A good holiday gift can do so much more than show your appreciation. It can also serve as a reminder that you're good at listening, detailed-oriented, and thoughtful - all of which happen to be qualities you'd like your boss to think you possess. Below, I've included five types of gifts that will impress your boss - and three that could totally backfire.
1. Something That Shows You Were Listening
This is just a good suggestion for gifts in general - so many of the gifts I've appreciated over the years were things that I had mentioned wanting, and then totally forgot about. It can be something small and simple - maybe there's a type of pen your company used to get that your boss loved, but isn't in the supply closet anymore. Write a brief personal note reminding her of your conversation, and gift away.
2. Something Homemade...Specifically for Him
This is similar to the above, but with a homemade twist. Homemade gifts are nice, but there isn't anything particularly memorable about giving your boss the same raspberry preserves you give everyone else (even though I'm sure your preserves are delicious). Listen to what your boss likes, and make something appropriate, whether it's a jam made with his favorite fruit, his favorite cookies, or pair of hand-knitted mittens.
3. A Joke Gift
Inside jokes are the currency of the office economy - they strengthen relationships, buy you favors, and, well, make work fun. You should only do this if you and your boss have a good relationship - otherwise it could seem like you're making fun of him. But if done in the right spirit, this could be both inexpensive and memorable. Create a fake award, or give a small token that signifies the joke. I still think fondly about the time that I was given a bag of Swedish Fish after I (young and very naive) put leftover fish in the office microwave.
4. Something Useful
All right, this is going to sound a little silly, but - every time your boss thinks about your gift, it's an opportunity to think about you. And if you get your boss some tchotchke that just sits on a shelf, he's less likely to think about you than if you give him something he uses - even if it's as simple as a mug with a picture of something he likes. If you aren't sure what useful items your boss might be in need of, ask your boss's assistant - he might be able to help you out.
5. Something That Helps You Bond
If you both golf, get him a golf gift certificate, so you can spend time together out on the links. Or if he has similar interests to you, consider a magazine subscription to something you also subscribe to - then you can discuss the stories together.
Gifts to Avoid:
1. Anything Scented
Scents are very personal - and some people don't like them at all. Even if you know your boss likes, say, vanilla - different "vanilla" items can vary wildly. Avoid candles, lotions, and the like. Plus, many of these gifts can often seem impersonal.
OK, you're trying to impress your boss. But gifting a $100 bottle of wine is more likely to make her uncomfortable than appreciative (even if you have excellent taste).
3. Your Picture
My boss suggested this weird, self-centered gift - "Give a picture of your family so your boss has to look at it and is less likely to fire you." Granted, he was joking. I think. Maybe I'll send him a photo...
Find 25 gifts that save money and other great holiday gift guides at Meg Favreau's personal finance blog Wise Bread.
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