5 Reasons Boss’s Day is Total BS
Why you shouldn’t celebrate this crock of a holiday on Friday.
Boss’s Day is this Friday, Oct. 16, (2015) and it’s time to kill it.
If you’ve never heard of Boss’s Day, count yourself lucky. While it hasn’t infiltrated every office in the country yet, it’s growing in popularity and spreading fast. The idea is to mark a particular day to show appreciation to managers for the work they do.
Amusingly, it turns out that Boss’s Day was created in 1958 by someone who was working for her father at the time, according to several websites. It might have been a kind (if daughterly) impulse at its start, but it’s since grown into an unwelcome obligation that many workers feel bound to celebrate – not only with cards, but with actual gifts. In fact, I regularly hear from people who have been pressured to donate cash to workplace collections to purchase expensive gifts for their managers.
It’s time for us to retire Boss’s Day. Sorry, bosses. But as a manager myself, I know all too well that the day is, well, a crock. You probably know it too. After all:
- Bosses are … the boss. It’s not that being a manager isn’t hard work – it is. Managing often involves difficult decisions and tough conversations, and rarely is it a job that ends when you leave the office at night. But it also comes with plenty of rewards, many of them monetary. The position also comes with power dynamics that make it inappropriate to solicit recognition from people below you, especially to make them feel it’s obligatory. And speaking of obligatory…
- Obligatory appreciation doesn’t count for much. Of course, it’s nice to hear sincere appreciation for one’s work. But one of the problems with Boss’s Day is that it makes all appreciation offered up under its auspices suspect. Managers have no way of distinguishing between the employee who’s sincerely glad for the chance to tell her boss how much she enjoys working together and the employee who is acting out of obligation (real or perceived) in an effort to maintain her standing with the person who signs her paychecks. And speaking of paychecks …
- It creates inappropriate monetary pressure on employees. Boss’s Day observances are no longer confined to handing the boss a simple card. In many offices, the expectations have turned into celebrations that involve money – employees’ money – to buy gifts and meals. Because these are often group expenditures, employees often worry that not chipping in will make them look bad, and that kind of pressure is inappropriate in the workplace. Employees should never feel pressured to dip into their own funds to pay for a gift to the boss.
- Good bosses don’t want gifts from their subordinates. Good bosses are sensitive to the power dynamics (and often financial disparities) that exist between managers and employees, and they don’t want employees feeling even slightly obligated to shell out for this type of thing. So the holiday ends up rewarding the bosses who don’t care that their subordinates feel pressured to give them gifts, while making the good bosses feel awkward and uncomfortable.
- It flies in the face of etiquette. Traditional etiquette says quite clearly that any gift-giving in the workplace should be from a boss to an employee and not the other way around. The idea is that people shouldn’t feel obligated to purchase gifts for someone who has power over their livelihood, and managers shouldn’t benefit from the power dynamic in that way.
So, given all that, what should you do when Boss’s Day rolls around this Friday? Well, if you’re a manager, make it clear to your team ahead of time that you don’t expect or want your staff to do anything for the day. Of course, if someone gives you something anyway, be gracious about it – but do what you can to head it off beforehand.
And if you’re an employee in an office where people are starting to talk about taking up a collection for a Boss’s Day gift, do your co-workers the service of being the one to stand up and say: “You know, I don’t think Jane would want us to spend money on her. I vote for letting her know we appreciate her throughout the year instead.” Chances are good that most of your co-workers will appreciate it and be breathing a sigh of relief.