Gift-Giving When You’re the Boss

Ebenezer Scrooge

‘Tis the season of giving, and if you’re the boss, that can be….awkward. Do you give employees gifts or follow the Ebenezer Scrooge School of Management?

“A boss should make some sort of gesture to show appreciation,” says business-etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore.

Even if your employees get year-end bonuses, a personalized (but not too personal: steer clear of the peppermint body lotion!) “thank-you” helps spread good cheer.

Here are five tips:

  • Treat everyone on your staff equally. Consider a group gift, like taking the team out for lunch.

    If you do plan to give an individual gift to someone who works closely with you—say, a long-time executive assistant—don’t flaunt it in front of other employees.

  • Factor in the corporate culture. Do other mid-level managers give gifts to their immediate team? Then do the same.
  • Think small. Unless you’re Oprah, think token gift. Lavish gifts can be inappropriate and land you in hot water with HR or the IRS (see below).
  • Let human resources know your plans. Check if there are any gift-giving guidelines. Many companies limit gifts to certain small dollar amounts or categories—for example, food items may be acceptable while wine is not.
  • Know the tax rules. If you’re self-employed or run a small business, you may be able to deduct small gifts valued at roughly $25 or less. Cash and gift-cards are not deductible, however, as they’re viewed as employee compensation.

Wrap it up: What work-related gifts are you planning this holiday season?

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