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The Dos And Don’ts Of Giving Gifts At Work

So you’ve waited until the last minute to give your coworkers gifts for the holidays. Don’t freak out; use this guide.

The Dos And Don’ts Of Giving Gifts At Work
[Photo: Flickr user Paul Roth]

Should you or shouldn’t you?

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That’s the real question going through everyone’s mind at work, and we’re talking about gifts here, not whether or not you should have another cocktail at your holiday party. And if you decide to give your boss, coworker, guy friend, assistant, or book lover a gift, here are some tips so you do it the right way.

Do: Make a list, and check it twice

Unless you’re working for a small start-up, chances are you probably don’t know everyone in your company; especially those who are in different departments. Even at work, purchasing a gift is a personal gesture. Don’t feel obligated to buy the woman in finance whose name you barely know a holiday gift. Consider getting gifts for people within your department that you interact with on a daily basis, people who you make small talk with in your cube area, and those co-workers-turned-friends who you vent to about office frustrations during after work happy hours. Many companies prohibit buying gifts for your boss or department head because it’s seen as trying to buy your way into a promotion. Depending on your work environment and relationship with your supervisor, feel free to purchase a gift for your boss, but make sure it’s on the less extravagant side.

Don’t: Exchange gifts in front of other coworkers who didn’t make your list

Remember that girl in your 2nd grade class who only handed out Valentine’s Day cards and candy to select students? Don’t be her. While distributing your gifts, avoid broadcasting it in front of other coworkers that didn’t make your list. Although you only made purchases for a select few, you still want to keep the sense of inclusivity in your workplace and you don’t want to be labeled as the “clicky” person in the office. Consider coming into work early and leaving gifts on people’s desks, or putting them in their office mailboxes if they’re small enough. You can also organize a holiday lunch or after work gathering to exchange gifts in a comfortable setting.

Do: Stick to a budget

Before you go gift shopping for your coworkers, make sure that you set a reasonable budget. Your budget will not only steer you away from buying excessively expensive gifts for your colleagues, but it will also keep your finances in order so you won’t go broke and have to eat PB & J sandwiches for lunch for the first half of the New Year. Try setting a $10 budget for gifts. You’d be surprised what you can find; especially in that $1 isle in near the entrance of Target. Small and cheap gifts make for great stocking stuffers.

Don’t: Spend more money than you can afford

Let’s face it; many of us aren’t on Oprah’s level, yet. Don’t feel obligated to go out and buy something that isn’t within your means just for shock factor among your coworkers. Chances are after buying gifts for your loved ones your bank account has taken a toll. You don’t want your coworkers to expect you to be the person to buy lavish gifts every year. Just because you’re not working with Oprah’s bank account doesn’t mean you can’t be in the Oprah-spirt; so for now, “You get a stationary set! You get a stationary set! Everyone gets stationary sets!”

Do: Buy a gift that shows thought

Getting thoughtful gifts goes a long way. Take into consideration the things that your coworkers would truly appreciate. Making a small donation to a charity that they support is a great way to pay it forward by giving back. Also, keep in mind things that your coworkers need. Have a coworker who’s always complaining about how frigid the office is? Buy him or her stylish scarf. Have another coworker who’s always getting caught out in the lunch time rain showers. Buy them an umbrella. The options are endless.

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Don’t: Purchase a gift that’s too personal

Although you might look at some of your coworkers as friends, beware of buying gifts that are too intimate. Any Valentine’s Day-esk gifts are off limits; that includes perfume, flowers, and undergarments *clutches pearls*. Also, be sure to stay away from gifts that make your colleagues feel like they need to work on changing their looks. Gift certificates for hair salons suggest that they need a new style. Body wash and lotions might make them question their hygiene. Even though you’re purchasing a gift for someone else, it’s a clear reflection of who you are and what you think of others.

Do: Include a gift receipt

Although we might think our gift idea is epic, there are instances where someone has already beaten you to the punch and the person already has the item, it doesn’t fit, or they’re simply not feeling your gift. Make sure that you include a gift receipt so that you give the person the option of returning what you purchased.

Don’t: Be negligent of other people’s beliefs

Although you might be in the holiday spirit and want to spread some cheer throughout your office, keep in mind that others don’t celebrate certain holidays. Avoid making your coworkers who choose not to celebrate these holidays uncomfortable or obligated to join in on the gift giving.

Brandee Sanders is a Harlem-bred writer and editor.

This article originally appeared in Levo and is reprinted with permission.