The holidays are fast approaching, and everyone’s thoughts are turning to festivities and gift giving. Parents start making lists of what to get for children, busy human resources departments and holiday planning committees are looking at budgets and coordinating office parties. Employees may be wondering if they should get a little something for the boss, and plan to give holiday cards and small gifts to co-workers to acknowledge the season and thank them for support and camaraderie at work. It’s a good time to think about workplace gift giving etiquette.
Hilka Klinkenberg, Office Depot’s holiday etiquette expert, recommends being culturally sensitive when giving gifts at work, and keeping workplace gifts related to the business and working relationship when possible. She also recommends refraining from gag gifts that could be inappropriate or misunderstood, and staying within an appropriate budget. Don’t gift lavish gifts to casual co-workers or bosses or spend money you don’t have on workplace gifts.
Appropriate Workplace Gifts
While it’s thoughtful to give a gift at work that is related to personal interests or hobbies of a co-worker or boss, it’s best to give gifts that are work-related. A boss that writes personal thank you notes to employees and clients may like a nice pen set. A co-worker who struggles with a stiff back after long days at the office will appreciate a lumbar support cushion.
In “The Unspoken Etiquette of Workplace Gift-Giving,” Mary Ellen Slayter reminds her readers to check their employee handbook before gift giving to make sure they don’t violate any company rules or regulations. This is especially important for employees working in government agencies. Slayter also recommends non-religious workplace holiday greetings and gifts to avoid assuming anything or creating any awkward situations.
What to Give the Boss
Many employees may about getting a gift for the boss, but should be very cautious about it, advises career advice specialist Penelope Trunk. She advises a handwritten note for the boss at holiday gift-giving time instead of a bottle of wine, a desk knick-knack, or a tie clip. Everyone likes to be appreciated and acknowledged, even the boss, and a handwritten note that cites how your boss inspired you, helped your career goals, or coached you, is an opportunity to improve your working relationship.
When deciding whether or not to buy a gift for your boss, refer to Emily Post’s FAQs about the Workplace and the Holidays. She advises relying on knowledge and tact during the holidays at work, and says no to giving the boss a gift unless it’s a group gift.
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