my company gives terrible gifts

A reader writes:

Every year, my company (with around 70 employees) picks out one corporate gift and sends it to all of us. Every year, it is terrible. One year they delivered hams to our homes, despite us having a fair number of vegetarians and Muslims on staff. One year they sent us all branded hoodies, which would have been fine except that they seem to have just guessed at people’s sizes (which is already weird, right?) and got them really wrong in a lot of cases. Mine would probably fit my toddler, but it doesn’t fit me. Last year they sent us all gift certificates for a restaurant (while no one was dining out because of Covid) that was far away from where most of us live. I’d rather receive nothing than these vaguely insulting gifts that seem to indicate no care went into picking them. Is it worth saying something or is it rude to complain about a gift?

I answer this question — and many others — over at New York Magazine today. You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Should I give my boss a gift?
  • My boss wants an expensive gift!
  • How can I discourage employees from giving me gifts?
  • My coworker gives me a gift every year – should I be reciprocating>
  • Can I send a gift to a potential employer?
  • Is it appropriate to give my intern a gift?

{ 490 comments… read them below }

    1. Been There*

      Last year I got a puffy envelope, letter sized, with a generic holiday greeting printed on an 8.5×11 sheet of paper and trimmed badly with dull scissors, and a handful of leftover halloween candy. How do I know it was halloween candy? It had pumpkins on it.

      The postage probably cost more than the actual “gift” and it was super insulting. Can’t wait to see what we get THIS year….

      1. Triple Toe*

        Ugh! One year we received a holiday card – on the cheapest card stock with envelopes that were transparently thin. It was so much worse than nothing!!

    2. Falling Diphthong*

      … I kind of like this? Excepting those allergic to mint, most people can eat candy canes. The bookmark is at worst “eh, not something I’d use” and at best some people have an “Oh. Wow. This is really useful” surprise when they give it a shot.

      It strikes me as miles better than ham, or “Barbara, you look like an extra small.”

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, that’s the rub. I’ve only been in the nonprofit sector, but I’ve worked at a small non-profit that didn’t have any extra money, and that’s one thing, but when the large nonprofit has a super-successful fundraising campaign and gives out crap, it doesn’t feel great.

          1. LouAnn*

            Bad old non-profit job planned a great party to honor the staff of 20 by having it at a new campus building as an evening event for all our hard work. Bad narcissistic boss got his paws on the idea and decided it would be better to hold a small thank you holdiday party for the big donors instead and we would be working the party, not be honorees or guests. That was bad enough but on the day of the party, the board held an impromptu meeting in the building in the late afternoon. We were all there readying the party and were told to go to the meeting room. We were going to be thanked! But not with checks or boxes from Tiffany’s, oh no. We stood around awkwardly while the board members, sitting around the conference table with goody bags in front of them, looked over their shoulders and said “thank you.” Then we were herded back out to work.
            The next day, some of us, but not all, got the leftovers they didn’t take out of the goody bags, rebagged by the boss’s assistant, as Christmas gifts.

            1. yala*


              I mean, just…just wow.

              I’m surprised they didn’t find a way to work pushing y’all down the stairs or insulting your pets into it.

            2. Liz*

              This reminds me of my company. one milestone anniversary, we had our esteemed leader (who everyone thought was a jerk) give a speech in our lobby about how wonderful we all were, how far we had come, yada, yada, yada. and brought up a handful of original employees to acknowledge them. that’s it, no gift for them. THEN we got cookies and brownies in a tiny conference room that could fit maybe 15 people.

              our board however, past and present, was flown to a warm location during the cold winter, to a 5 star resort, wined and dined, etc. SUCH a slap in the face.

            3. pope suburban*

              This bears an eerie resemblance to how my agency holiday party goes every year. We don’t have to work it, but it’s really just a big to-do for our board, which is…look, objectively not great, in terms of what they do (very little) and how much it actually reflects the wants/needs of the community (also very little). But the thing is, since it’s over an hour long, part-time staff have to dip into their sole pool of PTO or leave early, and we’re never included in the agency gift- a day of PTO, which would be a lot more impactful for us (We just get one bucket for sick days, holidays, and anything else) than it is for the people who get several types of leave, all of which accrue faster than ours. It’s really demoralizing and I haven’t attended since 2018 because I just can’t stomach it anymore. Don’t be happy to take someone’s work, then cut them out of the recognition. That’s in poor taste at any time, but especially crappy during the holiday season.

              1. LouAnn*

                That’s bad. PTO to attend a holiday party? I worked for the state for many years and it is the people’s money so we had to be aware of that. We had a university wide rule that granted an extra hour to all for parties.

              2. kitryan*

                Ugh. That sucks.
                When I worked at a regional theater, staff/employees did work the fund raiser gala but it was 1) community spirited-we’d be helping keep things running and all, and it was appreciated with thank you emails and so forth 2) helping was on a volunteer basis and 3) if you volunteered to help at the gala you got the next workday off work gratis, like an extra PTO day. Or at least a partial one, since I’m not sure if volunteering for the gala was on the clock or not- I think it wasn’t (which I think would be fine, legally, since none of the staff volunteers would be doing their normal job), so you basically got comp time plus the rest of the day. And it didn’t otherwise interfere with work since it was held on an evening when we didn’t have a show running.

            4. Dr. BOM*

              Reminds me of a holiday party my company threw a few years back. After a pretty nice dinner at a swanky local hotel, it was time for speeches. So our CEO decided that now, with a captive audience, would be the perfect time to announce the promotion of several members of senior management. If that wasn’t bad enough, they all opened with effusive praise for these managers that did not match the ground level employee’s feelings on the matter. One of the descriptions even had people thinking it was going to be someone else entirely, and I can still remember the shock I felt when I heard who it actually was. Fortunately, that was the only time they’ve done that

          2. Rachel in NYC*

            yeah, I work at a large university. my department doesn’t typically do anything major for the winter holidays but we get invited to a holiday party that is near us every year.

            The food is decent (nothing amazing but I love brunch so I have warm toasty feelings to the crepes they tend to have and the mimosas. lots of mimosas to start the work day off right.) But the presents are hilarious- from tiny succulents (I killed mine in a month but I had coworkers who kept theirs alive for years) to branded aprons.

            Though the branded apron may have been from the year that every department got to make gingerbread houses. So it did make some sense from a theme perspective.

            Cuz there is ALWAYS a theme.

      1. KHB*

        Yeah, a useful-to-most-people token gift is enough to say “We thought of you” but not “We blew the year’s budget on something that might just end up in the trash.”

        The best “gift” my employer can give me is to treat me well, pay me fairly, and communicate with me honestly. If they’re already doing those things, any additional gifts aren’t a big deal (as long as they’re not downright offensive). But if they’re not doing those things, there’s no holiday gift in the world that can make up for that.

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I would keep it and probably use it, but given as a gift?…eh…it’s the kind of thing orgs set out in a basket as freebie during a conference or benefits fair. At my org, if I received it as a gift, I’d 100% assume someone is clearing out a storage room of years-old swag because there isn’t enough left over for a conference, but too much to just bin.

      3. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree, I think that sounds like a reasonable gift. Nothing is going to make everyone happy, but at least you can’t give the wrong size bookmark. It would maybe be an odd gift from like your direct manager, but some small branded trinket seems like a standard and reasonable gift from the company to me.

    3. HotSauce*

      I would actually find that pretty useful, lol! One year I got company branded golf balls & a golf towel. I don’t golf.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        Well, the balls sound useless to a non-golfer, but it seems like a towel is something that can used in any circumstance where there is moisture.

        1. irene adler*

          Yes the golf towel can be used to sop up moisture. However, it is narrow and rectangular in size, so it can be a little awkward to use.

        2. The New Wanderer*

          I still use my company branded golf towel to wipe down the condensation on my car windows in the mornings. The towel lasted longer than the company did!

    4. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

      We get these small stand up desk calendars – but the picture takes up so much of each page it results in the calendar being too small to write on or even see quickly at a glance. Also, most of us don’t have room on our desks for it anyway. They are put in our mailboxes and most of us just put them right back in the box they came out of…the waste really bugs me.

    5. CBB*

      My favorite gifts are ones that don’t take up space in my house, so a thing that will dissolve in my mouth attached to another thing that’s practically 2-dimentional is ideal.

    6. yala*

      Honestly, that sounds better than the ones LW listed. Our old boss used to give everyone a something for Christmas. A Fancy Pin, or a … i dunno, a platter or something? I dunno, what it is, but it’s where the bread lives in our kitchen now. Not really anything anyone’s excited for, but MILES better than gifts that are aggressively useless (food people can’t eat, clothes they can’t wear, gift cards that they literally can’t use without risking their lives…)

        1. CoveredinBees*

          I actually worked for a company that gave out lapel pins at least once a year for “employee appreciation”. The pins just had the logo on it with some text that sometimes changed and the year. No one wore them not least because many of us had no lapels on our clothes. They became a running joke. Every time a new person started, they’d find their predecessors’ collection of pins (I found them going back at least a decade). By the time they left or moved desks, they would have added to the pile. The pins were specifically purchased for this and weren’t leftover swag. Someone kept thinking this was a good idea.

          Sometimes they’d order in a gigantic sandwich for us to take pieces of. It was full of ham and there were a lot of people in the office who didn’t eat pork or meat in general.

    7. Kyrielle*

      One year the company gave us each a company-branded pen, for the 20th anniversary of the company. Which was…just ending, so basically they just unloaded unusable sales and marketing swag on us.

      The one I got didn’t even write, which made it extra hilarious.

      My current company does bonuses in December. Before covid we did holiday parties (which I skipped, because they were not obligatory and not my thing), last year they sent us each credit with a food-delivery service that operated in our area. Not sure what they’re doing this year, if anything, but it’s unlikely to make a good story to tell here, for which I am grateful. :)

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I am constantly mystified by the idea of a branded pen where the pen itself is crappy. A good disposable pen is not *that* expensive. Surely it would be worth the extra expense to have your company associated with quality.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          It seems like most of the crappy ones are ones that are designed to have the appearance, from a distance, of an expensive pen. Your average Bic stick printed with a logo looks cheap but works fine. It’s the cheap-ass knockoff Waterman or Cross that works like crap.

    8. CupcakeCounter*

      I’ve had real good luck with company holiday gifts. A extra tall cooler that could accommodate 2L size bottles of soda, camp chairs, a welcome mat made of coconut fibers, a really freaking fantastic water bottle (stainless steel, 32oz, and still fits in my car’s cupholder!), koozies, and a “pick you own attire” from the company store catalogue so the extra warm and cozy fleece jacket fit beautifully.

      1. JustaTech*

        The first year we got holiday gifts from work was the year we went bankrupt. Nothing fancy, just a little portable battery with the company name. Useful and unobtrusive. Then we were bought by Evil Corp (so evil) and there was no swag at all whatsoever.
        Since we’ve left Evil corp there’s been more swag for the non-sales folks: Water bottles and mugs, shirts that fit, and one year a picnic blanket (fuzzy on one side, slick and water-resistant on the other side, with carrying straps).

        Thankfully the head of HR who wanted to hand out hams was talked out of it (for strictly monetary reasons).

        1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

          Alison really should do a post consisting exclusively of HR folks showing that they have no clue about the basic tenets of their job. There have been quite a few of those tales over the years.

      2. Jean*

        The pick your own attire gifts are the best. I still wear my company branded hoodie from an old job – the job sucked mightily but the hoodie is bomb. I ordered it 2 sizes too big and it’s cozy and perfect with fleece leggings in winter.

        My current company gave us all padded laptop backpacks earlier this year, as a nod to the more flexible wfh policy we have now post-pandemic. I’m a big fan of practical gifts. If you’re not going to pony up the best gift (cash), at least give us something we can and will use.

        1. CoveredinBees*

          Another plus to pick your own attire options is that if you aren’t super into the items, you can get your spouse (me) a wonderful fleece jacket.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My company (two mergers and several CEOs ago…) gave everyone fortune cookies for a holiday gift. The fortune inside was one of the company values printed on a strip of paper, like a fortune would look like. We got two cookies each. In a brutal twist of coincidence, that was also the year when Company decided to nix holiday bonuses. That was my third year with the company, I’d received $60 the first year and $120 the next. Apparently, over the first few years, you worked your way up to $250. Not too huge of a bonus, but certainly nothing to sneeze at. They didn’t tell us they were canceling them. Finding fortune cookies on our desks instead of the usual envelopes was how everyone found out. Apparently, soon after, the CEO was doing a series of town halls at Company’s locations, and at one of the town halls, was asked about the bonuses. His answer: “It’s just $250, no big deal.” People talked about “fortune cookie bonuses” for years. At least, the gift made a lasting impression.

      1. Anonorama for this*


        Your story reminds me of a holiday lunch provided by my husband’s employer many, many years ago. He worked for an adult bookstore (a fact which is about to become relevant). They hosted the lunch at a nice Chinese restaurant, generally considered to have the best Chinese food in town. So far, so good. At the end of the meal, we were each presented with a fortune cookie. Again, so far, so good. Then we discovered the restaurant’s usual fortune cookies had been replaced with cookies with very “adult” fortunes. Fine for that particular crowd but really disappointing… because the cookies were stale and gross. I did not appreciate getting cheated out of dessert for a pornographic fortune.

      2. Nah*

        At least you got the fortune cookies, unlike a company that decided to use a Christmas holiday bonus email as a means to educate employees about phishing….

    10. madge*

      I’m pretty minimalist but bookmarks and reading lights are two things I can’t get enough of. I always look for a bookmark when on vacation because I’ll frequently use it and get to recall my trip. But yeah, that’s…not a great gift in general.

      1. Lab Boss*

        As I run out into the yard laying out mixing bowls and roasting pans, like people do in movies when it finally rains after the drought.

    1. Moink from Oink*

      I am now imagining some spiral hams being delivered to a pen full of horrified pigs as they wonder if they knew them.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I imagined them being delivered to a bunch of overactors. You know, to give them something to chew besides the scenery.

        (Also, LOL @ the username :D)

    2. Heffalump*

      I’m reminded of the children’s book (which I think was made into a movie) “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” which I gave to my niece decades ago.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            And if there’s some bacon left from that side that hasn’t yet been fried? I’m willing to wait for it!

