Gift Guide: Best Gifts to Save Your Job


Last Updated Dec 15, 2009 1:57 PM EST

Back in the day, giving a holiday gift to your boss would have branded you forever as a heinous butt-suck. But those were gentler times, before the cost-cutters from McKinsey moved in and started decking your company's halls with festive pink slips.

Nowadays, Santa’s favorite reindeer game is sacking Blitzen if he isn’t pulling his weight, thus downsizing the team from an unwieldy eight to a lean and mean seven. In this brutal environment, a well-chosen gift for your superior may be the best way to prevent yourself from joining the ranks of the unemployed, or as Blitzen now calls himself, a sleigh consultant.

Of course, giving your boss a holiday present can be risky. There’s a chance that he isn’t contemplating firing you at all, in which case your little Yuletide bauble may only serve to remind him of your existence in the first place. (“Henderson, Henderson ... wait a minute, wasn’t he the one who screwed up his PowerPoint presentation for the Germans and pitted out his shirt? I must can that sweaty bastard!”)

But the other option — giving your boss no gift — isn’t really an option at all. Employers never used to fire people around the holidays, but now, perversely, it’s their favorite time of year to bring down the ax. Reason? With a mandate to slash the cost of their companies’ holiday parties, many chief executives see the period immediately preceding those revels as the perfect moment to thin out the herd. The time for you to act is now. In fact, the time for you to act may have been two weeks ago.

But assuming you’re still in the game — if, for example, your boss hasn’t been avoiding eye-contact with you since November — here’s a simple guide to selecting his or her holiday gift:

1. Avoid Music

Just in time for the holidays, record companies flood the market with aggressively innocuous CDs, hoping to tempt you with the latest offering from this Italian tenor or that ugly Scottish reality show contestant. But buyer beware! Musical tastes can be tricky, and there’s no way of knowing which tunes will put your boss in the mood — the firing mood, that is. Take as a cautionary tale the story of Kellianne F., still shell-shocked from being axed last Christmas. “If I had to do it all over again, I never would’ve given him that CD,” she says. “I had no idea how much he despised Michael Bublé.”

2. Give the Gift of Guilt

Picture this holiday scene: as snowflakes gently fall outside his office window, your boss is cutting and pasting your name into a boilerplate termination notice. But before he can hit “Send,” his assistant enters, bearing a painting made by one of your children. The crudely done artwork depicts a smiling child bidding farewell to his beaming dad as he skips off to work. The poignantly misspelled inscription reads, “Hapy (sic) Holidays to my Dadys (sic) boss at the jobb (sic) he looves (sic) so much.” If you don’t have children, no worries: just buy some finger paints and forge the artwork yourself. Do you honestly think your boss has taken enough interest in you to know whether or not you’ve reproduced?

3. Play the Charity Card

Giving to a charity in your boss’s name is a great way to help those less fortunate around the world. However, that’s not the reason to do it. A charitable gift sends the message that your boss is generous and compassionate and would never be a gynormous enough tool to deep-six you right before the holidays. To drive home that point, attach a message like this: “The microloan made in your name will help buy a sack of lentils for little Boubacar, whose father was unexpectedly let go from his job as a Mali shaman just one week before Goru.”

4. The Nuclear Option

There is, alas, a chance that, at the end of the day, your boss is a gynormous enough tool to fire you, even after you’ve taken all the coercive measures above. That’s the time to dial up the so-called “nuclear option”: a slightly menacing greeting card that lets your boss know who’s really boss. Here are just two examples:

Santa’s got a Christmas stash
Of toys and treats galore
Just like that stolen petty cash
You’re hiding in your drawer.
Outside the merry children sing
And fresh white snow is mounting
I know about your little thing
With Shondra in accounting.

Andy Borowitz is a comedian and the creator of the award-winning satire site

More on MoneyWatch: