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I work for a small office, the ownership of which just changed hands earlier this year. I requested a day off so that I could take my son to an amusement park. The new owner not only approved my request, but also came to work two days later with tickets that he bought for me and $100.00 in "spending cash".

He's a kind and generous guy (the number of lunches he's bought for the office in the few months he's owned it is already in the double digits), but this feels like way, way too much. Can I decline this, and if so, how?

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Depending on the cultural background of the owner, declining a gift can be seen as a huge insult. Japan is a noted exception where you politely decline the FIRST offer.

Assuming your boss is not Japanese, politely and graciously accept the gift and express your gratitude. Use it well, tell him how you spent it and how kind an act it was, and on some future date do him a simple kindness which does not require money, but will help him in some way, such as cleaning or fixing something for him unexpectedly.

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    Thanks for the advice! Everyone who's written in has been very helpful but you've been the most direct and detailed. I really appreciate you taking the time to help me. – user75007 Aug 1 '17 at 15:26
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    I'd add that anyone in such situations should check company policy on gifts. The company I work at has a set limit for a) gifts received from clients and third parties - b) gifts for employees bought using corporate funds - c) gifts given by, and to upper management. We have a very strict policy, I admit, but there are severe concerns and regulations about fighting corruption in our industry. – Mindwin Aug 1 '17 at 16:23
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    @Mindwin as this is a small office, probably a sole proprietorship, I doubt that would be a concern. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Aug 1 '17 at 17:01
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    @Mindwin one size fits none. No answer will fit every situation, and if by some miracle it does, it will at best be a very poor fit. – Richard Says Reinstate Monica Aug 1 '17 at 17:50
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There are a few reasons in general why you might want to decline a gift from a boss:

  1. The gift carries an implication that something is expected in return, something which is outside the normal boundaries of your job. For example, he might expect that you give priority to his work projects, or give him a favourable review (where employees can review their bosses). Or there is an expectation that you do something like fix his personal computer for him. This doesn't sound like your case.
  2. You are being treated significantly different from other employees. If you are being given gifts and others are not, then issues of favouritism can arise, and there may be a perception of bias or reciprocal favours, even if it is not happening. You don't talk about this, so there is no way of knowing if it is happening.
  3. The gifts are large enough to be inappropriate. You should certainly decline a gift of a car, or a vacation. This doesn't sound excessive to me, but it may depend on your culture.

The reason for declining an inappropriately large gift is that they create the impression of something being expected in return. It's the same reason that a politician is OK accepting a monogrammed golf ball from a businessman, but not a new house.

If none of these apply, and there is no other significant specific concern you are worried about, then accept the gift and be grateful.

Note that this answer assumes the gift is from your boss personally, not the company, and that it's not a reward for some achievement.

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    I think this is the right answer. From the information given, most likely this is a nice gesture from a good boss, but if there are any other reasons to suspect that the boss is behaving inappropriately, then caution is wise. – Jack Aidley Aug 1 '17 at 20:13
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    @corsiKa I think that "a vacation" was supposed to mean something like a fully paid one week trip to Las Vegas or something, possibly costing as much as a car... – Pedro A Aug 2 '17 at 1:59
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    @Hamsteriffic I own a car and I've been in Las Vegas for a week (well, 5 days). Not even nearly comparable cost. Was I doing Las Vegas wrong way? Or do I own wrong car? – Konrad Viltersten Aug 2 '17 at 11:31
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    @KonradViltersten no, it is me who doesn't know well enough the price of a trip to Las Vegas, haha. My intended point was: some trips to other countries, fully paid, for many days, in top-class hotels could very well cost as much as some cars. When DJClayworth said "vacation", I think the intended meaning was this one ("hey, here is a fully paid trip to Paris"), as opposed to "hey, you can take some extra days off". – Pedro A Aug 2 '17 at 11:45
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    "For example, he might expect that you give priority to his work projects" If a boss has to dole out gifts to employees to get to set priority for work tasks something's amiss... (but I understand that's your point exactly) ;-) – AllTheKingsHorses Aug 3 '17 at 10:17
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Why decline the offer and seem ungrateful? Accept the offer and enjoy the time with your son.

Also use some of the money to buy a thank you present

I think it is ungrateful as the person is giving a gift without the need for anything in return.

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    Its not that this is wrong but it is not really an answer, it is more of a comment. Maybe you could expand it to explain why it would seem ungrateful, and why it is appropriate to accept the gift. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 1 '17 at 15:27
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    What is there to add. Not Accepting a gift when nothing is expected is ungrateful imho. Giving a thank you present is a sign of gratitude. What requires more explanation? – Ed Heal Aug 1 '17 at 16:01
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    The thank you present should not be expensive, and should be a memento of the venue visited. – Mindwin Aug 1 '17 at 16:25
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    Why does it seem ungrateful to decline the gift? Why is accepting the gift a better option? It may seem obvious to you but it is not to me or to the OP. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 1 '17 at 16:40
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    @EdHeal - You asked what to expand... I provided what I though you could and should expand on – IDrinkandIKnowThings Aug 2 '17 at 19:50
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You surely can decline the gift. If you want to keep the dissappointment minimal, you can claim to already have gotten tickets in such a case. If you feel you are singled out by the gift, you can accept the money and then buy something for the team - like bring sweeties or buy them lunch.

