35 gifts for every type of employee

If you’re the boss, finding the right gifts for your employees can be fraught with questions: How much do you spend? Should you spend the same amount of money on each person? And if you don’t know someone well, how do you make sure they like the gift while still keeping it professional?

To be clear, managers don’t have to give their staff members gifts, but it’s a nice gesture if you want to do it – and in some offices it’s very much expected. (Although here is your obligatory reminder that because of the power dynamics involved, gifts at work should flow down, not up. Managers should never expect or encourage gifts from employees.)

New York Magazine asked me to put together a gift guide for bosses buying for employees, and so I hunted down 35 ideas for everyone on your team.

(Again, not obligatory!)

(Unless your office makes it so.)

You can read it here.

{ 170 comments… read them below }

    1. hermit crab

      I half-expected the article to just be that:

      For the employee that’s always cold… money!
      For the employee that’s always hot… money!

      Maybe with an “… additional paid time off!” thrown in for variety. :)

    2. Tin Cormorant

      I can’t remember a time I got anything other than a $100 Amazon gift card from my boss. My husband can’t either.

  1. The Man, Becky Lynch

    Omg some of these things are too cool and answering my need for gifts for friends as well as colleagues. Mini humidifiers, where have you been all my life.

    1. Amber Rose

      Mini humidifier is the best thing I ever bought for myself. They’re cheap, easy to refill, and surprisingly good even in larger rooms.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        The affordableness is why I’m so thrilled. I needed one and the big ones are not in my miserly budget.

    2. It's A Bird, It's A Plane, It's SuperAnon

      Seriously, I was just struggling to find a gift for my SIL. I think that blanket is calling her name!

      1. Snow Drift

        I want one, but it looks like only the ivory is in stock, and me owning white is a loser’s game.

    3. Kyrielle

      I have a few things to add to my wishlist…and pick up for myself if no one gets them, given how close to Christmas it is.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        And it’s even more awesome to see other endorsements. Not that I think Alison isn’t trustworthy but the price point made me go “hmmm curious about quality”. I’m not too worried but prefer these impromptu kind of reviews than the trash reviews you weed through on Amazon lol

        1. misplacedmidwesterner

          I have a slightly different brand than that one. But mine has been going for about six years and helps so much in dry winters.

  2. Dust Bunny

    We finally got a new Trivial Pursuit when ours got to be so out of date that nobody could remember all those movies that they thought would become classics in 1989, but then didn’t.

    My office did the little pick-your-gift catalog one year. I got a bag of World War II steel pennies!

    1. Dust Bunny

      One of my bosses at my veterinary hospital job forgot about the holiday party one year and gave us all . . . chemical handwarmers, which he kept in his truck, anyway. It was fine–we liked him and it was classic of him not to have remembered. We ended up using them to warm up a litter of kittens that somebody abandoned on the clinic porch, so they turned out to be a decent gift after all.

      1. Red Reader

        We pulled a box of those out of the bottom of the coat closet a month ago when we lost power overnight to sub in for my housemate’s python’s heat lamp. Super handy. :)

      1. Rusty Shackelford

        Honestly, this kind of list is usually… discontenting. But I like yours. Lots of variety, lots of affordable options, lots of things that are still useful even you already own something similar, and nothing that assumes *everyone* drinks coffee. Thumbs up!

        1. animaniactoo

          Yes, the “big box” gift prize on the table at my holiday party last night turned out to be a Nespresso machine. I was quite happy not to have taken it, and will happily take the Galaxy Tab A I did get (which was one of the better gifts).

          Normally the big box is a fakeout – except for the year it contained a new laptop. So people were avoiding it and I was planning to avoid it also if my name got called, but I was standing next to one of the owners and he was whispering in my ear commenting not understanding why nobody was going for that one. If I’d gone ahead and taken it, my parents or my sister would be the proud owners of a Nespresso machine since between them and my in-laws, they’re the only reason there’s even a coffee machine in my house!

          1. misplacedmidwesterner

            But are coffee shop gift cards okay? Not starbucks but the locally owned chain that has a ton of locations. I figure even if you don’t drink coffee you can get a tea, cocoa, baked good, etc.

