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The Art of Gift Giving in the Workplace

I love the holidays, but gift giving is always a challenge, especially in the workplace.  Do you have to buy your boss a gift?  What types of gifts are appropriate for employees?  Here are a few tips to help make workplace gift giving a little easier:

Don’t get personal– Perfumes and jewelry are too intimate for workplace gifts (if you’re trying to give a coworker a hint about his personal hygiene with cologne, try the direct approach instead; if you think a little blue box will help you score a date with your secretary, save yourself the HR hangover that may ensue after New Year’s with that move!)

Do be thoughtful– Although coffee mugs and paperweights are easy, most of us have run out of room for these little knickknacks.  Why not instead give a donation to your boss’ favorite charity in her honor?  Many organizations will alert the person that a gift has been made in his or her name (Dress for Success Atlanta, on whose board I currently serve, does this and is currently running a “Give the Gift of Success” campaign).

 Be considerate of other’s religious beliefs or lack thereof– Remember that your boss or coworkers may have different religious beliefs than you and may even be offended by cards and gifts with religious overtones or messages.  It’s better to stick with “Happy Holidays” or “Seasons Greetings” cards and wrapping paper.  And while you’re at it, you better stay away from gifts that have political messages or sexual innuendo as well (as much as you may have enjoyed it, your coworker may not appreciate a copy of Sarah Palin’s Going Rogue or President Obama’s Audacity of Hope).

Be inclusive – You may want to consider going in as a team to buy the boss’ gift (it will look less like brown nosing!), or if you’re the boss, buying a gift your entire team can enjoy, such as an upgraded coffee maker.   Obviously, there may be some people at work that you are closer to than others.  Make arrangements to exchange “special” gifts for your workplace friends outside of the office.

Check the policy– Your HR office or employee handbook will be able to provide guidance on any policies that may exist regarding giving gifts in your office.  Keep this in mind for gifts for your customers and vendors as well.  Many companies have strict policies regarding the monetary value or types of gifts that can be accepted. 

There’s no need for gift giving in the workplace to be the cause of more stress for your holiday season.  After all, it’s the thought that counts.  Just keep your thoughts P.C. and you’ll be fine!


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