Is It Appropriate to Accept Gifts from Your Boss?

If there’s one thing that many people find to be difficult in the workplace, it’s knowing when to draw the line within employer and employee relationships. As one of the most commonly asked questions amongst employees, is it truly appropriate to accept gifts from your boss? Depending on your particular situation, it may or may not be a good idea to accept gifts, but it depends on a few important factors.

What is the Gift For?

The first thing you need to take into consideration is what the gift is for and this can give you a clear indication as to whether it’s appropriate to accept or not. For example, is there a popular holiday on the horizon? Or, perhaps you’ve accomplished something great in the workplace such as landing a difficult account. In the event that the gift is given to you “just because”, it might mean that there is an ulterior motive behind the positive gesture.

When it comes to holidays when everyone else in the office typically exchanges gifts, it is absolutely appropriate to accept a gift from your boss, especially as you will be expected to give them a gift as well. Whereas if you’ve received something for seemingly no reason, it might be better to thank them for the thought but assure them that the gift is unnecessary.

Understanding the Concept of Cost

There are plenty of generic presents that people in the workplace give to one another ranging from a bottle of wine to gift cards but there are also gifts that are a little inappropriate because of how expensive they can be. One of the main concerns about a boss that spends well outside of the typical idea of a regular gift is they might be giving you the gift with an expectation of something else. For example, favoritism or you going out of your way to do extra favors for them in comparison to your other superiors.

cost of a gift

What we find to be the easiest way to get an idea of whether you can accept a certain gift or not is to consider the amount of money you spent on your boss for the upcoming holiday. If you spent anywhere from $20 to $50, your gift should equal the same amount, if not less. In the event that your boss gives you a $200 gift when you only spent $20, it’s better to turn the gift down.

Trust Your Instincts

You would be surprised at how easy it is to get an idea of whether a particular gift is appropriate to accept or not, especially when it comes to trusting your instincts. It’s important to remember that your workplace should be a safe and comfortable environment, as you will spend a significant portion of your life within those walls. If you encounter any situation that makes you feel particularly uncomfortable, you’ll certainly get a feeling in your stomach that you won’t be able to shake.

If your instincts are telling you that it’s not a good idea to accept the gift either for personal or professional reasons, it’s best to trust your gut.

Read Through the Company Guidelines

If you’re not the type of person that has strong instincts or if you can’t get a clear idea of the reason behind a gift from your boss but you’re inclined to accept it, a great way to understand whether it’s acceptable or not is to read through the company’s guidelines and bylaws. Considering that gifts are a common practice throughout the majority of businesses, there will certainly be a section in your employee handbook that outlines what would be deemed as an acceptable gift.

At the end of the day, even if you’re afraid to tell your boss that you can’t accept their gift in fear of hurting their feelings, you can always refer to the bylaws and guidelines and let them know that you wouldn’t feel comfortable going against the outlined policies. As long as you phrase it appropriately and honestly, your boss will surely understand that you can’t accept their present.

Talk to Your Boss

Above all else, the easiest way to make sure that you aren’t put in a position to where you have to decide whether to accept a gift or not is to have a conversation with your boss. Hopefully, you are in a position to where you feel comfortable enough approaching your boss face-to-face but if not, you can always send an interoffice memo outlining where your comfort level is in terms of receiving and giving gifts.

There are plenty of employees that aren’t in a financial position to where they can afford to spend money on gifts for their employers and as a result, accepting gifts can be difficult. If this is your current situation, just let your boss know that you won’t be giving gifts this year and you suggest that they should do the same.

On the other hand, if you are interested in receiving gifts it’s important to have a discussion with your boss about a price limit that is comfortable for both parties. No matter how you look at it, your employer is going to be making more money than you and as a result, you’ll have full power when it comes to choosing a reasonable price for gifts. Our recommendation is to stick between $10 and $20 for gifts, as there are plenty of things that can be inexpensively purchased.

How to Tell if a Gift is Appropriate or Not

gift appropriate

As long as you are able to trust your gut and follow any weird feelings you may have about giving and receiving gifts from your boss, you can get a clear idea as to whether it is appropriate or not. There are plenty of guidelines that you can rely on, even if you have a discussion with someone in HR to determine whether gifts are acceptable or not. All you need to do is open a line of communication between you and your boss to make gift giving seasons much less stressful.

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