Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to email@example.com
Since the holiday season is getting well underway, I was wondering… What is the expected gift-giving at the office?
Presumably every associate out there will give a nice sum in the form of cash, check or gift card to his assistant and paralegal(s) as appropriate. But what about those farther up the food chain? Is it appropriate or expected to give gifts to those who give you work?
– Cleveland Rocks
Dear Cleveland Rocks,
At firms, the s**t rolls downhill, as does gift giving. You’re expected to give your secretaries and admins gifts (pro tip: secretaries LOVE Precious Moments angel figurines), because they help you dodge phone calls and make less than you. And if you don’t give individual gifts, people will come around the office begging for alms “asking” you to donate to the gift fund for back office staff. Yet for reasons that defy logic, partners with whom you work closely are miraculously excused from giving their direct underlings – the associates – gifts during the holiday season, as if the “gift” of continued employment were more than enough. That’s like when my parents used to buy me socks and underwear, hide them in the closet until December and then call them Hannukah presents. It’s not a gift if they owe it to you….
So, are your partners giving YOU anything? If not, I would think twice before spending $59.99 on individually wrapped gourmet artisanal pears from Harry and David, only to be sent an email thanking you/staffing you on Project Saber over New Year’s. I know you’re just trying to ingratiate yourself to partners, but to my knowledge, no partner has ever spared an associate a bad review or a layoff merely because he or she received a $25 Omaha Steaks gift card. Giving partners presents is a nice gesture, but it’s kind of like sending a thank you card after a summer associate callback interview; you risk looking like a bootlicker.
If you must give partners gifts because, say, backstabbing political midlevels are showering them with show tickets partially in order to make you look a cheap asshole, give them something you would want to get yourself. This year, because I have “hilarious” soon to be ex-friends, I’ve gotten a Beanie Baby and a cassette tape of Rhythm Nation. I would not recommend these items.
“Risk” looking like a bootlicker? You honestly think that this season of giving can mask your annual ass kissing? How desperate are you? Giving a partner a book or a nice bottle of scotch just screams “please love me.”
The thing is, if you really had a relationship with a person that would justify gift-giving, you wouldn’t have to ask. If you are truly close with the people you work for (family friends or whatever) then sure, log on to Amazon and get something tasteful and appropriate for the new year. But if you are thinking of getting gifts for your bosses because they are your bosses, then you really are a sniveling little person.
Think about it this way: what’s the upside of giving a boss you only know in the professional context a gift? Because you want to be “friends” outside of the office? No, I don’t think anybody will believe that. Because you are “thankful” for the work they give you? I’m thankful that my landlord gives me a place to live, and I show that appreciation every month when I pay my rent. There’s no need for a special holiday gift.
No, the only reason you’d give your bosses gifts would be for the express purpose of sucking up to your bosses. The recipient of the gift will understand it as such.
Now answer this question: Do you want to be known as the biggest kiss ass in your department? Maybe the answer is yes for you. I’m not here to judge; bootlickers go far in this world.
Just don’t fool yourself into thinking that giving partners gifts is anything other than basic ass kissing. There is no “standard procedure” for this kind of grovelling. Just don’t forget to bring your knee pads when presenting your holiday gift.
– One Wise Man
Ed. note: Have a question for next week? Send it in to firstname.lastname@example.org.