what your employees really want for the holidays

Hint: It’s not a company tote or a fruitcake.

But how do you give gifts that employees actually want and will appreciate, especially when you have a large team with diverse personalities and interests?

Here are four gifts your employees almost certainly want this year.

1. Meaningful time off where they can really disconnect. Too many people don’t take all the vacation time they have coming to them, because their workload makes them feel that they can’t responsibly get away, or their manager or workplace culture signals that they’ll be seen as not pulling their weight if they take real time off, or their manager pressures them to keep checking email while they’re gone.

If you’re in a position to give people extra time off, either around the holidays themselves, or for next year, your employees will appreciate that far more than a company tote or a lavish holiday party. If you’re not, you can still resolve to help them use and protect the vacation time they do get.

2. Flexibility. Whether it’s the ability to telecommute (either on a regular schedule or just occasionally), flexible work hours, non-traditional schedules, or longer parental leave, work flexibility is increasingly important to retain great employees. An Ernst & Young survey this year found flexibility listed as a top feature people want from their jobs (ranked just behind competitive salary and benefits), and cited a lack of flexibility as among the top reasons they would quit. And that trend is on the rise: Millennials are more likely than any other generation to say that they would change jobs or careers, give up promotion opportunities, relocate, or take a pay cut to have flexibility and better work-life balance. If you haven’t already brainstormed how you can offer more flexibility to your team, especially your high performers, vow to do it now, with an eye toward rolling out new practices in 2016 (even if just as experiments).

3. Gift cards. Gift cards get a bad rap in some circles for being impersonal, but you know what? It’s okay for employer-employee gifts to be a little impersonal, as long as they’re thoughtful. Everyone can use gift cards to a grocery store (you might even end up funding people’s holiday meals that way) or Amazon, and those are usually well appreciated gifts. (But being thoughtful here does matter. You don’t want to give a gift certificate to a steakhouse to a vegetarian. Stick with things everyone is likely to use.)

4. Money. Yes, money – no surprise there, but employers often lose sight of it when trying to figure out employee holiday gifts. Holiday bonuses create warm, fuzzy feelings like little else an employer can give (it’s probably tied only with giving everyone a free week off between Christmas and New Year’s, another popular move).

{ 147 comments… read them below }

  1. Holly*

    Money, yes! Though US taxes can eat a very, very big chunk of it =/ I got a very nice bonus surprise from my boss yesterday, and I’m grateful for what survived the withholding, but still…ouch.

    That said, I think that and vacation time remain the best gifts you can give. And not reluctantly-given, hem and hawed vacation time! Making your employee feel a little guilty for taking time off negates the whole point.

    (My company did also give everyone a pretty sweet bluetooth speaker, but that’s more hit-miss than the fundamentals.)

    1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)*

      My fiance’s boss gave everyone $100 in cash yesterday which was a pretty sweet way to end his holiday party. I’m super jealous!

      1. KR*

        I worked at a small family-run business in college. While there were a lot of things about that place that were awful, it meant a lot that my manager took the time to give us each a card with a couple of scratch tickets and the owners each wrote everyone a card with a $100 bill in it.

        1. OwnedByTheCat (formerly Anony-Moose)*

          Yep, he’s at a pretty small ad agency. He knew he wasn’t getting a bonus (not something they do) so the unexpected card and cash was a really nice gesture.

      2. Snarky McSnark*

        One of the VP’s I have done some work for (no one has been able to do some of the analysis before I joined in July) gave me a Black Series Stormtrooper. It’s one of the best gifts I’ve been given directly from a superior.

        The $50 I won at the christmas party last night from the CEO was nice too.

    2. Bonus Taxes*

      I’ve always wondered about this. We get $750 most years and like $719 or something is always direct deposited in my account. Is there a minimum before the taxes kick in?

      1. Sophia Brooks*

        I have been told that if we give a gift over $25, cash or not, it is taxable and needs to be recorded.

        1. Bonus Taxes*

          I’m guessing it’s reported both because my company is very by-the-book and because there’s some amount taken out. Maybe they structure other withholding differently?

