Office Gift Giving: What to do & What not to do

By Nicole Tinkham


The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy, giving, and celebration. It’s just too bad many of us are super busy and stressed when this time of year rolls around. Money tends to be tight but that’s not the only major stress factor. Finding the perfect gift can be the most difficult part. This is especially true in the office as you may not know co-workers on a personal level. How much are you supposed to spend on a co-worker? Do you have to get everyone in the office a gift? Is getting your boss a gift tacky? What about gag gifts? Read on to see what you should be doing and what you should definitely NOT be doing in the office this holiday season plus gift ideas suited for anyone!

What to DO

DO check the company’s policy
Before doing anything, check to make sure you’re even allowed to give gifts in the office. Some companies are strict about exchanging gifts so you may have to talk with your HR department about it first.

DO consider the company culture
A gift you would give in one office can be completely different than a gift you would give in another. Consider the company’s culture. Is it more laid back or is it professional? Use your common sense and go with what feels right.

DO ask around
If you’re new to the job and have no idea what co-workers have done as far as gifts in the past, ask around! They may do a secret Santa or have a set amount they spend on each person.

DO put thought into it
The best gifts don’t necessarily cost the most. Show that you understand and pay attention to your co-workers by getting them a thoughtful gift they will love.

DO give homemade gifts
If you don’t know a particular co-worker all that well, go with something that just about anyone can enjoy. A crafty card or baked goods can go a long way. See the end of this blog for more ideas.

DO give gift certificates
Gift cards aren’t just an easy way out. People LOVE getting them! Make sure to get a gift card your co-worker will actually use. Think about where they get their coffee in the morning or where they go to lunch.

DO make it fun
This year at Keeton’s we’re doing a Secret Santa with a twist. Here’s how it works: Participants choose a name at random and they have that person for the whole month of December. They can give gifts however they want (within the set price range) throughout the whole month. For example, they can give a gift every day leading up to Christmas or give one large gift. They can reveal themselves to the recipient for remain anonymous. It’s completely up to them. Have fun with it!

DO give to a supervisor as a group
To avoid any gift giving issues with your boss, consider giving as a department or group.

DO start new traditions
We mentioned our Secret Santa plan for this year and it’s a first for us. If it works out, it may become our new tradition. Try out new things and see what works best for your office.

DO stay within the budget
If your company sets a budget for gift giving, make sure to stay within that budget. You don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable by going overboard.

DO send a thank you note
If you receive a gift but don’t have one to give in return, don’t feel pressured to run out and buy one. A thank you note expressing your gratitude for the gift is perfectly fine.

DO include a gift receipt
You’re not a mind reader so you don’t know if the recipient wants or already has the gift you are giving. That’s why it’s important to include a gift receipt so they can exchange it for something they do want.

DO give donations to charities
Everyone is different. Some people rather have a donation given to a charity they support rather than a gift for themselves. There’s nothing wrong with giving a donation as a gift as long as you know that’s what the recipient prefers.

DO wrap gifts
It’s a simple step that goes a long way. You can instantly make a gift even more special with presentation. It doesn’t have to be fancy but feel free to be creative.

What NOT to do

DON’T try to make a statement
Gift giving is all about thoughtful gifts that show your appreciation. Don’t do it just to make a statement. When it comes to your boss, you don’t want it to seem like you’re trying to buy your way into a raise so this could be a tricky situation. If you’re not sure, ask around the office and see what others do.

DON’T get too personal
Think about things you’d get someone for Valentine’s Day and avoid those items. Skip on the flowers and perfume!

DON’T give gifts to help with appearance
A gift card to a nail salon is fine because it’s fun and relaxing but try to avoid anything that’s going to make the recipient feel they need to change their appearance. Stay away from hair coloring, wrinkle cream, nose hair trimmers and things like that.

DON’T overspend
The holidays are often tough on your bank account but the nice thing about gift giving in the office is you’re not expected to spend a ton of money on each person. We recommend having a limit set in the office that makes everyone happy.

DON’T be obvious (if gift giving isn’t the norm)
If gift giving isn’t a big event in your office, be discreet when doing so. You don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

DON’T give alcoholic beverages
Wine may make a great gift for friends and family but is inappropriate in the office. If you need a few ideas for appropriate gifts, view the list at the end of this blog.

DON’T give gag gifts
Not everyone has your sense of humor and even though they seem easy going, they may not appreciate gag gifts. Play it safe and stay away from them.

DON’T wait until the last minute
First of all, you want to think this through and get a thoughtful gift. Don’t grab just anything last minute. Purchasing gifts ahead of time also reduces stress closer to the holidays.

Here are a just few ideas that suite just about anyone on your list.

• Picture frame
• Plants for the office
• Gift cards
• Stationery
• Quality pens (we recommend Cross, Franklin Covey, and Parker)
• Fruit basket
• Baked goods
• Candy

Remember, you don’t have to give a gift at all. Just make sure to spread holiday cheer by greeting co-workers with a big smile (which we recommend doing every day anyway) and participating in holiday festivities when you can. No one likes a Grinch! Have fun, be merry, and enjoy spending time with those around you.

Tell us! Are you doing anything special in the office this year? Share with us on our Facebook page.

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