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The do's and dont's of the office gift exchange

If you're expected to join the office gifting parade, a few cautions and a little advice can go a long way. Here are my suggestions for unique office gifts for co-workers along with some general workplace holiday protocol:

Do: Think about what people enjoy — within reason.

Sure, wine is an easy gift, but consider your office's atmosphere first. Have you seen alcoholic beverages around before, such as at corporate events? Alcohol can be a touchy spot — as can any sort of gift with political and/or social commentary — because it crosses the line between a co-worker gift and a friend gift.

If you're unsure about the gift item in question, err on the side of caution. Leave the booze for a personal occasion and choose another one of my gift ideas for co-workers.

Do not: Give unique office gifts to your superiors at the expense of your co-workers.

It's a lovely gesture to buy everyone in your department a small holiday memento. It's not as charming when the boss gets an expensive book and the others are given bookmarks. If you're going to give bookmarks to your co-workers, give one to your boss, too.

Do: Pay attention to differences in your co-workers' religions and/or traditions.

Consider that not everyone celebrates the same holidays. If you can, acknowledge their observance (if you know what and when it is) and convey your greetings with a simple message such as "happy holidays," "have a great holiday season" or "peace for the New Year."

Do not: Spend excessive amounts of money on holiday gifts for your co-workers.

When I unwrap the massage chair you've just given me, I'm going to feel pretty awkward about the $10 Starbucks card I have for you. Gift giving should never make anyone feel bad; in fact, the opposite should happen. Office gifting is all about the thought, not the dollar sign.

Do: Pay attention to the fine details.

Unique office gifts that really resonate are the ones with personal touches. Presents that take time — homemade cards, freshly baked cookies, do-it-yourself mugs — are touching. Exquisitely or creatively wrapped presents go a long way, too.

5 appropriate gift ideas for co-workers

Picture frames: And this gift is even better if you could find one tailored to your co-workers' interests. Glance around their cubicles and see if anything stands out. Similar options include calendars, journals or datebooks.

Mugs, Thermoses or cup holders: An agreeable present that's good for the environment. It's a win-win situation.

Gift certificates: A co-worker once got three of us in the office gift cards from three separate coffee shops. She recognized our favorite places, and it resonated.

Homemade treats: Bring those brownies over here, please!

Key chains: Everyone has keys, making this a simple but effective gift. Steer clear of anything too tacky, or if you select an item because of its tacky factor, ensure the recipient knows you are attempting to be humorous.

5 inappropriate gift ideas for co-workers

Anything with your face on it: Your co-workers see enough of you. Really, they do.

Anything with a face of its own: Even if you need a new home for your 17 kittens, your workplace is not the place to search for kitty real estate. This also means no Chia Pets and no bobble heads.

Fruitcake: The most loathsome of all cakes. Sorry to those who like it, but now you know my feelings about it.

Fragrances: Or any other aromatic product that screams "you smell!"

Undergarments: This is self-explanatory.

© 2012 — Monster Worldwide, Inc. All Rights Reserved. You may not copy, reproduce or distribute this article without the prior written permission of Monster Worldwide. This article first appeared on To see other career-related articles, visit For recruitment articles, visit

The do's and dont's of the office gift exchange 12/22/12 [Last modified: Saturday, December 22, 2012 3:31am]
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