            Asking for myself since that is my go to gift for my kids’ teachers.

            1. Kyrielle

              Our kids’ school (well, the PTA equivalent) sends home little notes about what each teacher likes, thank goodness.

              If I (not a teacher!) receive a coffee shop gift card, I’m probably going to hand it to my husband. Pretty much the only thing there for me is the tea…and while they usually have one of the flavors I like, it’s still extra time and fuss when teabags and hot water are easy to come by at work and at home. (My husband, however, loves a proper coffee drink with all sorts of extra stuff in it, so the gift cards are well-loved. Just not by me.)

            2. Kitryan

              Not a teacher but also not a coffee drinker and I’d be fine with it. Hot chocolate, a pastry or other snack… or I’d just gift it to a family member.

            3. Beth Jacobs

              I think in a situation where it’s inappropriate to give money (which it certainly would be for your kids’ teachers), coffee shops are as good as universal as it gets :)
              Now if you were in a position where it was appropriate to give money (like for your nieces and nephews – if their parents are okay with it), I’d go with that, since it gives the recipient more freedom. But etiquette forbids cash gifts for most situations.

              1. PhyllisB

                I’ve started giving Walmart gift cards to teachers (for grand-child I’m raising.) We always get heart-felt thank you notes. And I I know some on here don’t like to shop at Walmart, but here it’s pretty much it. You can at least put gas in your car at lower prices.

            4. Humble Schoolmarm

              Coffee gift cards are my favourite! I don’t know a lot of teachers that don’t have a favourite hot beverage that they drink very regularly. Office supply store gift cards are also good choices. Honestly, though, I’m delighted with a card that says thank you for something specific I’ve done with your child this Fall. Teachers don’t get a ton of thanks and it means a lot.

            5. animaniactoo

              Yes. I still haven’t managed to *use* the Starbucks gift card I got, but since they also serve tea and other things it’s cuz I suck at actually going somewhere I normally don’t and making sure to use said gift card.

              However, when we needed new umbrellas, we gathered up the 3 or 4 Macy’s giftcards we had and made a special run to Macy’s with them.

              Having said that, and realizing why I am gift card resistant… I think unless you happen to know that the teachers patronize those places, maybe you’re better off finding a gift card that can be used in more than one place? Make it easy for them to spend it instead of needing to go somewhere they don’t usually go and find something to spend it on.

            6. Just me

              Must admit I’m not a fan of coffee shop gift cards. I don’t drink coffee, I don’t go to cafes by myself, and my friend group goes for small non-chain places. I’d have to find someone to give it to.

              One of our big local malls has gift cards that you can spend in any shop in the mall, including a supermarket if you really can’t think of anything else you want but groceries. We use those for work gifts and people seem happy.

            7. Someone Else

              My MIL is a teacher and gets a bazillion coffee shop gift cards. She gives them all to us. I haven’t paid for a tea, cocoa or baked good in 4 years. Which is to say, the teacher might appreciate it even if not a coffee drinker, or you might just be funding the teacher’s children’s coffee-shop visits.

            8. Emily K

              I get a lot of $5 and $10 Sbux cards as conference bag swag. I brew my own coffee at home every day, but I still get use out of the cards because they carry so much more than just coffee, and with 3 trillion locations in the US, it basically means that any time I’ve traveling I can stop into an Sbux very easily and get a bagel or a bottle of sparkling water or one of their protein packs with hard-boiled eggs and cheese, or yes – sometimes even coffee :) and not have to spend any of my own money!

        1. Formica Dinette

          Totally nailed it. Something for everyone, a wide variety of price points and just generally thoughtful. I may be biased because there are a few items I didn’t know I needed for myself.

      2. Kyrielle

        Nah, this is awesome! I mean, I can find several I wouldn’t want, but they’re all pegged to people who like/do things that would make them appropriate, not treated as generic. It’s a great list.

          1. The Man, Becky Lynch

            …I have the ugly habit of shaking my keyboard every few days. If anyone walks in they assume it’s broken and I’m mad…yesssss that’s it, stupid keyboard….

