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Ask Savvy: Is There a Polite Way to Say "No Gifts"?

Ask Savvy: Is There a Polite Way to Say "No Gifts"?

Dear Savvy,

I am in a management position at my company but not top management. So I was somewhat surprised last year during the holidays, when several of my employees bought me Christmas presents. It was a really lovely gesture and I got some great gifts, but in general, I’m more of a “no gifts please” type of person (I have in the past made that rule about birthday parties.)

With the economic downturn this year, I’d just rather they not stress about it and not get me anything. Is there any way to tell my co-workers “no gifts” without offending them?

To see my answer,


Savvy says: You must be a great manager to have so many employees expressing their appreciation through holiday gifts. While their kind gestures are harmless, I completely understand how it could make you uncomfortable, especially if you aren't a gift person in the first place or hadn't intended on giving them gifts in return.

Some people might just say let it go and deal with any discomfort that comes with receiving gifts from your employees. However, I think this year you have an especially easy out and you were on the right track when you mentioned the economy in your question. I would send a light-hearted email to your team that asks how they would feel if everyone agreed to withholding gifts this year. Mention that you know the economy has made it a tough holiday season, and that you think it would be better for everyone to focus their giving efforts on their families.

More than likely, your employees will be relieved about needing to find something affordable but appropriate for their boss. They'll be even more thankful for having such an understanding boss, and that's more than a lot of workers can say about their managers.

Have any of you dealt with asking for "no gifts"?


Join The Conversation
cpianolover cpianolover 8 years
Each year, we do Secret Santas, but everyone still gives each other gifts. For some reason, my colleagues ALWAYS get excited about giving and receiving gifts to everyone.
codewhiz codewhiz 8 years
Here's a way I found, it's
bigestivediscuit bigestivediscuit 8 years
I think the casual email is a good idea, and I'm sure a lot of people would agree. This year we did Secret Santas with a £5 limit, so that was fine - otherwise, I gave a small card to everyone in the department.
i-heart-monster i-heart-monster 8 years
In years past, my coworkers and I have had a Secret Santa type ornament exchange in tough financial times. That way it really only costs everyone around $5 and everyone is on the same page. No other gifts necessary and we'd take a couple of company-sanctioned hours to do our exchange and potluck party. It's an easy way to feel like you're giving, and most people do use ornaments. Also I found that people who are not Christian, given the opportunity, chose to participate because they enjoyed celebrating the "American" holiday. Don't know if that helps, but it's extremely low cost and it makes everyone who wants to feel like they gave something and that they were a part of the festivities.
caryatid caryatid 8 years
I agree with starangel - donations to charity if people feel so inclined. Or maybe take up a collection of much needed gifts (cans of food, shampoo, scarves, etc) for the less fortunate?
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
lucky for me i've never been in a situation where people have just randomly gotten me things - but i think that knowing how we are all struggling right now - it would be something to consider - to know how to politely decline.
starangel82 starangel82 8 years
I would suggest maybe saying if they absolutely have to give you something, make it toward a charitable donation. My boss will only accept a donation made to a charity in his name. Anything else, he won't even open. We made a charitable donation to one of his favorite organizations. He gladly accepted it because what we spent really went to someone who needed it.
candace87 candace87 8 years
I would just tell them nicely that christmas cards are acceptable, but that I honestly did not want gifts, and would not punish them for not buying them! (they probably think they'll be the only one not buying you a gift and will get in trouble.)
gemsera gemsera 8 years
A money saving site I use in the UK has this: might help? :)
lawchick lawchick 8 years
we have a small office (6 people) and usually everyone gives each other gifts, which is very expensive and kind of awkward! This year our office manager suggested we not exchange gifts and instead bring a gift for Toys for Tots. That is the plan, though I'm sure at least one person will slip a gift to the boss (not me!)
krae85 krae85 8 years
I told my extended family no gifts this year, I slipped notes in with their christmas cards, and to those I feel closer to, sent friendly emails. I also cited the economy as my reason, but really I just felt that our family had grown in number so much that it was silly for everyone to buy everyone a gift. They agreed, and we decided Christmas for now on will be for the kids only.
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