  1. The Tin Man*

    With a certain perspective (from the outside) the bad gifts is kind of hilarious.

    Maybe they work for Rose Video? Major Johnny Rose vibes.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I recently discovered the FB group “This cat is a little bit Alexis”, and I think we now need one called “My boss is a little bit Johnny Rose”!

    1. Rainy*

      I personally wouldn’t mind a ham at all, I love ham, but I once (along with everyone else) got a giant Butterball from the owner of a small company I worked for. I’m allergic to turkey.

      I honestly kind of wish people would stop giving food gifts if they don’t absolutely know that the recipient eats whatever it is–or, in the case of a ham or turkey, has room to store and cook it!

        1. Rainy*

          So that lets out pork products, beef products, anything with caffeine, all alcohol, maybe anything meat at all. Which is fine, JUST GIVE MONEY, but also, if my “holiday bonus” is a giant basket of brussels sprouts I’m brussels-sprouting somebody’s car. (I’m allergic to many vegetables. Maybe most vegetables, actually.)

          1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

            Pretty much! And I feel the same way about receiving ham–into several glove compartments it will go, to be found by the offending parties at a later time.

          2. Metadata minion*

            If you’re going for a food gift, fancy jam or olive oil is often a good option, since it’s nonperishable and usually doesn’t contain common allergens.

      1. Artemesia*

        If it is a ham or turkey then there has to be an alternate for those who don’t eat whatever it is. When our huge organization dropped the Christmas party in favor of giving everyone a turkey, they made tofurky available to those who didn’t eat meat. And all leftover turkey was donated to the local food bank. Most people liked the switch and knowing if you didn’t want to participate, some local family who couldn’t afford a nice Christmas dinner got the turkey made is better.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            I’m a vegetarian & have tried Tofurky products. I don’t care for them. (They seem to have a weird sour flavor.) I’d rather just have a gift card to a local grocery store. (My Thanksgiving “turkey” is seitan basted with veggie gravy, topped with a layer of stuffing, covered with puff pastry, then baked.)

            That being said, most places I’ve worked haven’t really done that great with end-of-year gifts. Except Disney, who gave tickets to the theme parks back in the 90s. And a card that would become a collector’s item.

            1. The Original K.*

              I was once at a dinner party where the host served Tofurkey. She’s not vegetarian or vegan, she just saw it and wanted to try it. People tasted it and then there was a lot of pushing it around on plates – it was a total miss. (I thought it was so gross.) The host was like “my bad, y’all.” I told a vegan friend that story and she was like “oh no, I don’t eat Tofurkey, it’s nasty!”

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                I love Field Roast products, though. And Yves veggie pepperoni.

                But I also just go traditional with tofu, seitan, or tempeh. (I can buy really good local seitan & tempeh.)

                Word to the wise: tofu is like fish (which I ate before I went veg) or eggplant. Don’t cook it for guests until you’ve had some practice. It can be absolutely delicious or totally awful.

                1. The Original K.*

                  Yeah, I’m not vegetarian or vegan but I eat tofu, and the first few times I cooked it I did not do it well. You do have to know what you’re doing.

              2. CoveredinBees*

                I’ve been a vegetarian for most of my life and loathe Tofurkeys. They require a lot of work to be somewhat edible but still not good. I like their sausages and deli slice products, tho. Gardein’s celebration roast is fantastic and all you need to do is defrost and bake it in a tin foil hat.

                1. BubbleTea*

                  Tofurkeys are exclusively bought by meat eaters panicking about how to feed a vegetarian guest at their holiday dinner. No one who eats vegetarian food regularly would buy one.

            2. MissBaudelaire*

              I’d also rather just have a gift card to the grocery store. I don’t have space to store a turkey or a ham, I’m a horrible cook, and I’d just much rather spend that money on something we will actually eat and enjoy, even if it’s just a few frozen pizzas and some fun ice cream for my kids.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          Vegetarian because I don’t like meat, so I also don’t like meat substitutes. Give me all the veggie sides at Thanksgiving!

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        It likely is a bad gift, even for the ham eaters. Pork is, through the miracle of industrialized agriculture, really cheap and readily available at the supermarket. I will pick one up when it is on sale. It makes for an economical meal plus leftovers. I have one in the freezer right now. (Mmm… Ham… I should take it out to thaw.) Give me a ham and OK, that is a trivial part of my food budget taken care of. This is not good gift-giving. Make it a fancy ham and this changes. Growing up, my grandmother every year sent a country ham in all its salty goodness. This was a great treat. Yes, we could have gotten one ourselves, but we didn’t. At this point it is a luxury gift, which is much better gift-giving, though only for people who like it, of course. More to the point, it also is much more expensive, which is why I doubt that this is what the company gave.

        1. lilsheba*

          My husband’s company gives out a Turkey every thanksgiving, and a ham every christmas. I don’t mind them. We use them for the holiday dinners.

      3. LizB*

        I feel like any gift that has to be dealt with within a small amount of time can turn into more of a burden than a gift, and should only be given when you know FOR SURE it won’t. Meat, sprouts, tickets to events, vouchers that need to be redeemed in a certain timeframe all fall into this category for me. Unless you know for a fact that your recipient definitely wants to cook a turkey in the next week (or has the freezer space to keep it longer), choose something else!!

      4. F as in Frank*

        In the spirit of a turkey/ham gift we get a gift card to a good local grocery store. It feels great to get something that can be used for basics or for something that you think of as a treat. Highly recommend

    2. Beth*

      At my current job, the guy who does tailored suits for the execs gives them a gift certificate from Honey Baked Ham every Christmas. He has never figured out that several of the execs are Jewish.

      They give me their gift certificates.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        So if they keep kosher, that’s a different story, but Honey Baked Ham does sell other things!

        This is also why I tend to roll my eyes at people who don’t drink coffee complaining about a Starbucks gift card. Sure, it wouldn’t be your first choice, but you’ll never in life end up where it’s convenient to get a tea or cookie from a Starbucks?

        1. yala*


          I used to work at a Barnes & Noble, and because of the employee discount that was about the only time I could justify buying Starbucks *food* (it’s ‘spensive), but it was a nice little treat. There’s loads there that isn’t coffee.

          Now, I know some people object to them as a company, and that’s a bit different.

          1. JustaTech*

            I had a coworker who was strongly (but quietly) opposed to Starbucks – he was mad about the basketball team thing (The CEO of Starbucks moved our NBA team to another state). But he was also the kind of guy who just didn’t rock the boat (he was a great coworker and I miss him) so rather than say “hey, I don’t do Starbucks” when they handed out cards for birthdays and whatnot he’d just give it to me.

            For most folks at my office it’s a very neutral gift (there are plenty of locations in our area so even if you don’t want anything they offer it’s still a good re-gift).

        2. Person from the Resume*

          Not really because I don’t drink coffee so I don’t even walk into a Starbucks.

          I did win a starbuck’s card which I kept in my purse for more than 5 years before using on a family vacation with coffee loving family members. So, yeah, once every 5 years or so, I enter a Starbucks.

          I’m just annoyed at everyone who thinks that Starbucks must have something for everyone. They do not. If you know someone loves Starbucks, fine; I give Starbucks cards to my nephews. But I don’t drink coffee and Starbucks card is very much a gift fail. It’s also a fail for my coffee loving but rural-living parents (and, yeah, by this point they’re retired) who walked into a Starbucks and with a baffled look asked for what was closest to the regular coffee they make themselves every morning. Not everyone loves coffee. Not everyone loves fancy overpriced coffee.

          1. Liz*

            I DO love coffee but am not a fan of Starbucks. nothing they did, just that none are really that convenient for me, i actually prefer my local WaWa for coffee, adn whenver i go or think of going, whether in a mall, standalone, or in Target etc., there is ALWAYS a line. And all i want is coffee. and I refuse to wait in line behind everyone who’s getting a triple venit mocha soy whatever with 3 grains of cinnamon on top.

            1. Clisby*

              I love coffee, too, but Starbucks got the nickname Charbucks for a reason. Their coffee is bad. And burnt-tasting.

          2. Richard Hershberger*

            I have been known to walk into fancy coffee places and ask for the closest thing to what I would get at Denny’s. Mostly this is me being a smartass, but not entirely without a point, that being about the pretentiousness of the modern fancy coffee place.

            1. LouLou*

              Yes, it is you being a smartass. Most coffee places have regular drip coffee on the menu so you can just order that.

            2. ThatGirl*

              I have to agree that this is a bit ridiculous on your part; every ‘fancy coffee place’ has a drip or pour-over coffee that is going to taste way better than what you can get at Denny’s.

          3. LouLou*

            Did you read the comment you’re responding to? Their point was that Starbucks sells many things besides coffee, so even someone who doesn’t drink coffee could probably find something (like a tea or pastry) to buy with a Starbucks gift card.

            1. KittyCardigans*

              Yeah. I’m also surprised by the number of people who are apparently never in close proximity to a Starbucks—there’s one in most grocery stores here, and in every Target.

              They’re a pretty easy thing to regift. If somebody’s going to hand out small gift cards, I’d rather it be to Starbucks than most other places. I get gift cards every year that are $5-10 to a local place that’s 1) out of my way, 2) only in one location, and 3) expensive, so $5 wouldn’t cover almost anything there. Those are harder to use AND harder to regift.

              1. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

                The only Starbucks in my area is inside a grocery store that I do not go to. There are Starbucks in the nearby small cities we occasionally visit, but not in a “there’s a Starbucks on every corner, so you’re always near one” kind of way. We’d have to specifically look up where one is to visit it. (And if I’m in one of those places, I’m going to search out the Coldstone Creamery or the fancy doughnut place instead.)

                I don’t drink coffee. My husband does, and he gets a Starbucks gift card for something at work every year. I don’t think he’s ever used any of them.

            2. UKDancer*

              Yes. I don’t drink their coffee (because it tastes bad) but I love the frappuccinos and the cinnamon swirls they do. So I’d be very happy. Or failing that I can buy a gift set from there for my friend who does like their coffee and who has a January birthday.

            3. Metadata minion*

              Before I developed a taste for coffee, there was really nothing I particularly liked at Starbucks. A gift card would mean I could go out of my way to get a mediocre pastry or bad tea that I hadn’t particularly wanted to buy.

              I do think that if you’re going to give food gift certificates Starbucks isn’t a terrible choice, but it’s frustrating when people insist that hey, there’s definitely something you can eat at X! Yes, ok, there are a things I don’t actively dislike, and if for some reason that place is the only option it’s nice to know I won’t go hungry, but I am not going to be delighted at the option to get crappy cheap tea at a coffee shop or The One Vegetarian Entree at a fancy restaurant that doesn’t understand vegetarians.

          4. Gumby*

            I don’t drink coffee either but Starbucks makes some decent hot chocolate and tea drinks. And one coffee-free blended drink that seems like basically a strawberry shake. If all else fails, they also carry bottled water. And food items (I find the snack boxes pretty overpriced, but appreciate that it is fruit-veggie-cheese-hummus-etc. type food which is nice when your other choices of a fast meal seem to be fast food places). I generally don’t go there on my own but have met many a friend there for a quick get together or mid-afternoon pick me up.

          5. Becca*

            Agreed. I like their pastries okay, especially the lemon bread, but it’s overpriced so on balance I’d rather have something that goes further. Their non-coffee drinks are limited and in my experience not great either. Most of their sandwiches have eggs which I don’t like. Their meat and cheese trays are good, but again expensive for the amount of food you get. And that’s about all they have. I just used for the first time a $50 gift card I got from them about two years ago, and who knows when I’ll use the rest.

            So sure I guess in theory I can find something I like, when I both remember I have it and need some food while out on the town. In my experience local coffee shops (or even other chains) will have better food, better non-coffee drinks, a better variety overall, and often be cheaper.

            My dad’s work *does* do the local grocery store cards around this time of year, and that’s probably the best option with gift cards, but even then some people may not use it because they carefully source their food or something. Giving a few options that people are likely to want is always a choice as well.

          6. Anon for this*

            I dislike them because they killed my beloved Teavana. I still occasionally go in for tea, but it’s not nearly as good as tea made at home : (

          7. Anonymous pineapple*

            I don’t drink coffee either. I like Starbucks chai lattes, regular hot and iced teas, hot chocolate (especially with peppermint syrup), lemonade, strawberry smoothies, and various baked goods. My kids like the hot chocolate, chocolate milk, apple juice, and cake pops. There is one in every Target and Safeway, so I don’t even have to specifically walk into a Starbucks to use a gift card. They’re also easy to regift.

          8. The Other Dawn*

            I don’t drink coffee, either, but when someone gives me a Starbucks gift card I can always find something. I’ll get a breakfast sandwich, egg bites, a pastry, bottled water, or maybe tea. I’m partial to their grilled cheese, though, so I typically get that with a bottled water.

        3. MK*

          Right? I don’t drink coffee at all (don’t like the taste) but I would be happy to buy a cookie or hot cocoa from Starbucks. Or give the card to my coffee-guzzling husband. Or take my MIL out to tea. Or give it to my amazing mail lady.

        4. Can Man*

          I think I’ve entered a Starbucks maybe twice in my life. I tend not to even linger near them for long because the smell of coffee nauseates me (as in, breathing through my nose for more than a few seconds inside a fragrant Starbucks would probably make me vomit on their floor). So yeah, people should ask where they want a gift card to.

        5. CoveredinBees*

          I can imagine someone who does eat ham would think to check to see if a company that calls itself “Honey Baked Ham Company” sells anything else. I’d never heard of them and only checked their website because you made that point. What they offer also varies by state and in my state, there are a few sides (at least one of which has bacon in it) available other than meat.

          I get your point about companies in general, but I’m not sure it carries so well with the Ham Company as other places.

        6. Two-Time College Dropout*

          And even if you end up with a gift card for some place that has absolutely nothing for you, a gift card is a perfect re-gift for someone you don’t know very well.

        7. MissBaudelaire*

          I actually don’t mind those gift cards, because I regift them. I don’t care for Starbucks and don’t drink coffee, but! I know plenty of people who do, and they are exactly the kind of person that I like to get a little what not for Christmas. And that’s where the card comes into play.