          2. Kyrielle

            Her review says “This mini vacuum picks up crumbs, dirt, and lint, and can even be used to suction dirt out of a keyboard.” There’s also a review of the item that it worked for someone on a keyboard. I need one.

            Um…as a gift…for a friend…of course. Heh.

        1. Bulbasaur

          Now I am imagining a Roomba-style autonomous desk vacuum shaped like R2D2 that would wander all over your desk making the beep-boop noises.

      3. Jasnah

        Honestly I like it because you nailed the different office stereotypes, and the gifts are kind of funny (basketball mug for whoever organizes March Madness etc). A list of gifts is whatever but it was funny to see the sometimes-snarky match ups.

  3. Adalind

    At my current job I usually get a bottle of wine from my direct supervisor and money from my executive. I’m totally fine with both. haha. But some of those ideas on the list are really good! I know quite a few I’d be happy to get (as well as some as my coworkers esp the one who wears his parka at his desk). ;)

  4. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

    I love lists like these…but mostly for the entertainment value. Rolling pin? Although I actually did give my boss the basketball mug and he loved it — but the little basket broke off pretty quickly so 4 stars from me.

    I clicked over to the 31 cute and affordable gifts for co-workers. Essential oil diffuser for their desk?! hell no! Jewelry or clothing is a bit too personal. Scrunchies! wow I would not give a gift of scrunchies to any grown woman … that would seriously end up on one of these secret santa threads for worst office gift ever!

    1. PB

      Lists like this are so hard, because gifts are so personal. I’m a baker, and I would LOVE that rolling pin!

      1. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain

        But from your boss? That’s the trouble with some of these gifts. Even if the gift itself is great…from someone close to you…receiving it from a manager might come across as really odd.

        1. MonkeySeeMonkeyDo

          This year my boss gave me an 8 oz bottle of *really* good quality vanilla from Penzeys. I was touched by the thoughtfulness of the gift as I’m one of the office bakers AND a person who doesn’t divulge much of her personal life so I can’t be easy to buy presents for. I don’t really see why that would be odd?

          1. BookAddict

            I worked with someone who one year gave everyone bottles of homemade vanilla extract. I love Penzey’s (and buy that big-a$$ bottle for my pantry), but it was nice to get a bottle from her, which also had a slightly different and totally delicious flavor.

        2. Perse's Mom

          In a certain kind of office (the bad kind where women are expected to do womanly things like clean up after everyone and… bring in baked goods regularly), sure. In a respectful office where Sarah manages Bob and she knows Bob loves to find and try new recipes for assorted baked goods, that seems like a thoughtful gift instead.

    2. Ahead Fish

      Actually, as the person who brings baked good, that rolling pin is spot on. Heat is basically the death of many baked goods, and it’s harder to get cookies rolled out properly without warming when you’re using a standard rolling pin. Having said that, I don’t have a marble one, because it feels a little… ‘extra’ to get myself a marble rolling pin when I have a regular one that works fine. So this is exactly the sort of thing that makes a good present — something just a little extra luxurious I’d never get for myself.

      1. Snow Drift

        “Better version of object they’d never pay to replace themselves” is my go-to gift hack. You look so thoughtful, but you know they’ll like it–they already have it!

        1. Isotopes

          Yes! My Mom talked about getting a stand mixer for YEARS. Like, I remember her mentioning them when I was a child. “Oh, it won’t get used, it will just take up space and I wouldn’t want it left out…I have other things to get those kinds of jobs done.” Well, we finally bought one for her a few years ago and guess what? It never leaves the counter, it has its own special place. And she uses it constantly.

      2. Smarty Boots

        I find the marble pins to be too heavy because I have a heavy hand when rolling out dough (I just cannot get a nice light touch)… so I use a lightweight wooden one that’s very skinny — it’s actually a pasta rolling pin. That and parchment and plenty of flour will get it done.

