Question Of The Week: To Gift — Or Not To Gift — At Work?

As the holiday season kicks off, many workers are starting to wonder if it’s appropriate to exchange gifts at work. What works and what doesn't?

As the holiday season kicks off, many employees are starting to wonder if it’s appropriate to exchange gifts with their managers and coworkers. According to a recent survey from staffing firm Accountemps, holiday gift giving in the workplace is appropriate. As long as the gift itself is appropriate!

holiday gift giving
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The majority of human resources (HR) managers say it is acceptable for employees and managers to exchange presents in the office. Sixty-three percent of respondents noted it’s appropriate for supervisors to give their staff a holiday gift, and 58 percent said it’s appropriate for workers to give their boss a gift. How much to spend? Employees should spend an average of $20 on their boss and $24 as a suitable amount for supervisors to spend on staff, according to the survey.

Thankfully, for those who may not be talented in the art of holiday gift giving, the survey also revealed what not to give. Managers reported the most inappropriate gifts they’ve seen, including:

  • A department head who gave employees a framed picture of himself
  • An employee gave a re-gifted gift that the manager had given the year before
  • A big order of frozen pork
  • A lavish gift. Something that was very valuable because of favoritism
  • A mug with a satirical phrase on it, used to make fun of someone
  • A wig
  • A $700 gift card
  • Liquor
  • A dozen roses
  • Cash was given discriminately in different amounts to different employees

“As much as people enjoy giving presents, this can be a sensitive issue in the workplace and becomes a personal decision based on individual relationships,” said Bill Driscoll, district president for Accountemps. “More important than the dollar amount, the focus should be on giving something meaningful to the recipient. The best gifts are thoughtful and demonstrate care for others.”

Five Rules For Workplace Gifting

Accountemps offers the following five rules for holiday gift giving in the workplace:

  • Give unconditionally. Don’t gift out of obligation or because there’s an expectation of something in return. Similarly, managers should make sure employees know trading presents, even if there is a group exchange, is optional and not a requirement.
  • Make it personal. Show you are thinking of the recipient by finding something he or she will specifically enjoy, such as a gift card to their favorite coffee shop or a book related to a hobby they pursue.
  • Don’t be overly extravagant – or a Scrooge. Spending too much can make the receiver uncomfortable, while spending too little can make the gift seem like an afterthought.
  • Present it nicely. No matter the present, cheerful packaging shows thoughtfulness. Include a personalized holiday card with it.
  • Be thankful. Always express your appreciation. Go the extra step and send a handwritten thank-you note that expresses your appreciation for their help throughout the year.

Does your workplace have rules about holiday gift exchanges? Have you ever given, or received, a gift at work that was inappropriate? Please share your experiences in the comments section below.