12/14/2009 04:22 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

This Gift Could Save Your Job

Back in the day, giving a holiday gift to your boss would have branded you forever as a heinous butt-suck. But those were gentler times, before the cost-cutters from McKinsey moved in and started decking your company's halls with festive pink slips.

Nowadays, Santa's favorite reindeer game is sacking Blitzen if he isn't pulling his weight, thus downsizing the team from an unwieldy eight to a lean and mean seven. In this brutal environment, a well-chosen gift for your superior may be the best way to prevent yourself from joining the ranks of the unemployed, or as Blitzen now calls himself, a sleigh consultant.

Of course, giving your boss a holiday present can be risky. There's a chance that he isn't contemplating firing you at all, in which case your little Yuletide bauble may only serve to remind him of your existence in the first place. ("Henderson, Henderson ... wait a minute, wasn't he the one who screwed up his PowerPoint presentation for the Germans and pitted out his shirt? I must can that sweaty bastard!")

But the other option -- giving your boss no gift -- isn't really an option at all. Employers never used to fire people around the holidays, but now, perversely, it's their favorite time of year to bring down the ax. Reason? With a mandate to slash the cost of their companies' holiday parties, many chief executives see the period immediately preceding those revels as the perfect moment to thin out the herd. The time for you to act is now. In fact, the time for you to act may have been two weeks ago.

But assuming you're still in the game -- if, for example, your boss hasn't been avoiding eye-contact with you since November -- here's a simple guide to selecting his or her holiday gift: More here.