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ETIQUETTE AT WORK

Holiday giving at work doesn't have to be a hassle

By Peter Post
November 30, 2008
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Here are tips to help you navigate gift giving at the office:

1. It's not necessary to give your boss a gift on your own. In fact, we recommend against it. The moment each employee starts giving a boss a gift individually, competition rears its ugly head: "You gave him a $25 gift so now I have to, too?" Worse is the employee who ups the ante: You give a $20 gift and Ms. Upper gives a $40 gift. Suddenly, your co-worker looks like she's trying to curry favor and grandstand, even if she isn't. The best solution: a group gift. Everybody chips in and gives one gift from the group.

2. It's OK to give a gift to your best friend co-worker, but do so after work, away from the office.

3. Avoid the problem of giving gifts to all co-workers by suggesting the office establish a gift-giving policy. One solution is to have a secret Santa with a gift limit of $10. We have a small office get-together where everyone brings lunch and exchanges gifts.

4. Choose a gift wisely. If you give a gift to a co-worker, choose one that's appropriate. Liquor, personal clothing items such as lingerie, or cologne or perfume, are inappropriate, as is anything suggestive or espousing a political stance. A gift for the person's desk area or office; a plant; tickets to the movies, theater, or a sporting event; a book by a favorite author; specialty foods the receiver really enjoys; or a subscription to a magazine are all great options.

5. As a manager, it's acceptable to give a gift to your assistant. Try to make the exchange privately so other employees don't feel left out and so the assistant doesn't feel awkward. Again, avoid choosing a gift of an overly personal nature. If, as a boss, you want to give something to each employee, consider a gift to the group as a whole, something they can all share, such as a selection of specialty chocolates, or candies, cheeses, or fruits. A nonfood item might be movie passes for two for each employee, or a gift card to a local bookstore.

6. Be sure to thank the giver by opening and appreciating the gift at the time it is given. Even better still, take a moment to write a quick note of thanks and either leave it on the giver's desk or send it through the mail.

Peter Post is the great-grandson of manners guru Emily Post and is the director of the Emily Post Institute in Burlington, Vt.

NEED ADVICE? E-mail questions about business etiquette to bizmanners@globe.com; fax to 617-929-3183; or mail to Etiquette at Work, The Boston Globe, P.O. Box 55819, Boston, MA 02205-5819.

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