        2. Judy*

          Right, but I’ve had some companies “gross up” their random, small bonuses. So if you were getting a $100 bonus, your next paycheck would have the taxes put in for that, plus your YTD numbers would be changed. So for a $100 award, assuming a 28% tax bracket, at the next pay cycle, your YTD income would be increased by $138.89 and your tax witholding would have $38.89 extra.

      2. Mpls*

        Different companies do withholding on bonuses differently. Some will hold more than for your payroll checks (which are based on the deductions you elect on your W-4 form), on the theory that the bonus was not calculated into the salary you were receving (and having withheld) during the year, so the extra money may boost you into a higher bracket that may have additional withholding not previously accounted for. So, they overwithhold on the extra money to cover that eventuality.

        Or, at least, I think that’s the rationalization. That also means you should double check you do not have any benefit deductions (health, dental, HSA) in your bonus check, except for your 401(k), since those are (typically) calculated based on your payroll calendar (26, 24, 12, whatever it is).

      3. Natalie*

        From what I understand, it’s an illusion because this extra money is in the highest tax bracket. Your annual wages are taxed at a blended rate that incorporates all of your tax brackets. For example (not real tax rates): 0% for the first $10,000, 10% for the next $20,000, and 20% for the final 10,000 is a blended rate of 5.5% on your aggregate income, so your paychecks are taxed 5.5% each week. If you get a bonus, though, it’s going to be taxed at the marginal rate because that’s the system we have. The same thing happens if you get a raise – the new money is taxed at the top marginal rate, but your existing pay’s tax brackets don’t change.

        All of that said, I believe this is just the withholding amount, it doesn’t actually affect your overall tax rate. That gets determined when you do your tax return every year.

  2. Adam*

    My company went trough a lot of transitions this year, including a building remodel that moved pretty much everyone on the 150+ staff at one point or another and a few several times. Normally we get December 25th and January 1st as officials days off (with pay) and have the office open half day on both the holiday eves, but because of all the ruckus executive management decided this year to give everyone the eves completely off (with pay) in addition to the traditional days off. It made my week and I am so thankful for it.

  3. CA Admin*

    We got a $1000 gift card to a high-end clothing store (like Neiman Marcus). I’m super stoked because it’s not someplace I can ever afford to shop and now I have enough to get a whole outfit or a really nice coat!

    1. AnonyMoose*

      Wow. That is actually a perfect (and generous) gift. Way for boss to say step it up…it’s on me. That is, so far, my favorite gift besides time off.

    2. CA Admin*

      Just to clarify–this is from the CEO to everyone at the firm. We’ve had a great year and it’s been really busy the last few weeks, so he wanted to make sure everyone got something really nice. This wasn’t from my direct boss(es)–I don’t know what/if anything they got me this year.

      1. Kelly L.*

        And they did it right, too! Like, a $10 gift card to Neiman Marcus is a pain, because it won’t buy anything there, and if the recipient doesn’t have a lot of money, they can’t make up the difference so they’ll never go–even though the same amount would be just grand at, say, Starbucks.

    3. K.*

      That is a FANTASTIC gift – that’s the kind of gift that would make me go “Oh my God, thank you!” out loud.

    4. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

      Wow, I was going to say that I think companies should only gift giftcards to places that sell food and/or toilet paper but wow would I love to have the income to build my work wardrobe like that!

    5. Ad Astra*

      Wow! There’s probably someone out there who wouldn’t be thrilled about a Neiman Marcus gift card, but there’s no denying it’s a generous gift. Not bad at all.

      1. Anon the Great and Powerful*

        Gift cards are easy to sell, especially ones for high end stores, so anybody who hated it could get cash.

        1. Kelly L.*

          And they have a lot of different kinds of things, so if you don’t like clothes, you could buy housewares, or whatever.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Are you sure you really want the bizarre gumdrop fruitcake my coworker gave me? I was going to use it as a paperweight but it’s yours if you have strong teeth!

    2. Cath in Canada*

      Me too! Especially when someone’s been dripping rum and/or brandy into it every day for a couple of weeks, and there’s marzipan on top. This is how it’s done in my family and it is glorious.

