The Art of Office Gifting

“It’s important to give gifts at the holiday,” Leah Ingram, author of You Shouldn’t Have! How to Give Gifts They’ll Never Forget, told the Ladies Home Journal. “It’s how you say thank you to people who support you throughout the year, and how you show appreciation to your professional mentors.”

It may be important but it can also be a nightmare. Striking the right balance between a truly heart-felt, appropriate gift and shameless sucking up can be quite a challenge, especially in a small office. There are a few ways to make the experience less of an ordeal for everyone involved.

The place to start is with the gift giving tradition at your firm. If you don’t know what it is, ask someone who has been through a few holiday seasons with the firm. Remember, not all businesses encourage, or even allow, gift-giving. If your firm is one of these, you may want to focus your efforts on finding the perfect holiday card or composing a message expressing your appreciation for the recipient’s support during the previous year.

Assuming your employer allows co-workers to exchange gifts, how much should you spend? Here the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can come to your aid. The IRS allows individual taxpayers to deduct no more than $25 for each professional gift. That’s a great guideline for the upper limit of what you should spend.

The point of giving a gift is to say “thank you” and show appreciation for the recipient’s support, help, and understanding during the previous year. Therefore, the best gifts are those that are personal, or at least that demonstrate a personal relationship with individual. Items related to a hobby, or interest, are sure to be warmly received, according to Ingram. If you know a person regularly gets a manicure, massage, shoe shine, latte, or other “little luxury”, a gift certificate to their favorite establishment, or perhaps the “top of the line” provider of the preferred type of service, would be appreciated. Be warned, the “top of the line” gift may be more appropriate from a mentor to someone just starting their career than the other way around. Donations to a favorite charity, non-profit or community organization given in the recipient’s name also makes a good gift.

For those wanting a little more concrete guidance, Mannersmith, an etiquette web site, offers these guidelines:

  • Know the person’s preferences and try to match the gift to it.
  • Be aware of the cultural, religious or international taboos. Also be aware that some companies restrict their employees from accepting a gift over a certain amount.
  • Use your common sense, no matter what the salesperson or website says is appropriate.
  • Save the gag gifts for purely social occasions, and even then, proceed with caution.
  • Save items with your company name on them for marketing campaigns.
  • Wrap the gift. Half the thought is the presentation.
  • Start planning in advance. For extra help, contact a professional gift manager.

Remember, no gift is complete without the best wishes of the giver.

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