I was recently promoted to a manager position and I have a Direct that is infamous for giving extravagent gifts to her boss. I have been added as a middle level of management between her and my new boss (who she used to report directly too). This direct is already making hints about giving me gifts (she actually gave me a list of dates I can expect them and not just Christmas).

Not only do I feel uncomfortable with receiving gifts from my direct (especially if she buys me gifts at the same value as she has purchased in the past) but her gift giving to the her boss (now my boss) is an office joke. These are not small discreet gifts but large fancy wrapped packages that everyone sees her give. I feel this is a perceptual nightmare from a management position. I don't want to be in a position of being accused of favortism and many people are watching to see how I handle this.

What is the best approach in this situation? Do I make her quit cold turkey and say no gifts whatsoever? Or give her a guideline "like nothing more than $5.00"?


smorison's picture

Hi Jennifer,

As it's widely known that she exhibits this kind of behaviour, i don't think its a big deal. Just let her run with it, you would probably do more damage by trying to change the behaviour.

regarding favouritism that's a different issue, and if it comes up I’m pretty sure there are pod casts on how to deal with that kind of accusation (can't remember for sure though).

Did anyone ever accuse your manager of favouritism when receiving gifts from this direct?




DISC: 7511

jrosenau's picture

 Hi Jennifer,

I have the same questions as Stephen - Was the previous manager accused of favouritism when receiving gifts from this direct.

Does the company have a policy about gift giving?  Personally, I would feel very uncomfortable with the gifts.   I guess it comes down to performance.  Does she perform well?  Do these gifts inhibit her performance with others?  Is it hard for others to work with her because of this issue?  If so, then it need to be addressed from that angle.

Given that you are her new manager, now is the time to change it and say that she may have done that for previous bosses but you are not comfortable with receiving gifts from your directs except for specific holidays (i.e. bosses day, Christmas day).  That way, she can still give you gifts, but it has to be specifically related to your relationship as manager/direct.

Also - I'm curious - how does the previous boss and higher management feel?  Again, because you are now taking her on as a direct, you are in a good position to be honest with her and let her know that this gift giving gives her an unprofessional reputation in the management (assuming that's true). 

Hope that helps.


canuck's picture

I don't understand from the posting what your new directs motivation is?   Is she looking for recognition?  Friendship?  Something else?

My suggestion would be start One On Ones immediately and raise this as an early issue.   Ask a lot of questions around this issue starting with Why?

This person probably doesn't see the harm, but the bottom line is that it sounds like unprofessional behaviour.   She's singling herself out (probably part of her motivation) but not in a good way.

Give her some feedback around that - does she realise it makes people treat her less seriously?  Does she realise it puts you in an awkward position with regards to perceptions of favouritism?  Does she realise she's giving a lot and getting nothing out of these gifts?

If her behaviour has become an office joke then it probably has also become career limiting behaviour and she needs to understand that impacts of what she is doing on herself.  

If she's been doing this a while then her first defence will be to say that it has never been a problem before.   She needs to understand that there's a difference between former bosses not raising the issue before and the impact of her behaviour (which is true whether she's been confronted before or not).

These probably won't be easy conversations to have so be prepared before you go into them.   But if you handle it in a professional, respectful way then there's no reason you can't salvage the relationship.

Back to my original point - if she's looking for recognition or a relationship then you can let her know she'll get that through regular One On Ones.  It's a perfect place where she can have your undivided attention, talk about what she wants to talk about, and get honest and professional conversations happening. 

Good luck





canuck's picture

Actually, this topic reminds me of a true story.

A little while ago at my company (1000+ employees) we had a guy who was very passionate and wore his concern for others as a badge of pride.  He took every opportunity to demonstrate his concern for others.  The guy even had personal "business cards" made up to demonstrate this.   (I won't get into specifics because this is the public internet and the person would immediately recognise himself).  

Shortly after this person started at the company our CEO's mother died.  This person decided he would write our CEO (who he didn't know) a poem about the loss of the CEO's mother, which he then promptly emailed him.

CEO's reaction?   He walked into the Director of HR's office with the email and asked "Why is this person working for us?"

Said person left soon after.

There are several morals to this story.  But as it relates to this topic, I suppose it is:  Your intentions may be wonderful, but you are judged on your decisions.   Make ones appropriate to the environment.   People who think of their workplace as "a family" are making a big mistake if they act based on that thinking.

And my 2 cents around that story is that I think the CEO was absolutely right to ask that question.  For many reasons.