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You Asked For It: FAQs for Office Gift Giving

By Tory Johnson, CEO of Women for Hire

Every holiday, many employees face a dilemma about gift-giving protocol and how to appropriately give or exchange gifts in the workplace, whether with the boss, coworkers, or clients.

We all want to be the happy holiday elf of the office, not the non-PC party pooper, so it's important to inquire about gift-giving protocol. Know your company's gift-giving procedure before the season approaches. Begin by asking the advice of employees who have worked at the company longer than you.  Large companies announce their policies in memos or post their gift policies, while other businesses are more relaxed about it, which presents issues. A seasoned office manager or human-resources contact is usually a big help in these matters. If the employees do exchange gifts, ask how much they usually spend. Is there a specific party or time at which gifts are given? Is there anyone who is off limits for gift-giving? Would it be acceptable for you to arrange a group gift for the boss? Determine what is customary in your workplace and follow the guidelines.

Here are four other questions that might come up when you are making your list this holiday season:

Who should I give to? If your office allows gifts and there are no hard-and-fast rules, that hardly means you must give everyone you work with a gift. Select the people you wish to gift carefully and avoid giving the gifts publicly, which could make others feel left out. Consider giving gifts to those individuals who help you to do your job. Consider initiating a department-wide gift exchange that will take the pressure off personal gift giving. Plan a five-dollar present swap where everyone brings a gift or a gift-card valued at the declared amount and puts it in a big box, and then there is a drawing

What do I get the boss? Avoid one-upsmanship or outshining other employees with pricey gifts. If the boss isn't off-limits, consider teaming up for a group gift for him or her. Suggest that everyone contribute an affordable amount to the boss' favorite charity, the name of which you might get from his or her assistant. Donate the collected amount in the boss' honor.

What should I get my co-worker? First, ask yourself, "What has the individual done that has helped me at work and made my job more pleasant?" In a thank-you note or card, say how much you appreciate this person and her thoughtfulness. If you still want to get a material gift, consider making it something less formal, liked home-baked cookies, a frame to add to her desk collection, or something that reflects her interests. You could also get a gift for her kids or pet instead. Consider what a coworker values and reflect it.

What should I do for clients? Ask your supervisor, "How should I handle our clients during the holiday season? What should I do if someone gives me a gift? How do you prefer I handle this? Are we expected to use our own money to purchase gifts, or does the company make a holiday card available for employees to send out?" You can never go wrong by sending cards with warm holiday wishes. Avoid religious greetings, and focus on wishing the recipient success in the new year.


Tory Johnson is the CEO of Women For Hire and the Workplace Contributor on ABC's Good Morning America.  Connect with her at

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