        8. MCMonkeyBean*

          Can confirm–I hate coffee but have always found a use for the $5-$10 Starbucks giftcards I’ve received over the years. If nothing else you can collect them then combine them and buy someone else a nice mug or something…

          (I usually go for the cake pops myself lol)

      2. Anononon*

        I 100% agree with everyone that specific food gifts are tricky and thus should be avoided, especially when used as the same present for everyone, but I just wanted to add that most Jews (at least in America) don’t keep kosher. (Of course, there is most likely another percentage of those who don’t keep kosher but still don’t eat pork.) So, in general, it makes me uncomfortable when people automatically assume that all, or even most, do. As a Jew, I, and much of my family, would enjoy a ham as a gift.

        1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

          Sure, but would your coworkers who are Muslim, vegetarian, or vegan? When you’re talking about a large group gift, it’s about more than just what you and your family would enjoy.

          1. Anononon*

            I 100% agree with everyone that specific food gifts are tricky and thus should be avoided, especially when used as the same present for everyone.

            Sometimes, on this website, it just doesn’t matter how many caveats, clarifications, etc. one adds to a comment, you’re always going to get a “but what about this??”

            1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

              It’s true, sometimes people miss them! They also sometimes leave out part of what they were saying, which was that I know more than a few people who are kosher, and I think they appreciate the fact that people consider the possibility that there is some food that they can’t have. It’s nice to be inclusive, including of things that don’t effect you personally. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

              1. Anononon*

                I’m still not sure why you’re saying I’m not inclusive? I’m literally just commenting on the fact that the person I commented on initially seemed to equate being Jewish with keeping kosher, which is entirely not accurate and excludes the experience of most Jews in America? But go ahead, read more into my comment than what’s actually there.

                1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

                  I… don’t think I am? I think maybe there’s a misreading of tone here? As far as I’m concerned you are cool and we are cool. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with pointing out that general awareness of potential restrictions is inclusive, and is not necessarily a belief that all Jewish Americans keep kosher as much as an attempt to be mindful that some Jewish Americans who may be people that work for a company giving out mass gifts do?

                2. Anononon*

                  Works for me. :) I think we’re both ultimately fine with a blanket rule of the only mass given gift should be money, and there are definitely gifts that are even more sketchy than others.

        2. Batgirl*

          I think assuming you don’t eat ham is almost as bad as assuming you do. Assumptions and food do not mix.

          1. Anononon*

            Yes, exactly!!

            I think, ultimately, what gets to me about this assumption about Jews and automatically keeping some form of kosher is that it makes me feel like I’m assumed to be less of a Jew because I don’t.

            1. MoreFriesPlz*

              As a Jewish person – you’re taking this too personally. Most Americans just know very, very little about Judaism. And given that a lot of us don’t keep kosher but still won’t eat pork, half the people making those comments probably don’t really understand what keeping kosher means.

        3. Richard Hershberger*

          On the other hand, the guy with the tallit and kippah: We can assume he keeps kosher. In my experience, lots of American Jews keep semi-kosher. These don’t insist that the food be prepared under rabbinical supervision, but avoid food that is blatantly treif, or at least are discreet about it. I would not offer this to someone whom I know to be Jewish but I don’t know how observant they are.

          1. fueled by coffee*

            Eh, American Jews have all sorts of levels of kashrut observance. But ham is off-limits to many people for a variety of reasons (religion, vegetarianism, etc.), and so it can come across as tone-deaf. If the boss knows that their Jewish employee loves bacon cheeseburgers, then it’s fine to give them a ham. But if there’s a chance that one or more employees can’t eat ham for inferable reasons, it comes across as insensitive.

            1. kitryan*

              Agreeing that there’s lots of variation. My family did not keep kosher growing up and I don’t now, but because of tradition/culture, we didn’t eat a lot of pork/ham and almost never had it in the house. So, other than prosciutto and bacon, which I’d been exposed to at restaurants, pork/ham just doesn’t seem appetizing to me. So, I’d not love ham based gifts, and it is *kind of* because I’m Jewish, but also not really?

        4. CoveredinBees*

          About 50% of US Jews don’t eat pork. Anecdotally, I know that of the Jews who do they won’t always eat it in every form because it is “too pork-y”.

    3. M*

      UGH! My spouse’s company gives everyone a ham. They are 14+ pounds each, like the kind you’d buy for a big Christmas party or something. Our family is two adults and a toddler, so it ends up being SO MUCH HAM. I still have portions in the freezer from last year! Why?! Give us a grocery gift card instead!

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        My spouse’s company does turkeys at Thanksgiving. HOWEVER, they also have the option of the employee gifting the turkey to a shelter doing free Thanksgiving dinners if the employee doesn’t want or need the turkey.

        I think that’s a nice compromise.

        (They also do holiday bonuses for the employees.)

      2. JustaTech*

        My mother (probably quoting someone) once said “eternity is two people and a ham”.

        The one year our head of HR was going to give everyone a ham (I think a fancy one) she was talked out of it because “for the price of this ham folks could get a regular ham and the rest of dinner”. I don’t know if they only did the grocery cards at one location or if they just gave up on the whole thing.

        1. EmmaPoet*

          Author Peg Bracken used to refer to the Ham-In-Residence when you hated to cook, because you could always hack enough off for sandwiches and open some canned soup, and therefore dinner was served. However, I don’t think she ever considered a 14lb ham as this was in the 60s.

    4. CBB*

      I don’t like ham, but I’d happily receive one since I know people I could pass it along to. Same with child-size sweatshirts and restaurant gift cards.

      I feel like this LW is just looking for something to complain about.

      1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        Yes, of course. Wanting a gift at least the majority of the people receiving it could use, and that they won’t potentially find insulting is “looking for something to complain about.” Thank you for educating us on the True Meaning of Corporate Holiday Gifts, I for one never would have imagined that wanting your workplace to take their actual workforce into account or be baseline inclusive would be a negative thing. Thank you so much for clearing that right up! <3

          1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

            What a strange comment. You haven’t said anything to hurt my feelings, which are fine.

      2. MoreFriesPlz*

        Great for you if you’d be happy to receive things you have no use for, but you’re in the minority. I don’t know any parent of a child who wants a company branded hoodie for a company they have 0 relationship with, not to mention it’s just a horrible idea to try to guess people’s sizes. Most people aren’t going to know what to do with a gift card for a restaurant they’re not near enough to eat at. Some people will eat ham, fewer will eat a huge amount of ham, and those of us that don’t don’t want to have to choose between wasting food and asking around and then delivering ham to someone else. All of these are basically the choice between creating a lot of waste or running an errand.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          That’s the issue – if you get a gift that you can’t use, you have a choice between throwing it out, or giving it to someone else. Giving it to someone else often involves work – like finding someone who wants a turkey or ham right now, and getting it to them before it spoils.

          The simplest thing – give a couple of choices of gifts, one of which is “no thanks”. If you give gift cards, make sure they are enough to actually pay for a complete item, at a common store, and, pay the taxes directly before gifting. (Because if you give someone a taxable gift card, and they don’t use it, and the tax is deducted from the paycheque, you’ve just given someone the gift of paying extra taxes).

      3. Batgirl*

        There’s something truly maddening about an insincere gesture or thoughtless thanks. I’m glad for you if it’s never come up. After the interesting school year of 2019/20, I didn’t expect anything! Of course not, but I got a nice postcard from my headteacher, thanking me for my 100% attendance. It was hard to describe the amusement/incredulity. I suppose it was easy enough to get rid of at least and I wasn’t annoyed enough to complain! But while we’re on a workplace blog, I would definitely never advise any manager to thank staff members for not getting ill during a pandemic. I’d stick to relevant and attentive comments about their actual work.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          It’s like that saying. It’s the thought that counts! So when you get a thoughtless gift, it stings even more.

      4. Anon for this*

        For a lot of people, being given something that they have to give away because they can’t use it, something that cost a lot of money, rather than being given the money… or at least something equivalently priced that they could actually USE, is really hard. If you’re a vegetarian and struggling to make ends meet, a free ham does nothing for you, and feeling good from helping someone by giving them a ham doesn’t feed you.

      5. CoveredinBees*

        Wow, that last comment was rude.

        Company gifts are not like individual gifts where it’s the thought that counts. They’re supposed to be a sign of appreciation and as morale boosters.

        Also, finding someone else to pass things on to (and potentially being the one to get it to them) turns a “gift” into another task to get done.

  2. A Simple Narwhal*

    (But if they don’t budge, please write back and share what they end up sending this year, because I am eager to know what they come up with next.)

    Omigosh yes I am super interested to hear what they give you too!

      1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

        WAIT. Either a turducken strapped to a HAM, or an incorrectly sized hoodie–upon which will be printed a HAM.



          1. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

            An indicator of the mental and vocal inflection I am imbuing the word with. Both here, and also while discussing and reading aloud from this letter and comment section in my cubical community.

      2. CarCarJabar*

        As a Southerner living in the Pacific Northwest, I would be THRILLED to receive a turducken. Beyond thrilled.

        1. CarCarJabar*

          Strap it to a Honey Baked Ham and I might keel over and die. Literally our first Christmas here, when I realized there was nary a Honey Baked Ham store within a day’s drive, I almost cried.

        2. Clisby*

          I am a Southerner who finds the idea of a turducken weirdly compelling, but I’ve never actually eaten one. Maybe one of these days.

    1. Queen of the File*

      I hope it’s little ham tree ornaments that you can give to the hams the office gave your other hams.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Quick, what’s the most inappropriate gift for late 2021? A international travel thing would be my guess.

      1. Usagi*

        Tickets to the company-sponsored ticket booth, to receive kisses from the director/CEO/president/ED/etc. (in the case of the director/CEO/president/ED/etc., however, they will bring their not-spouse, and it’s not clear if you’re allowed to acknowledge this fact. They may retire to the director/CEO/president/ED/etc.’s office afterward, where it will be abundantly clear that naughty things are happening). Also, the kissing booth is inside the bathroom, where social distancing is impossible, people are loudly talking on their phones while pooping, and someone is (maybe?) running their phone sex business. Finally, when you enter, they check your vaccine card/COVID test, and loudly announce your vaccination status/test results to the rest of the room (but being vaccinated/having a negative test isn’t actually something they care about, they just need to know).

        By the way, attendance is mandatory, but since this is “fun” it wont count as work. And you have to use PTO to attend.

  3. Annoying Jedi Intern*

    Last year my office sent us all holiday chocolate bars, mailed to our homes. The boxes included the invoices so it was nice to see that they are willing to spend $16.50 on us: $8 for the bar… plus $8.50 in shipping.

  4. Late For the Party*

    Seriously, can we just get rid of gift giving in the workplace? Once I started giving any “fudges” my holidays at both work and home became less stressful.

    1. Lily Rowan*

      Honestly! I just spent a week dithering about what to do for my staff before I remembered….. I don’t give them presents! I write them a nice note!

      Last year I sent gift certificates because everything was so terrible and usually in the course of the year I would have treated them to a meal and/or drink here and there.

      1. Artemesia*

        our office staff really loved some little thing at holidays. I didn’t have a dedicated assistant or secretary but there were about 8 people who did work for all of us. Each year I would find some very modest thing. One year a colleague and I bought a case of champagne and gave each a bottle (we did some investigation ahead to make sure everyone drank — if there had been those who didn’t, we would have had an alternative). One year I got fancy loaves of bread from a local very good bakery — nut cranberry or rosemary olive etc etc. It was fairly cheap but they really loved taking such gifts home to their family — I think it was a kind of ‘see I am valued’ message for their family. The year I gave candy I gave a box of clementines to the assistant who was diabetic and she loved that so much that the next year everyone got a box of clementines. Sometimes you can have a lot of good will from a very modest effort. But the most important thing is the note you write with the gift — and if gift giving is not the norm in your setting — the note definitely should be written.

        1. yala*

          I do like the idea of small but fancy foods. Something not extravagant, but a nice treat you probably wouldn’t buy yourself.

          …tho I think giving citrus wouldn’t go over super well down here. Come Christmas time, everyone knows at least three people with rubbermaid tubs FULL of oranges and satsumas that they’re desperately trying to get rid of.

      2. CoveredinBees*

        And a nice note is great.

        One year, I had a manager who also ran a bookstore with her husband (and I think had done so for a long time). She gave each of us books she thought we’d like and knowing both us and her books, she did an amazing job. My other manager wrote us nice notes and that was fine.

    2. Fran Fine*

      Eh, I actually like the gifts I get from my employer. Last year, they let us pick from a catalogue of branded items we could receive, and everything that was in the catalogue was of good quality and beautiful. The year before that, they sent us all wool blankets with a nice faux leather carrier with the company’s name branded on it, and I still use that blanket to lounge around in my apartment when it’s chilly and I don’t want to turn on the heat.

      I’ve also received Amazon gift cards from my direct managers at Christmas, which has gone towards my groceries a couple of times when I really needed those funds, and my old boss gave me a gift card to an online liquor store so I could buy a nice bottle of cognac for my birthday this year since he knows that’s one of my favorite drinks I allow myself to splurge on.

      When there’s thought put into the actual gifts, or when the company allows you to pick your own gifts, I think it’s a great gesture. I also get paid very well, have an extremely flexible working environment (I was fully remote prior to the pandemic and could flex my time whenever, and still can), and I have pretty good benefits too and ample paid time off. The gifting is the icing on the cake that really makes me feel like a valued part of this company and if it stopped completely, I’d be bummed.

      1. Midwest Writer*

        I worked for a company that let employees choose their own five-year work anniversary gifts from a branded catalogue. (They gave gifts in five-year increments, but there was an ownership change that ended that practice a year or two later.) I picked a company logo, company color Swiss Army style pocketknife that I still have in my purse. The logo fell off years ago, but the knife and all of the other tools are amazing, even after nearly a decade of use. They also had a full set of silverware that I remember a co-worker getting. Practical, useful and not too cheap. On the other hand, my boss now gives me an envelope with cash and it’s even better.

        1. TechWriter*

          Yep, my company has a whole host of things you can choose from on your ‘big anniversary’ dates… one of them being a Visa gift card with more value than the actual *things*. I take the card. (Though I dunno, commemorative plaques are tempting…)

    3. Batgirl*

      Money. Employees like money. Seriously, the only people who can get away with giving cash as a gift is employers and the older relatives of kids. I don’t understand why they don’t lean into this obvious and easy solution.