    3. Sydney Bristow

      I’m the employee who bakes all the time and often brings things into the office and I would absolutely love that rolling pin. Wouldn’t buy it for myself because it is at the bottom of the list of baking items I’d upgrade myself, but would get great use and enjoyment out of it.

    4. kittymommy

      I have that rolling pin, it’s heavy as hell, though really good for pie dough if you put it in the fridge for a bit before hand. Also, I could see it being useful with the security guard in the previous update…

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch

      You’re still gotta know your audience and use judgment.

      I don’t find many things too personal. If someone got me a scrunchie with unicorns, I would be stoked. If it was a random hair tie without any personalized “I thought of you because you wear your hair up and love unicorns”, I’d flinch a bit.

      If I’m a known baker, a nice rolling pin is thoughtful. I’ve gotten cute cookie cutters for people who bake and love *some random thing that makes a cute cutter*, etc.

      If my boss or coworker or anyone puts any effort into a gift, it’s all good. Like the difference between cute designer tacks and 9 standard tacks.

    6. TCO

      I loved Alison’s list! Although my office doesn’t exchange gifts (thank goodness) I had idly been considering a marble rolling pin for my sister, and seeing it in her gift guide and then seeing the discussion here just prompted me to go order it!

    7. Alianora

      Are you a baker? If not, then the rolling pin suggestion isn’t for you. I would love to get one from my boss.

      The only problem I see with this is if they already have a rolling pin they like.

    8. PhyllisB

      I loved this list. I know it was for employees/co-workers, but I got a few ideas for grand-children.

  5. Où est la bibliothèque?

    I’m chuckling at “the employee who’s always cold.” I’ve never worked anywhere, no matter how small, that didn’t have someone who was always cold.

    1. Red Reader

      As the person who’s the always-cold one, you bet your behind those USB gloves went on my wishlist.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch

      I’ve become that girl lol

      Not too drastic, I just always keep my hoodie on. And love keeping a fan going despite being cold. I’m the worst.

    3. Earthwalker

      In our old office people used tiny heaters and throw blankets. Cuddling up in a quilt doesn’t have quite the right professional look, but but people did.

      1. Ktelzbeth

        I had an internal debate a couple weeks ago as the time for my medical student to arrive rolled around about whether I cared more about looking professional in my office (for patients, professional of course!) or being warm. I kept the blanket and fingerless gloves on. Hopefully he still learned something.

    4. DataGirl

      I have multiple pairs of finger-less gloves, a heating pad, blanket, and shawl at my desk. I sit next to the manager who is always hot so the temp is always too low for me.

  6. MissMonsoon

    Those were all quite fabulous but I have too many employees. $14 x 15 is more than I spend on my hubby. :)

    I’m opting for a card with a nice handwritten message and a candy bar that they can easily give away if it isn’t their style.

    1. Higher Ed Database Dork

      My boss did that last year, though instead of a candy bar it was a little food something he knew each of us would like (I got coffee, another person got grilling rubs, etc). My team is much smaller so I think a candy bar sounds perfect, but I would have been quite happy without it. The card was definitely the best part…it’s nice to have a note like that from your boss. :)

    2. Kyrielle

      Which is fine! Honestly, no one should feel they have to give gifts. If they choose to give gifts that cost in this range, these are great ideas. If they choose to just wish them a happy holiday season, that works too. Candy is never bad (and I say that as someone who can’t eat some of it, and probably shouldn’t eat most of the rest often – it’s still not bad, and it’s not trying to be a bigger gift than it is, if that makes sense).

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch

      It’s truly the thought that counts to most people. I don’t need my bosses to ever spend their money on me.

      I got cute AF marshmallow novelty candies NOT PEEPS a few jobs ago for my reports. This time of year you can find cute cheap treats to add to a card.

  7. Higher Ed Database Dork

    For the long commute…my husband got an Audible subscription for that very reason. And he still buys audiobooks, that one credit a month is nowhere near sufficient. His commute is about 50-60 minutes one way, and he rarely listens to anything else during that time. We really need like Audible Extreme Listener or something.

    I’m getting that bamboo charging station for myself!

