Should you buy your boss a Christmas present?

RAL Display's Greg Lennox discusses whether it’s necessary to buy your boss a Christmas gift, and if so, how much you should spend, as well as providing some gift ideas.

In 2016 it was predicted that UK households would spend an average of £473.83 on Christmas presents. In total, Christmas spending across the country was expected to reach a record high of £77.56 billion.

Alongside present buying for other halves, children, parents, family members and friends, there’s also the consideration of gift-giving in the office. To be specific, whether to buy presents for the boss.

The first question to ask yourself, is whether you should actually buy your boss a Christmas present. Are you only buying one because you feel like you have to? If this is the case, then you shouldn’t buy one. You should never feel obligated to buy your boss a present. The whole point of buying a gift is to honour an existing relationship, not to build one. Unless you and your boss have a good working relationship, you shouldn’t have to buy them a present.

If you’re going to buy your boss a Christmas present, then the next thing you need to consider, is how much to spend.

Over the year, the average employee will spend £350 on work-related activities, including Christmas parties and presents.

When buying your boss a Christmas present, the key is not to spend too much. The last thing you want to do is look like you’re sucking up to them, or trying to outshine your co-workers. That will make everyone in the office – including your boss – feel awkward. It’s recommended that if you’re buying your boss a collective present as a team, you should spend no more than £10 per person.

Now, the only thing left to decide is what to get your boss for Christmas. Certain items such as cash, jewellery and underwear are clearly off-limits. You also want to steer clear of the “token gift” – i.e. something impersonal that you clearly spent less than a fiver on, and looks like you lazily bought it because you felt like you had to.

No present is better than a bad present.

When selecting a present, you want to make sure that it’s thoughtful, and takes the recipient’s likes and dislikes into consideration. If you’re looking for something that’s more personal than the standard wine and chocolate (unless you know your boss really likes them), then these thoughtful, cost-effective and office-appropriate Christmas gifts could be ideal for your boss.

Consider a group gift first

Before you start your Christmas shopping, ask co-workers if they’d like to club together and buy your boss a group present.

Suggest a recommended amount, say £5. However, it’s important that this is just a recommendation. It shouldn’t be compulsory for co-workers to contribute, and it’s down to the individual to decide how much money they’d like to put in.

Most co-workers will probably put some money in, but you shouldn’t enforce this because you never know an individual’s circumstances. Whilst £5 may not seem like much to you, to someone else who’s overspent on Christmas presents, they may not be able to afford that £5.

By buying a present for your boss as a team, you can afford to spend a bit more, which makes it much more appropriate than if you were to spend the same amount yourself.

Stylish office accessories

If your boss is in the office a lot, then buying accessories for the office is a useful gift. You could buy them a nice set of pens, a diary, desk calendar or even a personalised mug.

The gifts are practical and show you’ve put some thought into it, without being too personal. They’re also items that your boss isn’t likely to buy for themselves, and it means they’ll have nicer stuff then the standard office equipment you’d typically get!

Travel scratch map

Does your boss like to travel? Get them a travel scratch map. They’re inexpensive, and will enable them to visually see how many places they’ve travelled to.

It could also work as an inspiration for your boss to travel even more, as they continue to scratch more places off the globe.

Other suggestions if your boss likes to travel include personalised passport holders or luggage tags. Depending on how well you know your boss and their interests, you could consider buying them a travel journal, where they can stick photos and mementos in, from holidays.


Flowers can be a nice present for female bosses (although roses are best avoided). However, if you’re looking for a botanical gift that’s appropriate for males and females, then look no further than a nice plant.

Cost-effective, they can be kept at the office or taken home, and specific plants all have their own special meanings. For instance, olive trees symbolise peace and friendship, cherry trees represent good fortune and happiness, and wild pear trees represent health and happiness – all of which are nice things to wish your boss, and your workplace in general.

Team lunch

If your boss really does have everything and you’re still stuck for what to get them, then why not speak with your co-workers and arrange a team lunch?

Everyone can pay for themselves (or if you’re feeling generous, you could all cover the cost of your boss), and it gives you a chance to escape the office for an hour or two, and have fun.

Just make sure it’s a team lunch, and not you asking your boss out one-on-one, because that would definitely be deemed inappropriate!

Alternative option: Secret Santa

Depending on how big your office or team is, and how willing people are to buy presents, then you could suggest doing Secret Santa. It will cut down on the amount of money spent, and means everyone will receive a thoughtful gift.

Exchanging gifts can be particularly nice during a team lunch, before you break up for Christmas.

Essentially, there are no set rules on buying your boss a Christmas present; it’s merely a personal choice, and you should never feel like you have to. If you’re fairly new to the office, you could speak with co-workers to see what they usually do for Christmas.

If you do decide to buy your boss a Christmas present, then don’t spend too much, and make sure it’s office-appropriate!

Greg Lennox is the owner and managing Director of RAL Display.

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda Nair

Praseeda was Editor for from 2016 to 2018.