    4. Office Lobster DJ*

      It took me a second to realize you weren’t talking about giving literal fudge as a gift, alarmed at why you would use quotes.

  5. Falling Diphthong*

    I think a solid rule is not to send the person considering you for a job a gift. Not a Christmas ham. Not a Starbucks giftcard. Not a framed photograph of yourself. Not drugstore chocolates.

    … Though I do allow that if the drugstore box of chocolate arrives right around 3 in the afternoon, all norms may go out the window.

    1. Roy G. Biv*

      Not a bottle of orange juice with a hand drawn label on it saying “My creative juices are flowing.” We all had a visceral reaction to that one.

  6. dresscode*

    I can see a gift card during the pandemic, since many restaurants were struggling. However, making it to a place that was far from most of the employees totally negates that.

    When my company has done clothing in the past, they have done either- 1. give credit amounts to a store to order materials yourself so you can pick out whatever item you like or 2. get everyone to fill out a google form with their size and keep it on file to do a bulk order. We resend the form every year to make sure we have all new employees and any updated sizes that are needed.

    1. HotSauce*

      Yeah! That was the best gift I ever got from an employer. We have to wear a uniform (even in admin) and they said we could pick something from the catalog up to $75. I got a really nice sweater that was uniform compliant. Of course that was years ago, now we just get a generic card in the mail from the president.

      1. MoreFriesPlz*

        My husband works for a law firm but the industry is engineering based, so it’s a formal dress code and a lot of people who come in unequipped for that. They get $200 in credits from a well known retailer (where they also get a discount) to buy a handful of button downs etc when they start which I thought was really cool (even though it seems to have been born of hilarious necessity with almost none of the new hires dressing appropriately for meetings, but hey!). Nothing is branded and it deff upgraded my husbands wardrobe!

    2. Kate*

      This was 18 years ago, but it still rankles me:

      The multi-billion dollar company that I worked for would give everyone a shirt about 2-3 times a year and always during the holidays, however the shirts were only available in men’s sizes (with the smallest size being a men’s small), and we were all expected to wear them in our public facing positions.

      I’m just over 5 feet tall, and I was a manager in my late 20s but I had a young looking face and coupled with my stature I was typically viewed as being in my late teens to early 20s while my team was 25-45 years old. Wearing a t-shirt that extended to 4 inches above my knees and looked as wide as a football jersey on me made me look ridiculous. I was told time and again that these weren’t men’s t-shirts, they were “uni-sex.” When a shirt is that large on you, even when you cut the bottom 12″ off the shirt and tuck it in, it will still look utterly farcical. And, needless to say: completely unprofessional. But hey! They’re giving everyone free shirts! Team Morale!

      HR was no help. After two years of this nonsense, I was thankfully recognized by the company as having the highest stats across all metrics in every state west of Texas. And then I refused to wear the shirts until they made them available in sizes for all employees.

      Laughably, when HR “special ordered” a shirt for me they mistakenly ordered a baby-doll size.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        As a short, curvy woman, I agree there’s no such thing as a unisex company-branded shirt.

        Also, One Size Fits All is a damn lie.

        1. CoveredinBees*

          This very busty woman cosigns on this. I’m tall enough that I can usually deal with the length but narrow shoulders and big bust make it very clear that the shirt is not unisex. Luckily, I’ve never had to wear one for work because it makes me look really sloppy.

        2. Why did I go to library school?*

          God, right? If it’s big enough to go over my boobs, then it’s long enough that it’s going to get stuck on my hips.

      2. EmmaPoet*

        Unisex is always sized for men IME. It’s really frustrating. Just once I’d like to see something marked as unisex with princess seaming.

      3. Hippo-nony-potomus*

        I wish people would do away with the myth of “unisex” shirts. They are just an excuse to order one cut of shirt instead of spending money to order two cuts of shirts; they are cut for men. If women want to order them, go right ahead, but most women want women’s cut shirts.

        See also, road races. It’s not unisex; it’s a men’s cut that you’re giving out to men and women.

    3. Not playing your game anymore*

      My friend works for a big grocery store, which always used to give a turkey and Thanksgiving and a ham for Christmas. She was thrilled to get a form to fill out. She could choose the traditional Turkey/Ham combo, but she could choose a fruit basket, bakery items, a roast, or, best of all a 25% discount on any grocery purchases in Nov., Dec., and Jan. up to $200. Much more useful to her, a single mom with a small child.

      1. Kate*

        That’s a great way to handle it! I would think most people would prefer the discount option as well (and I do hope that was on top of her employee discount!)

      2. EmmaPoet*

        This sounds like a really useful gift, and much more practical for a single person. I don’t have room for a whole turkey, and also I don’t eat ham due to religious reasons, so the bakery/fruit/discount would be greatly appreciated.

    4. Alexis Rosay*

      Yeah, exactly. But looking up restaurants that are close to where each person lives would entail, you know, work and thought…

      Last year my boss wanted to get all employees gift cards to restaurants he thought needed support–restaurants that were convenient for him, but would have been difficult for others (people are spread across a really large metro area and one employee lived a $50 ferry ride away!). I’m sure those restaurants did need support but he should have supported them with his own money.

      1. Despachito*

        Technically, what happens if you do not use the gift cardy and they expire? Wouldn’t the restaurant still get the money (and moreover save the costs of the meal they do not have to prepare)?

        It certainly is a lousy gift for you, but at least the restaurant gets the intended support?

      2. jennatruly*

        For several years we’ve gotten $20 gift cards to a high-end steak restaurant where that would buy you exactly 1 side order of the daily vegetable.

    5. Nanani*

      Restaurant gift cards could work, if it was gift credit to a delivery service so people can chose what works for them, maybe. Or a chain that people can actually go to, but again : pandemic.

  7. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

    One year my manager got each of us on the team a candy apple – one of those hideous overloaded ones covered with chocolate and icing and candy and who knows what. Just looking at it made my teeth itch. I ended up giving it to my friend with a serious sweet tooth.

      1. Fran Fine*

        At a previous company, our division president sent everyone a box of really nice gourmet cookies. The only problem? I have celiac disease, so I had to give the entire box to my 4 year old niece because I couldn’t eat it, lol. I think I would have preferred the candy apple (only if it was GF, which a lot of the ones I find in stores near me are), lol.

        1. Panicked*

          As a fellow Celiac, you’ll appreciate that a former boss of mine gave me a Panera Bread gift card because “they have salads there!” (and cross-contamination like WOAH). We worked literally three feet from a dedicated gluten free place I ate at all the time, but no, I got a Panera gift card.

          1. Fran Fine*

            LOL! Omg, that’s horrible, but sounds like something previous employers would do to me. I did luck up at my last employer and whenever they wanted to “gift” us with food, they specially ordered me stuff that I asked for. And now that I think about it, so did one of the divisions I worked for at the company before that one. I would regularly get whole GF pizzas to myself, and my coworkers would whine about why I was lucky enough to get a whole pie to myself, lol. I’d tell them they could gladly take my celiac, and all the medical issues that come with it, since I was so “lucky.”

    1. Mme Pince*

      That kind of apple used to be part of our customer service appreciation week gifts at a former employer, and they were always by far my favorite one. I can still see where they were not ideal since there are so many dietary restrictions that might make them problematic, but they were miles better than all the branded clutter and they came from a local candy company.

  8. Wilbur*

    Corporate gear is always the best. You put it on and think, “What style of human being was this made to fit?”

    Got a travel mug last year, which was kind of nice. It has a huge handle and is too wide to fit in any kind of cupholder, so I guess it’s more of a desk mug?

    If you’re asking what to give, the answer is always cash.

    1. PT*

      I worked somewhere that LOVED company t-shirts. The men’s/unisex t-shirts were always a little too long/baggy on the women, more like a tunic fit. But if you got the women’s t-shirts, they were always a little too wide and short. So if you bought your normal women’s t-shirt size, you’d end up with a shirt that skimmed the waistband of your pants. And if you went up a size to make sure it was longer, it would be maybe an inch longer but two inches wider.

      I’d pick the slightly-too-big men’s shirt over the “is this a women’s shirt or a children’s size” any day.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        Not gonna lie, I love the athletic jacket (track jacket?) we got two years ago; it has a delightful number of zipable pockets, extra long sleeves with thumb holes, and only a very tastefully branded.

        The last time I wore one of the hideous powder blue polos commemorating a major product launch though was after getting caught in the rain during lunch and having half an hour to find not-vaguely-see-through clothing to greet an interviewee in.

        So it can be it and miss, is what I’m saying.

      2. voluptuousfire*

        My previous company made sure to include t-shirts for women that actually fit like regular t-shirts vs. that “girly” fit a lot of companies call their womens’ fit where it’s just tiny. I still wear the t-shirts from them a few times a month since they fit really well, even on my size 16 W frame.

        We even had really nice socks for pride month swag. They had a ton left over so I grabbed 4 more pairs and they’re great quality. THis would make the most sense for swag, IMO.

    2. Liz*

      My company’s corporate gear is always the cheapest mass produced thing you can find. I have given away countless totes, backpacks, etc. because they are just crap. same with cups, and other gadgets and doo dads. Yet for the executive’s travel and BOD stuff, they go ALL OUT. ipads, first class air, 5 star hotels, you name it, they get it. and we get crap.

      1. Fran Fine*

        That’s a shame. My former company was like this, but they were operating on thin margins. Every other major company I’ve worked for now (two of them) have had very nice, and pretty expensive, company swag – but they could afford to splurge on us like that (and the one company absolutely should have considering they spent millions every Christmas on a holiday party with A list musicians we didn’t ask for and cut our Christmas bonuses *grrr).

    3. Jay*

      Last year for a COVID appreciation gift, the company gave us branded Corkcicle bottles. The thing is HUGE. It definitely keeps drinks cold (or hot, I suppose – I only use it for water) but it’s way too big to fit in a cup holder and way too heavy to carry around. It’s also narrowed at the base so I’m afraid I’ll knock if over if I bring it up to my desk (I am a klutz). I use it when I work out at home and that’s about it.

    4. CoveredinBees*

      Corporate clothing gear doesn’t have to be awful. My husband’s company loves to send out gear and does a great job of it. One of their secrets to success is that they took the apparently unheard-of step of asking employees to provide their preferred size and cut for tops. Otherwise, it tends to be stuff that can cover a wide base. He recently received a very lovely scarf with the company logo subtly embroidered at one end.

  9. You Can't Pronoun It Anyway*

    My company provides a catered lunch one day and also gives us a ham from a local meat locker every year. A previous employer provided tins of popcorn from a locally owned specialty popcorn shop. That was nice, though I know people who can’t eat popcorn as well. I really liked the supporting of a mom/pop business though.

    What would be a GOOD gift from a larger (average 300 employees at any given time, summer we get over 500) business to provide that would fit everyone? Just curious.

    1. Chauncy Gardener*

      Spicewalla gift cards. NICE logo’ed swag, like a jacket or vest in the correct size, candy from a local candy shop (but you have to know dietary restrictions and have an option to meet those)
      These have been successful gifts in the companies I’ve been in

        1. EmmaPoet*

          And also make it so people don’t end up stressed about being able to take said time or have to work extra hours so they’re covered.

    2. CAA*

      Cash. Cash is always an appropriate gift from an employer and it fits everyone.

      I do have a few non-cash gifts I still use though. One employer decided to go green and eliminate single-use cups from the kitchens, so they got us all mugs with our names and the company logo. Just looking around the home office I also see an iPad mini, a couple thumb drives, a mouse pad, a paperweight and some coasters that came from former employers. Other than the iPad, I can’t say I was super excited about any of them, but years later they’re still here and still being used.

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Agreed, money. An end of the year bonus, in reverse proportion to pay, would be cool (so the lowest paid workers get, say, 100 each, the highest paid person would get 1…or maybe they opt out). A “spend anywhere” gift card is fine.

      If the company must give out a physical thing, either something easily regifted (e.g. a non-branded coffee mug) or a few food options (i.e., her).

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Finger slipped. Food options, as in: Here are three options, please choose one that best suits your needs and wishes.

    4. Hex Libris*

      Maybe a tastefully branded, decent quality blanket? I feel like there’s always a use for those, even if it’s “live in the boot for emergencies” or “protect the sofa from dog drool.”

        1. Fran Fine*

          I love the wool blanket my company gifted us the year I started working here. It’s still in heavy rotation throughout the year two and a half years later.

            1. Fran Fine*

              Okay, and no one said other companies have to send their employees wool blankets in particular. I was just stating that I enjoyed my blanket – I’m sure there are others who did (or didn’t) as well. You’re never going to find a gift that satisfies 100% of people aside from giving them straight up tax-free cash, so you aim for giving something that most people can appreciate.

    5. LNLN*

      Best gift a former employer gave us was a nice lightweight fleece lap blanket. We were a WFH team and we all loved the blankets.

    6. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      If you can’t give money or PTO, why not let them pick their own gifts? Set a fixed dollar amount, and have the employees tell you want they want you to buy up to that dollar amount. My company has rules that prevent us from getting cash/gift cards, so management picks an amount (this year it was $70) and tells us to send a link for what we want to the designated coordinator. As long as your item is no more than the set limit (including tax and shipping), I’m not aware of any restrictions. Payroll gets told how much each person’s gift costs, and deducts the appropriate taxes. (Hence the weird number – I think they want us to come out ahead by about $50.)

      For the larger company, something similar but provide a catalog of options to choose from – everyone gets one item from the catalog, in the size/color of their choosing. Catalog could be for a specialty retailer, or a list of company branded swag, or even a (reasonably wide) selection of items set by whoever is organizing this on the company’s end. (Something like a mix of housewares, small appliances, home/garden/automotive tools, clothing, specialty gift sets – that sort of thing.)

    7. bee*

      Last year my freelance gig sent everyone a list of 15ish small businesses (lots of variety and most were minority owned) and you could pick one to get a $100 code for. It felt more special and gift-y than just money, and I really liked what I ended up getting (some fancy stationery that I genuinely used!) and that I was using their money to support a small business during the panini.

