The good, the bad and the ugly… you won’t believe what these bosses and colleagues gave as office Christmas gifts
Buying office Christmas gifts can be tricky, and well-meaning managers and workmates don’t always get it right.
To help you avoid embarrassment this year (and to give you a giggle), we asked 36 professionals about the worst office Christmas presents they’d ever received, and the responses we received were interesting to say the least!
From the useless to the tone deaf, these Christmas clangers will have you laughing your stockings off…
My memory of the worst Christmas present from an employer still remains fresh and hilarious. In my days of just starting out, I used to be a cook at this well known hospital. It was nearing Christmas, and we got four meal vouchers that could only be used in our kitchen. Basically, I had to make my own food for the best holiday of the year. I was literally drowning in the Christmas spirit.
The worst Christmas present I've gotten from my boss was a DVD for home exercises. Now, it may seem like an okay gift for some. But not for someone who's a 170-pound male. My boss had always been on good terms with me. We did joke around a bit, but never to the point of body-shaming each other. I was surprised at this gift and somewhat even offended. I kept it to myself since it was a good job and I needed it. But that Christmas gift always gave me the ick.
A few years ago, I was asked to work overtime before Christmas in order to meet certain deadlines. I obliged and worked until nine at night to complete the work before the holiday season arrived. As Christmas approached, my boss took me out for a luncheon for my hard work and gave me a watch. However, it was a cheap knockoff watch with the company’s private label. This gesture left me appalled, as this was the thank you I got for ignoring my family during Christmas.
The worst Christmas present I have received from a colleague was a scented candle that smells like armpits. She apparently loved the smell. However, I am still conflicted if she was joking or being serious, because it was literally disgusting. I even tried to light it once in my apartment, but the entire space smelled like worn socks just as its thread started to burn. It sickened me, and I have been repulsed to even talk to her since then.
The worst gift I’ve received from a boss was a card someone else had given them; it even had their name on it. Now, I’m not against regifting things, but at least make sure your name isn’t still on the gift. What made it worse was the Starbucks gift card inside it. It was just an ordinary gift with no thought put into it, which totally ruins the purpose behind gift-giving on Christmas.
Daycare gift vouchers were distributed among staff members. It was a completely useless gift for me at that time. I didn’t have kids, and neither did I know someone who did. I ended up giving my Christmas present to my colleague. I understood the kind gesture from the office’s end. They wanted to ease the burden of daycare on the parents, but it was a useless gift for me. They should have given gifts that everyone could use.
The worst gift I’ve received from my boss was a hoodie with the company logo on it. What made the gift even worse was that it was three sizes too big. I also believe that giving company t-shirts or hoodies on Christmas has to be the most thoughtless gift ever. That’s what companies give to their employees at literally any other event. So, at least on Christmas, it’s better to make things different and add a bit of effort when giving presents.
Back when I was an HVAC contractor, one of the worst gifts I received from a colleague was an old, used coffee mug with a picture of a cat on it and the words "World's Best Boss" written in permanent marker. I'm not a cat person, and I certainly wasn’t the world's best boss, so this gift was both insulting and confusing.
My previous manager thought it was a great idea to give expired chocolates as a Christmas gift. This was hands down the worst present I received. It felt like he was just fulfilling a formality by giving me the gift. I just think he had the box laying around and quickly gave it to me when he couldn't think of anything better. Thank God I had checked the back of the box, or I would’ve spent the entire Christmas feeling sick.
I used to have a coworker that was a bit too honest. The kind of person that will tell you coffee is making your teeth look yellow or that your clothes look unflattering on you. This person had the tradition of gifting "useful" gifts, or at least what they considered to be useful. So, the girl with bushy brows and the moustache would receive a hair trimmer, the guy who "smelled funny" would receive a hygiene kit, and me, the one who had recently gained a bit of weight after certain health problems... Well, I received shapewear and a diet cookbook.
I was working for the military as an HR Officer and one of the people who worked for me bought me a spray to use in the loo for shy pooers to mask smells. I found her afterwards to ask if there was a message there and she admitted that she didn't know what to get so picked something that would confuse me. She had not considered that it would offend me.
Some years ago, about two weeks before Christmas Eve, one of my ex-firms announced that employees should sit back and enjoy their Christmas gifts. We were excited to get our hands on our gifts. Eventually, the boxes arrived on our tables. When I unboxed, there were melted chocolates along with the company's calendar for 2022. My excitement went down the drain.
A weird Christmas present I received from my employer was a pair of boxer shorts. The worst part was that they were Christmas-themed. It would have been normal if it came from a loved one, but it feels different with an employer.
