just started an exempt position. Our company (in California) will be closed Dec. 24-Jan. 4. Dec. 25 and 26 are paid holidays, but in order to get paid for those holidays, we have to use vacation time for Dec. 24. Thus, my husband is planning on going into vacation debt to cover the 24th soas to get paid for all three days.
    But based on what I read above and at the link Alison included, it sounds like as long as he (as an exempt employee) works next Monday and Tuesday, they have to pay him for the whole week. So he shouldn’t have to take vacation for Dec. 24; he should just get paid for the full week either way. Is that correct?

    1. fposte*

      No, because vacation time isn’t pay. He’s still getting paid for the week, he’s just getting a day deducted from his PTO.

    2. ZSD*

      But if he didn’t use the vacation time, they wouldn’t pay him for the whole week – he’d just be paid for the two days. Is that an option for them?

      1. ZSD*

        That is, they’re not mandating that he use the PTO. He has a choice: either use PTO for Dec. 24 and get paid for the whole week, or take unpaid leave for Dec. 24 and get paid for just Dec. 22 and 23. Is that latter option allowable?

        1. fposte*

          That’s getting into advanced employment calculus, so I’m not sure. They can deduct a day’s pay for that unpaid leave without making him non-exempt, so that’s kosher (if cheap). However, holidays are more challenging–the SHRM site (link posted separately to avoid moderation wait) says “The FLSA regulations do not specifically allow deductions for holidays. Therefore, you should not make deductions from an exempt employee’s pay for holidays, or you would risk losing the employee’s exempt status.” So it sounds like they’re on thin ice there. Out of curiosity, is this rule applied to everybody at the workplace, or is it related to your husband’s newness in some way?

          Additionally, we’re talking California, so there may be state rules on this. If I find any I’ll post those too.

          1. ZSD*

            Thank you very much!
            The rules apply to everyone, exempt or not. People who aren’t new probably wouldn’t have to go into *debt* on their vacation time, of course, since they’d have had time to accrue some, but the rule for paid holidays is that you have to be on paid status on one of the two days on either side to get paid for the holiday. Since they’re making the paid holidays the 25 and 26, someone who chooses to take unpaid leave for both the 24th and the 29th (Monday) wouldn’t be paid for the holidays.
            Now, normally, our paid holidays are the 24th and the 25th. If they’d done that this year, then working on the 23rd would make people eligible to be paid for the two holidays. I kind of wonder if TPTB specifically moved the holidays to keep from having to pay as many people for the holidays. (I don’t have evidence that that’s the reasoning, but I can’t think why else they’d do it.)

            1. fposte*

              Oh, that policy may complicate things beyond what I could find out. They *do* pay for holidays–they just don’t pay for them if you were going to be out on vacation over them. That’s nitpicky enough that just Googling probably won’t be enough to find out if that’s a viable approach.

            2. CAA*

              They almost certainly moved the paid holidays to the 25th/26th because the 26th is a Friday and a lot of people would take it off anyway, so they’re actually allowing the majority of employees (who are presumably not new hires) to conserve a PTO day by making the holidays Thurs/Fri instead of Weds/Thurs.

              1. ZSD*

                Oh, I should have specified that the whole university is closed Dec. 24-Jan. 4 anyway, so nobody will be in the offices either way.

        2. fposte*

          Okay, a California-specific HR site (again, link posted separately) reiterates: “If a business shuts down for less than a full week (even for a holiday), all exempt employees must receive their full salary.” I suspect that doesn’t mean they can’t make him take that one leave day unpaid, but it does suggest that they can’t just not pay exempt employees for the days they’re closed.

          More important question–what does he want to do about it? That’s going to depend on his confidence as a new employee and his general feeling about his employer’s willingness to listen. (Do you work at the company too, BTW? That might mean you have a better sense about this if you’ve been there for a while.) Generally what’s suggested is a pleasant mention to management or HR that this policy looks like it might be putting the company in risky territory and making employees non-exempt when they don’t want to do that–maybe it’s worth revisiting the policy to make sure we’re on the right side of the law?

          1. ZSD*

            Fposte, this is great. Thank you so much for looking into this!
            Yes, I work at the same company (university), and I agree that it’s a little tricky for him to point this out on his third day of work! (I’m non-exempt, btw, so these intricacies don’t apply to me.)
            I’m not sure if he’ll/we’ll decide it makes sense to take any action right now, but it’s great to have the information. If nothing else, it might be easier to bring it up next year!

                1. fposte*

                  Yeah, then the foregoing may all be void–speaking as an employee at a state university myself (though not in California), I am amazed how many employment-related laws and practices don’t apply to state folks.

  43. Brett*

    As has happened ever since I have been here, our program assistant had everyone in the unit chip in$10 to buy the director a gift card. Our past director was just personally a stingy person, so he really enjoyed getting a gift card from us every year even though it was inappropriate. He also broke a standing tradition of the director taking everyone out for lunch at Christmas.

    The new director (who was promoted from within and has been here about 20 years) revived the office lunch tradition and took us all out to lunch. At the lunch, our program assistant gave him the gift card. He was clearly uncomfortable with getting the card and made a joking but pointed remark about, “This is not an exchange of lunch for a gift card guys.” I don’t think our program assistant got the point of the remark, but I have to give kudos to him for indicating that he wants holiday gifts to flow down not up.

  44. Sarah*

    Can you just put a banner up during the holidays that says “You do not need (and should not) get your boss a present”? :P

  45. ella*

    #10–I support at least having non-alcoholic wine available for swapping out. If the company can’t do that for some reason, could the drinkers in the office (at least the ones who aren’t alcoholics) get together and offer up an ad hoc exchange? I’m picturing an interoffice email that’s something like, “Hey guys, I find that I’m going to lots of holiday parties this year and bringing lots of bottles of wine. If you don’t want yours for whatever reason, bring it by my office and I’ll happily take it off your hands. We can trade Starbucks for it (or whatever.”

  46. Me*

    #3 – I wish this came a few days ago, before I agreed to chip in $20 for a boss gift, for the same boss I haven’t been treating for the last 3 years!

Comments are closed.