    1. Cotton Headed Ninny Muggins

      I have Kindle Unlimited, and there are some KU books that have free audible narration. I don’t use it, but it might be worth investigating for your husband.

    2. Reader

      You can get a 2 credit a month plan for much cheaper per credit. It’s even a better deal if you get the plan where you pay up front for the entire year’s worth of credits. I think you can do that for 12 or 24. Between the monthly credits, the occasional daily deals I like, and sales where prices are lowered or you can get more than one book for a credit, I find myself having to place my account on a 3 month hold every time I’m eligible, every 12 months. Then again, as many audiobooks as I listen to, I also have many podcasts that I also listen to.

      Believe it or not, I am not in any way affiliated with Audible, other than as a very happy long-time customer.

      Don’t forget to see what your local library has to offer. There are two apps that I know of: Overdrive, and Libby, which is basically overdrive but with a different UI, as far as I understand. You might be surprised how many books you can get that way, too. Especially if you are willing to put things on hold and wait for them. Also great for e-books.

      1. Kitryan

        Also hoopla and cloud library – different libraries will have different services and different memberships to those services but there are lots of options! I love libraries and their online services!

        1. MonkeySeeMonkeyDo

          Yes! I use my library and their access to overdrive for audiobooks and it’s absolutely *wonderful*

          1. Isotopes

            Yep! The library has loads of audio books! And when I’m waiting for audio books, I pick out something random. The AAM book lists and open threads have been an absolute gold mine for finding new books that I wouldn’t otherwise have read. I am listening to Shards of Honour right now and it’s…incredible. Oh my gosh.

    3. MaureenSmith

      There used to be an annual subscription that gave 24 books a year. I still have it, not sure if it’s available anymore.

    4. M. Albertine

      Plug for your local library here. I don’t get to read much at all, but I listen to *tons* of books checked out through Overdrive.

    5. rek

      Check your public library web site! Our county library offers two separate services for eBooks, and both include access to audiobooks. Best of all, they’re free with your library card.

    6. skip2mylou

      Check with your local library – they often have audiobooks that you can check out. It’s usually online so you won’t even have to go to the branch.

      1. BookAddict

        As a librarian, thanking everyone for the comments about using the library for audiobooks. Between Overdrive, Hoopla, Libby and the CD audiobooks at the library, there are lots and lots of options. I admittedly, am biased. :)

    7. Lucille2

      I received a 90 day subscription to Audible as a gift once. I loooove audiobooks for my long commute, but Audible is not cheap. I opted to download my local library’s app. It’s not as user-friendly as Audible, but the books are free so if I decide I’m not into one, I don’t feel bad about the $ spent.

      Personally, for that reason, I would avoid giving Audible to my employees who might balk at the gift that costs them money to enjoy.

    8. wallacd

      You can check out digital audiobooks at most libraries. A great way to get more audiobooks without buying them.

    9. Autumnheart

      I have a commute like that, too. I have the 2 credit/month plan, and when that still wasn’t enough, I got a library card. If your local library uses Libby or RB Digital, it’s usually a good selection. Of course, I still buy a lot of extra credits, and it seems like everything I want to listen to at the library has a waiting list of about 50 people, but it works out.

    10. Higher Ed Database Dork

      Thank you everyone! I wasn’t aware of Overdrive or any of those other options, I will suggest them to him.

      1. Book Lover

        Scribd is an app/website that I describe to my friends as “Netflix for books”. Not every ebook and audio book, but more of them than I could ever manage to listen to, and good/new ones, for $9 a month.

  8. CupcakeCounter

    I just bought 4 items from the list (the bike repair thing, bonsai kit although I got the premium one, the salt lamp, and the USB gloves).
    I am not a manager – this list is awesome for family members.

    1. Partly Cloudy

      And friends! I kind of want to get the kitty grass for my friend who has 4.5 cats and the baby Groot planter/pen holder for my friend who LOVES all things Groot. Not to mention all the stuff I want to get for myself….

  9. Knitter

    Every office has knitters, crocheters, and other crafters. A yarn.com gift certificate is a great way to go, as well as an Etsy gift certificate for crafters or lovers of hand crafted stuff!

