The Do’s and Don’ts of Office Holiday Presents

by | Dec 19, 2011 | Blog

  • Amy Letke

    Amy Newbanks Letke, SPHR, GPHR, is the Founder of Integrity HR, Inc. Amy provides workplace solutions to improve performance, reduce liability and increase profits. She is passionate about helping other entrepreneurs and business owners achieve success. Contact us for more insights - 502-753-0970 or

Now that you have survived the office holiday party (see our previous blog about that), you have one more hurdle to clear before you can enjoy this wonderful time of year. And that would be—Office Holiday Presents!

Would my boss like a new tie or maybe a necklace? Is a tape dispenser shaped like a high heel appropriate?

What about your co-workers? Maybe Susie would like another picture frame. No, her desk is already covered in them. Maybe Jimmy would like a new stapler; his is always jamming up and creating a back up in the copy room.

Or do I just not get anyone a gift? Or maybe just get my closest friends gifts. The other employees will never know…

Stop freaking out! It’s going to be okay. The HR professionals at Integrity HR are here to help you out of this holiday mess.

We sat down and compiled a list of what we like to call, “The Do’s and Don’ts of Office Holiday Presents.”

That’s what we’re here for: to take the pain out of your office life!

So let’s start with a few key rules:

  • ‘Tis the season of giving, not receiving. So even if you give everyone in your office knitted scarves that look you all year to make, you shouldn’t expect anything in return. Also, YOU DON’T HAVE TO GIVE ANYTHING! Everyone understands that money is tight this time of year and your co-workers, supervisors or employees should not expect to receive a gift from you.
  • It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Make the gift giving fun. Don’t let it stress you out.
  • If you buy a gift for you, you need to buy for all (even if some of your co-workers, employees or supervisors are on the naughty list.) Remember to include everyone (who wants to be) in the festivities.
  • Even though you may enjoy candied pecans, some people may be deathly allergic. Keep in mind food allergies or food restrictions. But don’t just assume that someone may not want the plate of cookies you brought for everyone else. Implying that a co-worker should be on a diet is something you should avoid at all costs.

Now, that we got that settled. Let’s break it down into the “The Do’s and Don’ts of Office Holiday Presents.”

Do be creative and think of cost efficient items. This can include homemade cookies and treats, small ornaments, gift cards to a local lunch place, or holiday cards with pictures of your family. Don’t spend a lot of money. Even though your boss has been drooling over that Rolex, do not feel the need to purchase one for him. Don’t re-gift something a co-worker gave you last year. Although it is extremely cost efficient to give that stapler-shaped ornament back to Mary Sue, it is very uncomfortable and will probably hurt her feelings.

Do think about others. Donate money to your favorite charity in the names of the people at your office. Or decide as a office that you won’t exchange presents, but instead have a canned good, coat or monetary collection for a charity. Don’t tie your gifts to a religion. Avoid baby Jesus shirts and Virgin Mary statues.


Do make it work appropriate. This can vary depending on your company culture. Joking items like a figurine of a man sitting on a toilet that works as a tape dispenser may seem funny, but probably isn’t appropriate for all offices. Avoid racy items such as the Hottest Construction Workers of 2012 calendar as well as alcohol-themed gifts such as flasks and wine glasses.

Do think of items they could use at work. While purchasing a stapler for your cubicle mate may not seem festive, it is practical. You could also think of other office-themed gifts such as a nice pen or pen holder, an office clock, coffee mugs, picture frames, desk calendars, or a decorative mouse pad. Don’t get your cubicle mate an air freshener. Once again, that’s just uncomfortable.

Do think of fun ways to get everyone involved. Think about having a Secret Santa or White Elephant gift exchange (but make sure to set a spending limit). Or declare the Thursday or Friday before Christmas “Ugly Christmas Sweater Day” where everyone is encouraged to dust off those unfortunate green and red sweaters with kittens playing in the snow on them. It can even be a contest with the ugliest sweater taking home a prize (perhaps Grandma’s fruit cake). Note: sweaters with functioning lights or that play music are usually top contenders for first place.
Don’t make the festivities mandatory.
While you want to include everyone, you cannot force people to participate.

So those are Integrity HR’s Do’s and Don’ts of Office Holiday Presents.

What are some of the worst/most awkward or uncomfortable presents you’ve received at the office?  What were the best/most creative office presents?

Happy Holidays! 


From the team at Integrity HR!


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