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To Gift or Not to Gift at the Holidays


It’s the season of giving, or so the television says, but should you always or never give something to your co-workers, or your boss? We weigh the options for keeping yourself on the Nice List and out of trouble with HR — way more important than staying on Santa’s good side when you’re a grownup with a job.

gift ribbon 

(Photo Credit: comedy_nose/Flickr)

1. Should you give something to everyone you work with?

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Oh, goodness no. For starters, you may not know if all of your co-workers are celebrating said holiday, and might make things awkward if they don’t know how to reciprocate (or not). For another thing, you might shame a person who doesn’t have the extra income to give everyone brand new whats-its and thing-a-majigs like you do. If you have some great friends at work, and you have some kind of agreement to exchange a little something, sure, go for it. But don’t make others feel left out because they’re not in your clique. Take things out of the office so it’s not an us-vs.-them kind of Christmas.

2. Do you at least have to give something to your boss?

Nope. U.S. News & World Report, as well as Emily Post, point out that not only should gifts flow down the chain of command (from your boss to you, and so forth) but you should never feel pressured to give something to your boss. That’s right, even if all of your other co-workers are doing it, your boss shouldn’t have their hand out, so to speak.

3. But I really like my boss! Can’t we do a group gift?

If your boss is the bee’s knees, and you have it in your budget to chip in to something special that suits their personality (and isn’t inappropriately expensive), sure, go ahead and add your dollars to the contributions. But, be clear to fellow co-workers that it shouldn’t be compulsory for everyone to chip in. It’s not cool to impose that kind of guilt on your work friends.

4. What do you do about “Secret Santa” or “Yankee Swap“?

For whatever reason your work is “all in” for Christmas present exchanges, but you’re going to have to find something for Carl in Accounting who you really don’t know at all, or you have to buy something that could go to anyone. What do you do?

Well, stick to the basics like books, candles, calendars, and food. Everyone can use (or at least cheerfully accept) any of these. Steer clear of things that give folks the weirdsies, like booze (unless your whole team is on board with their love of red wine), anything remotely size or gender-specific or “sexy” (shudder), or over the agreed-upon budget. Work-themed items are always fun and easy (who doesn’t want some Dilbert socks?). Here are a few ideas to get you going.

While your Aunt Edna might expect something for the holidays every year, bottom line at work is that you shouldn’t feel obligated to give stuff just because it’s “that time of year again.” The best thing you can give your co-workers is another awesome year of being great at your job. And occasional high-fives.

Tell Us What You Think

Do you give gifts to co-workers at the holidays? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.

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