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        Omg I’m enraged at the letter writer and am relieved they had the nerve to be so tacky while claiming to be so well mannered.

    1. Astrid

      I’m the knitter and this year I gave both of my assistants handmade cashmere beanies, plus cash and a bar of handmade soap from my hometown. Even on sale, the materials for each hat cost $62.75 (it’s Handmaiden yarn), not to mention the time I invested in knitting the hats. It’s really disappointing, but I received a less-than-enthusiastic response from each. (I don’t think it was an issue of poor construction or an odd color choice – I’m aasny on Ravelry, the hat is Jordan Pond).

      They know I’ve literally spent days at the office with no sleep. I’m not quite sure when they think I have any free time, plus I was taught that you thank the person for the effort that went into making a handmade item even if it’s not to your taste. That’s it for me – my assistants are no longer knitworthy. I’ll give them cash but nothing extra.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch

        Some people are just ungrateful. I’ve seen so many one-off cold responses to trying to give a thoughtful gift.

        You learned your lesson at least and won’t bother again.

      2. Alianora

        That was very nice of you, but some people just don’t like beanies or knitwear, no matter how well-constructed. I don’t think the mediocre response means anything personal — they probably just don’t realize how much time and money you put into the gifts. A lot of people don’t know anything about knitting. Although not even saying thank you is pretty damn rude.

        1. Red Reader

          Yep. I AM a knitter and a $65 cashmere beanie would have been totally wasted on me because I don’t wear knit hats. I knit scarves for my co-lead most years (and she crochets them for me, actually), but knitting gifts with the expectation that non-knitters are going to understand the time and effort you invested is usually an exercise in letdown.

        2. Astrid

          I don’t think I misread the giftees. One of my assistants has been with me for 2+ years and she wore the wool beanie hat that I made for her all last winter. She has expensive tastes and last year she showed me (multiple times) $700 Italian cashmere beanies in the same style that she was coveting.

          I think this might be karma for all of the times that I didn’t thank my grandmother profusely for all of the crocheted afghans (in glorious 1970s colors – gifted in the 1980s) she made for me when I was little.

      3. Harper the Other One

        I am heartbroken to imagine hand knit cashmere hats in the hands of people who don’t at least recognize the time it takes to make one! I think you made the right call in saying you won’t do something similar again – save the time and the gorgeous yarn for those who recognize them.

      4. Knitter

        Oh how frustrating! I am giving my Secret Sant-ee a handmade (not knitted) gift, but it’s one I had already made earlier this year, and happens to be a very good fit. Otherwise I wouldn’t. I find it so hard to give people knitted gifts because they are usually garments of some kind, which can be so personal. Yes for family and close friends, but I have rarely given knitted gifts otherwise. There’s also that thing where I strongly prefer to knit with wool, and strongly prefer to use non-superwash wool. I can only give that to people I live with or people who I know will know how to care for those items, and will be willing to do so. Otherwise I’m giving the gift of an accidentally felted item, or the gift so something that is nice to look at but will never be used. Which is the saddest fate for a handmade gift.

  10. Workerbee

    Whoa. I’m the employee who’s always drinking tea. Loose tea. I have a kettle and little teapot with infuser and oh look, that flask comes in red. NEED.

    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      Adagio has an amazing tea thermos/infuser called the ToasTea. I love mine. It keeps your tea super hot.

    1. Amy Farrah Fowler

      I just bought 2 of those. One for my coworker and one that I will either keep myself or give to my husband… still deciding, but <3 Groot!!!

  11. TooTiredToThink

    How bad is it that not one, not two, not three of these, but more than are in my personal “I want” list (or similar products). I read through this trying really hard not to laugh out loud.

    In fact the item I got for my company gift exchange is similar to one of the items on this list.

  12. Wren

    It’s a long running joke for me and my husband to mock Himalayan salt lamps. I’m sure someone likes them, since we’ve been seeing them for sale for well over a decade. We first encountered one visiting a friend. It was not switched on and I asked, is this… a sculpture? He explained, with embarrassment, that it was a lamp and a gift from a graduate student (our friend is a professor,) and did we want it? Goodness no! Ever since then, we’ve always pointed them out whenever we spot them in ads, or in stores, a wink and a nudge about the gift nobody wants.

