Now that Thanksgiving has passed us by, we have officially entered the end of the year holiday season. That means it’s time to start seriously thinking about what to give to your employees as recognition for all the hard work they have put in to the business throughout the year.

Just a word of caution, though. Regardless of your gift budget, make sure that your giving is appropriate. Your employees will quickly build up resentment, lose their moral, and harbor an assortment of other negative feelings if they deem your gift to be insensitive, condescending, or grossly in adequate.

What exactly do I mean by “insensitive, condescending, or grossly in adequate”? Take a look at the examples below of some of the worst holiday gifts to employees given by their bosses collected from around the web:

Real-Life Examples of Horrible Business “Gifts” to Their Employees

  • “One year my sister worked at a major theme park and was required to work on Christmas Day. In acknowledgment of this, her boss gave all of the hourly employees a present: A gift certificate for one of the in-park vendor stands for a medium soda OR a banana. (Yes, those were the two choices.) When she cashed hers in for a banana, she was told that the gift certificate did not cover sales tax and had to pay that out of pocket.”
  • “Last year at Christmas each employee at my husband’s firm received an envelope containing $100 cash. Presuming this was a holiday bonus, we spent it on groceries, some things for our two kids, a dinner out, etc. Like a lot of grown-ups, our paychecks are deposited electronically and we have many bills drafted out the same way, such as our utilities, car insurance, etc. A week later, on payday, we discovered in the worst possible way that the $100 was not a gift, but was simply deducted from my husband’s salary and presented as cash. Because his week’s pay was now $100 less, suddenly all the drafts of our bills began coming out of an account that was $100 smaller than it was supposed to be, until finally, a check bounced and the bank charged us $36.
  • “At the annual Christmas luncheon my boss presented me with a Christmas present….which was a coffee mug. When I got back to the office, I had a bill on my chair for the cost of the Christmas luncheon and the mug.”
  • “At one of my first jobs, Management brought a caterer in with 50 or so frozen turkeys at the start of my shift a few days before Thanksgiving. We were all given one. Not a gift certificate FOR a frozen turkey, but an actual frozen turkey. Unfortunately, as you might imagine we did not have room in the break room refrigerator for 50 frozen turkeys. And we were not allowed to go home to drop them off…”

  • “I once received a Harry and David tower of treats. Gourmet, yes. But the package had my boss’ address pasted on it. He had regifted it to me.”

  • “Years ago, I worked for a boss who took us all out to a very expensive restaurant in New York City one December evening. Throughout the night, he encouraged us all to eat, drink and be merry. He urged us all to order the choicest and most expensive items on the menu. So we did. At the end of the meal, he asked for separate checks.”
  • “A boss gave me a high five. Two years in a row.”
  • “Worst gift I can ever remember receiving was a pack of sanitary napkins. The wrapping was nice, mind you, with ribbons and all. And even with a card that says, “Something useful, from:” And when we all opened it there in the office afterward, imagine our shock when we found all the women in the department received the same gift. Our boss (a guy) was known to be a chauvinist, but until that day, we did not know how bad it was. He came over after seeing us opening the presents and even smirked, ‘I hope I got your preferred brands correctly.’ Needless to say, we resigned one after the other in quick succession in less than two weeks.”
  • “The first year at my current company they called everyone down by team and gave them grocery store gift cards for $7.58. And they made you sign for them. “
  • “One large retail company in Michigan I used to work for gave all of their employees a coupon for a free doughnut in the bakery… At another company we had an employee gift exchange and my boss gave a picture of himself and a few roles of toilet paper in a nicely wrapped box. Thank goodness, I didn’t fall for the pretty wrapping and had selected another gift.”
  • “My boss pressured us to chip in $100 each to give the CEO a remote car starter for his Cadillac, and in the process, we grew to believe that our boss expected a gift, too… This put us in the awkward position of feeling it was expected that we buy a gift for our immediate boss. Which we did. I gave him a $40 bottle of his favorite liquor… Imagine my shock to open my Christmas bonus of $70 which is half of what I spent on them.”
  • “As a supervisor in a manufacturing plant, one year I was required to give out these chintzy watches that looked too cheap to have even come from a 25 cent machine or the claw game. What made it better is that we had been working 7 days a week for the last month (with nearly a month left of this schedule to go) and it felt like a slap in the face to the people that had been working so hard to give them such an obvious piece of garbage.”
  • “We used to have a workers’ Christmas party, paid for by the company, that we could take a guest to. Then we had to pay for a guest. Then we had to pay for ourselves and any guest. Then we discovered that the fee we were paying paid for management to continue to attend for free.”
  • “A dog leash. From the president of the company. I was his personal assistant. I quit after a year.”
  • “I once received x-rated shot glasses from my supervisor. Not pictures that were x-rated, but the actual shot glass formed in a naughty body part. Gross. “
  • “Each year we get turkeys just waiting for the cut to make it a Cornish game hen.”
  • A copy of the children’s book, The Little Engine That Could from a VP who “…pile[s] as much work on employees as they can possibly take. He seems to relish pushing people straight to the edge of their capabilities—and their sanity. (Perhaps he has delusions of being Jack Welch?) In any case, at least one employee was pushed too far and had to take a stress-related leave of absence this past fall. Others are fleeing the company.”
  • “A Mars Bar for the anniversary of working with the organization. It made me feel unappreciated”
  • “Microwave popcorn and one bottle of sparkling to share amongst 10 people to celebrate major account resigning”
  • “For my five years of service – a choice of a wallet, a $5 bottle of wine, a plastic picture frame, playing cards and 2 other pieces of garbage – what an insult”

  • “A Taco Bell watch for 5 years of service and a letter misspelling my name”
  • “A pen that didn’t work”
  • “$5 iTunes Gift Card for Christmas”
  • “Herb sachets from a Channel promotion”
  • Rancid food, dead or bug infested plants
  • Nice gifts, such as watches, necklaces, with the message that the item would be listed on the employee’s W-2 as income related item.
  • Stock options in a struggling company
  • A Bic pen, a rock that says “You rock!,” a plastic key chain, used coffee coasters
  • A wooden hairbrush sent to a bald male employee
  • A donation made to a charity that the employee doesn’t like

What are your holiday employee gift nightmares?