Wednesday, January 6, 2016


When I was in residency, there was one resident who used to always buy Christmas gifts for all the attendings. Of course, we all thought he was a kiss up scumbag for doing it. I mean, who buys Christmas presents for all the attendings besides a kiss up scumbag?

I'd like to believe that the attendings all saw through his behavior, but I'm not so sure. Everybody likes getting presents, right?

As a full-fledged physician, I somehow find myself in a similar dilemma. I have a boss that I really like, but I don't get him a Christmas present because none of his other employees do. I mean, there are a lot of other people at work that I really like and I don't get them Christmas presents. Frankly, I feel like if I got a present for one person, it would go down some horrible road of "well, if I get a present for this person, then I must get a present for this other person" and so forth. And as much as some people enjoy getting presents, it's a much worse feeling to get left out of present giving. So I don't buy presents for anyone at work because I would inevitably manage to leave somebody out and hurt their feelings.

So essentially, if I got a present for my boss, I would only be getting a present for him because he's my boss.

And that would make me a kiss up scumbag, right?


  1. at my job we take ethics training that says, in a nutshell, don't buy any presents for your boss. (actual nitty gritty details say there are specific occasions where it is appropriate to buy gifts and dictate how much you can spend. Christmas isn't one of the special occasions)

  2. Gift giving can become a morass. No wonder companies need rules. In my world, gifting depends on reporting levels. If you give your direct reports gifts (or just do something like a luncheon for them), some of them may feel obligated to express gratitude with a small gift even if you make it clear they shouldn't do it. I have also occasionally been guilty of being a kiss-up scumbag for giving a boss a gift because I really liked the boss and was grateful he continued to employ me. (I accept the appellation of kiss-up scumbag because I see that it could make other people who didn't gift the boss look bad. But it doesn't make me feel bad enough to stop doing it when I want to.)

    I believe "fair" only applies to how you treat those below you, not those at your level and above. It doesn't upset me when co-workers exchange gifts but leave me out. Nor should it. But yes, you can't give some of your direct reports something and not others. That would definitely make you a scumbag.

    1. When I was a Med Student in Inner City Detroit a Female Med Student (who was KNOWN as a kiss up scumbag and who was rumored to have been MORE than kissing the Dean of my Foreign med school) brought little gifts to the Nurses and workers in Psych (soap on a rope perfume, etc) I came home and told my Father who was VERY concerned that I was falling short on the brown nosing front and that it was Mom's fault that I had not had a job prior to being a third year med student) though HE didn't think of it either until I told him what the Girl was doing. One of two male wiseguy med students everyone KNEW buttered up the higher ups the other when I asked him said "NO WAY!!" which was BS. I found out years later the BOTH gave HUNDREDS worth of gifts to our "Sergeant" who was a PITA Podiatrits.

  3. For a boss from an underling, I feel like a thank you note or email is more appropriate than a gift.

    However, no one but you can know or sense all the nuances of the relationship. So maybe if you feel the desire to give a gift to your boss, you should follow your instincts rather than trying to put a damper on them.

    And honestly, how much do you really care what opinions his other staff have about your gift? Or can you do it privately so no one else knows? Imo,is none of their business. (I'm not intending this snotty towards them, more just matter of factly.)

  4. It is so so sad that we have allowed our workplace relationships to be held to this ridiculous hubristic standard; give if you want, find a way. Perhaps that person gave to the attendees because he truly wanted to with no evil in his heart.
    I work in corporate. That world has so many unwritten rules, hidden signs and meanings, etc; it can be overwhelming when trying to be human!! Just give if you feel you should, and stop caring so much if others will think negatively of you. Our culture, our nation, is dying because of that.

    By the way, kudos for what you do; I applaud you for choosing a career that helps heal and restore. I hope one day, to do the same.