Holiday gift-giving in the workplace is a thoughtful way of letting colleagues and clients know that you value the business relationship you share. But gift-giving comes with its risks. When a present is too expensive or is too personal, even the best intentions can backfire. Knowing the answers to the following questions will take the stress out of gift-giving in the office and enhance the joy of the season. It is, after all, supposed to be a time of good cheer and not one of high anxiety.
- Should you give a gift to everyone you work with?
- Do you need to buy a present for your boss?
- What are appropriate gifts?
- How much should you be expected to spend?
- When is the right time to present your gifts?
- What if you can’t afford the gift exchange?
The first thing you need to do is find out if there is a company policy on holiday gift-giving. If the company doesn’t have one, this could be a good time to establish one or, at the very least, come up with guidelines within your own department. If you work for a small business, decide with your co-workers how you want to handle this conundrum. And make sure that everyone is on board with the collective decision.
For religious, cultural or financial reasons, some people prefer not to engage in holiday gift-giving at work . Honor those people and make sure you have a process that allows individual to opt-in rather than opt-out. One way to do this is by passing around a sign-up sheet for those who want in. No pressure or judgment should be placed on those who don’t sign up.
Follow a process like “Secret Santa”, and set a low dollar limit to make it easier for everyone to participate. After all, holiday time can be costly at best. Stay within the limits set. Just because you can afford more, going over the limit will not win you any friends.
Avoid giving inappropriate items such as clothing, fine jewelry or perfume to your co-workers. Save those for family and friends. Gag gifts are also on the banned list. Not everyone thinks the same things are funny so don’t give an item that could be offensive. You’ll have to work with the person you offended long after the holidays.
Appropriate gifts include foods like candy, cookies, jams and jellies, soaps, scented candles, books, and gift cards. One caution about gifts of food—don’t give candy or cookies to the person who is trying to diet.
Plan when you will engage in the holiday gift-giving in your office. You may choose to have an office party in-house or go off-site for a holiday luncheon or an after-hours party. If you want to give a special gift to a close colleague, do it outside the office, not in front of others. And certainly not at the office party.
When it comes to the boss, there is no obligation to give a gift. Sorry, boss. Gifting should flow downward, not upward. Consider this: the boss makes the most money and is the person who should be buying for employees. If everyone feels strongly about giving to the boss, set a dollar limit and collect a minimal amount from each employee. Don’t make an end run by giving the boss a present when everyone else in the office chose not to. That is one sure way to create conflict and ill will with your co-workers.
If a coworker or supervisor gives you an unexpected gift, don’t worry. Proper etiquette states that unexpected gifts do not need to be reciprocated. All that’s required is a friendly “Thank you!”
These rules for holiday gift-giving in the workplace are designed to make the process joyful and stress free. Don’t use them as an excuse to play Scrooge or the office Grinch.
Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, professional speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com to find out how she can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.