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Source: Diane Swanson, 785-532-4352,
News release prepared by: Erinn Barcomb-Peterson, 785-532-6415,

Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009


MANHATTAN -- Whether naughty or nice, your boss may end up on your holiday shopping list.

A business ethics expert at Kansas State University offers some advice on the best way to go about giving gifts to your manager.

Diane Swanson is a professor of management and heads the Ethics Education Initiative at K-State. She said the office culture can determine whether employees should even get the boss a gift at all. If it's tradition, breaking from it could be awkward. She said it's up to the boss to indicate whether there is the expectation of a gift.

If giving the boss a gift is the norm, Swanson said that ideally it should come from all employees, contributing equally, and it shouldn't be extravagant. This is even more important in a time of economic hardship, she said. In cases where employees do give individually, they may want to think about a homemade gift rather than focusing on one of monetary value.

Swanson said as people become more environmentally and socially conscious, a gift for the boss could reflect these values. For instance, employees may want to forgo a gift and instead take up a collection for a local charity on behalf of the business. Such practices can boost morale and a feeling of solidarity while being in the holiday spirit of caring for the less fortunate, she said.

To avoid such conundrums in the first place, Swanson recommends that businesses establish gift-giving policies from the get-go. Having a policy that addresses gift-giving might let cash-strapped workers feel more comfortable going cheap or not giving gifts at all, Swanson said. Ideally, the policies would include a spending cap, she said.

Moreover, Swanson said it should be up to business leaders -- not low- and mid-level employees -- to set the policies and standards.

But what if you are the boss?

Swanson said it would be ideal if managers reward employees not with gifts but with financial bonuses that are fair and equal. She wouldn't want to see a cap put on these, especially given the whopping bonuses and "golden parachute" severance pay that people at the top sometimes get.



  • Updated: 8/23/16