Q: It’s the holiday season, and the questions are starting to be asked: “Do I have to give my boss a gift?’ or “Do I have to get everyone in my department a gift” or “What’s an (in)appropriate gift for a colleague or manager?”
A: It’s not a good idea to give a gift to a manager just from you. From the perspective of the other people in your department you can look like you are trying to curry favor with her. Or you may end up putting your colleagues in the position of either having to buy a gift or competing against you by buying a more expensive gift. The best solution is for the workers in your area to pool their resources and buy one gift for the boss from everyone. Result: no competition and everyone is viewed equally.
If you want to give a gift to a colleague but don’t want to get one for everyone in the department, it’s best to give the gift outside of the work environment. This way, those not receiving one won’t feel left out. Also, you are making the gift giving a personal gesture, not something associated with business. If you’ve received a gift from a colleague, give your thanks right away, but it’s not a good idea to talk about the gift or lavish thanks and praise on the giver in front of coworkers.
As we are just entering the gift-giving season, now would be a good time to have your office set a gift-giving policy to avoid the “Do I get everyone in the office a gift” problem. As easy as it is to establish a “No -gifts” policy, people genuinely like having some form of an exchange. It can be as simple as drawing names from a hat. (We’ve been asked “Is it OK to trade names?” No, it isn’t.)
If you do give a gift to a colleague or your boss (perhaps you are in a small office), give a gift that isn’t personal or suggestive in any way. Stay away from perfumes, colognes, and intimate clothing items. Good options include: chocolates; specialty food items or gift baskets; an item for an office such as a picture frame or desk accessory; tickets to the movies or a play, theater, opera or a sporting event; a book; or an item relating to a hobby or sport the person enjoys.
Finally, be sure to thank the giver. If possible, open the gift when it is given so you can thank the person immediately. A brief follow up thank-you note is the perfect way to let the giver know you appreciate her thoughtfulness.