      1. Chinook*

        “Especially when someone’s been dripping rum and/or brandy into it every day for a couple of weeks, and there’s marzipan on top. ”

        Wait – there are people out there who make fruitcake without regular seasoning of alcohol? Now I know why it is so hated. I say send me the dry fruitcake and let me season it until the spring! I need it because I discovered this year that there Is such thing as too much fruit in a fruitcake (but the crumbly concoction still rates good because brandy!)

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          It’s not dry: it’s got those sticky red and green candied fruit chunks, as well as dried dates and an assortment of nuts (it’s the only way I like Brazil nuts), and there’s hardly any dough at all. It’s wonderful with a cup of tea, and is good right out of the oven. I hope Anon the Great and Powerful shares with me.

          1. Swoop*

            and those lovely dried black cherries and is delightful hot, cold, or anything in between…yep, sounds about right :)

            (re: dough – I’ve always heard that there should be just enough to hold the fruit & nuts together and no more :) )

      2. Ruth (UK)*

        That is how all Christmas cake is done in the UK. And you eat it with brandy sauce. Then you pour brandy on your Xmas pud and set it on fire.

        1. UK Nerd*

          I put brandy in the mincemeat for the mince pies. Then when I eat them I take the tops off and put brandy butter inside.

          There is so much brandy on my Christmas pudding (other half was a bit paranoid about it since it’s the leftover one from last Christmas) that the top has actually liquefied.

          I don’t actually brandy the fruitcake, but it does need to be left to mature for a few months, the same as the pudding. If you’ve done it right, it shouldn’t be dry, even without the brandy. I find the stereotypical American attitude to fruitcake utterly baffling.

  4. NCKat*

    We used to get bonuses but at some point, they got smaller and smaller; until the last year, we each got a $20 gift certificate to our company store. That killed any hopes forever for any future bonuses amongst staff.

    1. misplacedmidwesterner*

      My husband’s company has an intranet where they can order (at huge discounts) polos, jackets, other gear with the company name on it. After we were engaged, I took him clothing shopping because I really wanted to go on a date with him without him in official gear. (His attitude was that it was quick and easy and cheap and he didn’t like shopping.)

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        That is funny. Similarly, almost all my Bf’s t-shirts are from tradeshows conventions or conferences from over the years and he also uses all those tote bags they hand out like a brief case. Practical men gotta love em!

    2. Not So NewReader*

      A company I worked for gave us gift cards to our retail division. I sold mine for half price. The merchandise was way over priced, it fell apart after a short while and it was done in a style that would not fit with what I have here. The person who bought it from me, got a reasonable deal on an item she wanted when she combined the gift card with her discount. With all the gift cards the company gave out, we joked that the company had found a way to increase sales for this struggling department.

  5. AnonyMoose*

    I don’t know if this falls under flexibility but a lighter load during December so that I can concentrate on more meaningful projects like prof development and free brain time for creativity (coming up with new ways to deliver better value to our clients, etc) that gets pushed aside during every day hustle and bustle of 9-5. THAT has been a wonderful trend from my boss. I really enjoy December now.

  6. TMS*

    I’m going to my organization’s holiday potluck (groan) shortly where we will probably get our gifts. Last year it was a branded cellphone charger. I’m hoping for a branded fruitcake this year.

    I’m really glad I love my job (and plan to stay for awhile) because the Christmas presents are doing nothing to build morale or loyalty.

    1. Ama*

      We get a nice party and this is a pretty great place to work, but for whatever reason the big bosses insist on doing a present every year that they’ll only spend around $2-5 per person on. It’s always some kind of silly toy or trinket (people here would *love* something practical and useful like a cell phone charger), and it just feels like a waste of money and effort.

      1. More Cake, Please*

        We got an assortment of things that management had picked up at various meetings throughout the year–random water bottles, notepads, t-shirts… etc. Whoohoo. I think they spent money on the wrapping paper.

      2. Ad Astra*

        I hate trinkets. My mother-in-law insists on doing stockings (in addition to gifts) for all her adult children and their wives/girlfriends, which is appreciated but totally unnecessary. But she fills the stockings up with tons of candy and things like mini bubbles that get thrown away almost immediately. It’s never anything useful, special, or personal, so like… save your money! But I can’t just tell her that…

        1. misplacedmidwesterner*

          You have my mother-in-law! She loves the stockings! Some of the stuff is useful (an extra phone charger, a purse mini mani kit), some of it is briefly amusing (a little build an animal out of wine cork kit), a few pieces of candy, but mostly so much stuff. But she adores doing it. And there really are some useful things in it with the trinkets (and the rubber piece of coal).