We were working overtime on Christmas Eve and most of the employees missed seeing their families. There was a leftover meat and cheese tray on the sales floor table since there were no customers that night. As we approached closing time, our manager brought the meat and cheese tray that had been left out all day back to me. “Thank you for working this evening!” It smelled awful, and everything was soggy to the core - the worst Christmas gift ever.
A few years ago, my boss gave me a Samsung android phone for Christmas. For more than ten years I had been on the iPhone. I had zero interest in android. The worst part is my boss knew that I had been using an iPhone for a long time (he was also using an iPhone). It seems he passed the unwanted gift to me.
The worst Christmas gift I received from a colleague was a music album of him singing famous songs. And, trust me, he was a terrible singer. He had poor breath control and poor dynamics. It was a torture to my ears. I mean, it wasn’t even a Christmas album or something like that.
The worst Christmas gift I've received from a boss was two tiny metal balls with chains dangling from them, which she claimed were earrings. When I asked her about them, my boss explained that she wanted me to wear them during our year-end holiday party. “It’s not really a gift,” she said. “It will just make us look good as a team.” I politely declined her offer and hid the earrings in my desk drawer. I didn’t want to offend my boss, but I wasn’t going to wear them because they seemed like something that would make me look ridiculous and cheap.
Last year I received a Christmas card with a voucher inside. The voucher was for a free hair transplant consultation at a local clinic. I'm not sure what hurt more, the fact my efforts to conceal the bald patch had been a failure, that the gift was 'free', or the 'gift' could end up costing me £5000 if I had the procedure.
This one year when I got a Christmas card from my boss, there were two 10% discount coupons inside for a nearby restaurant. The worst part about those coupons was the fact that the restaurant was actually owned by my boss. Moreover, he later asked me whether I used those coupons or not. He went on and on about how some of the dishes from that place were quite tasty. I found this gift to be both on the cheaper and weirder side.
The worst gift I got was a box of an iPhone 11 Pro Max from one of my colleagues. When I saw the box after unwrapping it I got super excited. I was so pleased to receive such an expensive and amazing gift from my colleague but as I opened the box, what I got inside was a mousepad with my boss's face printed on it. That was the worst Christmas present ever as I still remember how excited I was to see the iPhone 11 Pro Max.
The worst gift I've ever gotten was from a former coworker. It was a desk cup holder. It was the kind you could clip onto the edge of a desk. But the thing was that it was too small. I use large cups that can hold a lot of water, which didn't really fit into them. Also, I kept hitting my elbow on the holder. It was completely useless for me and actually hindered my work instead of adding to my convenience.
One Christmas the boss I was working for bought us a Tiffany’s keychain that you can register so that no matter where in the world it gets lost, someone can trace it back to you. It was actually a very thoughtful gift, except for the fact that I was a barely above minimum wage worker, and had less than no use for an expensive luxury item like that. It's been sitting in a box collecting dust for the last 20 years and every time I look at it I wonder, “how much money did they pay for this ridiculous gimmick anyway?” This may appear ungrateful but I would have preferred money.
Last Christmas, one of my colleagues gave me a bunch of cleaning products. The bundle included a mop system, spray bottles and much more. For a moment, it put a smile on my face. But later on, I wondered what he really meant to say if he gave me such a gift.
In a job that I’d held previously, I had an interesting boss, to say the least. One could say he was very proud of himself, we just didn’t know how proud until Christmas. Our employee gift was a stainless steel mug, and etched into the mug were our company name and logo. It was a really nice gift, until we turned it around and realised that our boss had etched “CEO” and a very detailed picture of his face underneath. It’s safe to say that we all used the mug once at work, took it home, and never used it again.
In this digital age, when everything is just a click away, I received a "planner" from my boss. I don't use planners, even on my phone. I believe one should not be rude and harsh to express discontentment with the presents you receive. But, one should also know the importance of gifts and their impact on you. Those glitter pens, washi tapes and sticky notes are not for adults. Surely, that was the worst Christmas gift I have ever received.
Everyone always says, it’s the thought that counts. I once received a gift from a colleague and wondered, why this particular gift? I had complained for months about foot pain, and when Christmas came around, we played Secret Santa. My “Secret Santa” gave me bunion cushions and assured me that they would help with my foot pain. I love the thought, but my colleague had never seen my feet to know I didn’t have bunions.
The worst Christmas present I've ever received from a colleague was a gift card to a store that I never shop at and don’t like. It was the same gift that my colleague gave to everyone else on our team. It was generic and impersonalised and felt like they just didn't put any thought into it.
29. The waste of money gift
Eva Decker, Relationships and Marketing Manager, iDigic
The worst Christmas present I’ve received from one of my employees was a portable mini printer because, apparently, it does not have any use as you cannot print big papers on it and it only prints in black and white. I found it a waste of money because you don't need to print small notes.
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