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Selecting the Right Gift for Your Boss

By Charles Hopkins Published 05/27/2007 | Careers

Purchasing gifts for your boss can be a challenging experience. On one hand, you want to select a gift that is appropriate, meaningful, and one that will be appreciated. At the same time, you might be concerned about costs, and want to find a gift that strikes exactly the right tone. It can be difficult (but not impossible) to juggle these competing demands.

There are several issues to consider when selecting a gift for your boss. First, you want to remember that your relationship is, primarily, a professional one. This means your gifts should reflect this.

It is rarely a good move to buy your boss intimate or personal gifts, such as clothes, handbags, belts, wallets, or shoes. You may select something in the wrong size, wrong style, or wrong color, creating an awkward situation in which your boss either asks you to return or exchange the item, or has to take time to do it him or herself.

A better strategy would be to select gifts which are less intimate, but still appropriate. For example, if your boss loves golf, you might buy a book on golfing or golf courses, rather than a golf shirt. Similarly, you might buy golf balls or tees, rather than golf clubs. Try to find gifts that align with your boss' interests, without becoming too personal.

Two other gift ideas which fit this model would be physical books or books on tape, as well as gift certificates or gift cards. These options allow you to convey knowledge of your boss' likes, while leaving the exact choice of item up to him or her.

Another strategy for gift giving is to focus on more general items that can be widely used, such as picture frames or photo albums. These can be useful, especially if your boss has children or grandchildren whose photographs need displaying. The one risk you may have with gifts like this is that they may be almost too generic.

You may also consider a customized gift basket as another boss appropriate gift. Gift baskets can be personalized and created exactly for your boss.

Let's say, for example, that your boss enjoys a particular brand of tea and classical music. Creating a gift basket with her favorite tea, two mugs, and a classical music CD might be the perfect gift, because it is constructed from elements she enjoys (tea, music) without being too personal or overly friendly. It's always better to give a gift that you're reasonably certain your boss will like.

Between gift baskets, gift certificates, books or books on tape, as well as gifts aligned with your boss' interests, you should have at least a few ideas for appropriate gifts.

Remember, gift giving for your boss should be thoughtful without being too intimate, and should strike the right balance of cost and meaning. This can be a tricky balance, but not one impossible to achieve.