It looks like giving expensive Christmas gifts to bosses is my company's culture. I wouldn't fuss if it is under $20 in total, but they are asking 2 x $30 for the two executives in my company.

The organisers never asked if anyone wants to join in, the e-mail sounded like this is mandatory. I would've ignored it but last year they composed a list of people who paid and sent out e-mail that they know who's not paying.

I don't even spend $30 per head for my loved ones, so I think this is very unfair, considering I don't make that much money. Besides, the presents aren't for my direct manager. If it were for my direct manager, I would shed $30 because he has done huge favours for me throughout the year.

How do I decline politely?

UPDATE: Thanks all for the suggestions! To save the hassle of them chasing me, I sent them a gentle reply e-mail saying that I do not wish to participate this year. Which was replied by a flat "not a problem". It saves me all the stress I'll have to go through for couple of weeks if I were to ignore them.

  • 3
    Hi user! Welcome to the Workplace SE, the Q&A site for questions about navigating the professional workplace. You might find this related question helpful about How to politely decline collecting donations for birthday presents. Take a look at those answers, and if those don't answer your question, I encourage you to edit this post and put in any additional helpful information that could help our community solve your problem. Good luck! :)
    – jmort253
    Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 7:01
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    I would be very tempted to tell then where to stick their Christmas gifts. Largesse should flow downhill at Christmas, not the other way round.
    – Matt
    Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 8:43
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    I am going to disagree with this being a duplicate. There is a huge difference between not giving gifts for peers (coordinated at a team level and largely social) and someone who is not necessarily related to your job function coordinating gifts for company executives. Answers for the related question do not apply here very well at all.
    – enderland
    Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 16:18
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    I would also agree with @Matt that these are different enough to warrant two separate questions. This question is about how to respond to a request for a significant amount of money for an one-time gift going to a person you barely know that is higher on the corporate ladder than yourself, while the other question is asking how to politely get out of a gift-giving ring, where you donate towards everyone else's gifts all year, and get one yourself when its your turn. They're related, but I wouldn't call them duplicates :)
    – Rachel
    Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 3:25
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    Suppose there are 100 employees of the company, that means they are planning to buy a 3000 present each for the two people who earn the most already. That reeks. This is indicative of a company where the only people who are important are senior managers and that attitude will infect everything, this would be enough for me to be looking elsewhere for work.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Dec 14, 2012 at 14:51

4 Answers 4


I would say the best you can do is ignore the email. Wish the directors a happy christmas if you see them and go on with your daily work cycles.

If questioned by HR as to why you didn't contribute XXX to each director simply explain that you do not directly work with them and that your money has been spent on your family this christmas, but you hope they have a merry christmas none the less.

Any company that would try to rebuff this by saying you have to contribute anyway is not worth your time and effort. You certainly shouldn't be working for them if they then insist the directors are more deserving of your hard earned cash than your own family.

I certainly wouldnt be hanging around any longer than my notification period whilst I polished up my resume and interviewing skills!

The other question has many good answers too.

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    I wonder if it would even be legal for HR to make this contribution truly mandatory (and why is HR getting involved in this in the first place?). I would guess that it is not... Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 15:48

Send an email to organizer telling them:

I are not interesting in contributing for holiday gifts. This is a moral decision on my part and I would hope you can understand. Please omit my name from the list of people participating and any lists of those not participating. Thank You.

This is both polite and assertive but not aggressive and make it clear that you do not desire to be included in any part of the process.

As an alternative you could try:

I am unable to contribute to the holiday gifts. My salary is budgeted fully and I can not afford to contribute without forcing my family to do with out. Please omit my name from the list of people participating and any lists of those not participating. Thank You.

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    +1 for the first option. If it's not a budget issue, then saying it is (as suggested elsewhere) is (a) an unnecessary lie and (b) likely to lead to more trouble. If you don't "do" Christmas (or Christmas at the office), just say so. Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 18:36
  • @MonicaCellio - I agree I actually deleted a paragraph that explained why the second option should be avoided unless it was true thinking that was obvious and seemed condecending. Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 19:38
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    I think both emails are ridiculous, and make you sound ridiculous. The first mentions your 'morals' (over a present? and none-of-theirs anyway) and the second is just too much unwanted information. You don't have to justify not contributing, just say you're not going to participate and leave it at that. No reasons required. Providing reasons is simply oversharing and makes you sound like you're dwelling on it night and day. They come across as coming from someone who sounds guilty, powerless, or neurotic.
    – Pete855217
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 11:27
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    Chad: "I do not wish to contribute, and I believe it would be inappropriate to hand a list of contributors to the boss. "
    – gnasher729
    Commented Mar 25, 2016 at 13:20

My first tactic is in line with the first approach in RhysW's answer - ignore the email. However, if someone approaches you about this, I suggest you politely say you don't have it in your budget to donate. If they're persistent, I recommend reiterating the budget statement and leave it at that.

If you're concerned about the email with the names of the contributors and it wouldn't be seen as some sort of cultural faux pas, you might give gifts within your budget to these executives. While you can't be sure how they will perceive this, giving them an individual gift may stand out more than contributing to a group gift.

  • @RhysW: Good point, I've made an edit to address it.
    – GreenMatt
    Commented Dec 13, 2012 at 16:42

It depends. If your boss lives in poverty and his wife and/or children or the rest of his family cannot afford to pay him a Christmas present, they I'd suggest that you contribute. If HR approaches you, you could ask them, and perhaps suggest that they should find if there is someone working at the company who is truly in need and would be really helped by a Christmas present.

A realistic situation would be if the boss had done something beyond his duties as the employer to help the employees or an employee. Say someone's child was seriously ill and the boss contributed serious money out of his own pocket to help that child, that would be a reason for a Christmas present.

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