Gift Giving at Work: Don’t Stress It!

Career & Workplace

While the holiday season is supposed to be full of “good tidings and cheer”, we all know that this is not something that comes easily to many of us. Between long lines in stores, wallets that grow empty as the season goes on, and angst over what to get the person who isn’t happy with anything, the “cheer” part of the holiday season sometimes goes by the wayside, especially in the workplace.  However, there are things you can do to make the holiday season less stressful and more enjoyable, even during the workday.


Know your staff and their holidays:

  • If you are a department head, you should have an awareness of what customs/traditions your employees follow during the holidays. Saying “Merry Christmas” to the Account Manager who celebrates Hanukkah can be offensive, even if you don’t mean for it to be. If you take your staff to lunch as a holiday gift, try to organize the luncheon on a day when they are all present. Some staff may take days to celebrate holidays in their own cultures/religions, rather than the customary Christmas Eve and Christmas Day dates that most companies observe.


Gifts for coworkers:

  • Many of us already have too many people on our shopping list during the holiday season, and adding coworkers to that list sometimes puts us over the financial edge. Don’t sweat it and don’t spend money that you don’t have just because somebody asked you to. If you have a group of co-workers you feel you need to buy a little something for, suggest drawing names and doing a gift exchange. Set a strict price limit, and encourage the co-workers to give gift ideas (within the price range) to help the buyer find something appropriate for that person. If you decide to buy for someone outside of the gift exchange, make sure you set up a special time away from the workplace to exchange gifts. Or, forgo the gift-giving completely and instead do a cookie exchange or potluck with your coworkers to keep the mood festive. Both options cost less and still give you the holiday social time to enjoy with your coworkers.
  • Doing a Secret Santa gift exchange? While this isn’t always a favorite and can be very awkward, consider suggesting a theme to keep gifts from getting weird. A “coffee” theme, or “Star Wars” theme or whatever your office is into keeps the mood light. Be clear on whether the gifts are supposed to be “nice” or “gag”. Set a dollar amount so everyone’s gift is the same value. If one person gets a whole full basket of goodies but another person gets a pair of Dollar Store socks, resentment may replace the tone of the festivities.


Gifts for the boss:

  • This is a tough one. If you are the person who has been assigned the task of organizing the gift for the boss, there are a few things to remember. First, salaries are not the same. Find a gift where everybody can chip in and not have their wallets cleaned out. Set a limit (maybe $10/person) and if people want to give more they can. Have a card at your desk ready to go so when your coworkers bring you their donation, they can sign the card before they leave. Be prepared for those who may not want to donate and don’t badger them. Finally, when you are ready to present the gift to your boss, gather everyone together and give the gift to your boss as a group.


Gifts for Clients:

  • Before you even think of giving a gift to a client, make sure you are very clear on the gift-giving/receiving policies for your company, as well as your client’s company. Many companies have established strict guidelines regarding what types of “gifts” can be exchanged between clients/customers and suppliers, buyers and sales associates, etc. While some companies have a zero-tolerance policy on receiving any type of gift, they are not opposed to business luncheons. If this is the case, take your client out for a nice lunch and express your gratitude in words instead of a gift that could get you, or them, fired.


By following some of these simple guidelines, you will make your holiday celebrations in the workplace light on the stress and heavy on the cheer! Happy Holidays!