It’s hard to find an area more fraught with potential angst than gift giving. And if it’s treacherous to buy for your family and friends who love you anyway, gift giving at the office can be downright terrifying.
Many offices discourage gift giving, and that’s probably smart. Or they organize a “Secret Santa exchange” and call it good.
But what about those office places where there are no clear cut rules? Following is a sleighful of tips to help you be more Santa than Scrooge this holiday season.
Gifts to the Boss
The general rule of thumb is that you don’t gift “up,” in other words you don’t give gifts to those above you. But if you feel as though you want to honor your boss, here are some ideas.
- Avoid cash or gift cards, or anything that has an obvious price tag on it.
- Food. Feel free to think beyond candy, cookies or other treats. How about a nice selection of coffee or tea, a fruit basket, or cheese and crackers?
- Wine: Go easy on this one, unless you are certain your boss likes to drink. If so, a nice bottle of wine or selection of holiday beers would be appreciated.
- Office accessories. No, not a “World’s Best Boss” mug, but a fun mouse pad, desk organizer, picture frame, handsome stationery, etc.
- Lunch out. Do you truly like your boss? It’s absolutely fine to ask your boss out for a casual holiday lunch. Make sure he/she understands it’s your treat and make sure to slip your credit card to the host or server prior to the meal so there’s no awkward check scuffle.
Gifts to Support People
The advice above to avoid cash or gift cards? Absolutely ignore that for support people, or anyone you depend on to get your job done smoothly. And don’t be cheap, especially if you are in a position where a support person helps you make your monthly quota, month in and out.
Gift cards, packaged inside a heartfelt thank you, are absolutely appropriate. You can get creative though. If you know of a favorite store, restaurant or activity, definitely let them know you pay attention to them by honoring them with a crafting card to Michael’s, a certificate to a boutique they frequent, or an evening at their daughter’s favorite restaurant.
In the absence of good intel, here are cards that anyone would appreciate:
- Movie theater
- Coffee shop (bonus points if it’s local!)
- A large local deparment store
Gifts to Clients
There probably is some precedent set in your office, but as with the boss, you can’t go wrong with food. Try to make it a basket they can share with others in their office.
Inviting them to a lunch out, happy hour, or a sporting or theater event is a great way to do double duty by not only treating them but finagling a bonding bonus. Since the holidays are such a busy time, consider inviting them now for an event or outing in January.
Depending on your relationship, you might want to include significant others, or even better, others from their team and yours. Many times a whole team is involved in account service, and introducing everyone to each other can be a wonderful step in further cementing a relationship.
“Secret Santa” Exchange
If you draw names, try to sleuth around and find out something the person would like. Everyone appreciates when someone buys them something considerate, rather than something generic.
If you don’t know them well enough, though, don’t be creepy. And jewelry and clothing are completely out, from a man to a woman, even if it is your “work wife.” “Real husband” might not appreciate.
If you don’t know the person, or it is one of those “white elephant” exchanges where anyone could end up with your gift, go practical, not white elephant. You know what that means: No Chia Pets.
Stay within the dollar limit. You can go slightly above but don’t dip below. Some ideas:
- Gift cards (see above…no one ever snubbed an iTunes or a coffee card, no matter the denomination).
- Gift certificate to a local lunch place everyone frequents.
- Prepaid card to the office “coffee cart.”
- Nice candles, stationery, pens, or an ornament. Something that can easily be regifted if it doesn’t suit their taste.
I love a good gift gaffe. Ever gotten a particularly good or bad gift? Please leave a note in the comments.
• • •
Series on Working Through the Holiday Season
- Part 1: Christmas Holiday Productivity: Five Ways to Make the Most of the “Wasted Week”
- Part 2: Gift Exchange at the Office: Avoid the Gift Gaffe
- Part 3: How the Grinch Stole the Holiday Spirit: Four Office Mistakes to Avoid During the Holiday Season
by Cathie Ericson