A Guide to Office Gift-Giving Etiquette

Office Holiday Gift Giving Etiquette

An old boss once told me, “You know you don’t gift up, right?” Having come from offices where nobody got each other holiday gifts, it hadn’t occurred to me to buy her one. So her attempt to let me off the hook had the opposite effect: I was now wondering about holiday gifts.

It didn’t help matters when the folks of our small office started buying everyone in the office gifts. They were small, but still. I suddenly felt obligated to do the same.

To keep expenses low, as this was a big concern of mine then, I decided to make cookies, but when another coworker did that before me, I felt I couldn’t do that anymore. (I was wrong, for the record.)

So in honor of that whole awkward experience, I give you these office gift-giving guidelines:

1. Don’t start the gift-giving in your office if it hasn’t already started. It’s a nebulous, confusing space, and it’s best not to go there (and bring your coworkers with you).

2. If you feel compelled to do something still, considering bringing food for the office — something holiday-ish is generally loved. Or just get doughnuts. They always go over well.

3. If gift-giving is already a tradition in your office, I am sorry. In my heart, I feel like you shouldn’t be obligated to do the same, but at the same time, it’s hard not to feel like a major Scrooge when little gifts are showing up at your desk and you’re not reciprocating. So I’d recommend going ahead and getting folks something. It can be tiny or a group item.

4. There is no set amount you need to spend. Homemade items are a very good idea.

5. You don’t have to get your boss anything. That said, if everyone is getting your boss something, include him/her if you are also giving gifts. Their gift doesn’t have to be different than anyone else’s.

6. If your boss gets you something and the office doesn’t exchange, you still don’t have to get your boss anything. But you may want to do a little gesture — for example, a holiday card with a nice note saying how much you appreciate him/her. Or buy their favorite coffee drink one day.

Stay tuned for the second part in the series on appropriate gifts for coworkers!

Quote source: The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette, 50th Anniversary Edition by Nancy Tuckerman & Nancy Dunnan

It's good etiquette to share what you like!

Leave a Comment