HR Strange But True!
October 11, 2007

While sometimes belittled as a "Hallmark holiday," National Boss Day has been around for almost 50 years now, and it's not showing any signs of going away. So, with October 16 fast approaching, what's a self-respecting employee to do?

You don't want to look like a kiss-up, but neither do you want to lose out on potential brownie points. You may be morally opposed to spending your hard-earned money on a gift for someone who makes twice your salary and sometimes makes your life miserable. But what if that annoying eager beaver in the next cubicle buys the boss a gift?

And if you decide to buy a gift, how much do you spend? The only thing worse than looking like a kiss-up is looking like a cheap kiss-up.

Just what you needed -- another source of workplace stress. Well, you can thank Patricia Bays Haroski, who was an employee at State Farm Insurance Company in Deerfield, Illinois, when she registered the holiday with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in 1958. Haroski chose October 16, her father's birthday, as the date for National Boss Day because she felt he was an exemplary boss.

Hallmark issued its first National Boss Day card in 1979 and now offers 89 different cards for the holiday. In recent years, National Boss Day has become an international celebration and now is observed in countries such as England, Australia, and South Africa.

Hillary Mendelsohn
Hillary Mendelsohn, a gift-giving expert for Office Depot and author of The Purple Book, offers advice for dealing with some of the dicier National Boss Day gift-giving issues, including:
  • Are there "safe" gifts or "bad" gifts? "I think that the best way to gauge appropriateness is to gauge what would be appropriate and useful during the business day," Mendelsohn says. National Boss Day is a great opportunity for thanking your boss. "We get so caught up in our work that we forget to do that," she says.
  • You have more than one boss; should you give gifts to all of them? Yes, says Mendelsohn, though the gifts shouldn't be elaborate, particularly with the holidays coming up. Something as simple as mesh pencil holders filled with candy would be appreciated, she says.
  • Is taking your boss to dinner a good idea? Probably not, Mendelsohn says. Bosses and employees spend so much time together that their personal time is cherished, and a simple, practical gift would be more appreciated.
  • If it's a group or department present, are there rules to stick too and how much is too much? High-tech gifts tend to be good group presents, she says, adding that items such as a Bluetooth headset or digital picture frame are popular items that even small departments can purchase for $10 a head or less.

The personal touch is key, Mendelsohn says. Something as simple as a luggage tag -- that you have taken the time to fill out -- is a useful gift, "particularly if you're the one who is going to have to chase the bag down when it's lost," she says.

Or, if you are giving candy, you might include a roll of Life Savers with a note saying "You're a real life saver," Mendelsohn says. "Even for the boss that you don't really get along with, maybe this is a chance to change that relationship."

As for the bottom line, Mendelsohn recommends spending no more than $20 for individual gifts, and $75 to $100 for departmental gifts.

Source: Hillary Mendelsohn, Hallmark, Wikipedia

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