Gift giving in the workplace can be challenging territory to navigate. And as anyone who has received an inappropriate gift or something that really wasn’t useful can attest, he or she probably doesn’t want to face a situation in which a gift leads to office gossip.
According to a poll conducted by Harris, around half of workers plan to gift at least one business associate around the holidays but are confused about what to give.
Too often it’s up to workers to navigate these etiquette minefields on their own, but the following tips can help the process go smoothly.
• Keep it impersonal. Impersonal doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to grab anything off the shelf. But the gift should not be something that would offend tastes or sentiments. Avoid clothing, perfume, jewelry, or accessories. Lotions and other scented items are also ill-advised.
• Skip your boss. Etiquette experts say that gifts should flow downward not upward in the realm of employment ranking. That means it’s best to stick with gifting colleagues who are on the same level as you. Buying a gift for the boss may look like you’re simply trying to score brownie points instead of offering a meaningful gift.
• Give group gifts. Rather than gifting individuals, it can be safer to give a group gift from which many can benefit. This can include coffee and pastries from a nearby bakery, or a bouquet of flowers to brighten up the office environment.
• Keep prices modest. Office giving is not about illustrating who can afford the most expensive gift. Remember, some people will not be able to reciprocate, and they shouldn’t feel uncomfortable for being on the receiving end of a lavish gift.
• Follow the rules. Gift exchanges should be cleared with supervisors or human resources professionals. It pays to check if there are rules in place for gifting others.
• Avoid cash gifts. Giving cash or checks is not a good idea. Money should only come by way of bonuses from higher-ups. If you’re stuck on what to give, a gift card to a store that a coworker visits is acceptable. Gifting at work is complicated, and certain etiquette should be followed so no lines are crossed.