It can be tough enough to find the right gift for our dad or our best friend, so we start to reach our limits when we’re expected to navigate the murky water of gifts for our officemates. In some cases, a gift may be a great way to say thanks for the hard work someone has done, but in other cases it may feel inappropriate. After all, we don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable or as though they need to give us a gift in return. Even Secret Santa or Pollyanna gift exchanges can lead to treacherous waters, as we don’t want to drastically over- or under-spend.
If gift-giving is standardized in your workplace (say, through Secret Santa), then ask if everyone will agree to set a price range. Once there’s an official guideline, don’t feel pressured to spend more. We heard one story about an office that set a minimum of $30 for Secret Santa, and the head of the company bought one person a gift worth $100. If something like this happens to you, don’t feel pressured to spend extravagantly—just stay within the parameters, gain a sense for what others are planning, and don’t try to keep up with the Joneses.
For guidance with workplace giving, check out our holiday etiquette guide:
|Who||To Gift Or Not To Gift?||Budget||Gift Suggestions|
|Boss||Not Necessary. If you guys are close, it’s perfectly fine to get her a gift. Just realize that she probably makes at least twice your salary and (if she’s level-headed) doesn’t expect you to outdo or even match her extravagance.||$0-$20||Choose something that shows you’ve noticed her likes and tastes. For a foodie, try a $15 annual subscription to a gourmet magazine. If her iPhone case is falling apart, find her a new snazzy one. If you're at a loss, try a book with a hand-written note on the inside flap.|
|Co-Worker||Depends. Giving a gift to a co-worker who's also a friend is appropriate, but if you're buying her a gift for the first time, don't go overboard.||$0-$15||Keep it light, so if your co-worker didn't get you a gift, she won't feel awkward. Homemade pastries, a desk calendar for the New Year, or a $10 bottle of wine are simple and thoughtful.|
|Assistant||Definitely. Your assistant, whether personal or shared by the office, probably deserves the biggest thank-you for his or her hard work to help you keep your day-to-day straight.||$25+||Cash is king. An American Express gift card or a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant or store is a nice way to say thanks. An arrangement of her favorite flowers also makes for a nice touch.|
|Intern||Yes. As long as intern did you proud and made your life easier, she deserves a small thanks around the holidays...especially if she was unpaid, as many interns are these days.||$10-$15||Consider taking her out for a nice lunch as a gift. Or, check out some professional gifts like a chic business card holder or a book that helped you get started in your career. If it's her last day, type up and surprise her with a recommendation letter before she thinks to ask.|
|Secret Santa||Up To You. If you don't want to participate, it's fine to decline. Depending on how your office handles sign-ups, you may not have to give any excuse at all. If confronted, just say you'll pass this year. If the budget's too high, point it out. No shame in that! Others will probably agree.||Up to $15||Avoid anything too personal or tricky, like clothing or wine, since you don't necessarily know who's getting your gift. Gift cards, candles, picture frames and a set of note or thank you cards are safe, neutral bets.|
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