HR's perspective: Handling holiday gift giving at work

Holiday gift giving at work

Holiday shopping is difficult enough without having to worry about the strain it can put on your office relationships. Jodi Martin, an HR professional in the digital media space, weighs in to help you find the perfect gift for every colleague on your list.

Get organized

There’s a reason Santa makes a list and checks it twice—forgetting someone could result in hurt feelings on their part and embarrassment on yours. Make a list of your closest colleagues, meaningful contacts you’ve made and your direct supervisors and managers.

Once you’re sure you’ve included everyone on your list, start thinking about gift ideas—or read on to find them here.

Consider company culture

It seems logical that your boss’ gift should be slightly nicer than that of a colleague whose job is similar to yours—after all, you want to make a good impression—and you probably feel the instinct to be a bit more careful about what you give your boss too.

But while keeping the office hierarchy in mind is one way to approach holiday gift giving, Martin offers a different perspective: “I think the appropriateness of a gift depends more on company culture than the reporting relationship.” For example, in a casual business environment, even risky gifts—like beer—could be perfectly acceptable and even happily received.

Risky corporate holiday gifts

Martin advises against any of these corporate holiday gift ideas: cash (unless it’s a company bonus), clothes (unless they’re company swag) and hard alcohol.

Also, stay away from gifts of a political, religious or sexual nature, as they could offend someone. Every gift sends a message and you want to communicate the right one. Unless you’re exchanging gifts outside of the office, and even then, what you give can have an effect on your work relationship and even your job.

Safe corporate holiday gifts

“In a corporate work environment, I would be cautious about what type of gift you give to ensure it will be well received,” suggests Martin. “A nice bottle of wine, a gift card, a small décor piece or gift basket are all nice gift ideas that would be accepted in most work places.” She adds that a $10 gift card for someone you work with closely is “totally acceptable.”

If you arrive at the conclusion that you can’t give gifts without someone feeling left out, consider writing personal greeting cards to everyone on your list and including chocolate you could easily buy at the Dollar Store.


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