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Mine too!
            But she may have stopped finally, except for the little kids; I have all the stockings now, heh heh. They are crocheted of granny squares (so very 1970s). :)

    2. Annie Moose*

      Hey, we had our building-wide potluck today too!

      I actually like the potluck (main dish was pasta this year–much better than cold cuts last year, what were they even thinking), but no presents. I heard rumors there’s a karaoke machine somewhere in the building, but thank God it’s nothing required. Probably a bright idea from the HR folks downstairs; bless their hearts, but they are just not the same crowd as we IT folks upstairs.

      Fake edit: oh dear sweet Christmassy goodness, the karaoke has been confirmed. I just got an email about it. NO THANK YOU! I love singing, but not like this!!!

      1. Annie Moose*

        AUGH I can hear it all the way on the opposite end of the building. Whose idea was this??? Our site services/manager/whatever you call him is currently singing Bruce Springsteen…

          1. Annie Moose*

            Nope, all our at-work parties are dry. So they don’t even have that as an excuse.

            I hid out upstairs until everything was over, then rushed out to my car!

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      We just had a wrapping party with pizza. But the presents were ones we bought for a family and kids in need. We wrapped the presents and ate the pizza and goodies that the company bought.

  7. Lillian McGee*

    We get a week off between Christmas and New Years but many of us still have to come in at least once to take care of stuff (wish the courts would close too!). Still in all, people really appreciate it. We’re also giving staff gift cards this year which I am excited about because we are almost never able to give gifts to everyone!

  8. Beancounter in Texas*

    I just started at the beginning of December at my new company and a coworker let it slip today that everyone received Christmas bonuses with their Dec 15th paycheck (direct deposit). I did not, but I did just start.

    Hubby’s company did a party, which I missed, but to reward his business unit for an exceptionally good fiscal year, they’re sending employees & spouses (no kids) to New Orleans for a four day weekend, and putting us up at the Ritz-Carlton. I’m super stoked!

  9. Who watches the Watchers?*

    I agree with AAM for a company: either give me a gift card in a decent amount (at least $25) or give me time off.

    I have to say I’ve never understood why people say giving gift cards is impersonal. If you put enough thought in it to know I’d love an Amazon card or a Nook card, or whatever, I don’t interpret that as impersonal or lazy. I can’t tell you how many Christmases I wish my relatives would’ve just given me a gift card or cash instead of the well intention-ed stuff I ended up with. And OH! The childhood Christmases where they asked me to make a list and then didn’t buy anything on that list!

    But I digress, from my employer I’d rather have the gift card or the time off. I’d say a bonus but I’ve found that taxes usually eat almost all of any bonuses I’ve received in the past and that’s just disappointing.

    1. AP No Noir*

      No! Not gift cards! They are taxable according to the IRS (“Cash or cash equivalent items provided by the employer are never excludable from income.”) so each card needs to be attached to a name and reported to payroll. It causes major headaches for AP and payroll.

        1. AP No Noir*

          Yes, most bonuses are processed directly through payroll.
          Gift cards usually go through AP, then the cards/amounts are matched to names and reported to payroll. Then payroll has to input that data.

      1. NHNonprofit*

        Yes, we have a sort of blanket policy against giving gift cards to staff because of this. It’s not very popular. I wish there was some other way.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          We get them for Admin’s Day (and I don’t want to give that up!), but not for the holiday. Come to think of it, we don’t really get anything for Christmas, except maybe a couple extra hours off at the end of the day, if we’re here on Christmas Eve.

      2. Natalie*

        Is there any kind of limit where it’s a gift rather than a bonus? It seems like a small gift card shouldn’t be considered a bonus, but I suppose the IRS isn’t known for their flexibility.

