WSJ Buy Side, August 2022

WSJ Buy Side, August 2022

14 Best Gifts for Your Boss

A present for your supervisor is a kind gesture, but it can also be a delicate dance—these expert finds hit just the right (thoughtful, appropriate) note
14 Best Gifts for Your Boss
Stylish bookends and desk accessories are no-fail presents for a supervisor. Photography by Jeff Westbrook for Buy Side from WSJ. Styling by Liz deSousa for Buy Side from WSJ.

By Sarah Grossbart

Of all the tough-to-buy-for people in your life, few feel quite as tricky as your supervisor. Choose something too over the top and you could make them uncomfortable. Go too low and it can seem as though you’ve shopped the clearance bin. Not to mention the fine line between giving something that shows you know them well and one that feels too personal. We’ve tapped the collective wisdom of five gift-giving pros for tips and picks to make it easy for you to gift like, well, a boss.  

For the techie

When gift-shopping, some people focus on stress over finding a “fun treat” someone wouldn’t buy for themselves—but the truth is, “People appreciate useful gifts more than is anticipated,” according to consumer-behavior research by Elanor Williams, associate professor of marketing at Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School. And in this age of WFH life and virtual social calls, few things are quite as pragmatic as a leveled-up webcam. Lumina’s aluminum version, available in four sleek metallic shades, looks luxurious—and more important, it feels high-end, using AI functionality to keep you perfectly framed no matter how much you move and offering sharp image quality. “The 4K picture is phenomenal and it’s got a great microphone built into it,” says innovation and technology expert Steve Greenberg, host of the YouTube gadget game show “What the Heck Is That?” Typically, when webcams don’t function well, “it’s the microphone that drops the ball,” he says. “But this one does an amazing job.”

For the plant lover


Succulent Assortment

A desk plant is always an appropriate boss present, and this curated trio—a set of three mini succulents with matching, modern planters—feels even more giftable en masse. Even the boss with a black thumb can keep The Sill’s selection thriving; succulents are generally low-maintenance, requiring direct light, occasional watering (every two or three weeks) and really not much else.

For the master of time-management


All-In-One Kitchen Tool Set

If your boss is an inbox-zero type, this clever, space-saving, food-prep kit is bound to go over well. Eight tools—including a cheese grater, lemon juicer and measuring cup—are stacked to fit in this all-in-one bottle. And just like the conditional formatting in their pivot tables, it’s color coded so she can find what they’re looking for at a glance.

For the jet-setter


Leather Travel Case Set

Add a bit of pleasure to their business trips with this timeless-looking upgrade to hold their toiletries, jewelry or other small essentials, suggests Kristin Fisher, Philadelphia-based founder of the online gifting experience Bocu. The smaller case fits in the palm of your hand, the larger checks in at 12 inches, and both are handcrafted in a family-run Argentine workshop and available in more than a dozen shades of pebbled leather. Beyond all that, the female-owned company also touts its strong commitment to sustainability;, the Leather Working Group certifying that their leather is tanned in an environmentally responsible way as certified by the Leather Working Group. Says Fisher, “I love a brand with values and impeccable quality and design.”

For the nature buff


Foraging Tool Kit

Help your manager be resourceful in a whole new way with this collection of foraging essentials by Brooklyn Brew Shop, known for its Beer Making Kit and other DIY sets. Included are a foraging knife with a folding blade, a mesh bag for collecting mushrooms and a sugaring spile for sap from birch or maple trees. And the kit’s two canvas bags in different sizes can hold all of the unearthed elements.

For the coffee connoisseur

Most like it hot when it comes to their coffee and other a.m. beverages, which is why this 10-ounce cup earned a spot on three of our experts’ gift lists. A built-in heating system that maintains your desired beverage temp for up to 90 minutes is “the extra something” that makes this mug feel giftlike rather than ordinary, says Williams. And Fisher, who received it as a gift herself, loves that it eliminates trips to the microwave for reheating. “Coming from a slow coffee drinker,” she says, “it’s been a game changer.”

