Tips for Happier Holiday Office Gift Giving

While many of us love getting gifts, that doesn’t always go for buying presents for coworkers. This time of year can be stressful enough. Then we have to choose something at the right price while being just thoughtful enough to make the gift matter. Here are our tips for buying the right gifts for the people you work with without adding extra stress!

Learn the Rules

There are always unwritten rules of gift-giving and service. Find out by talking to your coworkers what people generally get one another. This helps you get an idea of what people liked and didn’t like, as well as the price range. This keeps you from the awkwardness of over- or under-spending.

Get Gifts For Your Subordinates, Not Your Boss

This is a great time of year to show your employees how much you appreciate them. Especially if your business is extra-busy and extra-stressful during the holidays, they need that extra touch. You don’t have to be extravagant or spend a lot of money, but do make sure no one gets overlooked. Your holiday behavior and gifts will set the tone for everyone else!

However, avoid getting gifts for your boss. One, this is already a difficult task. Two, a gift to your boss will look suspicious to them and to your coworkers, who’ll wonder if you are sucking up to them. This could be uncomfortable for the recipient at best. At worst, it might be embarrassing or inappropriate.

There are exceptions: if you really want to get your boss something, pool your resources to get him or her a department-wide gift.

Be Fair

Spend about the same amount on everyone. Overspending can be an expensive or suspicion-raising trap that makes it appear as if you’re sucking up to a superior or favoring a subordinate. Obvious underspending, too, makes you look like a Scrooge or like you don’t like one of your coworkers.

Especially if you’re a manager, avoid showing favoritism. Make sure you’re not leaving people out who might feel bad. For example, you should get all of your employees or immediate coworkers a gift, not just some of them or all but one. This should obviously go without saying. If money is a concern, you can get them cards with a nice note or other simple, inexpensive ways to show that you appreciate them.

Giving only one or a few coworkers a gift? Don’t highlight that fact. Use a gift exchange outside the office or avoid distributing them in front of those who aren’t getting any gifts.

Be Thoughtful (But Not Too Personal)

Pay attention to the things your coworker likes. You might get them some sports paraphernalia, something they like in pop culture, or a useful item they’ve been wishing they had at their desk.

When looking at a gift, ask if this is something you would like to get. If not, and not just because you don’t like that particular sports team, you probably should put it back. This applies to gifts that might inadvertently cause an office faux pas, like a desk organizer for a messy employee or body spray for a coworker who you think needs it. Conversely, you can get someone something too nice, which goes back to being fair to your other coworkers.


Getting office gifts doesn’t have to be too difficult to bear! How has your office handled Christmas gifts in the past? What have you learned from office gift exchanges? We’d love to hear from you.