      1. Arifault*

        Off-topic: I realize it’s a typo, but panini instead of pandemic has me rolling. I’m imagining a corner store getting squashed by a very very large grilled sandwich!

        On-topic: I love the idea of a choice of place that your gig gave you. It feels really well thought-out and honestly a lot more inclusive since I’d imagine there was something for everyone.

        1. Mme Pince*

          I’ve mostly run into “panini” or “panorama” used in place of “pandemic” on YouTube and TikTok to avoid videos being automatically demonetized when they’re just talking about current events and not spreading misinformation.

          1. Filosofickle*

            Oh, interesting angle. I’d heard about it from YT/IG folks who said they used panini/panorama because they were just so sick of it they wanted a lighter/funnier way to refer to it. But demonetization could explain why that’s mainly who I see doing it.

      2. EmmaPoet*

        This sounds really nice. You get to pick something you’d use and want, plus helping out small businesses.

      3. CoveredinBees*

        I love this approach! I’d love to be able to treat myself to something nice and support a local business.

        It’s funny that you mentioned getting stationary. I seem like someone who would love fancy stationary (nerdy, crafty, bookish) and people have given it to me for that reason but I really don’t use it for its intended purpose.

    8. Shenandoah*

      I’m wearing a really nice (correctly sized) branded hoodie, sitting under a nice branded blanket, drinking coffee out of a nice branded YETI tumbler, while my branded candle burns.

      The candle was kinda lame, but everything else I’ve loved.

    9. Nancy*

      Money, in the form of a gift card if you don’t want to give cash or a check. If it’s not a visa or another gift card I can use then I usually give it away. Since not everyone shops at the same place, Visa gift card is best.

    10. Bree*

      Last year my work got us all really nice hoodies, with only minimal branding (just a small logo). We’d all filled out a quick survey with our size. I’ve worn mine almost every single day for the past year, and whenever we have larger Zoom meetings there are always at least 3 or 4 people in their hoodies. Best WFH gift.

      1. Liz*

        last year, but not for the holidays, my company sent a box to everyone, inlcuding a one size fits all, giant cheap fleece snuggie/hoodie thing. i mean it was bad. i gave it to a friend for her dog, but she ened up loving an wearing it

    11. Meghan*

      I once got a branded Yeti waterbottle/insulated mug (28oz). I really liked that. And as much as people say that cash is preferred (imho, same), I think it brings in tax questions, which I’m betting most people want to avoid.

    12. Dragonfly7*

      Not exciting, but the employer-provided gift I use most is a large branded umbrella. Most exciting ever was a $100 Amazon e-giftcard (I was in school so used it to buy textbooks).

    13. Thursdaysgeek*

      It wasn’t universally loved, but I loved the gift the company sent us last year: a mid-sized cooler, like a yeti, but a brand made locally to one of our main offices.

    14. Midwestern Scientist*

      My job does gift cards to a local grocery store. It’s great for those of us who shop there regularly and even those who don’t appreciate it (my younger colleagues buy their groceries at Whole Foods/Trader Joes but appreciate the $$ for alcohol at the local grocer)

  10. TGIF again*

    A U.S. company I worked for in the past was bought out by an Italian company, every year for Christmas they would send each employee an Italian fruitcake for the gift. They were terrible according to the few that tried them, to this day I don’t understand why that was the choice.

    1. Big 4 Denizen*

      Oh, was it a pannetone? Those are very popular in Italy for the holidays, though I always find them to be too dry. I hear they make great French toast, though.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        They do! My mom buys Panetonne every year specifically for making French toast, and it is glorious.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          Ooh interesting, I just saw those at Trader Joe’s the other day so I may need to investigate this…

      2. LouAnn*

        Toasted with cream cheese on top. Otherwise it really is so dry! I wonder what they eat it with in Italy.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        Panetonne is dry? Not in my experience. Maybe they make a different version to sell in the US?

        1. pancakes*

          With just about any food there is a huge range of quality, from highly processed and made by a multinational conglomerate to artisan-made with quality ingredients and no preservatives or palm oil.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            True, but I’ve bought them for years – not nice expensive ones either – so I was surprised to see so many people saying they’re dry.

            1. Big 4 Denizen*

              I believe a lot of them are made months in advance, so they have to be frozen or stored in some way before shipping to stores. (I worked part-time at a high-end cookware store that sells holiday food items.) I would love to try a homemade or freshly made one and be proven wrong!

          2. UKDancer*

            Makes sense. The ones I’ve had in Italy have been so good, really great with a coffee for an afternoon snack. I guess probably the ones that aren’t made freshly probably do feel a bit dry.

      4. londonedit*

        Before my dad retired one of his Italian clients used to send a hamper with a panettone every year. It became a tradition for my mum to make a panettone bread and butter pudding for New Year’s Eve and now she just buys a panettone every Christmas because we can’t have New Year’s Eve dinner without panettone bread and butter pudding.

    2. Coverage Associate*

      Agree with big 4. I think Italians like those. Locals were buying several at a time when I was in Venice in a November.

      1. Helenteds*

        I am in Rome right now and there seem to be so many at my local grocery store, I am going back to the US before Christmas and have thought about bringing one home, but I think it might be too big.

    3. e271828*

      Fresh panettone is very nice, moist and fragrant and melt-in-your-mouth tender. Not-fresh panettone is OK for bread puddings and french toast.

  11. Elizabeth West*

    Dumbest gift: When I worked for a cafeteria company, we got a set of cheapo jam crocks one time, the kind you put jam in and it sits on a little plate, with tiny spoons. I would not for the life of me have ever used such a thing and it went straight into the donation pile.

    Best gift: Not for holidays, but for Admin’s Day (I know, I know!), Exjob gave us $50 Visa gift cards. I used my first one to buy a Kindle Fire that was on sale. Yay!

    Also, one time at OldExjob, I was struggling with some unexpected expenses and someone sneaked a $50 Walmart gift card onto my chair. I never found out who it was. It helped me buy groceries. Thank you, coworker-I-think-did-it-but-I’m-not-sure.

    Just pay people well, give them ample PTO and good benefits, and if you must give them a holiday present, give them Visa gift cards they can spend anywhere or extra money in their paychecks. Everyone likes money.

    1. LouAnn*

      I slipped money to a coworker and misspelled the note so she would never suspect me as her secret benefactor. It worked!

    2. Batgirl*

      Supermarket gift cards would make awesome Christmas presents. My former MiL always gave us one a few weeks before and it was so appreciated! I don’t buy a lot of food for Christmas, but I do buy more. Then there’s the people who truly need it (there’s always some), and people who don’t need it, can always spend the money they save on groceries on something fun.

  12. Anne of Green Gables*

    Last year, each employee was sent a fleece car blanket. Which was fine, and if it had just been branded, that would not have bothered me at all. But instead of standard banding, it had the intuition’s values on it. In like a wordle format. I do keep it in my car, but I have not used it, and I inwardly roll my eyes at it every time I see it in the back of my car.

      1. CoveredinBees*

        We got a mini tool kit once and that was great. The organization and all employees were in NYC (so possibly no one had a car) and many were a few years out of college. The toolkits were small enough to stash in an apartment and had handy tools we wouldn’t have thought to have around.

  13. Jay*

    I’ve gotten a variety of Doctor’s Day gifts from employers over the years. One hospital always gave branded gifts but they were often useful – a really huge and sturdy umbrella that is still going strong after 15 years, a warm fleece jacket, and a sports-style duffle we use nearly every time we travel by car. The first two years at this job they gave us really nice travel mugs and then personalized bobbleheads – my all-time favorite work present. She’s smiling at me now from the corner of my bookcase.

    This year I received a personalized watch holder – a wooden box with 12 compartments designed for wristwatches and a glass top engraved with my name and the company name. Three of the four docs in our location are women. While I’m sure some women collect wristwatches in my experience it’s much more common for men. Neither of the other women wears a watch. I do – but it’s an Apple watch so it’s stored on its charger, and it’s the only one I own. When my boss asked me how I liked it, I answered politely but honestly – which is when I discovered that the local medical director picks the gifts and he had chosen them (it’s his first year in this position). Oy.

      1. Jay*

        Me neither and it took me a while to figure out what it was. My father loved watches and owned four or five but he just kept them in a drawer. Since they were big, heavy, and obviously masculine, I didn’t take any when he died – my husband has one and my brother has the others.

      2. CoveredinBees*

        I’ve never heard of a watch collection before now. I feel like I know people who have an everyday watch and something fancy for dressed-up occasions, but nothing I’d call a collection.

    1. LouAnn*

      That’s a rich guy gift for sure. The box probably cost more than my last watch, which I bought in 1996.

      1. Anonym*

        “Clearly everyone has my incredibly specific hobby and wants this.” I assume this was the thinking.

      2. PT*

        It’s definitely a men’s hobby, but watches aren’t necessarily expensive. My husband likes watches and you can find a lot of nice watches for the cost of equivalent women’s costume jewelry, if you’re not shopping name brands and willing to buy secondhand.

    2. T. Boone Pickens*

      Outside of cash/PTO, I’m convinced that personalized bobbleheads are hands down one of the best work-related gifts to get. Everyone (myself included) loves bobbleheads!

    3. Corporate Lawyer*

      TBH, I’m a woman who would love a watch holder (I didn’t even know such a thing existed, but I do now!), because I have a Swatch collection like it’s 1986 all over again. But I 100% agree that it’s a stupid workplace gift. It’s the kind of gift that would only be appropriate for someone who you KNOW has a watch collection, which isn’t most people, especially in 2021.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. My grandfather had one and when we were clearing the house to sell it after we’d moved him to a nursing home, we couldn’t work out what it was for because none of us had ever seen one. We wound up googling it I think. I think we put it on Ebay in the end and it went for quite a bit. They’re definitely the sort of thing that you would only want if you had a lot of watches.

      2. CoveredinBees*

        And I imagine they spent a fair amount of money on it too. It seems like there were not so many people receiving this gift, so it probably wouldn’t have been so hard to pick something more widely applicable.

    4. madge*

      Depending on the audience, that’s a great gift for the pre-Apple watch era. Before we started wearing those exclusively, my husband regularly used a nice, handmade wooden watch display case. We both love and collected watches, but my jewelry armoire has a drawer that holds mine. It’s definitely a know-your-audience gift, though.

  14. Beth*

    Ah, yes — the holiday gifts that say “I don’t care enough to think about this for even a moment, and I have never cared enough about you to pay attention to anything you might actually want, need, or care about.” After way too many years of that, I swore off presents completely.

  15. Cake or Death?*

    “The company I work for has about 12 employees. The owner of the company asks our manager to go around and collect $60 from each person for us to get a present for her”

    $720 gift for the OWNER of the company???? WTF.

    “I have kindly let them know that it is simply not in my budget this year as my spouse changed jobs a month ago and times are tight. When I told them that, they said that it’s mandatory and no one is allowed to not participate”

    Mandatory?!?! That is so out of bounds, I can barely fathom it!!!

      1. clementine*

        Same! And she initiated it! Imagine having the thought, “Christmas is coming! I should make sure my employees get me something nice.” And then actually telling one of those employees to make that happen. Who is purchasing this gift? Does she delegate that or is the manager handing over $720 for her to buy herself a gift?!

      2. pancakes*

        It is horrible, but I think those of us who’ve been reading this site for a while have seen it before. I’m not 100% sure but it did sound familiar to me.

    1. ObservantServant*

      I worked for a slightly larger company a lot like this. Collected $30 from each of us (20+ years ago, mind you) to give a gift to the owner who was a horrible person/boss/owner and then some. My last Christmas there, at the awful luncheon we were forced to attend, my entire department dressed in black at the request of our (wonderful) manager. We sat in silence, not eating the terrible food. Owner opened the gift, which was actually picked out with some thought, and proclaimed it was the worst gift they had ever seen and proceeded to complain about it daily for at least another two weeks.
      I quit two months later.

    2. fueled by coffee*

      Right???!!!! It’s outrageous to crowdsource money for a gift to the owner in any case.

      But it’s especially outrageous because, presumably, the company owner is responsible for the pay scale that puts $60 out of reach for this employee!

      ($60 is also just… egregious. Like Alison said, $5 would still be obnoxious, but what kind of gift are they even getting the owner with that kind of money? I’d also bet that the employees are getting, like, a single gingerbread cookie in return.)

    3. Elenna*

      So, basically they’re paying you $60 less that week (actually more than $60 because tax). That’s… wow. Just, wow.

      1. The New Wanderer*

        That makes me wonder, since they said it’s mandatory, can you actually use that as a counter-argument? As in, “You are not legally allowed to change my compensation after I have worked the hours.”

        But then this crappy company owner would probably say “No, that’s $60 out of your next paycheck, take it or leave it” which is technically legal.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Is it legal, though? Can you deduct something like that from someone’s paycheck without their permission?

          1. CoveredinBees*

            Nope, but it could become more than $60 worth of trouble to fight them on it unless everyone bands together on it.

            1. Wilbur*

              Isn’t it free to file a complaint with the state labor board? It’s straight up wage theft. I would tell them to deduct it from my paycheck so there’s a paper trail.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                Well if you’ve told them to deduct it from your paycheck then that seems like you giving them permission so I think that’s probably not the route to go

  16. Saberise*

    Another note about gift cards to restaurants. It’s not enough to just make sure they like the place but also what the value of the gift card is vs how much it cost to eat there. My co-worker once got a $50 gift card to a restaurant from one of the doctors she supported. Great right? Except that it was very expensive there (entrees were like $75 on average) and she didn’t want to go alone. The following year she got a second card to the same place. Took her son with her and still ended up having to pay $125 out of pocket.

    1. Anonym*

      Yeah, maybe it should be something like covering the cost of an average meal for two at the place. Otherwise it’s just an expensive coupon that forces someone to spend money or not benefit from the gift. If that’s too much, pick a different gift.

    2. urguncle*

      100%. A restaurant gift card isn’t like a gas station gift card or a Visa prepaid card: it’s the gift of a dinner out. If you’re not giving a restaurant gift card that is the price of two adult entrees, and drinks/dessert, just give them cash.

    3. The New Wanderer*

      I got a $50 gift card as a wedding present, but to a fancy furniture place. Fortunately they had two items under $50 and those two throw pillow covers are still going strong.

