Guidelines for Giving Gifts at Work

Get Christmas Gift Ideas and Tips for Co-Workers

Potted plant with thank you note on office table
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Although workplace gift-giving should not be considered mandatory, many people and businesses do exchange gifts, especially during the holidays. But I am a firm believer that gifts should be given to honor an existing relationship, not with the intention of hoping to establish a new one. I am completely against giving holiday (or other gifts) at work to try and win your boss' favor or make up for poor performance on the job.

The greatest gift that you can give to your employer and co-workers is to be an exemplary employee year-round. It is the day-to-day way in which you do your job and treat people around you that matter most to your employer.

Before selecting a gift, ask yourself what message does the gift (and the reason for giving the gift) convey about you? The right gift should show that you cared enough to give an appropriate and thoughtful gift out of appreciation and respect.

How Much You Should Spend on Gifts at Work

Giving extravagant gifts to get something in return or outshine co-workers is never a good idea. It does not make you look good and usually makes the recipient feel uncomfortable.

Expensive gifts can seem out of proportion to the occasion, as well as to what other workers are giving. The message sent is not how generous you are, but that you are a gift show off. But "lazy" or cheap gifts send the message that you are only offering a gift because you felt that you had to.

There are not many meaningful gifts that you can buy these days for $5.00 and a cheap gift will usually appear cheap, insincere, and like a "token" gift. So how much should you spend on a gift for your boss?

Giving Handmade Gifts to Your Boss

Before giving any gift, but especially when giving a handmade item, consider how personal your relationship is with your boss.

If you see your boss from time to time a handmade knitted sweater is too much. But if you have a close working relationship with your boss, a knitted scarf might be fine.

Remember, your number one goal when giving a holiday gift is that it should be given the same consideration as any gift you give to loved ones: Will it make him/her feel good, or uncomfortable? The gift, even in the workplace, should still be about the recipient and not the giver.

Giving Cash or Gift Cards to a Boss or Co-Workers

Generally, no, you should not give cash as a gift in the workplace. Giving cash is not considered acceptable unless it is given by the company as a bonus to employees. However, gift cards and gift certificates work like cash and are acceptable.

Business Gifts Etiquette Tips

Giving no gift at all can be better than giving the wrong gift. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself if the gift is something you would let a child see (even if they would not enjoy the gift itself). If you would not let a child see the gift, it may not be appropriate to give to someone at work.