Be careful when playing Santa at the office. Giving certain gifts could get you in trouble.
A Victoria’s Secret gift card for the cute girl who works in the neighboring cubicle? Not appropriate. A dictionary for the new co-worker whose misspellings on email you’ve had to correct? It probably won’t be appreciated.
Here are some guidelines for appropriate gift giving in the workplace
Generally, it’s not appropriate to give your boss a gift. It can come with mixed messages. People worry that it seems like you are trying to buy favoritism.
Instead, see if co-workers would like to contribute to a gift for the boss from the whole office. If you’re charged with buying the gift, stick with office-related items or something that fits with the subject of your company’s work. Or, if your boss has a hobby or interest,such as golf, consider a gift that plays to that.
You and co-workers also can chip in to get small gifts for people working under you, like the receptionist or mailroom staff.
If you’re exchanging gifts with co-workers, it’s best to buy something simple for everyone in your team or group. Keep individual gift giving outside the office.
For the boss as well as co-workers, avoid items that are too personal–say, perfume, scented bath products, jewelry, lingerie or other clothing. Also steer away from alcohol and tobacco products.
Gag gifts can cause problems as well. “Not everyone translates humor the way you might” and you risk off ending someone. Cash is a no-no as are gifts that are too expensive. You’re going to look like you are just trying to win favor.
You don’t have to reciprocate if a co-worker gives you a gift.
It’s your call whether to buy gifts for clients, vendors or people you have a professional relationship with outside the office.
If your office sends out gifts to clients and vendors, there’s no need to do something on top of that. Write a nice card if you feel like that person really made your year.
If you decide to buy gifts for clients or vendors, make sure their company guidelines allow them to accept gifts. You also should check your company’s gift-giving guidelines, especially if you plan to use company funds to purchase presents.
If you attend a holiday party with colleagues in someone’s home, make sure you bring a hostess gift. While wine is usually a popular hostess gift, it may not always be appropriate if it’s a work event. A nice box of chocolates or a poinsettia plant are good options.