    2. More Cake, Please*

      Yes, I don’t think gift cards are impersonal at all. It seems like a win-win to me: the giver doesn’t waste time figuring out what someone needs (even if you know I want a new graphics card, do you know which one in particular I want and why? nope!) and the receiver gets to pick exactly what they wanted.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yep. I have a friend who ADORES board games. And buys them the second they come out, usually – he tracks the industry, he follows message boards, all of that. I get him a gift card to our friendly local gaming store, because the odds are that if I see something and think it looks fun, he’s owned it for six months and would be astonished I’d never heard of it. But there’s always NEW games coming out that he can get….

      2. SL #2*

        I think it’s easy to show thoughtfulness through a gift card simply by choosing the appropriate retailer to get one from. I’d be perfectly happy to receive Starbucks and Amazon gift cards from my company, for example, but I’d love an Intelligentsia Coffee gift card even more because those who know me best know that I am a Coffee Snob to the highest degree.

        Similarly, my friend does a lot of computer gaming. I know next to nothing about it other than what she tells me, but I do know that if I got her a Best Buy or Game Stop gift card, she could put it to good use. If Steam had gift cards, I’d even buy her one of those!

        1. learningToCode*

          Steam totally has gift cards! You can find them at Walmart, GameStop, grocery stores, Amazon, etc. http://www.amazon.com/Steam-Gift-Card-20-Pc/dp/B00FN50BYC/

          That’s what my family always gets me, because like your friend, I only ever need gift cards for gaming. And my boyfriend’s mother has figured out that it is the easiest gift for him as well.

          This year the gift cards have gotten more specific with 2 people getting me cards specifically for in game purchases for the main game I play, but that’s way more specific than most people can safely assume.

    3. AdAgencyChick*

      They CAN be impersonal (as when my SIL flat out tells me, “I forgot to get you a birthday present this year!” runs off to Target, and then comes back with a gift card and goes, “Here!”), and they can also be a thoughtful way to say “here’s some mad money at a place you like.”

      From my employer, I wouldn’t even care that the gift is impersonal. I’d rather have it be generic and impersonal than all wrong, so I’d rather have a gift card for $10 than a $25 ski hat that’s not at all my taste.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This! They are kind of impersonal in some ways, and that’s what makes them a good gift from someone you don’t know personally, like your great-great-grandboss.

      2. Not So NewReader*

        Yeah, I kind of hope my employer would give me a gift which is on the impersonal side. I have heard of people getting bras and such and it’s just. not. good.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I can’t tell you how many Christmases I wish my relatives would’ve just given me a gift card or cash instead of the well intention-ed stuff I ended up with. And OH! The childhood Christmases where they asked me to make a list and then didn’t buy anything on that list!

      OMG are you me!? This is my life!

      1. Who watches the Watchers?*

        LOL It’s crazy isn’t it?! Even as a kid I wasn’t asking for really expensive stuff. My list usually consisted of certain books or movies I wanted. What I’d end up with were those makeup gift sets like they sell at Wal-Mart or some other similar thing. It made me so angry! Like, you asked for a list, I gave you a list and instead of a book or at least a bookstore gift card you give me makeup or nail polish or soda flavored lip balm?!

        Le sigh. At least now the family is starting to get out of that “we have to buy EVERYONE something” and just drawing names (only the little kids get something from everyone).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I still can’t get my family to do that. I was all, “No presents,” but then I caved and bought people stuff because I know they will get me stuff and I hate showing up empty-handed. I think I will start traveling at Christmas so I’m not around!

          1. A Bug!*

            Spouse and I have a kind of similar but opposite problem. One of our parents keeps saying “no gift exchange” and gets us presents anyway. This parent is a scrooge who really doesn’t like exchanging gifts, so we’ve concluded that it’s a control thing – they like having others at a disadvantage.

  10. Lily in NYC*

    My “present” was a new project with major funding issues, yay. I’m also covering for someone who is out sick for a month and I’m leaving for vacation tomorrow. Her boss just asked me how early was “too early” to call me while I’m away. I said that I’m up early every day but to please email instead. I just realized she doesn’t even have my cell number, ha!

  11. Cheeto*

    The first bonus I ever got was a $250 Visa gift card. No taxes! The next place gave us bonuses in our pay checks that did have taxes. No word on the new place I’m at, but I just started in Novber, so I may not get anything this year, if they do it at all.