      1. CoveredinBees*

        I got a “gift” of some “gift certificates” for baby stuff when shopping at a maternity store. They basically covered shipping on really pricey versions of things you could find from good brands for far less. Honestly, I wouldn’t have given it a second thought if they were labeled as coupons. But they were presented as a “special gift to show we appreciate our first-time customers” by the salesperson (who probably was made to memorize the mini speech) and on the package they were in.

    4. Pikachu*

      There is an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry tries to give George free Superbowl tickets, except George would have to pay for travel, hotel, etc. to even use them.

      “So in order to use these, I gotta spend like fifteen-hundred bucks. This is a bill for fifteen-hundred dollars.”

      If what you’re doing is reflected in an episode of Seinfeld (or The Office, for that matter), you should probably not do it.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, definitely! We did give a group gift to someone once that was a gift card to a super fancy restaurant that was still probably not enough to pay for everything–but we knew she was already planning to go there for a special occasion so it would cover some costs they would have had anyway. Would not usually go that route unless it was that type of situation!

  17. BlueWolf*

    My company gives us a cash bonus (well, direct deposit now). They even cover the taxes so we actually get the full amount.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Employers everywhere: if you really want to give your employees gifts, this is how to do it.

  18. KaciHall*

    I am still irrationally annoyed by the ten dollar Butterball grocery check the factory I worked for gave out for Christmas. You could use it like a check to pay for groceries at wherever you normally get groceries. If they accepted checks. And if you had a valid ID the store would accept with checks. And if the cashiers had any idea how to process it. (The ID thing was the worst; they heavily employed people with questionable I9 documents, in addition to people who otherwise couldn’t pass a background check. They couldn’t easily use it at all. )

    Everyone got this bonus, from the factory employees to the office people (who usually got extra benefits over the floor employees.) I never used it; it was not worth the aggravation.

    1. Junior Assistant Peon*

      That stupid Butterball check is a regular check that you can deposit at the bank. I found those things much less irritating when I figured out that I could just deposit the check rather than using it at the supermarket.

    2. CAS*

      I came here to talk about the Butterball checks! I worked at a bank, and that’s what they gave the tellers each year. $10. It was the value of 1 1/2 hours of my hourly pay at the time.

  19. Dona Florinda*

    My dad used to work for a TV network owned by a popular TV host, and along with a jaw-dropping gift basket, employees also got a signed photo from the owner… in full Christmas attire.
    I keep one of the photos in a frame in my living room, it’s an excellent conversation starter.
    But the basket was actually great, with really good and really expensive cheese, chocolate and wine.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I’m gonna guess it was a her (Oprah) but I could be wrong. (Yes I know you’re referencing a previous letter :))

        1. Katie*

          I bet you’re right about Oprah! Now I’m cracking up imagining Oprah with a parrot on her shoulder in a holiday photo.

  20. Jean*

    Just give me the cash, for pete’s sake. I don’t know why companies want to make this so weird and complicated. A ham would have been a nice present though… in 1943.

    1. EmmaPoet*

      It actually might have been useful in 1943 for a lot of people since meat was rationed then in the US. And people who didn’t eat ham could have traded it for something they could use.

  21. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    If the “contribution” is mandatory, that’s a pay cut. A call to HR or accounting asking about this, from the viewpoint of “I’ve been told that it’s mandatory for me to return $60 of my pay to the company to buy the boss a gift. How is that being handled on our W=2 forms?”

    This question is nicely complicated because the company is reducing everyone’s take-home pay by the same amount, and they’d need to do all the calculations separately for each employee, based on different pay rates and possibly different pre-tax deductions for things like health savings accounts.

    I wouldn’t be surprised, with a company like that, if cutting everyone’s take-home pay by $60 in a given week or two-week period by $60 puts them in violation of minimum wage laws.

      1. Faith the twilight slayer*

        Lol HR is usually the owner’s wife in this situation. Or someone who will do whatever the owner wants because they get tons of special treatment. I have been there.

  22. NW Mossy*

    My company has (if you’ll pardon the pun) gone ham on sending appreciation gifts to employees in the pandemic as a replacement for the in-person food offerings that had previously been their go-to.

    In general, I end up throwing out about 75% of them – I think the only ones I’ve kept are a water bottle my eldest takes to school and a few of the food treats. It’s really really difficult to send the same thing (or a selection from 2-3 options) to a few hundred people scattered all over the country and expect it to be a hit with even a slim majority. People vary way too much in their preferences for that to work, and let’s be real – most corporate swag is not the sort of thing you value enough that you’d seek it out and buy it for yourself.

    So far the biggest miss has been a kit to grow miniature sunflowers in a tiny (think espresso-cup size) pot that clings to a window or mirror. The theme was something like “you help us grow our business!”, which is a nice sentiment, but at this stage, tending to a houseplant feels like one more obligation on top of a list that’s already much too long.

  23. Moi*

    My last job gave out really nice ornaments from a local artist every year. There was always information about said artist in the box, and the ornament was always something you couldn’t associate with a specific religion or could even tie back to the company unless you knew where it came from.

    That particular company always had some kind of local community event/charity etc going on, and while sometimes those feel really forced, little things like the ornaments or teaming up with the local farmers market felt like the company actually did care.

    1. Artemesia*

      to me ‘ornament’ means Christmas ornament, means Christian. Hannukah balls don’t really exist except as faux Jewish Christmas ornaments. And Muslim ‘ornaments’ — really?

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Oh, I was picturing more like something that would go on your mantelpiece or something, and which wasn’t holiday-themed at all.

        1. Moi*

          Yes, that’s how they came across. One year it was a metal leaf with a bird on it, the next it was small paintings of different local areas of interest. While they were handed out around the holidays and we definitely referred to them as ornaments, they were secular with no real religious association.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, we have a Subzero ornament on our Christmas tree (my husband insisted it worked because of the ice thing) and it’s definitely not red or green or Christian at all …. but it’s still a Christmas ornament.

      3. Batgirl*

        Where I live an “ornament” is just a knick knack or decorative vase or something. You have to specify “Christmas ornament” if you’re talking about the seasonal decorations.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      I mean… ornaments are pretty solidly Christmas decoration to me. Even if they’re not red and green, that’s still feels kind of exclusionary. I like the local artist route though!

      1. MK*

        My family is non-Christian and celebrates Winter Solstice instead of Christmas. We in fact avoid anything Christmas-y (even things with pagan roots), but we sure as heck love us some ornaments!! Winter is dreary and dark here, we string up lights and hang ornaments on them to make things nicer until Spring.

      2. Ari*

        Yeah, I’m a little confused by this one – even a “non-Christmasy” Christmas ornament is still…an ornament meant to be hung on a Christmas tree. I hate to be a grinch but I truly would have no use for a Christmas ornament and would find it pretty thoughtless.

        1. Also Here for the Cats*

          I have ornaments that I like hung up year round– a bronze cat hung from a lamp knob, small not overtly holiday-themed cross-stitched items hung from doorknobs or on walls; why only enjoy them once a year?

          1. Tali*

            Kinda hard to enjoy a Christmas ornament with snow, green and red, baubles, red hat, reindeer, etc. around the house year round. Much easier if it’s a literal “ornament”, ie a decoration that can be hung or placed somewhere.

      3. Just Another Cog in the Machine*

        I have several ornaments that I leave up year round. A wooden cutout of our state, places we have visited, hobbies, etc.. When the tree comes out, I do add them to the tree, but the rest of the year they are hanging from various things in the living room or sitting on the mantle. So, I think it depends on the ornament. (If it can only hang from something, that points more toward “this is supposed to be on your Christmas tree.” But if it can sit on a table or a mantle and isn’t holiday-themed, I would just consider it a knickknack.)

  24. jane's nemesis*

    Every time this topic comes up, I’m reminded of the following uncomfortable and embarrassing story, so I figured I might as well tell it:

    I was new to a job/role in a department that was just me, my boss, and a third woman, Anne, who was older than me and senior to me but not my supervisor – my boss was also her boss.. It was not long after I started that it was Christmastime, and my boss very clearly told me and Anne that she Did Not Want Gifts From Us. This was a relief to me, as I had never ever given a boss a gift before, ever, and didn’t even know some bosses might expect it!

    Unfortunately, then Anne started pulling me aside to consult on what we were going to give Boss! I tried pushing back – “she said she doesn’t want anything” – but she was not having it. We had to give Boss this gift! So I just gave up and pitched in on the gift.

    Then our holiday lunch rolled around – Boss was taking the two of us out to lunch. Very exciting! I was slightly dreading Boss’ reaction when Anne gave her the gift, but I had convinced myself that Anne must know Boss much better than I did, so it would be fine.

    What had NOT occurred to me, and what sometimes keeps me up at night, is that Anne would also be giving ME a gift. It just… never entered my mind. So when Anne pulled not only Boss’ unwanted gift out, but a gift for ME – well, my face probably drained itself of all color. I had nothing to gift back! I stammered out thanks – not even smart enough to say “oh, your gift didn’t arrive yet,” or something like that – but then also noticed that Boss was basically incandescent with rage! She somewhat graciously accepted the gift but then later privately ranted at me about how she had said she didn’t want gifts and it was just like Anne to do it anyway – she had immediately sussed out that I was a mostly unwilling participant in the gift giving, at least.

    The next day, I sheepishly left a holiday card with some sort of gift card in it on Anne’s desk, making noises about having forgotten it the previous day. We only worked together for one more Christmas, but she did NOT give me a gift that year! (or Boss, who MUST have had words with her!)

    1. Caraway*

      Ugh, what a nightmare! Also, thanks for the reminder that I should tell my new employee that gifts are not expected in our workplace, and especially not for me, her supervisor.

    2. Sara without an H*

      Oh, this was SO not your fault! Anne put you in a very uncomfortable position, mostly just to satisfy her own ego. (What is it with some people?!)

    3. Shirley Keeldar*

      But did YOU get something for Anne in Year 2, when she got you nothing, leading to alternate year awkwardness that would go on forever and forever? (Well, okay, it wouldn’t have been forever because you didn’t work with her after that…but it MIGHT have.)

      1. jane's nemesis*

        Hahahah thank goodness, no – she sent me a holiday card (with no gift in it) early on that second year which was somehow enough to signal to me that we weren’t going to be doing gifts. I just gratefully sent her a holiday card (with no gift in it) back.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I’m sure it felt very uncomfortable at the time, but I hope you don’t still consider that to be an embarrassing story as far as your behavior goes! I think you handled the whole thing pretty well given how pushy Anne was being and the fact that you were new. It’s embarrassing for Anne that she got a reputation where he boss would be upset and think “well this is just like Anne!”

  25. Event Coordinator?*

    I think I’m hallucinating: the owner of a company forces the office manager to collect $60 from each employee so THE OWNER gets a very expensive gift?!?! That’s what that letter said, right?

    1. Artemesia*

      you must have missed the past letter about the company that required much more than that from each employee in order to buy an expensive ski vacation for the owner and his family. There are a lot of really terrible people who own companies.

    2. SarahKay*

      You’re sadly not hallucinating, but gosh, I wish that was the correct explanation. (Well, okay, dream rather than hallucination because hallucinations mostly = not good.)
      I’m horrified at what sort of person does this! I really hope whoever wrote that letter also reads AAM and updates us at some point in the future on how they successfully pushed back. Or on how the boss has come down with a magical curse that means every step she takes has a lego underfoot; either is fine.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      This was part of the old party machine politics model. Think Tammany Hall. The people in power would hand out government jobs to supporters. Partly this was in return for said support, but the job came with an additional catch, that the employee was expected to kick back a percentage of his salary. The civil service system was instituted to put a stop to this.

  26. awesome3*

    I think an intern gift is nice when they graduate. I like to do a card and candy. Would be nice to take them out to coffee too.

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      My eyes are playing tricks on me tonight. I had to read this three times because I thought you wrote “An intern is a nice gift when they graduate.” LOL!

      Please nobody give me an intern as a gift, thank you.

  27. Lab Boss*

    Last year my company mailed every employee a care package with hand soap, hand sanitizer, and surface disinfectant sprays and wipes (all products that we produce in one of our business arms). It was a well thought out and timely gift in a time when those things were all useful and sometimes hard to find.

    Normally we don’t get Christmas/winter gifts, but rather mid-year gifts around the start of our fiscal year. Those have ranged from incredibly useful (very nice umbrellas, high-quality soft sided coolers) to the indecipherable (binoculars with our logo on them to represent us looking ahead to a great future).

  28. KayEss*

    I think I’ve told this story before, but a legendary (as in “before I was hired, but the employee STILL talked about it) Christmas at a small business involved the owner buying salon/spa vouchers for all the female employees. The vouchers weren’t enough to cover a full service. She also expected them all to go to the salon together, with her. And then while there, she pressured them to buy additional services that the vouchers didn’t cover.

    She got the male employees socks.

    1. KayEss*

      Same workplace: the owner, for no particular occasion, decided it would be awesome to buy all the female employees (you may sense a pattern) the same brand of red rubber rain boots.

      I have quite large feet for a woman, and basically only extended-sizing women’s shoe brands will have my size. The brand’s men’s boots, of course, didn’t come in red. She ordered me the largest size, like “oh, I’m sure it’ll be fine!” They did not fit.

      To her very small credit, she did then give me a gift card to a retailer that carried shoes in my size, for the value of the stupid boots… so IMO I came out ahead on that one. The red boots were worn for one group photo and never mentioned again.

    2. RabbitRabbit*

      Wow. In a previous job I got a (rather generous) gift card to a somewhat pricey department store – but we got it far enough before Christmas that you could use it to buy your Christmas presents. I opted to get nice kitchen cookware from their sales, which brought items into a reasonable price range for me.

    3. Late For the Party*

      One of our male managers reported my boss to HR because he was given a $5 gift certificate to a mall pretzel shop as an incentive contest prize while the female managers received massage gift certificates.

  29. waywardsister*

    At my company, we just started using The Everything Card because you just choose a denomination and the recipient can choose what gift card they want to put it toward. They can even spit the balance between two or more cards (gas, grocery, clothing, etc). Card is digital, or you can enable physical cards. I swear I’m not affiliated with them, just really impressed!

