Holidays at the office can be a minefield of faux pas. To avoid hurt feelings and misunderstandings, your goal at this time of year should be to follow whatever is the commonly accepted tradition where you work. If you don’t know what that is, here’s some standard advice.
If gift giving takes place on a designated day, don’t be late, and don’t come unprepared. Nothing’s worse than showing up at a group event without gift in hand. Unexpected gifts don’t have to be reciprocated. Gracious thanks are all that’s required—and perhaps an offer to take the gift giver out to lunch during the holiday season. Gifts to employees should not favor one employee over another. (If you’ve purchased a special gift for a work buddy, make sure to give it outside the office.) Try a group gift such as a big food basket for the whole office, or a donation made in your department’s name to a local charity. Most experts recommend that you stay away from gag gifts and homemade gifts, which can seem too personal, though baked goods are fine. Gift certificates are also fine, as long as they’re from stores you know the recipients like. If you are picking a name out of a hat (as in secret Santa), do some sleuthing before you buy. It’s okay to give a gift to someone who doesn’t celebrate Christmas—but be sure to wrap the gift neutrally. If your company has a set dollar limit per gift, stick to it. To give or not to give a gift to the boss? Some companies explicitly forbid this—it pays to find out. When allowed, appropriate gifts that won’t get you the brown-noser label include pens, stationery, day planners, calendars, store gift certificates, and food baskets. Extravagant gifts definitely are out. Finally, don’t skimp on gift wrap—beautiful presentation is a big part of the office gift-giving experience.