Vincy Workplace
December 3, 2004
Holiday gift giving etiquette

Just the thought of the holidays and the possibility of having to participate in some form of gift exchange could seem like cruel and unusual punishment in some workplaces. As with everything in an office there is protocol to follow when giving gifts. {{more}}

Gift exchanges: If your workplace decides to participate in a gift exchange, there should be a few basic rules. Check the company policy on gift giving as some organisations may not allow this practice, and make sure that the people who are involved actually want to do the exchange. Avoid coercion or intimidation tactics.

Set a price limit: $10 or $20 is a good price range; let the group decide. Don’t get too expensive and don’t get too cheap either. Stick to your budget.

Choose wisely: Buy good gifts, avoid joke gifts, jewellery, clothes, fragrances, alcohol or gifts that hint at anything sexual or personal; calendars, gift certificates, stationery and pen sets or anything useful on the job are safe. Do your homework and learn something about your recipient’s taste before buying.

Wrap the item: Spend a little time to wrap the gift or buy a gift bag and include a handwritten note. The way you present your gift is important and do not ask the person to open the gift in your presence.

Recycled gifts: Be very careful with recycled gifts. If someone gave you something last year and you decide to give it to someone else this year, the gift should be new and unused; remove the nametag and make sure that the gift will not be recognised by the new recipient, the original giver, or anyone they might know.

Home-made food items: Be careful with home-made foods as not everyone will enjoy or trust your cooking skills. Avoid it. Store-bought food baskets or gourmet items are better.

Optional Participation: It’s okay if you decide not to participate in the office gift swap; however, this decision may not be popular with some co-workers and depending on your office politics the decision could work against you later.

Buying the supervisor/manager a gift: Stay clear of buying a gift individually for the person you report to. This may be seen as currying favour by your co-workers and could backfire next year. If your work team, as a team, contributes towards a gift, that’s acceptable but don’t go out on a limb by yourself unless this is a practice that is acceptable in your organisation like small family-owned businesses.

Gifts for clients: Before you decide to buy a gift for a valued client make sure you know that company’s gift policy, as some companies do not allow employees to accept gifts of any kind.

To all a very Merry Christmas and remember the reason for the season.

Karen Hinds is an international author, speaker and consultant and president of Karen Hinds Seminars. Send comments and suggestions to