Holiday Gift Etiquette at Work

Back to All Posts
Greta Cline, CFO
Greta Cline
Partner, CFO/COO
December 16, 2019

It’s that time of year. The holidays are upon us, and navigating the season of gift giving at work can be tricky. Should you give your boss a gift? What about coworkers? From group gifts to skipping out on Secret Santa, we’ve got the answers to some of your most frequent dilemmas.

Am I supposed to get my boss a gift?

Gifts in a workplace should usually flow from the top down. In fact, many companies don’t allow gifts for supervisors because this could be seen as trying to buy favor. However, it’s important to take your company culture and individual relationships into consideration. Don’t feel like you can’t purchase a gift for your boss, but if you do, it’s probably best to keep it small and simple.

What about giving gifts to co-workers?

Gift-giving is a personal gesture, and chances are good that you don’t know everyone at your workplace. If you’d like to buy gifts for the people you work with, consider purchasing for those that you interact with regularly or feel close to personally. Use discretion when handing them out. While it’s fine not to get something for everyone, you don’t want to disrupt any team dynamics. If you happen to receive a gift from someone that you don’t have a gift for in return, a sincere thank you note is an appropriate response.

What if I’m being asked to chip in money for a group gift?

If you would like to be involved, feel free! But don’t feel obligated to spend money on something you do not want to participate in or can’t afford. It’s perfectly acceptable to decline the invitation by saying something like “I’m sorry, I can’t participate this year.”

Should I participate in Secret Santa-type exchanges?

Know your environment. In some offices, Secret Santa and other gift exchanges are just for fun, while in others you’ll be the odd one out if you don’t participate. In these situations, it’s great to pick out a simple, gender-neutral gift such as a sweet treat, gift card, or an interesting office supply. Usually these types of exchanges have a budget of $10 to $15. Make sure you stick to the budget and have some fun with it.

What’s a thoughtful gift for a colleague?

Show your coworkers you care by picking out something that they would truly use or appreciate. Take into consideration things you’ve heard them talk about or seen them deal with everyday. Is one of your coworkers always cold? Buy her a scarf or shawl. For the coworker who always forgets his lunch, consider a gift card to a local restaurant or Door Dash. A Starbucks gift card is a one-size-fits all gift and you can even email it to co-workers.

beef jerky bouquet
The Manly Man Bouquet

Looking for a unique and tasty gift idea? The Manly Man’s beef jerky bouquets are a meaty treat that men (and women) can enjoy! Making a small donation to a colleague’s favorite cause is another neat way to show you care. Keep in mind that some types of gifts are too personal. Items like jewelry, perfume, or lotion may cause your colleagues to second-guess your intentions.

Happy holiday gift giving!