Are you a brand new manager or a twenty-year company owner just trying to shake up this year’s Christmas gift? Not sure what to get your employees? Need some fresh suggestions? Well, don’t look to us! We’re here to tell you one thing and one thing only: what NOT to give your employees for the holidays. Bosses the world over have learned the hard way that their presents put them on the naughty list. You don’t have to suffer the same fate! Come with us on a magical journey through the winter wonderland of terrible company gift ideas…
Some bosses will give their workers personalized pens, monogramed leather-bound ledgers, or some other expensive version of otherwise basic office products. We appreciate this because, while a coffee mug, a set of stationary, or a hat aren’t terribly exciting on their own, hand-picked or personalized versions feel thoughtful. This isn’t just a cup. This is my cup. It’s got ALF on it!
If you don’t go that extra step, you might as well not have bothered. A box of No. 2 pencils just isn’t going to cut it. It’s nice to give a runner a water bottle they can carry easily on a run, but try to avoid handing out plain water bottles. Or plain stationary. Or plain anything. The important component to any gift is thoughtfulness. Office supplies are procured for employs every day. Gifts come once a year and should feel just as special and rare as their frequency.
Youngsters won’t remember this one, but it used to be tradition for companies to give out Thanksgiving turkeys or Christmas hams at this time of year. Butterball hams were the brand of choice. This would be fine if not for two problems: the meat was usually in lieu of an actual Christmas bonus, and that sort of gift doesn’t fit the diverse range of lifestyles we see in today’s offices.
A large turkey or ham is a feast for a nuclear household, but we have long since left that ideal structure behind. Many office workers stay single or childless into their thirties. There are less societal pressures today to start a family early, or to start a family at all. So this would be too much meat for one or two people to eat before it spoils. Some employees avoid animal-based for religious, moral, or health reasons. And more people are eating less meat these days anyways, trying out new ways to combine veggies and use vegetable oils for cooking and baking.
It is more appropriate to give your employees a monetary holiday bonus. A gift should not have to come out of the money they are already due. It should be a thank you from an employer for your office grunts’ hard work year-round.
2018 Calendar and Other Outdated Gifts
This should be an obvious one but it slips a lot of managers’ minds. Make sure the calendar you give out is for the coming year. Avoid buying fruit baskets too far in advance as these could rot. Some companies give out vouchers and coupons to local shops or services. These can be nice especially when they’re worth the price of a whole good, like a voucher for one free massage. Just make sure that these items don’t have a rapidly approaching expiration date.
Gifts Your Employees Never Knew They Needed
Are you ever on a plane, bored with the book you brought to read, so you flip through SkyMall? The products in there are good for a laugh. Like a bug vacuum for sucking up creepy crawlies. Or a heated house for their cat. Or an in-bed tablet holder with legs that make it look like a creepy crawly. Or extra mirrors to attach to your rearview mirror and “eliminate” blind spots. Or inflatable weights! You should never use this magazine as a source for gift ideas, no matter who the victim – I mean “recipient.”
This goes for other gifts not found in SkyMall. Nobody needs the products advertised in infomercials. Or a Mary Kay starter kit to get them signed up for entrepreneurship. Your employees don’t need a bidet or a mayonnaise knife or a toaster oven that makes toast with the Fallout Pip-Boy burnt into it. If you have to do a few mental backflips to figure out how the gift is entertaining, decorative, or useful, then it’s probably a bad gift for your employees.
Products Your Company Already Makes
When a coal baron would set up their mine in the expanding American West, they would lure families and single men with the prospect of “benefits.” You could live in company-provided housing. You could buy company provided utilities. And you could shop at the company store. The only problem? The company only paid you in scrip. Similar to a gift certificate or rewards points, this imaginary currency could only be used in the coal town. This practice was outlawed in 1938.
We don’t want to brand anyone a modern day coal baron, but companies that give their employees a Christmas gift or bonus only redeemable for company products…well… Some companies will skip that step and just give their workers a company product that they could have bought with their own discount anyway. Imagine working at Jiffy Lube and receiving engine oil for Hanukah. Or shaping bricks or fasteners in a factory and receiving spare building or machine parts respectively.
Unless you own a Starbucks or manage a department at Apple, chances are your products aren’t coveted or universal enough for your own employees to appreciate them. Besides, most people try to keep work and the holidays separate, so a shot glass from your shot glass factory might perplex them when they go to mix drinks on New Year’s Eve.
The Right Gifts for Your Team
Now that you know what to steer clear of, how do you pick the right presents? How do you find the best gifts for your employees? Perhaps we will publish an article on that next year after all. It can start with clotted cream and canned chutney. For now stick to these simple rules:
- Get a group gift or the same non-gendered gift for everyone.
- Don’t make your gifts personal or intimate, just make them useful or pleasant.
- But put some real thought into what the whole team would like.
Should tide you over until next Yuletide. We wish you the best of luck hunting down presents for your work family and a Happy New Year.