It’s that time of year again; there are cookies in the lunchroom and your coworkers are leaving candy canes and Christmas cards at your desk. You’ve been thinking about getting some gifts for your coworkers, but you aren’t sure what to get them. Before you buy anything, consider these guidelines:
Be discreet unless you are giving gifts to everyone. It hurts to feel left out. When you give a present to one coworker but not the other, you are essentially saying, “I like her better than you.” This is not best way to make connections at work, and it’s just not nice. If you only have gifts for a few close friends, consider giving it to them outside of the office.
Get a collective gift for everyone. When you give a gift that everyone can enjoy, people feel included and it brightens the spirit of the workplace. Chocolate, cookies, and candy are always a hit, or as an alternative you could buy a nice plant for the office.
Don’t give expensive gifts. When you buy your coworker an expensive gift, they feel the need to reciprocate. While your intentions may have been good, there is a good chance that it will just make them uncomfortable. An inexpensive, but thoughtful present will show your coworker that you appreciate them, without making them feel like they ‘owe’ you.
Find out the company culture on giving gifts and follow it. Many organizations have formal or informal rules about giving gifts. For example, at some companies, people draw names and you only buy a gift for that particular person. At other companies, instead of gifts, everyone brings in food for everybody to share. If you follow the traditions that have already been established, then everyone knows what to expect.
Be cautious when giving a gift to your boss. Giving a gift to your manager is a potentially awkward situation. First, find out if your coworkers are getting your manager a present; you don’t want to be the only one. Also, don’t buy your manager anything too expensive or personal. A good approach is to give your manager something that they can share with everyone.
Don’t give alcohol. It is best to avoid giving alcohol to your coworkers. Your coworker or a member of their family may be suffering from alcoholism, or their religion could forbid them from consuming alcohol. Also, how would you feel if your coworker cracked open the bottle of wine that you gave them for a festive drink, and they were immediately fired? It’s best not to go there.
Don’t give gag gifts. While you may feel that your gag gift is good natured, and hilarious, you never know how the recipient will feel. Gifts are meant to show your coworkers how much you appreciate them, not to embarrass them. If you must give your coworker a gag gift, make sure that they will also be laughing, and do it outside of the office.
There is no doubt about it; giving gifts to your coworkers can be tricky. However, don’t let that discourage you. The holidays are a great time to build relationships with your colleagues. If you make an effort to be considerate and to include everyone, you can spread holiday cheer without getting yourself into trouble.
(Written by Karen Bivand)