For the tea aficionado


Monthly Subscription

If the key to great gift-giving is finding something that reflects the recipient’s interests, as Los Angeles-based lifestyle and etiquette expert Elaine Swann maintains, then subscription boxes are a no-brainer. “They make it easy to really home in on a specific niche,” says the founder of the Swann School of Protocol, who suggests this one for people who’ve noticed tea is their boss’s morning sip. A gift card will net them a monthly shipment of four brews based on what they enter as their flavor preferences—enough for at least 16 cups, culled from more than 150 worldwide brands—plus reusable filters, steeping guidelines and tasting notes.

For the list-maker


The Notebook

A journal is a classic boss gift for a reason, what with their full slate of meetings and lengthy to-do lists. And this isn’t your standard-issue spiral, says Fisher, who keeps it in frequent rotation for her corporate gifting clients. Made of responsibly sourced cotton book cloth and brass, according to the company, it has “a beautiful, luxe texture” that looks even more elegant when, as Fisher does, you opt for the foil-stamped monogram.

For the sophisticate


Leather Pen Holder

It’s tempting to go the desk-accessory route—especially if your setting is a traditional office—but the category can be trickier than it seems. Rule of thumb, according to Swann: “Choose something that’s going to be very useful” versus trinkets that seem fun and unexpected but ultimately just take up space. A posh pen holder makes an ideal resting spot for their ballpoints and rollerballs, and this Italian-leather version comes from a female-founded, Gender Fair-certified startup that provides clothing to those in need and women running for public office.  

For the manager who prizes efficiency 


Catch:3 Wireless Charging Station

“A phone charger is something “most people would find a use for,” says Williams, and rarely do people find themselves with more chargers than needed. This one is way more elevated than the basic plug-in. Available in five shades of Italian pebble-grain leather, it can deliver up to 10 watts of power, quickly boosting the battery on any device compatible with Qi wireless charging. It also serves as a sleek parking spot for their headphones, badge and other miscellany.

For the laid-back leader

A fun way to acknowledge the new “home-office casual” vibe is with these oft-Instagrammed colorful slides, suggests Fisher, who is still “obsessed” with the set she was gifted four years ago by a supervisor, she says. The 100% Australian sheepskin is “super comfortable and durable” and—bonus—the brand notes it’s committed to sustainable initiatives, including using natural sheepskin, leather and Australian merino wool that’s biodegradable. “I love knowing you can recycle these rather than toss them once you’ve worn them out,” Fisher says.

For the avid reader

Books are generally a fail-safe pick (even better if you snag an autobiography or elegantly photographed cookbook that shows you’ve been paying attention during your workday chats). Swann points out that they’ll use a set of sturdy, elegant bookends much longer than the weeks they’re tearing through the latest thriller. This 15-inch ceramic set, handcrafted in artist Virginia Sin’s Brooklyn studio, will streamline their bookshelf, enabling them to replace haphazard stacks with organized groupings.

For the inventive exec


VISIONARY in Esfahan

Gifting your boss a candle emblazoned with the word Visionary may be a little on the nose, but if it’s warranted, why not? There’s also a lot to love in the wick itself, says Elisabeth Jones-Hennessy, New York City-based founder and CEO of GiftMeChic, who recently gave the hand-poured matte porcelain piece as a housewarming gift to a friend who had just taken his company public. Along with the messaging, she says, recipients enjoy a long-lasting candle (60 hours, according to the company) with a calming scent of saffron, rosewater and other subtle spices and florals.

For the new (or enigmatic) boss


Olive Oil Set

When you’re truly stumped on what to get, says Williams, go with a surefire crowd-pleaser: something that can be consumed. “Even if it’s not perfect, it’s going to be eaten or drunk, and then it will be a nice memory as opposed to something that sits on a shelf,” she reasons. Fisher suggests a small-batch item in pretty packaging, like Brightland’s cold-pressed olive oil Duo: the more bold Awake, ideal for roasting, and the smooth, perfect-for-salads Alive. Made with preservative-free ingredients sourced from family-owned Californian farms, “the quality is top-notch,” she says. “I use Awake whenever I host a dinner party because it has a bolder flavor than other olive oils; it’s great for dipping bread.”