The Bottom Line on Gift-Giving at the Office

There aren't any written rules on whether to give gifts to the boss, co-workers or anyone else for that matter in the workplace, and at this time of the year, giving and receiving, alike, can be extremely stressful.

This "most wonderful time of the year" can be most stressful for those who give or receive gifts in the workplace. Here are eight simple guidelines to help everyone navigate corporate gift giving and receiving etiquette.

Always Ask Before Giving

Enquire about the company’s gifting policy. Many corporations do not allow their employees to receive a gift of any sort…while others have set guidelines on the value or type of gift. A departmental gift that can be shared by all is an excellent way to show appreciation.

Avoid Gifts That Are Too Personal

Never give a gift that could give the wrong impression. It is always better to be safe than sorry. A gift that is too personal or too expensive may be perceived as a bribe. What’s acceptable? Gift Baskets, Office Related Items, Gift Certificates and Books are good choices.

Thou Shalt Not Give Business Gifts With A Religious Connotation.

Remember not everyone celebrates Christmas. Keep this in mind when selecting a greeting card as well. A nice winter scene with a general holiday message and best wishes for the upcoming New Year is the way to go.

"Oh, You Shouldn’t Have!"

The truth is, you do not have to. Just because you receive a gift does not mean you must give one in return. When an employer gives a gift, often an employee feels uneasy about not reciprocating. Unless they have a special friendship, a reciprocated gift for the boss is not necessary. Should the employee choose to present the boss with a gift, there is no need to match the dollar amount of the boss’s gift. A well-written Thank-you note is always in order.

"Nine-To-Five No-No"

Unless it is a company Holiday party, avoid giving gifts during working hours. It is not only distracting, but can create jealousy if people receive gifts of perceived unequal value. We recommend the “Pollyanna” name drawing gift approach for large offices with set spending limits. Special gifts for select employees should be given separately without an audience.

Tenure Based Giving Is Acceptable

It is fine to set gift value levels based on company tenure. If you have an employee who has been with you for only a year or less, a nice plant or gift basket would be appreciated and is appropriate. For that loyal manager with ten years of outstanding service a gift with a higher value and or a Holiday bonus is deserved.

It Is The Thought That Counts!

A well thought out less expensive gift is enjoyed and appreciated more that a last minute expensive gift. Plan ahead and expect to spend time selecting your appropriate business gifts. Gifts that show thought…show you care and are sincere in your expressed message.

Need To Return A Gift?

If you receive a gift from a client or vendor that is too expensive or personal, send it back immediately with a note that thanks the sender for the thought, but also explains your company’s gift guidelines. Alcohol is not recommended. And don't forget to take the time to wrap the gifts nicely. Such a gesture will show you really care about giving the gift.

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