Office Gifts: To Give or Not to Give?

by Jill Schaefer on December 4, 2017

This time of the year makes me half-crazy trying to ensure all the special people in my life get a thoughtful gift. I have 7 nieces and nephews, 3 sisters, my mom, and my in-laws to account for. Not to mention, there are several people at work who I could give gifts to because I’m grateful for their contributions.

The question is should I give office gifts?

And, if I do, what should they be? How much should I spend? How much is too much?

Office Gifting is Optional
There are certainly no laws requiring employers to give gifts to employees, nor are there mandates for coworker gift exchanges. However, many organizations have Gift & Gratuity Policies, which offer guidance and direction on the matter.

For ethical reasons, some organizations forbid employees from giving their managers gifts. For example, if I give my boss a Tiffany&Co. necklace, but another coworker gives my boss a tin of homemade cookies, and then down the line I get a nice promotion, presumably because I gave the better gift, you can see how bad that looks.

Another thing to consider is that not everyone in the office is comfortable giving or receiving gifts for financial, religious, or personal reasons. This doesn’t mean you can’t give a gift if you really want to, and company policy doesn’t restrict it, but keep things in perspective.

Just Right
A CareerBuilder survey found that 22% of employees plan to buy a gift for coworkers, and 73% don’t plan to spend more than $25 per gift.

If you’re a manager, as I am, and you plan on giving a gift to your direct reports, you may consider giving each of them an equitable gift. Otherwise, it looks like we’re playing favorites.

What Not to Give
The same CareerBuilder survey I previously mentioned also listed the oddball gifts that people received from their coworkers. Note: DO NOT give these items to your coworkers! Ever!

  • Two left-handed gloves
  • A coconut bra
  • A jar of gravy
  • A fake lottery ticket
  • A real stuffed duck
  • Toilet paper that looked like money
  • Dish detergent
  • A pen holder that looks like a crime scene victim
  • A comic book of an obscure movie
  • A handmade ornament for an unknown sports team
  • A singing chicken
  • A whip

The Verdict
So, will I be giving key coworkers, including the people who report to me, a gift this year?

I think so.

My gifts won’t break the bank and they certainly won’t be weird or even funny. They will be small tokens of my appreciation accompanied by a heartfelt note of professional thanks.

Additional Resource
KPA’s “Ho, Ho, Whoa: Keeping Holiday Parties, Gifting & Religious Accommodations in Perspective” webinar

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Jill SchaeferOffice Gifts: To Give or Not to Give?