I rather like Christmas shopping. I get a real thrill out of picking out gifts for my loved ones, and for me, there’s a certain high that comes with wrapping them up while putting Christmas carols (sung by Pentatonix, not Jose Mari Chan, thank you very much) on loop.
Still, there are people who are rather hard to shop for: parents, friends (especially those who seem to have it all), and the people you work with.
Navigating office relationships is always tricky. Sure, we all want to keep things professional, but since we spend more time with our colleagues and bosses than we do with friends and family, it’s not uncommon to develop some form of solidarity with them. And so, every day is a delicate dance between being friendly and being sufficiently formal (i.e., respecting boundaries).
When it comes to gift-giving in the office, however, there aren’t really a lot of guidelines, making the process rather confusing, so today, let’s talk about some of the most commonly-asked questions on the topic:
Am I Required to Give My Boss a Christmas Present?
Strictly speaking, no. Traditionally, gifts flow downward from superiors to underlings so that the latter don’t have to buy presents they don’t want to or simply can’t afford to.
There are some offices where people chip in to give their boss a little something, and if yours happens to be such, see if you can afford to buck the trend or if you’ll need to play along.
Should you feel especially grateful to an immediate superior or a mentor within the company and wish to make a gesture reflecting such on the holidays, some homemade treats like cookies or fudge accompanied by a thoughtful card would always be a welcome option. Just make sure your recipient isn’t allergic to nuts or any other ingredient that might figure in your gift, of course.
Are Managers Supposed to Give Their Employees Gifts?
This brings us to the flip side of the question: If you’re higher up the corporate ladder, are you obliged to gift those under you?
Again, it depends on your office and your personal preference. Generally, gift-giving is rarely ever compulsory, but if your counterparts are in the habit of giving presents to their staff, you may have to reconsider.
Don’t fret, though. A big, lovely cake or a box of cookies or donuts for everyone to share ought to do just fine.
Should I Participate in the Office Secret Santa? If So, Which Items Make Appropriate Gifts for Co-Workers?
Secret Santa is what most Westerners call our Kris Kringle or Monito-Monita. In some offices, participation is purely voluntary.
If you are required to join in, safe options for Secret Santa presents are food (go for ones that don’t have common allergens like nuts or soy), gift certificates to restaurants or coffee shops that your colleagues like to frequent, and nifty, useful accessories like thumb drives or penlights. Not only are these inexpensive, but they’re also gender-neutral so you can give them to anyone.
Wine bottles are debatable. They’re great for regifting, yes, but if there’s a chance that your Secret Santa recipient happens to be a Muslim, a recovering alcoholic, or someone who is simply known as a teetotaler, it could end up being in poor taste, so tread carefully.
Gifts that are meant to be applied to a person’s body, such as lotion, cosmetics, or clothes might be far too personal as well, so you may want to steer clear of those.
What Do I Do If Someone Gives Me a Present And I Didn’t Get Them Anything?
Ah, that would be awkward indeed, but it isn’t uncommon.
It’s not mandatory for you to give everyone you know a present, but there will always be people who do so anyway. Chances are, they don’t expect their recipients to reciprocate, except with a sincere and heartfelt “thank you,” so just be mindful of your manners.
Still confused? Here’s one simple question to determine if your present is appropriate for a colleague: Can it also serve as a Valentine’s Day present?
If the answer is yes, you’re better off choosing something else, perhaps something a lot less personal. No matter how close or how warmly you feel towards your colleagues, any present of a slightly romantic nature (e.g., jewelry, expensive perfume, lingerie – who the heck gifts their co-workers with lingerie?) can cause all sorts of awkward misunderstandings in the workplace.
Gifts for office crushes are a different story, however, but are also for a different sort of blog entirely.