Behold, the 7 Worst Employee Appreciation Gifts

employee appreciation gifts
JD Hancock/Flickr

Did you know that today is Employee Appreciation Day? If not, don’t feel too bad. The no-gift you got from your employer has to be better than some of the employee appreciation gifts we’ve found out there on the internet.

Don’t believe us? Well, would some corporate swag improve your mood today? No? Well, how about your boss’s autograph — would that boost your motivation?

You see our point. Employees really want two things: cash and a thank you. (Believe it or not, the latter is sometimes even more important than the former.) What they definitely don’t want: any of these horrifying gifts.

Note: not all of these are specifically Employee Appreciation Day presents … but they are all very, very bad.

1. The Generic-Swag Gift

“Companies spend a great deal on generic gifts handed out to everyone,” writes Chris Rhatigan at TINYpulse’s blog. “Here’s a tote bag. Here’s a watch. Here’s a key chain. Maybe if you gave everyone BMWs, it would pay off, but these cheap handouts aren’t winning any points.”

2. The Thank-You Lunch That You Pay for Yourself

“My old boss took me out to lunch on my birthday,” writes SalAtWork, at Reddit. “At a place he picked. He then made me pay for myself.”

3. The Catch-Up Present

From Forbes:

One of the biggest complaints employees have reported is that they receive a recognition presentation, but it’s extremely late.  A quote from one focus group member: “After 13 years of employment, I just received my 5 and 10-year career achievement awards at the same time.” Well, enough said about timing.

4. The Autograph and Commemorative Coin

“My husband (full-time) and I (part-time) both worked for a guy who gave a Christmas lunch for the company at a cafeteria,” a reader tells MoneyWatch. “There he signed two-dollar bills that he gave to everyone attending. In addition, full-time employees got a bronze coin minted with his profile on it. I made my husband pull into a 7-11 on the way home and spent the two dollars. He carried his around for ages for the laughs.”

5. The Gift That’s Genuinely Offensive

From FastUpFront:

Worst gift I can ever remember receiving was a pack of sanitary napkins. The wrapping was nice, mind you, with ribbons and all. And even with a card that says, “Something useful, from:” And when we all opened it there in the office afterward, imagine our shock when we found all the women in the department received the same gift. Our boss (a guy) was known to be a chauvinist, but until that day, we did not know how bad it was. He came over after seeing us opening the presents and even smirked, “I hope I got your preferred brands correctly.” Needless to say, we resigned one after the other in quick succession in less than two weeks.

6. The Unusable Gift Card

“Two years ago my boss gave me a Borders gift card,” writes Redditor sirspidermonkey. “Borders went out of business 10 years ago.”

(Note: Borders actually closed down six years before that post, but we take your point, sirspidermonkey.)

7. The Gift That’s Cheap and Offensive

“I’d like to remain anonymous, but I definitely have a story that’s so good…. Last Christmas, my boss got our entire agency toothbrushes,” says respondent to Inc’s call for stories about bad holiday gifts. “We all had the same reaction: A toothbrush? Do we ALL have terrible hygiene? What an interesting gift! He said he got them for us because he wanted to give us all something we’d never buy for ourselves.”

Some stories have been lightly edited for clarity and style.

Tell Us What You Think

Can you top these terrible employee appreciation gifts? We want to hear from you. Share your story in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.