    1. Faith*

      At one of my old jobs we used to get a $10 Starbucks card for our birthday, but on our pay stub, the card showed up for a slightly higher amount because it was grossed up for the taxes withheld. So, the $10 was already net of tax.

  12. Clever Name*

    But we do want corporate fanny packs.

    Seriously, my last company did great with holiday gifts. Each employee got a visa gift card for around $100, which I think is a nice sum, even if it’s a token for some. We also got pretty decent company swag. One year we got fleece-lined hoodies I still wear in the field, another year we got nice water bottles, another year a fleece-lined blanket you could roll up and keep in the car. I still use all of these items, and I moved on 5 years ago.

    1. KR*

      +1 for awesome company swag! I work for a popular grocery store in the North East and when they launched our curbside grocery service they gave us these AWESOME fleece jackets and I wear mine even when I’m not at work because they’re so comfy and warm!

    2. SL #2*

      I worked in tech for a bit, so I had tons of free swag. There was a hoodie, some water bottles, several duffel and tote bags in different designs, at least 5 different shirts, a pair of socks… not to mention the pens and notebooks and really nicely bound journals. I still use all of these items, even after leaving the company.

      Last year, I made a gift basket for my dad out of swag that the company was about to donate to local shelters, and he was so excited about it. Then again, my dad is the type that loves free stuff like that.

    3. LD*

      Re: Swag, but not a holiday/Christmas gift; one year I relocated for my company right before my birthday. My friends at my former location collected a lot of small company swag items (think pen, pencil, stress ball, travel alarm, emery board, etc.) wrapped them individually, put them on top of a regular gift in a big box, and mailed the box to my new location. They conspired with my new manager to hide the box till my birthday and to have my office filled with balloons on the day. It was hilarious to open the box and wrapped presents in front of my new team who laughed and joked with me about it. Best comment: “And you thought your friends bought you gifts!” I still am friends with most of them!

    4. Squeegee Beckenheim*

      My company does bonuses (usually a few hundred bucks) and then a piece of pretty nice swag. Last year it was Patagonia fleeces with the company logo, and they actually go through the trouble of asking for your size, but also ordering some extras so you can pick out a new one if it doesn’t fit. AND they actually order women’s sizes for the women, which is nice.

  13. F.*

    Let’s see…a holiday party? Nope, they did away with that a couple of years ago. Luncheon? Not this year. A bonus? What’s that? Raises? Not in the last four years for most of the employees. 401(k) match? Not in the past seven years. Company picnic? Did away with that eight years ago. A trip to NYC and then the Caribbean for a couple of weeks for the company owner? Hell yeah!

  14. Bob*

    I work on a team of 10. Our boss took the week after Christmas and divided it up so we each work one day (for a staff of two on-site). He said the others are officially “working for home” the other four days. We’re not burning vacation days so we are expected to check email semi-regularly and respond to phone calls. We have a change freeze so we’re not allowed to do anything anyway. If we all came into the office, we would most likely be screwing around, watching movies on our laptops, etc.

    I think time is the most valuable thing you can give your employees. In our specific situation, it is costing the company nothing. We often say perks like this are why we put up with the other BS are company makes us go through. The pay certainly doesn’t keep us here. Our boss does it under the table but I think it should be official. Have a skeleton crew on the tech support desk (and pay them double time) and tell the rest of us to stay home. It would be a huge perk and no work happens anyway so it wouldn’t affect productivity.

    1. Annie Moose*

      Sounds like a great setup! Hope your boss can keep on doing this without somebody in the company catching on and making him stop. :)

  15. Allison*

    Employers, please don’t forget your contractors! It sucks for them around this time of year, with no paid time off or bonus eligibility, which employees often take for granted. Even if they don’t normally get paid time off, consider (quietly) letting them take a day or two off and bill for a full day if you can, or try to get them some sort of bonus if they work on a team full of employees that get bonuses.

