The season of giving is upon us, and you’re probably already juggling a pretty extensive list of must-buy presents. Your S.O. naturally deserves the perfect gift, you’ve already been invited to participate in three white elephant exchanges, your parents are perpetually impossible to buy for… are you starting to sweat? As if you needed one more thing to worry about, there’s always the issue of what to give people at the office — that is, if you give them anything at all. Oh, you hadn’t thought of that yet? Sorry. We totally just made everything worse.
Gifting company Knack recently conducted a survey about holiday presents in the workplace, and the good news is that it really seems to be the thought that counts. According to Knack’s results, the most memorable gifts among professional contacts are items chosen especially and uniquely for the recipient, those that include a personal note, or those that are shareable (like edible treats that can be split among family and friends). Expensive or labor-intensive presents don’t make the list! Commence your happy dance — to the tune of “Jingle Bells,” of course.
If the prospect of choosing gifts for your coworkers still has you breaking out in a case of holiday hives, we’re here to help. We talked with business etiquette expert Arden Clise to get the lowdown on office gifting. She has eight tips to share — and we’re pretty confident they’ll make the whole thing feel a lot less stressful. Read on for all the details.
1. Leave your expectations at the door. “Holiday gift giving at the office is a nice way to say thank you to the [people] you work with,” Clise agrees. “That said, [it] should not be expected. People have different budgets, and not everyone celebrates the holidays, so there should never be a requirement or expectation that coworkers exchange gifts.” If you choose to share gifts at the office, don’t expect that everyone else will do the same — and if you’ve opted not to gift something to your colleagues, rest assured that you haven’t committed a major faux pas.
2. Avoid overly personal presents and gag gifts. It should go without saying that it’s best to avoid giving a colleague anything that feels too intimate, but perfume, jewelry, and pajamas are all no-nos. And while it’s easy to default to a silly present when you’re not sure what else to get, gag gifts are also not a great idea. “They might be funny with close friends or family, but they may be seen as mean-spirited or inappropriate for a coworker,” Clise explains.
3. Be careful with booze. A bottle of wine can often seem like a nice present for just about anyone, but take a beat before you hand over the gift of holiday spirits (pun!) to someone at the office. Do they drink? Do they have religious or other restrictions that limit their alcohol consumption? Within the context of your relationship with this particular person, would a bottle of wine feel like a weird or inappropriate gift?
4. Skip the gift for your boss. According to Clise, it’s generally best not to share a holiday present with your supervisor. “It’s fine for bosses to give gifts to their employees, but employees should not be expected or feel obligated to give a gift to their boss,” she says. “Being a great employee is the best present you can give your boss.”
5. Give gifts only to your closest coworkers. If you’re working on a budget this year (aren’t we all?), there’s no need to feel pressured to buy something for every single person at the office. Give gifts to your closest office pals or to anyone you spend a significant number of your working hours with. Someone you’ve swapped a few emails with — no matter how nice they are! — doesn’t need to merit a holiday present.
6. Keep office gifts simple. Even your office BFF isn’t going to expect something extravagant from you this holiday season — which is good, since Clise suggests you stay away from anything that could potentially come off as over-the-top. “[Extravagant gifts] may make someone feel uncomfortable that you’ve spent so much on them,” she reminds us. “It’s the thought and appropriateness of the gift that matters, not how much you spend.” Go for homemade baked goods or jams, or something store-bought in the $5-$10 range. A close friend at the office might merit a bigger budget, but don’t go overboard.
7. Swap presents with your work bestie in private. If you’ve opted to get something a little more expensive for the coworker you eat lunch with every day (and who’s also likely responsible for you maintaining your sanity at the office), give it to them in the privacy of your office or at happy hour after work. This is especially important if you’ve made the totally understandable decision to not give gifts to other colleagues.
8. Don’t stress if you get a gift from someone who wasn’t on your list. We’ve all been on the receiving end of an incredibly thoughtful gift, with nothing to give in return. Clise’s advice? Don’t stress! “Say thank you and let it go,” she recommends. “No need to say or do anything else except write a thank-you note. If you give your colleague a gift later, it will look like you didn’t plan to give them a gift and instead scrambled to buy one after they gave you one.”
Do you have any other helpful rules of thumb for exchanging holiday gifts at the office? Tweet us @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)