That being said:

  1. Why would you refuse such a gift? Consider it a bonus payment for your good work.

  2. If you do refuse the gift, depending how well you handle it and what character your boss is, it may damage your relationship. Either because he somehow thinks you dislike him and/or because he sees that you don't consider yourself worth additional money - which can make future salary discussions a lot tougher.

  • Thank you for the answer! I would consider refusing the gift simply because as far as gifts go, it's pretty excessive. Factoring in the price of tickets this was easily a $225 gift from a guy I've known just a few months. I'm probably a monster, but I don't spend that kind of money on my wife (I really am a monster). That being said, I am nothing if not easily malleable and, clearly, public opinion suggests (and is probably correct) that I'm being overly sensitive about this. – user75007 Aug 1 '17 at 15:22
  • @enjolra Excessive to you doesn't mean its excessive to your boss. This question is all about perspective. Your boss obviously doesn't think its a big deal or they would SELL them on CraigsList or some other means. – Mister Positive Aug 1 '17 at 15:59
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    @enjolra I wouldn't consider it on the same level as a personal gift comparing it to what you give your friends or wife, but rather as a company paid bonus. If you compare it with bonus payments it maybe rather miniscule. This depends a bit on how your boss gave it to you, but at the bottomline it seems he gave it in his professional function as your boss, not as your personal friend, so I'd see it as a professional rather than a personal gift - even if it may come from his rather than official company accounts. Especially with small companies those aren't always properly separated anyway ;) – Frank Hopkins Aug 1 '17 at 16:01
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    @Darkwing Exactly. He wants you to enjoy your vacation. The benefit of getting his employees to like him plus giving you less vacation stress probably outweighs the payment in his eyes. Take it as a sign of your good work. – JMac Aug 1 '17 at 16:58
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Unless there is a reason beyond just thinking the gift is too much, then no you should not reject the gift. As you mentioned your boss is a generous person and wants to help reward his employees. These sorts of gestures go a long way to helping make employee's more loyal and feeling more like an extended family. This is not a purely altruistic act of generosity, but an act beyond expectations. So you should accept this generosity with grace, and enjoy.

As others have said find a way to appropriately thank your boss. Maybe send a thank you email or card with a picture of you and your son at the park, with the big smiles. If it was me that would be the best Thank you gift I could get!

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Something like this, of course you should accept it.

In larger companies, there are often small spot bonuses like this, just ensconced in more process. I've worked in various enterprises where it was a common part of the setup for you to get a "Superstar Award" or whatever of ~$50-$250 when someone felt like you had done a good job and filled out the paperwork to get you the award.

When I became a manager in one of these organizations I was encouraged to customize this to the person instead of just giving them a $100 check. "I'm going to an amusement park" was just the kind of opening that let me say "Woot I get to give them something customized to their needs!" and pull the trigger on it. It's a very small token of appreciation - it may have cost more in your boss's time to arrange it than the $100 plus tickets actual expense. But since it's specific and relevant to you, it seems larger since it shows he listens and is taking an interest in what you were doing. That's intended to be motivating.

This is a small office so there's less paperwork involved with such an award, he didn't have to send a form to HR and laser print you a certificate to go with it, but there's nothing wrong with a boss continually rewarding good employees with such small discretionary awards.

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I agree with others that you should accept the gift and have a suggestion of how to acknowledge it:

While at the amusement park, buy a postcard and write a thank-you to your boss saying how much you and your family are enjoying the visit and that you appreciate his generosity. Put the card in his in-box when you return to work.

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Can I decline this, and if so, how?

While the other answers cover how you should probably just accept, I'll take a stab at actually answering this part of it. You definitely can decline a gift and do so professionally. The key points to focus on are gratitude and not making a big deal of it.

That's extremely generous of you but I would honestly feel bad [/ a bit awkward] to accept such a large gift.

In your situation and given that the tickets are already purchased I'd recommend meeting somewhere in the middle and adding:

I'd be very grateful to use those tickets but if you don't mind I'd prefer paying my own way once me and [person you're going with] are there.

You can bring up how you're not used to accepting such valuable gifts or how you've been brought up to pay your own way. Making it about a personal quirk of yours is always a good strategy to adopt, even in a case like this where you shouldn't really have to explain.

It's a bit weird but I've always taken pride in providing for myself and being independent. I'm blown away by this kind gesture but if you don't mind I'd prefer to pay my own way.

Of course, if your boss insist you'll just have to accept his generosity. If you feel strongly about this or get the sense that your boss is disappointed you can suggest that he donate the money to a charity of your or his choice instead.

You'll also want to consider whether this is something he does routinely for all his employees. If that's the case you should consider this an informal and variable part of your compensation package, a sort of in kind bonus. It doesn't make sense to refuse it if that's the case.

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