    1. Chinook*

      As an independent staff Contractor (i.e. I look like staff and have an office in site), I have to admit that I have had to get used to no paid days off or bonuses. But, my current place still invites us to parties and shares the swag. True, I didn’t get the extra half day off everyone else did, but I also based my rates on how many days I wanted to work and divided my annual salary by that, so it sort of already is included. Plus, last year, my boss requested that I raise my fee $5/hour when I submitted my annual quote, so she even figured out how to give me a raise.

  16. MashaKasha*

    OldJob actually gave us really nice duffel bags with their company logo one year. And of course I was, “eh, that’s lame”, and gave the duffel bag to my kid. Then really regretted giving it away, after airplanes’ overhead bins started getting smaller and smaller, and my wheelie carryon bags stopped fitting into them. That duffel bag would’ve been a perfect carryon!

    I also won a BluRay DVD player in a raffle one year at a company holiday party. That was pretty awesome, given that: 1) it was 2010 and BluRays were still quite pricey; 2) I’d just bought a TV for our new house on Black Friday, but had no money left to buy a DVD player to go with it. The BluRay also had a wireless connection, serving as a prehistoric Roku.

    Next year, we got bought again and at next Christmas, new owners were raffling off luxury items like $10 gift cards.

    1. Dominoe*

      The standards for carry-on bags haven’t changed, so if your bag wasn’t fitting in an overhead bin, it was too big.

      1. MashaKasha*

        That does not explain why those same bags were fitting in every bin in 2010.
        Maybe the bag had a growth spurt…

  17. SL #2*

    We close between Christmas Eve and New Year’s, but my boss is giving the team an extra day on top of that and made it very clear that all those days outside the standard paid holiday will also be paid. I’m excited!

  18. Lizabeth*

    All I want for Christmas is that the PTB communicate with our vendors and pay their @##$%* outstanding bills (some wwwwwaaaaaayyyyy overdue) so I don’t have to field emails and phone calls from vendors I have an established relationship with to find out the check isn’t in the mail. Sigh…

  19. Brett*

    One thing that I really hate is that our budget gets adopted the 2nd Tuesday in December every year.

    So every year, less than 3 weeks before Christmas, we get notified that the wage freeze has been extended and layoff notices go out. (The excuse this year… increased expenses from cost of living adjustments for vendors.)

    1. F.*

      I feel your pain. I had to fire someone today (for cause). He knew it was coming, but it still sucked big time for both of us. I was once laid off on Dec. 18 (from Very Large Dysfunction Financial Services Company). I was a single mother of two. That really sucked!

    2. fposte*

      We could play Four Yorkshiremen here: “Ah, we *dream* of having a budget.” (Says the Illinois employee.)

      1. Brett*

        Yeah, my wife is an Illinois university employee now. Their chancellor just had to send out an email informing everyone that they were still staying open next semester.

      1. Brett*

        I’m sure it seemed much better back when people got a raise every year….
        But it is just how the fiscal year goes for us and the timing of our budget process.
        For a while they had the layoffs moved out to the 3rd week in January by fiddling with the pay pariods, but now they need people to stop working on January 1st so they have to come out sooner.

  20. So very anon for this.*

    We got a re-org of our division that was totally confused because they weren’t allowed to tell people in advance, INCLUDING some people whose input was needed to work out the final structure. So they did it partway (removing some people) and then figured out where the rest of us fit in. Woo-hoo a re-org for the holidays with long training days in our new places in the org, in the weeks just before Christmas/New Year’s.

    Oh, and we didn’t make our bonus targets.

    Ho ho ho Merry Christmas!

    (However, they routinely are generous with vacation time, and do not appear to be changing that. So it could be worse. Hopefully they’re done with this for now. Because after all of this, those of us with vacations booked REALLY NEED THEM.)

  21. peanut butter*

    Today, I got homemade goodies from my boss. I ate the Chex mix immediately and I am now breathing fire. I normally hate spicy food but this was pretty good. I have an awesome boss! We don’t get glorious gifts since I work for the state but my boss makes the job great which is the best gift of them all.

  22. Elizabeth*

    I’m actually in a more corporate environment for the first time this year and was amazed at getting $100 in gift cards both at Thanksgiving and again today. Is this a normal thing? Wow.

  23. Mockingjay*

    Our team lead gave us Subway gift cards yesterday. Really thoughtful and useful, since most of us dine at Subway for lunch.

