Should I Give Out Holiday Gifts at Work?

While this issue may not be quite as delicate or tricky as actual politics, office gift giving can certainly feel just as dangerously diplomatic. Before you venture into office-relations waters, here’s a checklist of important factors to remember.

Dear Rue: Holiday Gifts

Check with your HR department to see if they already have a general gift-giving policy in place. Or if they’re planning a gift exchange, like Secret Santa, White Elephant, or some other sort of – probably oddly named – swap.

Limit your spending on individual gifts to a relatively small amount, but don’t spend too little either. Aim for around $10 to $25.

Think before you “gift up.” Group gifts (everyone chips in, say, $5 to $10 each for a single present) are recommended if you want to give a holiday gift to a supervisor. Or, at the very least, make sure you’re also giving gifts to the coworkers at your own level. Otherwise, always wanted to be the office brownnoser? Your wish just might be granted.

Avoid. Gag. Gifts. Unless your work has organized a silly-on-purpose swap, don’t give them out. And if your office has set up an event like that, be careful. Consider whether the gift could be offensive or inappropriate in any way.

Be discreet. Don’t make a big deal about giving out the gifts. If you can, even hand them out outside of the office.

And be thoughtful. Items that require a size or fit, presents that will go stale or be difficult to deal with (such as, ahem, this), and are-they-trying-to-tell-me-something gifts like an alarm clock or gym gift card are out. As with the gag gifts, always think about how your present will be perceived.

A bit worried now about that oh-so-hilarious T-shirt you bought for everyone? That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Take work gifts (and that T-shirt return policy) seriously, and your colleagues will take you seriously, too.

By Shaina Malkin, Copyeditor

Have an etiquette emergency? Tweet us your question at @ruelala, and we might cover it in our next Dear Rue column.

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November 14, 2013