1. Be reasonable. We get it: people are always saying “it’s the thought that counts,” but you’re thinking, “yeah, unless it’s an awesome gift!!” But when it comes to the office, the whole thought thing actually applies. Not everyone feels the need (or has the dough) to give gifts to coworkers this time of year. Don’t go for anything too expensive, which could make those who have opted out of gifts feel uncomfortable. Plus, it will help you to stick to your holiday budget!
2. Play by the rules. Some organizations, including government offices and non-profits, have strict rules about giving gifts in the office and what types of gifts can be given. You don’t want your holiday cheer to get you into trouble — or to put a coworker who knows the rules better than you do to be put in the awkward position of refusing. It’s worth a peek at your company’s website or employee handbook to make sure you’re following the guidelines before you give.
3. Give smart. Now that you know to stay within your budget, look for gifts that are personal enough to brighten your coworkers’ day…but not too personal to be inappropriate. We love fun and practical gifts like a colorful USB drive or mousepad that doubles as a scratchpad. Stay away from coffee mugs or pencil holders, which will only clutter your workmates’ desks (that is, more than they already are…). Gifts like alcohol or spa treatments might send the wrong message, especially within a coed office, so better avoid those, too. And don’t even get us started on gag gifts. Just…don’t.
4. Keep it secular. There are so many wonderful holidays and traditions this time of year — that’s what makes it so special! But remember that not everyone in your office celebrates the same holiday, and some don’t observe holidays at all. Stay away from gifts and cards with religious content in favor of “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings.” Your workmates will appreciate the warm greeting no matter what they celebrate at home.
5. Gather ‘round. Holiday treats that can be enjoyed by everyone are always a safe bet, such as a box of Dunkin’ Donuts K-Cups for the breakroom or your famous gingerbread cookies. Giving collective gifts like these will ease the burden on your wallet while ensuring no one is left out. Plus, who doesn’t love the excuse for a mid-afternoon cookie break?
6. Don’t get crazy. You probably don’t know everyone in your office, especially if you work for a large company. So don’t feel like you need to give something to everyone. For example, including everyone in your team or department is a nice way to be inclusive, but don’t worry about sending a little something over other areas of the office with which you rarely have contact. Trust us, Suzie in Accounts Payable won’t be upset by missing a personal greeting from someone she’s never met.
7. Be discreet. If you do plan to give special gifts to coworkers that you’re particularly chummy with, do so outside the office. Lunchbreaks or coffee breaks are ideal for handing out goodies to those chosen few without making others feel bad. Plus, taking the time to share gifts one-on-one will show them how much you really care.
8. Be an Equal Opportunity Gifter. Don’t get caught in the sliding gift scale, where you purchase nicer gifts for those who are higher up the corporate ladder. It can make your superiors feel uncomfortable and your underlings feel slighted. Better to play it safe and spend around the same amount on each person. And remember to give a little extra thought to those loyal assistants, admins, and interns who support you every day. They may not influence your work as much as your boss, but you’d sure be lost without them!
9. Be gracious. If you find yourself in that stick situation where someone whom you left off your list gives you a gift, be gracious in accepting it. Tell them how thoughtful the gesture is and how you plan to use it. It may not be an exact reciprocation, but your kindness will pay them back either way.