Internet Backs Manager Refusing to Ask Staff to Buy Director a Christmas Present

A forum post by an anonymous senior-level staff member has caused discussion online, after they expressed frustration at expectations to buy the company director a Christmas present.

Posting to Mumsnet, the senior manager introduced that they "always, always" buy their whole team a Christmas present, including a bottle of wine "or something to say thanks."

"As a senior manager however, and in my view well paid despite long hours, I do not expect or wish to receive one," they added.

"We've had a new director for two months who has recruited one of his previous employees into the team this month. [We received an] an email from the new starter yesterday sharing his bank details to all the staff (many of whom on a quarter of the director salary) saying it's nice if we do a bit of an Xmas appreciation and collect for the boss."

"I have contributed and said to my team I'll put their shares in as team contribution as I am so conscious many of them are struggling - but isn't this just really not recognizing the situation of some people? Dear people on 20k please donate to buy someone on 120k a gift?" they asked.

Giving presents in the workplace is far from rare, but many companies take a "Gift down" approach in which senior staff gift to those lower down, rather than vice versa.

A study this year by Coresight Research of 300 corporate gift buyers found that COVID has increased the importance of giving gifts to employees, with more than half of respondents reporting that their budgets increased due to coronavirus.

Some 64 percent of respondents said their main reason for gifting was to show recognition and appreciation to an employee, with over 80 percent saying that gifts improved the relationship with employees and clients.

But it's not employee gifting where the issue lies, but the idea of gifting "up" to more senior members of staff. It's a similar feeling expressed around the rising National Boss' Day—an October date designated to celebrate bosses often with gifts.

Popular blogger Ask A Manager, who answers questions online surrounding workplace dynamics, shared her thoughts on the day in 2019, writing that: "It's not appropriate to solicit recognition from people below you, especially when they feel it's obligatory! Plus, many offices have started doing celebrations that involve money – employees' money – to buy gifts and meals. Because these are often group expenditures, people often worry that not chipping in will make them look bad, and that kind of pressure is inappropriate in the workplace. Employees should never feel pressured to dip into their own funds to pay for a gift to the boss."

"Good bosses are sensitive to the power dynamics (and often financial disparities) that exist between managers and employees, and they don't want employees feeling even slightly obligated to shell out for this type of thing," she continued.

It was the similar pressure for staff to spend their own wages in the scenario shared to Mumsnet that garnered the most fiery responses, with an overwhelming majority agreeing the gift was inappropriate.

"Definitely excruciatingly tone deaf and very toady of the new starter, gifts should always flow down. Whoever is above the director should be the one showing appreciation and when there's no-one above you then lucky you, buy yourself a present," wrote one user.

"As a senior manager, I think you have to have the confidence to speak up when necessary. That's part of your responsibility," added another. "You could avoid getting into a debate by simply explaining that you will not be asking for money from your team, as it is not appropriate financially."

The original poster confirmed that they did attempt to argue against the gift in its entirety, but was left fighting the battle alone. " [The] response was 'no I disagree it should flow both ways.' None of the other seniors at my level argued so I'd already gone out of my way more, and paid on behalf of my staff. I'm thinking anymore and I'll be marked out as the pain one. And yes I appreciate I should have more balls but I'm already the only one trying!"

Although a rarity, one user did argue that the idea of gifting to the boss isn't too rage-inducing, as long as it's optional. "I'm on the fence, it wasn't mandatory and he was basically just doing a [collection] to buy the boss a [Christmas] present, I can't see all the angst. If people can't afford it or don't wish to contribute they don't have to," they wrote.