‘Tis the season for gift giving, and that means we have to figure out what to give to our office mates, bosses and subordinates. For many of us, this is an exercise fraught with anxiety; we worry about how much to spend, what is appropriate, who might be giving to us that we were not expecting, and the biggest question: whether we should give anything at all.
Giving during the holidays is one way to express our gratitude and good will to those we work with, and some of us are just more inclined to give than others. It’s not essential to return every gesture with an equal gesture; some people give because they love to. It is essential, however, to express warm thanks when someone thinks of you, preferably in writing. A card or email that acknowledges the other person’s thoughtfulness and tells them something about why you appreciate them can go a long way in building your relationship.
Giving individual gifts is expensive and time-consuming, and mostly, it’s a girl thing. (Sorry, but it is.) You might be better off by buying treats for the whole office: sweets, bagels or fruit. Put it in the break room with a sign that says something about how much you appreciate the team. Or stock the break room’s coffee or tea supply, complete with sugar and creamers. If your company can’t afford to offer many extras, these relatively inexpensive gestures can make the whole office feel good.
One of the most awkward issues is whether to buy your boss a gift. One solution is to let the team contribute anonymously to a gift fund. Each person can give (or not) according to her means and inclination; there should be zero pressure on individuals to contribute. Together, you can often purchase something more substantial and present it as a group gift. I firmly believe that it should be presented as from the whole group, even if someone publicly opts out of the process. People have many reasons for not being able to contribute (budgetary, religious, and other, more personal issues), and they may disguise their reasons with a public declaration of disdain for the process. Include them, and allow them to sign the card or present the gift anyway, if they are willing.
When choosing gifts for team members, keep it impersonal. Unless you know someone very well, it’s better not to give something that might not fit in with their taste or preferences. Useful gifts for the office are the safest bet: pen sets or desk accessories, for example. Edible treats are (almost) always welcome, provided that you have paid attention to issues that may prevent someone from partaking. (Giving a box of chocolates to someone who’s on a very public diet pegs you as clueless and insensitive; you’d be better off giving nothing.) Emily Post suggests that drawing names is the best way to make the giving easy and democratic. Everyone buys one gift, taking a lot of the choosing and spending pressure off.
Should you give a gift to someone whose culture does not observe the holiday? I say yes. You can opt not to wrap something in Christmas paper or give a card that offers a religious-themed greeting. Give something appropriate with a simple expression of goodwill: “This is the time of year that I give gifts to show my appreciation for people in my life; I thought you’d enjoy these cookies.”
Do you have a story of a great office gift – or gifting disaster? Let me know by leaving a comment.