Navigating the Office Holiday Gift Giving Obstacle Course

It’s December! Bring on the office gift exchange!

As we move into the 2018 gift-giving season, many of us may wonder: Do I give my boss a gift? Do I have to purchase holiday wrapping paper from my colleague’s son’s Scout fundraiser? Can I opt out of the office gift exchange?

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The answers to these questions are – frankly – important because office interactions do impact career success. What’s more holiday gifting traditions at the office often can be fraught with landmines. Here’s how to navigate them successfully while also enjoying this lovely time of year at work.

  1. Should I give my boss a gift?

In a nutshell: you don’t have to. In fact, it’s probably best that you don’t, because it could come across as toady-ish: as if you’re trying to curry favor with your supervisor. If you really, really want to, it’s best if you go in a group gift with your department.

If you feel you must give your manager a gift because he/she expects it and will not look upon you favorably if you don’t, you may want to think about getting another job and another boss…

By the way, many bosses often give gifts to their team members. (Such holiday gifts often are flowers, movie tickets, food, gifts that are the same for everyone, etc..) This is appropriate and in no way obligates you to reciprocate. Even if the boss gives different gifts to everyone (the boss has taken note of his/her team members’ likes and dislikes), accept the gift graciously.

  1. Do I have to give my coworkers gifts?

If you feel that one or more coworkers is a true friend (that is, you’re personal friends outside the office and you want to give a personal gift), then do so. Just make sure you give the gift outside the office.

As for giving coworkers with whom your professionally friendly? It’s appropriate to do so with those with whom you interact daily or with those in your department. If you feel uncomfortable giving individual gifts, consider asking if there’s a formal office gift exchange event such as a white elephant gift exchange (often hilarious) or Secret Santas.

If you’re hard up for funds and you don’t want to provide gifts for colleagues, you should never feel ashamed (or shamed into doing so). If people give gifts as a matter of course and you don’t want to come across as Scrooge, consider baking cookies or bread and giving those as gifts.

If you plan to give gifts to some, but not all of your colleagues, present the gifts privately so that the co-workers who are left out don’t have hurt feelings.

  1. Do I have to purchase items during holiday school fundraisers?

No, you do not. Yes, it can be very hard when a colleague asks you to purchase flavored popcorn or wrapping paper for his/her child’s school fundraiser. If you don’t want to, say so politely. A simple “No, thank you” should suffice.

  1. Can I opt out of the office gift exchange?

Probably not. The good news is that full-office gift exchanges often come with price points (you don’t have to spend more than $10, $20 or $25, for example) and you often only have to purchase one gift for one person.

In addition, office holiday gift exchanges often come with office parties and are festive and usually loads of fun. (Look up white elephant exchanges, for example….)

But refusing to play along if your department holds an “official” gift exchange? You could hurt your reputation as a team player. Probably best to play along, follow the stated budget guidelines (or make your own) and enjoy the fun of the exchange itself

Why not give yourself a great holiday gift by taking a look at Helpmates’ current opportunities and then following the instructions within each job description to apply and/or contact the Helpmates office nearest you to register with us.

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