      1. noahwynn*

        My company uses Reward Link which is a similar option. I almost always choose Amazon gift cards because they are easy to add to my account and are just deducted from future orders. However, there are a ton of other options like restaurants, streaming services, Petco, Best Buy, grocery stores, and clothing stores.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’ve learned that some people don’t like visa gift cards because they have a hard time using the whole thing – what I’ve seen is “I got a card for $50 and I spent $46 and now I have to find something that costs $4 because you can’t use that $4 and pay the balance with another method.” I never have that problem – when I’ve received a visa gc, I used it to buy a gc to my favorite store.

        1. kitryan*

          If one is willing to shop at Amazon, you can get around this issue of needing to use up the Visa gift cards for the exact amount. What you do is you buy yourself an Amazon gift card for the exact amount of the Visa gift card, using the Visa as the payment method. The amount will then show up as an available credit in your amazon account, which you can then use up as you wish. This gets around issues where you can’t split purchases with the Visa, since Amazon totally lets you split payment methods with its own credit, as well as issues where you need to know the exact amount remaining on the card to use it at a store, etc.
          As my office usually gives out Visa gift cards a couple times a year, this has been a very handy trick to learn, as I do the conversion right away and then I don’t have to stress about having the card on hand or anything else after that.

      2. Lily C*

        I’ve currently got four Visa gift cards in my wallet with $2 or less on each. I used to use the remainders at the corner store near my office to get snacks, but since I’ve been working remotely they’ve just accumulated. Maybe with the next one I’ll use Rusty Schackelford’s suggestion below and use the full value to buy a gift card for someplace specific.

  30. Spotted Pink Lizard*

    One year, in celebration of our professional week, my department gave everyone a bottle of water and a pencil.

    Another year, in appreciation for us getting a new system up and running (which took almost 2 years, during which no one in my department was allowed to take time off except in extreme circumstances), the company sent everyone a single serving bag of popcorn and two pieces of chocolate.

    1. Florida Fan 15*

      Years ago my sister worked for a certain big box retailer. Her holiday “bonus” that year was a $5 gift card to that store. Not quite as bad as yours, but still.

  31. NumbBureaucrat*

    Just a government employee sitting here thinking, “You get gifts?!?” They don’t even “give” us food or drinks at working meetings because the public might take offense to us using public funds on a cup of coffee. I’d take a ham or a blanket…or a cup of damn coffee.

    1. Governmint Condition*

      Pretty much the same here. But in our case, it’s less about public funds and more about each of us only receiving the exact compensation negotiated in our union’s collective bargaining agreement. We can’t accept any compensation outside the terms of that CBA.

      Same goes for holiday parties. I keep seeing stories here about parties that companies throw for their employees, and they sound foreign to me. We have to pay for our own. And with a combination of inflation and catering halls trying to make up for lost business the past two years, the price for this year’s party is out of range for many of our employees. We might not make the minimum head count for the catering hall. The price is higher than I would pay for a gift to anybody in my own family, so I could never justify this expense.

      1. CoveredinBees*

        Yup. We got a hard time about someone bringing in their own coffee machine and coffee to put in a break room because it might look like it was issued by the agency. This was in an area that non-employees were not allowed to be in without approval and an employee escort. Who would it have looked bad to!? A french press was deemed acceptable because it looked less official. Again, entirely at our own expense other than the water, which we were given free access to in general.

  32. TimeTravlR*

    Silver lining to the pandemic.. we are all remote so this is year 2 of no more co-workers bringing me gifts. I really don’t need any more stuff!

  33. RabbitRabbit*

    Had a departing boss who openly rejected going-away gifts from her staff. Refused to open them or even be that kind about it, just said no no no, waved her hands, said to take it back. I suspect she was just being very traditionalist about not gifting up, but she was LEAVING (and so had no more influence over our pay/etc.). I just threw my gift away afterwards.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      OMG that’s awful. I mean, I get the no-gifting-up thing but she was leaving!

      I made my last supervisor a lap quilt when he retired, which sounds a bit insane but I quilt a lot so I can kind of do them in my sleep and I already have piles of scrap fabric, and he was a great person and also a great asset to the department and our institution. We made it “from the department” to make it less weird (I did not ask them to chip in). We’re a pretty small, chummy department, too.

      His wife, who has never met me, sent me a thank-you card.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        It made me sad. She could be somewhat prickly at times but was generally decent, and that stung.

        On a reverse note, when I left the job I had after that one, one of my bosses (who had invited me to his 50th birthday party previously) gave me a handknit neck gaiter, made by his wife, who I had not met other than at said birthday party. I was a knitter and recognized the Malabrigo yarn she had used, and asked him to convey my sincere thanks.

        1. MK*

          Totally off-topic, neck gaiters are the best! One year I made fleece ones for my husband and his crew – not really as gifts but as “you’re gonna want this at work” (construction) before they became commercially popular. Now we just buy them, but making them was really fun!

          1. RabbitRabbit*

            So soft and cozy! Even as a layer under a scarf, depending on how big yours is, they’re so helpful vs winter chill.

            The one I got that was handknit was more of the slightly chunky, room to tuck your chin/face down into it during bad weather types, but all of them are great.

    2. Marillenbaum*

      Even in government, where we have very strict ethics rules around gifting in the workplace, there is an exception for gifts that mark the end of the working relationship because one person is leaving.

  34. INFJedi*

    Every year, my dad gets around 1 to 1,2kg smoked salmon as a Christmas/New years bonus.

    Dad is not really a fish either, mum isn’t fond of salmon but does eat it a bit same as my sibling (sibling-in-law is vegetarian). I like smoked salmon, but 1kg is too much.

    I have to admit, it is the time of year that my cats like very much: Whatever is left of the salmon (we do share a bit with close family members, but we always end up with leftovers) ends up in their feeding baskets.

    1. Despachito*

      Where do you live? I think I will invite myself over to your home around Christmas, to help you get rid of that!

    2. Arts Akimbo*

      I would cheerfully eat an entire smoked salmon! I try not to do it in one sitting, but it’s a struggle.

  35. bubba*

    My first job out of college was working for a large insurance company that had just been bought out by a larger insurance company. I was hired on a temp-to-permanent basis.

    The first year I worked there was the first after the merger. People from the old company were shocked and excited to find that their holiday bonus was around 10% of their salary. (Remember the 90s?) I didn’t get it, because I was a temp.

    The second year I worked there, the holiday bonus was again 10% of your salary. I didn’t get it because I hadn’t worked a full year as a non-temporary employee yet.

    So year #3 comes around and I am READY for that bonus. I had been so jealous watching everyone open their paystubs and gasping at their bonus the last two years. That year the bonus was. . . a HAM.

    I hate ham.

    1. Kate*

      Reminds me of when I was hired for a job that began January 18th. When the year end stock option bonuses came out (a benefit that was touted to me in my offer package) I didn’t receive any because I had not been employed for a full year.

      Meanwhile, six of the nine people who *did* receive stock options missed their margin targets (by an amount significant enough that they had to cut staff) and also went over their labor budgets. Meanwhile I had the highest stats in the bunch. My boss was apologetic, but it was “company policy” that I wouldn’t receive options that year because my start date was two weeks in to the year.

      1. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

        I worked somewhere that would do lots of holiday/benefit eligibility stuff based on full calendar years worked at the company. One of the longest standing staff members was always a year behind because he’d started on the 2nd January, so he had to wait 2 years to get 1 year full service. January 1st is a bank holiday where I live.

        They were just that type of company though.

    2. pope suburban*

      I had to work as a temp for a few years during the 2008 recession, and being treated as less-than or an afterthought was never fun. One assignment, though, I was covering someone’s maternity leave during the holiday seasons, and their personnel lead included me in both the Thanksgiving grocery card, and the winter-holiday poinsettias. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I almost cried, but that was so far out of the norm and it really did mean a lot, even if the gifts were fairly small. Simply being included can go a long way.

      1. EmmaPoet*

        I still remember a law firm I temped at that gave me a free flu shot even though my assignment had ended the week before. It was when I had very minimal insurance and the shot would otherwise have been out of pocket. Nice place.

      2. Liz*

        I was in a long-term temp position once, and when the holidays rolled around, I think I had been there about 7 months or so. I was, as were the other temps, included in our company party, department dinner out, and (optional of course) my department secret santa, and received gifts from my supervisors. It was nice to be treated equally.

        1. pope suburban*

          Now that I think of it, this place did a secret Santa and temps were allowed to participate in that as well. There was no pressure to, but if we wanted to sign up, we’d add our names to the list, answer some basic questions (So no one would get a gift to which they were allergic, or had religious objections, or whatever else), and then participate same as anyone. It really wasn’t that much extra effort for them, but being treated like a human being was so refreshing

  36. Late For the Party*

    My husband worked for a bakery that sold a ton of fruit cakes during the holiday season. Their gift each year? A fruitcake.

    1. Eden*

      That sounds nice? If they don’t like fruitcake, well, it’s clearly very regiftable. I think giving out a product the company makes is nice. Some companies make it seem like their stuff is too good for lowly employees.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        LOL. Although caskets could make excellent storage in the meantime. Though if you stay there for any length of time, it could get a bit … excessive.

  37. ArtK*

    Not a holiday gift but as the result of a corporate rebranding, I got a pair of corporate *socks*. In truly repulsive colors.

    1. Staja*

      We just had a corp rebranding and my small satellite office made out when they cleaned the storeroom! A blanket, notebook, office supplies, tshirt, and more!

      1. Anonym*

        We got tons of free branded stuff when our HQ moved! There were old leftover gifts in storage closets. I got a sturdy beach tote, raincoat, fleece vest, and more USB charging cables than can possibly be used before the format gets replaced. It was awesome.

  38. Elle Woods*

    In a previous job, my boss gave us all baskets with assorted beauty products in them; she sold for a beauty-related MLM as a side gig. I thanked her for the gift, brought it home, and promptly threw it all in the trash. Glad I did. I found out later from co-workers that some of the items in their basket were either already opened, mostly used, or expired.

  39. 2Legit*

    The last company I worked at did not give Christmas gifts. They also did not give end-of-year bonuses. They had a December party during the workday where the department paid for the main entree & we all had to bring a dish. Sadly, I think the jobs I had when I was younger (not the “professional” jobs) had more fun perks… when I worked for a local candymaker, we got free candy for nearly every holiday!

  40. Staja*

    My boss usually gives my team a token gift (which I would prefer she didn’t) and my company did both a departmental and company wide gift last year, because no parties.

    My boss gave me a Christmas ornament. I’m Jewish…and I’m not secretive about the fact I don’t have a tree or celebrate Christmas.

    My company gave use gorgeous blown glass vases from a local company…etched with the company name & year. So, can’t be regifted…and looks pretty tacky.

    My department gave a nice North Face 3/4 zip, asked us for size prefs, and I lost enough weight this year that it’s finally comfortable!

    1. CoveredinBees*

      As a fellow Jew who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, I find the ornament-giving (which seems to be somewhat popular based on this page) a bit strange. Would someone want a corporate logo ornament on their tree? Or is it something else at which point you then have to know the person’s tastes. Maybe there’s something I’m missing because I don’t celebrate Christmas, but it seems like an odd choice from an employer or boss.

  41. ZebraNeighbor*

    Home office decided our branch office should get $10 per person for a small celebration. Our managers spent it on lottery tickets, then asked what lottery game we should roll the “winnings” over into. We demanded the money, which was about $6.30 each. They complained, but gave us $6 each.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      You came out ahead. At least the last time I checked (which, in fairness, was about a quarter century ago) the expected return on a one dollar lottery ticket was fifty cents.

  42. Tigger*

    My boss forgot to get a gift for a company steal game, so regifted his digital kitchen scale. I ended up getting it, and it was still dirty from when he used it earlier in the day, covered in chicken grease. Please no more company gift giving!

  43. ThatGirl*

    This is timely. My company gives out $$ bonuses, as well as random branded things throughout the year, but we’re having our virtual holiday party next week and we’ve all been told that a package will be delivered to our house, and we should put it in the fridge until the party.

    So I’m VERY curious what this package will be and hopefully I’ll have the fridge space for it.

  44. nora*

    I am often asked to place and distribute branded merch for things like this, and regularly shudder at the environmental impact of all of these cheaply-made goods (and their resulting packaging).

    1. MK*

      That really bugs me, too. My husband and I work for ourselves (we give end-of-year cash to OUR employees), but my mom is always giving my kids random plastic crap from her work. Nobody wants it, nobody wants to throw it away.

      I now advocate for company-branded cotton dishrags.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Yes, if you’re reading this — please send us an update. We’d love to hear that you are now working someplace run by sane people.

  45. C in the Hood*

    Last year, everyone in the company was to get the same thing, shipped to their home. I just wasn’t interested…until it arrived! It was one of those soft travel-coolers & it was a really decent size, too. I haven’t used it yet, but am actually looking forward to when I do.

    1. Nea*

      My old company did that kind of thing too. And it was always high quality!

      ….and yet completely useless to me. Yeti coolers too big to fit in my car and too heavy to lift when loaded. Patagonia backpacks (I have a bad back).

  46. Covid Cassandra*

    when I worked for a public agency, we used to get an email giving us half a day’s leave – had to take it before December 24th ‘for Christmas shopping’ – don’t put it on your timesheet – just let your manager know when you are taking it.

    1. New Job So Much Better*

      Years ago I arranged for my staff to all take a half day for shopping also. Of course, they still got their bonus from the company.

    2. Windchime*

      Best gift ever. I just recently retired, but my boss would do this. Before most holidays, she would send us an IM and tell us to log out early. Sometimes just a couple of hours early, but on major holidays she always gave us the half-day off. We worked for the state and they don’t really give gifts, but she was able to give us a time off which is the best gift (second only to cash).

  47. AptNickname*

    A company I worked for in my early 20s actually gave some really good presents. I still use the duffle bag, although the clock I got as an award was a loud ticker and thus ‘disappeared’.

    One year for Christmas, we all got digital cameras (early 2000s, so a very nice gesture) but I’d just gotten a better one for my birthday that year. I decided to give it to my brother for Christmas, but felt very guilty about the regifting and got him a case for it as well. When he opened it, he went white because he thought I’d spent a ton of money on him and he hadn’t reciprocated. I explained, he was happy. I just thought it was kind of sweet that we both felt guilty on our ends because we just wanted to do nice things for each other.

