Buying gifts for coworkers can be a tricky business. When should you do it, and how much should you spend? Is it going to be awkward if a colleague buys you a Christmas present and you get him or her nothing in return? Should you buy gifts for your boss? Although each office is different, there are some tips that can apply universally.
- Ask around. If you are new or haven't been around the office for any gift-giving occasions yet, ask someone who's been there longer. If a colleague is getting married, having a baby, or retiring, what is the usual protocol? Some offices will throw a party, complete with gifts, for every situation; other are more conservative.
- Check your employee manual. Some companies have guidelines for gift-giving spelled out in the employee manual, as part of their workplace policy. It's a good idea to know what the official policy is.
- Go with the crowd. In this case, it's often a good idea to do the same as everyone else. If everyone is getting the boss a Christmas gift, make sure you're included. If you know that no one else is planning on buying gifts, feel free to skip it or write holiday cards instead.
- Make sure the gift is appropriate. Never, ever give gifts in the workplace that could be construed by anyone as inappropriate, even if you know the person well. Stay away from anything sexual, intimate, or too personal.
- Pool your resources. Especially for occasions that are honoring one particular person - like a baby or bridal shower - it can be better to get one or two quality gifts than a whole bunch of little things that the person may not need.
- Think useful. No one needs more clutter for clutter's sake. Try to stay away from little knickknacks unless you are sure that the recipient will enjoy them. Try to stay away from landfill fodder.
- Think inclusively. If you are giving a holiday gift to some people in a small group or team from your office, make sure you include everyone. You don't want to leave out a few colleagues, as this will quickly cause hard feelings.
- Donate in a coworker's name. This may require some research, but if you can find out what someone's favorite cause or charity is, he is sure to be touched that you made a donation in his honor.
- Organize a gift swap. Around the holidays, some of the stress regarding gift giving can be alleviated by organizing Secret Santas or some other type of gift exchange. This will allow for each person to concentrate on one other person and not be overwhelmed by gifts!
Remember, occasions that call for gifts are also time for celebrating with friends. Sometimes, it can be more of a celebration to go out to eat or spend time together and agree not to get gifts.