While it's not required, present exchanges are popular around the year-end. Whether it's for a specific holiday--Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza, or New Year's--or just to celebrate another year in the books, bosses everywhere are looking for presents.
Employees are looking for presents for bosses too--but let's remember the advice from Miss Manners: Presents only go one direction--down. (One-holiday exception: a secret Santa or Pollyanna game where you can opt-in or out!) So, managers, don't expect any presents and if you've received them in the past, you can let it be known that you love your staff, but they should not buy you anything.
Now that we've got the etiquette out of the way, I went and asked real people about presents that they loved. Remember, your employees may or may not love these things. For instance, before you buy alcohol, make sure your employees drink. And don't forget about dietary requirements before you buy that holiday basket filled with shrimp, pork, and peanut butter.
1. Crab knives. It's a Maryland thing.
2. Our CEO goes through the office and wishes everyone happy holidays while offering gingerbread or another small treat. An added bonus is the fact that almost all employees celebrate Christmas while he is Jewish, and he still understands that it's a special occasion for us.
3. Best one: cinema vouchers that ended up re-gifted - savings!
4. A revision to our paid time off policy for the new year. Extra days off in the next year was a nice perk at my part-time job!
5. A grocery store gift card!
6. Bonuses or extra days off around the holidays to allow employees to complete personal obligations/relax with family and friends.
7. Books are nice, but not necessarily business-type books, but a book that a manager thinks an employee might like based on the manager's knowledge of the employee.
8. Best ever was my VP gave us all little gifts for 12 days leading up to Christmas, culminating in a cute reusable acrylic box containing a crisp $100 bill. It was so fun because the little daily gifts would be on our desks when we got to work and they were personalized. She could have skipped the cash, and I still would've been thrilled, but who doesn't love some extra dollars around holidays?
9. I like giving out snacks/sweets that are personalized for someone who has an allergy or dietary restriction. The season tends to be full of super sugary and fatty foods, so I might find treats that are sugar, soy, gluten, nut, or dairy-free.
10. I got bath products, slippers, Starbucks gift card. She nailed it!
11. I got a tiny tree one year. It died, but it was unique.
12. We used to get a gift card to a swanky grocery store, and since my husband and I worked at the same place, we got double. Since it was a gift and it was a nicer store than where we did our regular shopping, we used it on treats like really good coffee, fancy cheese, and decadent chocolates.
13. Shopping day FTW. Also insulated lunch bags, yeti-style travel mugs, tri-flavor popcorn buckets.
14. We always get Amazon gift cards at my current job.
15. I got a gift basket of candy from the UK--where my boss is. It was so fun to try British candy. I think my kids may have loved that boss the most.
16. My favorite gift was from my previous employer, which was a basket full of snacks and a small gift card.
17. Best gift: Visa gift card.
18. My favorite work gift of all time was a fancy pen. The office I worked in when I was graduating college gave it to me. What they didn't know was how much I'd always wanted an elegant pen, but couldn't justify buying one as a poor student. So it was a happy accident.
19. My favorite gift was gift cards to the local grocery store for enough to buy a turkey and a few other things around Thanksgiving.
20. This was a more personal staff gift--a cup of kindness. Dollar store mug that had a name painted on it with ceramic paint that was dishwasher safe. Filled with 6-10 pieces of paper, each listing ways the person contributes positively to the team. I still have my mug and papers and have done it for my teams.
21. $100 in Weightwatchers coupons. I had been working for a year on losing weight and getting healthy. I always chatted about it. I was thrilled with coupons.
22. A set of lovely olive oils from a boss that I didn't think knew I existed. It turns out he listened very carefully and made a great effort to give me a non-alcoholic gift when others got wine.
23. I recieved a truly heartfelt appreciation note with a gift card that was $100. The note, combined with more than $20 made me feel truly cared for. The note and money were from all the leadership, so I knew my boss hadn't spent too much - but heck. I am three jobs later and still have the note.
24. CASH MONEY
25. We gave branded hot/cold travel mugs, and most seemed to appreciate them.
26. My former doctor had a massage therapist in one of the exam rooms; employees got to rotate through during the day to get a full body massage. I never saw so many happy nurses and billing clerks in my life!
27. Nothing beats time off.
28. It's an old man answer, but an engraved Mont Blanc pen was meaningful to me. But they asked me in advance, "What do you think is a meaningful gift to a valued employee?" and that was my answer.
29. Best gift received today from managers in one of our branch offices - Bouquet of yellow tulips out of the blue.
30. Last year the Owner gave us all handwritten notes inside of a book about generosity and $500. It was a very generous and unexpected gift, but the note that said what he appreciated about me and the work I do for our company was what I loved the most, and the thought of him doing this for all of his staff was very touching.
31. My first job ever. I got a crisp $100 bill from the bank I worked at. I was a high-school intern making $5.75/hour (just $0.50 over minimum wage at the time). That $100 felt like a million bucks to 17-year old me.
32. One year, we got a nice fleece blanket that I use all the time.
33. We each got $50 gift cards to Wegmans. This was paid out of pocket by our supervisor. This was super generous since it was personal, though I felt bad for our boss for feeling like she had to do this.
34. The best work gift I ever got was when our boss allowed all 85 of us to order whatever we wanted -- up to $30.00 in value -- from Amazon.
35. We used to get a master voucher, which you could then exchange for the voucher(s) of your choice. The range of choices was huge, so everyone was happy.
36. My team travels A LOT. One year we got a choice between a book bag that is laptop/electronics friend (heavy-duty-travel worthy) or a messenger bag. Five years later, and many of us still use them.
37. I got a brand new iPad from my office once!