Etiquette experts say you shouldn’t buy your manager a present—as Britain’s Tate tried to do.
He’ll need more than a boat to get out of this one.
The Tate is under fire after managers there organized a donation drive in which employees were asked to contribute to a sailboat fund for their outgoing director Nicholas Serota. The 71-year-old exec is leaving the collective of British art museums after 28 years there, and a poster was posted in staff rooms urging employees to chip in. “Nick loves sailing, and this would be a lasting and very special reminder of the high regard which I know so many of us have for Nick and his contribution to Tate,” the note read.
The donation drive went viral after images of the poster were posted on social media. Many pondered the audacity of asking museum staff—including lowly compensated janitors and gift shop employees—to chip in on such an extravagant product for Serota, who reportedly made almost $260,000 last year. The Tate is in the midst of tense wage negotiations with its staff and to add insult to injury, a 10% employee discount at cafeterias was recently taken away, the Guardian reports.
Tate asking its workers, many of them outsourced and on low wage zero-hours contracts, to contribute towards buying Nicholas Serota a yacht pic.twitter.com/mhFLAN3HQW
— Ambleside Jenner (@tramfrau) April 26, 2017
In the wake of the brouhaha, the Tate apologized for the lack of sensitivity in which the fundraising drive was conducted, while stressing that contributions were voluntary. Regardless, etiquette experts say you should almost never organize a gift buying drive, or give your boss any present.
“In general, it’s tone deaf because of the power dynamics that are present” in the employer-employee relationship, says workplace expert Alison Green. “Gifts should flow downward in the workplace, not be solicited by those above you in the hierarchy.”
“The problem with soliciting for a boss is that there are one or two people picking the gift and everyone else has to go along,” says Dawn Bryan, author of “The Art and Etiquette of Gift Giving.”
Green says she’s heard from many unhappy employees who feel squeezed by such requests, including an angry reader who felt forced to participate in an office-wide donation drive to fund a luxury ski trip for a manager. The frustration persists even if upper management say contributions are totally optional.
“They say you’re not penalized, but people below never believe that,” says Green, who writes the Ask A Manager blog. “People really worry when they’re asked to give something to the person who signs their pay checks so management should be sensible to the optics.”
The only time you should consider buying the boss a gift is if you’re personally close to your manager, and even then the price tag attached to a gift should be small. “Different people see the recipient in different ways so a gift should really be an individual thing,” says Bryan, who thinks those who’ve been mentored by Serota should just have bought him something way less pricey. She suggests an antique book of navigation maps instead.
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