Workplace Guide to Holiday Gift-Giving

If you give an inappropriate holiday gift to a friend or family member, they’ll likely forgive you. Maybe you’ll even share a chuckle over your poor choice.

But inappropriate gifts in the workplace are no laughing matter – not when office morale, your reputation and even your continued employment are potentially at stake. Follow these tips to avoid the dreaded case of the Mondays (or more serious issues).

Generally, don’t give personal gifts to your boss. This could be viewed as an attempt to win favor. If you want to give a gift to the World’s Best Boss, do so as a team, with everyone pitching in.

Gifts for your direct reports are usually appreciated, though. Just make sure that you treat everyone equally, so that you avoid the appearance of favoritism. Whatever you give must be completely appropriate for the workplace, and neither too cheap nor overly extravagant. American-made insulated drinkware is always a nice choice, particularly when it’s available in an array of styles and designs.

Cash is tacky, unless it comes from the company itself. Gift certificates or gift cards are OK — but not memberships to the Jelly of the Month Club, despite what your well-meaning cousin might think.

Actually, food in general can be tricky, due to allergies and dietary restrictions. Alcohol, perfume/cologne and clothing are also best avoided.

Outside of your direct reports, if you are close personal friends with a coworker, then you’ll likely see that person outside the office. That’s where you should exchange gifts, in the interest of discretion.

Giving gifts to everyone else at work usually isn’t practical, especially in a large organization. Secret Santa and white elephant exchanges are great ways to mitigate the time and expense involved. Plus, they’re fun.

Last but not least, when a coworker gives you a gift, express your gratitude with a handwritten note, rather than an email.

– Matt Rehm