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The Do’s And Don’ts Of Gift-Giving At Work

Published: Monday 2nd December 2019

With the Christmas holidays approaching and with less than a month remaining, many professionals face that annual conundrum of gift-giving in the workplace. So, what is the protocol for gift giving at work? Should you gift your team members as a token of appreciation? What about the boss? And if you give a gift to a favourite colleague, do you then have to buy one for everyone else?

Friendly business team congratulating colleague making surprise present, smiling woman giving excited coworker or boss gift box

To help make sure you don’t inadvertently make a gift-giving faux pas at work, here are some of the unspoken rules and our top tips on the matter…

So, should you, or shouldn’t you?

Unless you’re working for an SME, chances are you probably won’t know everyone in your company. But even at work, gift-giving is a personal and symbolical gesture. So, don’t feel obligated to buy someone, whose name you barely know, a gift. Gift-giving earns an appropriate tone and meaning when done for people you interact with daily and of course those co-workers-turned-friends along the way!

What about your boss or manager?

Many companies prohibit buying gifts for bosses, managers or department heads since it may be seen as a way of trying to get a promotion. Therefore, before you proceed always consider your work environment and relationship with your supervisor. A great idea would be to talk to HR or read the employee handbook in order to learn more about the gift-giving policies in your company.

Colleagues working in office on Christmas day giving presents

But just for the sake of clarity here, you certainly do not have to buy your boss a gift. You are never obligated to give a gift to someone with power over you, but it’s likely that your boss may feel obligated to give one to you. However, if you decide to do so, make sure you’re extra mindful and that it is on the less extravagant side!

The DO’s of gift-giving at work

DO buy a gift that shows thought – Getting thoughtful gifts can go a long way, especially when paying attention to the things that your co-workers would really appreciate.

DO stick to your budget – It’s extremely important that you set a reasonable budget before gift shopping for your colleagues. Making sure you stick to it, will keep you away from buying excessively expensive gifts and manage your finances so that you won’t go broke!

Fashion woman buying online for christmas sitting on the floor with colorful shopping bags at home

DO pay attention to your company’s corporate culture – This will help you understand what types of gifts may be acceptable and steer you in the right direction. Be mindful of cultural differences, beliefs and use your common sense and good judgement when making the final choice.

DO wrap your gift And also DO consider adding something extra to make it a bit more personalised and meaningful to the recipient, such as a Christmas card.

The DON’Ts of gift-giving at work

DON’T exchange gifts in front of colleagues that didn’t make your list – You might have made purchases for a select few, and this is completely acceptable, but you still want to keep the sense of inclusivity in your workplace.

DON’T purchase a gift that’s too personal – You may look at some of your co-workers as friends, however, beware of buying gifts that are too intimate as you may make them feel uncomfortable.

Multicultural office worker groups celebrate Christmas And happy new year There was a party to give gifts to surprise the participants with happiness and fun. It's good friendship at work

DON’T feel pressure to run out and buy a gift for your boss – If they give you one, don’t stress or overthink it. Just make sure you find the time if you decide to buy one back and add a thank-you note to express your gratitude.

DON’T miss out on the chance to take part in “Secret Santa” – provided that the whole office is doing so, this is a great opportunity bringing colleagues closer. However, always remember to stick to the company’s rules.

DON’T wait until the last minute – Whenever possible, do plan in advance so that you have plenty of time ahead. This will also help you decide what the most thoughtful presents for each one of your colleagues are.

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