    1. cb

      Except they’re insanely popular. Like wildly, wildly popular. People love them, they’re sold everywhere, they’re all over design blogs, they’re completely on trend. Because you think something is stupid you think no one likes them? Weird.

    2. Rusty Shackelford

      You must have missed the recent post about these. Lots of people love them. Obviously not everyone does, but they’re not a joke gift or “the gift nobody wants” at all.

      1. Ktelzbeth

        I dunno. I read Wren’s comment to mean that it has become an inside joke for Wren’s husband and Wren because of their first experience with seeing one and immediately having it pressed upon them as a regift, not that they believe there is actually no one who wants one.

    3. TooTiredToThink

      I have 3. I don’t believe in their healing powers like some, but I think they are very, very pretty.

      1. Salamander

        I have three, as well. I think that they provide a nice, soothing light, especially at the end of the day. Kind of the opposite of computer blue light.

    4. CDM

      A co-worker got one in the office gift swap, plugged it in, and it blew out her kitchen GFCI and cost her $600 for an electrician. Upon looking at the packaging, it was clearly a regift and a few years old. Claimed to be UL listed but clearly hadn’t been manufactured to standards.

      Someone gave my daughter one and it was pretty, until summer humidity changes arrived and I discovered the giant puddle of salt water sitting under it on my wooden tabletop.

      I’d love to break it up and feed the salt to the horse (who loves it) but am too worried about whatever industrial glues they used to stick the two halves of the salt block together.

    5. Ursula

      I have one in a tear drop shape and love it. However, I’ve recently been indulging a neglected decorating aesthetic that I describe to my significant other as “I like rocks!” so it fits that quite well.

      1. Cassandra

        I have an interesting-rocks shop in my neighborhood, so I also have indulged somewhat in this aesthetic. I got — not salt lamps, but lamps of hollowed-out stone that give a lovely warm light and look nice with my grandmother’s braided rugs in warm colors. I will defend these purchases! Rocks are cool!

        Also the polished fossil magnets on my fridge. Which could make a nice gift for the right employee.

  13. bonkerballs

    Employee or not, this is just a great list. I just bought three things off it for my family Christmas shopping!

  14. Mike C.

    Those headphones are legit great in noisy offices (I’m wearing the 7506 right now), but I’d have a hard time with the price point of that Waterman. You can get very similar pens for much, much less or if you don’t mind spending a little more can get other features like a piston fill or gold nibs.

    For instance, you could gift Pilot Metropolitans ($15), and they come in a ton of colors and styles.

    Certainly an entertaining list!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Mike! When I was looking for a pen to recommend, I went searching for any you might have recommended here in the past because I know you’re a pen buff. But the only specific recommendation from you that I could find was a very expensive Montblanc, so I had to do my own research :)

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina

      I am a big fan of nice pen gifts, but I’m afraid some people consider it old-fashioned and wouldn’t appreciate it. You need to know your audience in order to give a pen gift. That Waterman is too expensive for an office gift (unless it’s an employer’s gift to an executive), but luckily there are plenty of nice affordable pens. I still have and treasure the sleek chrome Cross pen that I received as a college graduation gift so long ago!

  15. animaniactoo

    Both the Anker PowerCore and the Roku Premiere made an appearance at last night’s holiday party. Along with several sets of headphones.

    Unfortunately one of the people who won the Anker Powercore is the head of IT. He’s only got a few dozen for himself already…

    The tea infuser thing may make an appearance under my tree as a gift to me. :)

    1. Wren

      I recently bought an Anker charging brick after seeing it heavily recommended as a brand in a comment thread on items under a certain price threshold that make your life better. Their wares do seem to be great quality for a reasonable price.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      That was the constraint they gave me … but yeah, I might do one next year over here where I won’t have that restriction! (And then get ready for the blanket of all blankets from Anthropologie.)