  48. Salad Daisy*

    My mother taught me that when you receive a gift you are supposed to thank the giver. What sort of entitled person critiques a gift and complains it is not nice enough? Please note I absolutely do not mean a gift given in lieu of a bonus.

    Your employer does not owe you a gift at Christmas, or at any other time. Accept it with a smile, then either use it, bin it, or give it to someone who will appreciate it.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      I do generally agree with this, but the fact still remains that sometimes a bad gift can be worse than no gift. One year the entire staff where I was working was told that we would be laid off and the nonprofit closing, then told that it was not but that we all needed to find ways to scrimp and save money to keep the nonprofit open. Then, the very wealthy board members who funded our Christmas gifts gave each person a travel-sized hand lotion. That was what they thought our stress was worth.

    2. I WORKED on a Hellmouth*

      I don’t think it was that the gift wasn’t nice enough? The issue was that they were giving vegetarians and Muslims hams and the like. Like, this isn’t carefully chosen gifts for individuals, this is a corporate holiday gift meant to help build morale and bolster retention. Which isn’t going to be very successful if there isn’t a baseline attempt to make the gift, er, not insulting? Like, if 1/3 of the staff were missing limbs a gift basket of shoes, socks, and fancy gloves aren’t going to be particularly kind gifts, and are definitely not going to booster morale. Nice scarves, hats, and a lap blanket? Useable by all and not going to insult a portion of your staff.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        If “it’s the thought that counts,” consider what you are telling your Muslim/vegetarian/Jewish/etc staff when you give them a ham. Because in that case the “thought” is “I didn’t think of you at all.”

    3. pancakes*

      Did she also teach you that people are merely walking, talking reflections of their mother’s aptitude for parenting? That’s a Victorian idea that doesn’t really deserve a place in the modern world.

    4. Florida Fan 15*

      I agree they don’t owe you a gift. But I also think, like all gifts, some thought should go into it if you’re going to give one. Assuming the intent in giving is good, how is the giver supposed to know they’ve missed the mark if the recipient never says anything? I don’t think it’s necessarily entitled to provide feedback, provided it’s done politely.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely if it comes from work I think feedback can be helpful. Obviously this should provided politely and be more “given the number of people who don’t eat ham, perhaps it might be good to consider an alternative like a voucher for Marks & Spencer so people can buy what they want” rather than “what is this vile pig meat you ignorant peasant. I only eat the finest caviar.”

        I think it’s different if a gift comes from the employer rather than an individual. My late (very wealthy) godmother used to give me terrible presents having grown up in very poor circumstances and not being comfortable spending money. Her gifts included the bottom of a used salad crisper without the top and a bottle of very cheap body lotion. I would never have dreamed of complaining about them or doing anything other than thanking her profusely. It would have hurt her feelings. I loved her and remember her odd gifts with affectionate amusement. I would be a lot more willing to provide constructive but polite feedback to a company I worked for than I would to a person I cared about.

  49. Good Wilhelmina Hunting*

    Some stinkers I’ve received at work:
    An issue of a heavy metal rock magazine. (Cheap.)
    Bottles of alcohol when I’ve been careful to discreetly disclose I’m teetotal.
    A book of recipes for cooking a food item I’ve been told to avoid for medical reasons (I wasn’t entitled about my medical diet around the office, but it was common knowledge because of what colleagues saw me eating/avoiding).
    A set of perfumes when everyone knows I start sneezing uncontrollably at a whiff of scent.

    And then there was the time we had to play this silly game where we opened our gifts in sequence around the table, but the people who opened theirs afterwards could ask to trade with the gift of someone who’d opened theirs earlier. Having received a book voucher (ideal, as I was studying at the time), I had to swap it with someone who’d just finished her online degree (so wasn’t in any pressing need of textbooks) and accept the DVD she’d opened that wasn’t my taste in movies, nor of anyone I knew.

  50. AnonyKid*

    I definitely sympathise on the restaurant certificate – the completely out of touch CEO of my last job insisted, during COVID, that everyone was getting a gift card for an exceedingly fancy restaurant chain that most people would NEVER think of ordering takeout from because the place was sold on being a fine dining experience.

    Annoying/bad enough, but his (completely incompetent) assistant didn’t do enough due diligence when ordering these cards, and it turned out that restaurant chain doesn’t EXIST where half of our offices were located.

  51. YL*

    At my last job, the company decided to get everyone $250 e-gift cards because of Covid. The employees chose the gift cards (i.e. for a department store or housewares store) from a list. It never occurred to my employer that the credit card company would freeze the corporate card due to suspected fraud if you try to buy $250 gift cards for 75+ employees over a few days time. I happened to be departing from the company around the holidays and I spent my last day messaging HR about the gift card I had yet to receive (it was almost a week after it was supposed to be emailed). Sure, I sound petty and greedy, but that $250 was being considered compensation that I would have to pay taxes on. I want my gift card if the taxes are being deducted from my paycheck. I figured following up on a gift card was less of a hassle than resolving paycheck issues after I left.

  52. CAS*

    I briefly worked for a start-up that bankrupted itself with its lavish holiday party. Everyone received fake Yeti cups that were branded with the company logo as their gift. They spent thousands and thousands of dollars on “gifts” as door prizes at the party, so most people only got the cup. It was unreal. Open bar, expensive dinner menu, pricey venue, and every excess imaginable.

    Then they couldn’t make payroll in February. So, ultimately, I received a layoff as my gift from the company.

    1. pancakes*

      Ugh. With so little time between the party and the layoffs, I’m inclined to think they knew the business would have to wind down soon and didn’t want the creditors to get their money for some reason.

  53. Mirea*

    When I worked as a long-distance operator (so very long ago) people still mostly had landlines. One Christmas, we all received a short, maybe 12″ unstretched, white phone cord with “you’re appreciated” printed all the way around it in tiny letters. Just the cord.

    I think the supervisors were embarrassed to hand them out and we all just….blinked at them…for a moment before turning our attention back to work.

  54. Amethystmoon*

    The company that bought us out gives us a turkey every year for Thanksgiving. Literally our only choice is to take it or not take it. If we don’t take it, the turkey goes to a food shelf. Not everyone eats meat due to a. health reasons, b. ethical reasons, and c. religious reasons. I’m also pretty sure they were regular turkeys and not Gluten Free, Organic, Halal, Kosher, or any of those other things that some people need. Also not everyone has a big family where they can share a turkey with, so single people are out of luck unless they happen to be going somewhere for Thanksgiving where they can safely bring it.

    For those who are differently abled, it may be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for them to take a 15-LB turkey home if they don’t have someone else to help them with it. Yeah I know, you can try going to HR, but we have and HR does not care. The company likes one size solutions, but one size does not always fit all. A gift card to one of the company stores would be a much better choice. At least, you could pick something you’d actually want there.

    Food is not a great gift if you don’t know the person well. Only give food to people you know what they like.

  55. bad gift box*

    Last year my organization sent gift boxes to every single employee, based on their address on file. You couldn’t opt out. They contained:
    – Org-branded, stemless, metal, travel champagne flutes. Not a wine glass, that could maybe be used for coffee or tea if you squinted but tall and slender. Definitely a champagne flute. Definitely had a wee-little lid. Half of my team is teetotal.
    – A plastic Christmas tree ornament. Half of my team does not celebrate Christmas.
    – Two food items that, together, hit all of the bid 8 allergens except fish and shellfish. (thankfully? I guess?) I had to throw both of them out. I was not alone.
    – A woo-woo burn to reduce your stress stick. (I… what. In December 2020.)

    They made a pretty big deal about how much thought went into them and I just felt even less seen, less appreciated, and more angry. I suppose it was better than a ham though.

  56. WeAreTheJunimos*

    We just got a box of nice freshly baked cookies. Which not my thing but oh well. But the thing is that it’s very common in my industry to work 6 days in one week and have the next week off. So a whole bunch of people didn’t work the week the organization got the cookies, so they all got moldy cookies when they came back the next week to work.

  57. anon for this*

    Our yearly gifts that I can remember:
    Slipper socks
    Bar of soap (moderately fancy)
    Slipper socks
    Fart machine (came with a 9volt that I used in my smoke detector)
    Copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull
    Actual socks
    They’re always given w/lovely intentions, but I find them very amusing and sometimes baffling.

    1. Lucy Skywalker*

      Fart machine? Unless you work for a joke shop or a comedy club, I don’t see how that’s appropriate.

      1. anon for this*

        I… don’t work at a joke shop or comedy club. Or anything at all like that. Regular office, no logical connection.

  58. Orange You Glad*

    The last time my company got us gifts (Xmas 2019) they got company branded shirts. Seemed like a good idea, but all the women’s shirts were white, see-through, and 3 sizes too small for any adult. Apparently, they were ordered from China to save money and most likely made in Chinese sizes so they didn’t fit anyone. The men’s shirts were fine – they were grey cotton and seemed to fit fine.

  59. Florida Fan 15*

    Once again this website reminds me that my job is actually pretty awesome after all. We have a strict “no gifts upwards” policy which I support 110%. I make more than my staff, I have more power than them, it can give the appearance of favoritism, I don’t even want gifts from my family because I have more stuff than I need now. Everything about gifts to a boss is bad. Having a hard and fast rule makes my life so much easier.

    Now if I could figure out how to kill off Boss’s Day as well. Hate the very concept.

    Come to work when you’re supposed to, do what you’re supposed to, play nice and don’t make my life a living hell — that’s all the gift I need.

  60. TootsNYC*

    speaking as a manager who doesn’t believe gifts should be given to me:

    I’ll be completely honest: I’m still a little hungry for some recognition, and even some [work appropriate] affection and attention.

    In your holiday card, tell me any one small thing that I do as a manager that you like:
    (Someone who left my department for a move up wrote in her goodbye card, “I’ve learned a lot by watching you”–which, I wasn’t sure was all good…. But it felt nice anyway.)

    Be specific, don’t leave room for it to be read snarkily.

    “It meant a lot to me that you had my back about my schedule after my surgery.”

    “You explain things really clearly, and it helps me so much.”

    “I appreciate that you see the little frustrations of our job, and that you will act to remove them if you can–and are sympathetic when you can’t.”

    “Thanks for being understanding when I was struggling.”

    “I am proud to work here, because you hold us to a high standard.”

    “You make it fun.”
    “Thanks for treating mistakes as learning opportunities.”

    Tell me what I’m doing right. My own boss generally doesn’t see how I interact with my staff; they only see the end result.
    YOU see me in the day-to-day; you see what I do that makes me decent as a manager.

    I would be over the moon to receive any of those sorts of comments from someone who works for me. It would mean SO MUCH MORE than any material gift you could give me.

    1. Iced Mocha Latte*

      I agree. I’m a manager, too, and I feel weird saying it, but it would be so nice to get a comment or two like you’ve described. Especially after this year, I’m very down about the team as a whole, and the company in general. I feel as though they don’t realize how much I’ve gone to bat for them this year–even though I’ve told them many times about my conversations with my manager–trying to get more WFH time (CEO allowed hybrid, but is generally against any remote work) for the team, trying to get us more flexibility around the hybrid arrangement (it’s rigid), and some other things. All they say is, “Why can’t we WFH 100%?” Because the CEO says so. If they do realize how much I’ve tried to do, they certainly don’t acknowledge it.

  61. Windchime*

    My old, now-defunct company used to give gifts that sometimes were a hit and sometimes a miss. The fleece throw blanket is great to keep in the car. The fleece vest was also nice. For the 10 year anniversary, we got a little gold desk clock that never really worked (but was still cute). One year, we got weird laptop/messenger bags with a flap (I didn’t have a laptop at the time so….thanks? I guess?). As things went downhill, we got to pick from a pile of smelly candles and cheap holiday-themed throws. That was the beginning of the end.

  62. Indiana*

    I’ve only ever worked places that did gift exchanges. Everyone would draw a number then pick a wrapped gift in that order.

    I have given a Chia pet every single time. They are always a hit. They’re relatively inexpensive, easily regiftable, mostly allergy/sensitivity friendly, and even fun to grow at work. I stick with animals so they’re fairly neutral (as opposed to Chia pets of political figures/TV personalities/movie characters).

    When in doubt, ch-ch-ch-Chia.

  63. Brie*

    Previous company gave us all insulated thermoses one Christmas, the next week they removed the coffee machine from the break room.

  64. Alice*

    A company I briefly worked for gave everyone a Very Religious Christian book. (It goes without saying but the company was not a religious nonprofit or anything, just owned by loonies.) I was out the day the book arrived, so the next day my office mate handed it to me with instructions to go and thank the Big Boss for his thoughtful gift. Instead I just quietly put it in a drawer and it was still there when I resigned a couple of months later. I wonder if my replacement ever opened it.

  65. Purple Princess*

    Worst company Christmas gift I ever got was a corporate branded mug with my name on it.. boring, but not too weird or awful. Until the return to the office on 27th December when an email went out to say from the 1st January, all personal mugs would be banned from the (non-public facing) office and we all had to use the corporate mugs that had been given out as Christmas “gifts”.

    I’ve since left that job and the mug now functions as a toilet for my pet hamster.

  66. madge*

    I can’t believe no one else has mentioned (or I missed) the lovely “gift” of letting the staff host their own potluck in a conference room. And that’s the entire gift. Yes, by all means, show how much you appreciate me by giving me MORE WORK that I have to do on my own time at home (or spend my own money and time buying something).

  67. Meghan*

    I can’t imagine the audacity of asking staff for even a dime to buy me a present. And I can’t imagine being the person saying “it’s mandatory” without blinking an eye. How many levels of awful are running that company? OP should leave, now.

  68. Anonymous Bosch*

    Anne Lamott has a wonderful story about winning a ham at a grocery store. Apparently, she is not a fan and as she is leaving to go to her car and wondering what to do with the ham, she runs into a lady she knows. As I recall, the lady is not well off and has several children. She asks the lady if she would like the ham. It turns out her family loves ham and she is really happy to take it off Anne Lamott’s hands.

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