  24. Annie Moose*

    I consider myself pretty lucky. We don’t get holiday bonuses or presents (we do have annual bonuses, just not holiday ones), but we’ve got #1 and #2 from Alison’s list covered. I work IT for a large international company, and all of my work can be done from home–most of the users/internal customers I’m working with aren’t on-site anyway, so what’s it matter if I’m talking to them from my cellphone or my work phone? It’s not a perk we abuse (none of us wants to lose it!), but it is so appreciated, especially in bad weather (yay Michigan) or when you’re in that uncomfortable place of feeling sufficiently sick that you really, really don’t want to drive to work, but you know you’re well enough to get things done if you could just get to the office in the first place.

    In the end, as nice as a bonus or present might be, if I have to pick between “ten dollar Amazon gift card” and “lol I’m not driving on THOSE roads, I’ll work from home today”, I’ll take the flexibility any day.

  25. Elizabeth West*

    I love that my company is flexible, and that they encourage us to use our PTO (there isn’t usually a stink when someone wants or needs to take a day off, though some teams or locations might have a manager like this). We get some corporate discounts, though most of it isn’t on stuff I use–nuts! Oh well.

    I would love a gift card. I still have some shopping to do and a loan payment that will be late if I have to wait until after Christmas. :P

  26. Anon123*

    I used to work at this small company, around 50 people. It was a gymnastics club, and most of the staff were underage: gymnasts themselves who coached after school and did the birthday parties. One year, we were given wrapped branded compendiums. I remember getting mine and just laughing, particularly when a couple of the teens on shift with me didn’t know what it was. Like, seriously?! It went straight in the bin when I got home. The following year, large boxes were delivered and there was a credible rumour going around they were… branded car windscreen covers (as in, you put on the inside of your car windscreen to block the sun out). Yep, a great gift when most of your staff can’t drive!! (In Australia, you’re 18 when you can drive not 16 like in USA).

  27. Grateful*

    My company does a half day before Christmas vacation and everyone goes to a restaurant for a very nice holiday lunch which includes an optional employee grab bag. We all get Christmas bonus checks before we leave as well. I think it’s really nice considering it’s not a huge organization. Reading these comments makes me especially grateful for how generous they are (plus I like all my coworkers except one who is just annoying as all hell). :)

  28. Wren*

    I’m reminded of my dad complaining about his company sending around a survey asking employees how they’d feel if they didn’t get swag that year, as had become an annual thing at the AGM (not holidays, but still.)

  29. Blurgle*

    I’m just happy when it isn’t food, a restaurant gift certificate, perfume, or something else I can’t use. It’s not much of a gift if the best I can do with it is give it away, and at worst I have to triple-wrap it and throw it out immediately. I’d rather not get a gift at all.

  30. Aussie Teacher*

    “and if you give fruitcake, you’re alienating everyone with a palate.”

    This! So much this! I thought I was alone with my intense dislike of any fruit cake :P

  31. HFM*

    If my industry gave “gifts” around this time of year like extra holiday time or bonuses, I guarantee our clients would complain about the slowdown of productivity or the increase in cost.

  32. em2mb*

    We had an all-staff meeting a few weeks back. Our big boss gave us a very honest update about how things were going – mostly good news – and then we heard jingle bells in the hall. He’d had a manager dress up like Santa to bring us all candy canes and announce he was giving us off our choice of Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve. It was cheesy and corny and all those things, but it was also exactly the kind of gift you want to get from your employer.

    We actually have our holiday party in January with the reasoning that it’s a less busy time for everyone. It’s always on a Saturday night, there’s no expectation that we attend, but spouses/partners/kids are welcome. There’s a nice catered meal, everyone brings what they like to drink, and various factions of the staff head out after to have one or two more. There’s no pressure to attend (no weird looks on Monday if you didn’t show up), and I wish everyone got to have that nice experience!

  33. Mary in Texas*

    Did you hear about the Texas Oil Company that gave their employees a $100,000 bonus this year? Yes, $100,00…that was not a typo. I work for a Texas oil company and we get bonuses each year, but they’re a percentage of our salary and based on performance. But this is crazy!! Now we all want to go work there…of course!


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