  16. Nanc

    Quiet is good but The Introvert Advantage: How Quiet People Can Thrive in an Extrovert World changed my life.
    I use one of the salt lamps as a night light in the hallway and find the glow very soothing.
    I already bought my dad The Wizard of Foz but he’s also getting that Bonsai Starter Kit because it’s amazing and while he won’t admit it, he misses the big 1.5 ace yard from his old house.
    This is a great list!

  17. Owlette

    Alison, this is a fantastic and thoughtful list! I’m actually going to use several of your ideas for getting my parents and my friends gifts this year!

    I’m tempted to “accidentally” leave a print-out of this list at the office printer for my boss to stumble upon. ;) I adore that desk vacuum!

  18. misplacedmidwesterner

    I have tried several things over the years, but my go to for the last three years has been movie tickets. Everyone gets two movie passes to go see a movie. One of my staff mentioned it in July so I know they like it. And it is super easy (I pick up a pack of them at Costco while I also pick up a pack of coffee gift cards for my kids teachers).

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch

      You can also buy them in bulk from the theatre company.

      We use them as birthday gifts. You can even purchase a package with a concessions gift card if you want to crank it up a notch.

  19. Urdnot Bakara

    I travel a couple times a year for work, so last year my boss got me a neck pillow. It has changed my life. I was never able to sleep on flights before that.

  20. Pipe Organ Guy

    Those Sony headphones are indeed very, very good. They’ve been used for many years now by professionals.

    Many years ago, in the days before CDs and digital downloads, a doctor I worked for gave me one volume of a highly-regarded organist’s recording of the complete organ works of J. S. Bach.

      1. Formica Dinette

        The Oxfam suggestion is genius! Maybe I’ll get my brother a gift, after all. *cough*manure*cough*

  21. AG

    I work outside in all weather and have to type, run cable, and do paperwork. I had heated gloves on my list already but the fingerless ones will be awesome.

  22. BookAddict

    I got some good ideas from this list (especially the mini vacuum. I have at least 3 people who might find that helpful). I don’t have a large budget for my team’s gifts, so I usually make them handmade bookmarks (I work in a library) and include homemade cookies or chocolate bark. Or rum balls. The team liked those so much last year that I’ll make them again this year.
    This year, I saved up a little money and got everyone one of these from Etsy (https://www.etsy.com/transaction/1530694869) — just so it’s something a little different. And, my team has been short-staffed for going on 2 years now, so I wanted to let them know I really do appreciate them and their hard work.

  23. Jennifer85

    Agreed this is a fantastic list (I was looking for a stocking filler-esque thing to complete my partners gift and the groot pen holder is perfect :)) – but I would be wary of giving an employee a book about being an introvert – if they don’t consider themselves so it could definitely be taken the wrong way! (/as criticism)

  24. rear mech

    That bike multi tool is a great choice! I have the previous version (17 instead of 19) and recommend them to everyone. Another bike commuter tool I always recommend is this hand pump that works like a little floor pump. So much quicker and easier than the “standard” design. The way it attaches to the valve (screws on instead of using a locking lever) is a lifesaver in cold or rainy weather, and also for people who are generally a bit clumsy with these kinds of things :) $50 msrp price point is probably more of a family/friend level than coworker, though. https://www.lezyne.com/product-hpumps-hv-microfldrhvg.php

  25. DataGirl

    I’m Jewish, poor, and have to gift for 14 people so this year I made everyone a dreidel game kit with home printed instructions, a bag of chocolate coins and 2 little dreidels. If people have allergies they can just play with the coins, if they don’t want to play they can eat the coins, or pass it all on to a kid if they don’t want it themselves.

  26. AFPM

    Love this and love the reasonable price ranges. Alison – I bet you had a blast with this assignment. Great job!

  27. This Daydreamer

    Can I make a plug, too?

    If you guys use Amazon, please check out Amazon Smile! It costs nothing, but gives a small percentage of every sale to the charity of your choice. Easiest donation method ever.

    And I’m going to make a little bit of money for my charity of choice with that list. So many things I want.

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