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Career > Her20s

Office Gifting 101: What to Get Your Boss & Coworkers

By now you’ve already found the perfect gifts for your best friends from school, your parents and even the next-door neighbor you’ve become close with. But when it comes to holiday gifting in the office, you’re a little stumped. Do you need to get all of your coworkers a gift? What’s an appropriate gift for your boss? Is gifting even expected in the office?

You’ve worked hard to get where you are today, so the last thing you want to do is make a misstep when it comes to Christmas gifting at work. We’ve put together a handy guide for everything you need to know about gift-giving etiquette in the office, from what to get to how much you should spend.

To gift or not to gift?  

You’re going to your first office holiday party, and you’ve mastered what to wear — but are you expected to show up bearing gifts, or is it okay to arrive empty-handed? And if you do bring gifts, do you need to have something for everyone?

Nick Spiller, student ventures coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin, says that the expectations differ from workplace to workplace. “Whether or not to give everyone in the office a gift is probably a matter of the company culture,” he says. “If everyone usually gives everyone else gifts, then yes, you should too. However, I doubt this is the case in many offices.”

Ask a coworker who’s been working at the company longer than you have to see what they’ve done in the past.

So you likely won’t be bringing gifts for the entire office, but the holidays are a great time to show your close coworkers and superiors that you appreciate what they do for you and that you enjoy working with them—a small token of your thanks is always welcome. Here’s what you need to know about what to give this holiday season.

1. Keep it professional

It’s best to stick to items that are work-related and professional, according to Heather R. Huhman, founder and president of Come Recommended, a content marketing and PR consultancy for job search and HR technologies.

“Consider giving a Moo.com gift card, desk organization items or a piece of office technology such as a phone charger or coffee warmer,” Huhman says.

Moo.com offers customized business cards, greeting cards and other stationery items. If you don’t know your boss on a very personal level, key in to clues as to what she prefers—check out her current desk accessories to get an idea for her aesthetic, or take note of where she grabs her meals from. If you have a colleague who makes daily coffee runs to the same café around the corner or if you notice your boss orders from the same lunch place frequently, opt for a gift card to their go-tos—not only is the gift useful, it also shows that you’re attentive to their preferences.  

Of course, keeping gifts strictly professional is not the one-size-fits-all rule for every office or workplace. If your job has a relaxed vibe, a personal but appropriate gift for your coworkers and boss could work. For example, if you have a coworker who loves all things pink, give her pink stationery or office supplies. “Some companies are like families, so you can get super personal,” Spiller says.

2. Don’t overspend

You might think that of all the people you should splurge on this holiday season, it should be your boss—but that can actually backfire and leave a bad impression.

Although it’s difficult to find thoughtful gifts at a low price, you also don’t want to spend too much,” Huhman says. “That makes you look like you’re trying to outshine your coworkers through gift-giving.”

It’s safe to stay within the $15 or $25 price range; the point is to make a small and thoughtful gesture, not shower a colleague with an extravagant gift.

If you’re worried that sending a holiday gift will bring up negative feelings with coworkers or if the item you want to give your boss is far outside of your budget, reach out to the rest of your team to see if they’re interested in pitching in! When it’s a joint effort, you won’t be spending more than you should, and nobody in the office will feel like you’re brown-nosing.

3. Follow gift-giving etiquette

What happens if you’re only planning on giving your office besties presents or you’re getting something for everyone in the office but want to add a little something extra for your closest work friends? Huhman advises against doing so—while at work.

“If you have a few friends at work you’re especially close to, give them the same gift as everyone else, but make sure to set aside time where you can give them a more personal gift,” Huhman says.

You don’t want to bring any drama into the office or give off the impression that you’re clique-y. One easy way to avoid this? Bring one larger (but inexpensive) gift for the entire office—for example, you could bake cookies, bring in a bowl of candy or some other treat to share with everyone.

So when should you deliver gifts? Do you come in early to leave the gift on each person’s desk? Can you pop into your boss’s office, or is it more appropriate to schedule a time to stop by? It depends—if you work in a busy, fast-paced environment, it’s probably best to give gifts before work or towards the end of the workday so you’re not disturbing the workflow.

If your boss is typically easily accessible, feel free to stop by—but if she is always swamped with one project or another, check with her first before you head down to her office. Whatever time is appropriate in your office, be sure to have a face-to-face interaction.

“I would try to make a really personal interaction when giving the gift by stopping by one-on-one and saying something nice and thoughtful about the relationship you have with the person,” Spiller says. “Thank them for their help in the workplace and then give the gift.”

Every office has a different culture, which determines what kinds of gifts you should get and to whom you should give them. What’s most important isn’t how much you spend or what the gift is; it’s that you show your genuine gratitude and appreciation for the people you work with. So remember to express your thanks for a great year and your excitement to continue working with them in the New Year!

Jelisa Jay Robinson is a passionate writer and theatre professional who just graduated from the University of Texas at Austin in Fall 2014 (Hook Em') . Now that she is back in her hometown, Jelisa is enjoying her family and hometown friends while pursuing her dream to write for film, television and theatre.  Jelisa enjoys traveling, singing 90's pop music, playwritghting, belting out Enrique Iglesias songs with friends, renacting Beyonce videos, and reading a good Junot Diaz novel. Feel free to follow her on twitter @jelisathewriter. 
Quinn Cohane is the Product Manager at Her Campus. She develops new features for Her Campus's web properties, including HerCampus.com, HerCampusMedia.com, HerConference.com, and CollegeFashionWeek.com, from initial conception to final installation. She collaborates with the Client Services team to implement custom landing pages, content hubs and sponsored content for client campaigns. Quinn also works closely with the Chapter Development team, training new team members on using Her Campus's content management system and leading the onboarding of new Campus Correspondents, national writers and bloggers, and national interns. Additionally, she oversees technical support for Her Campus and the uploading of national content. Quinn first joined the Her Campus team as a remote intern in February 2010; her past roles include Production Associate, Digital Media Manager, Chapter Advisor, and Study Abroad blogger during her semester in Copenhagen, Denmark. She graduated Cum Laude from Bowdoin College in 2013 as an English major and computer science minor. A native of Scarsdale, New York, Quinn enjoys attending theater and dance performances, traveling the world, reading, the beach, and apple crumb pie. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @quinncohane.