Secrets to Office Gift-Giving

The holidays are here, and with them come some tricky questions. For example, will you receive another hand-knit sweater from your Aunt Irma? And, more pertinent to your career, what, if anything, should you give to those with whom you work?

While it’s fun to show appreciation for your colleagues’ hard work throughout the year, you also need to demonstrate sound judgment. Following are some tips from a survey conducted by The Creative Group to make sure your holiday presents fall into the “jolly,” not “folly” category:

  • Know your firm’s culture
    If you’re relatively new to a company, it can be challenging to figure out what types of gifts are appropriate. At some firms, employees may only exchange gifts with a few people, for example, while staff at others might get presents for everyone in the office.
    Conduct a sort of “cultural anthropology” fact-finding mission by asking a few trusted colleagues or your supervisor what the norm is when it comes to gift exchanges for your department.
  • It’s the thought that counts—so have one
    The survey respondents’ favorite gifts included a membership to a local art gallery and Ohio State football helmets for a group full of fans.
    Offerings such as these that are specific to someone’s taste are always appropriate and usually warmly received. They demonstrate you’ve taken the time to find out about your colleague’s interests outside of work.
  • A little whimsy is OK, just don’t get carried away
    Sometimes, you may want to give a gift simply so you and the recipient can share a good laugh. For instance, one worker in our survey received The Clapper, the device that turns things on or off with a quick clap; another received a punching bag that emitted curses when hit.
    Both presents received high marks from recipients for their entertainment value. However, don’t get too carried away, like one creative who gave a coworker a voodoo doll of the boss (he wasn’t too happy when he found out about it). There’s a line between entertaining and inappropriate that you don’t want to cross.
  • Demonstrate your artistic talent
    Gifts to team members shouldn’t be expensive, and in the current economic climate, you’re likely seeking frugal alternatives anyway. If you’re crafty, like many designers, this is a good time of year to utilize those skills. You might create personalized bookmarks or mugs, for example. Such handmade gifts are always appreciated and can be inexpensive to make.
  • When in doubt, get a second opinion
    In our survey, one respondent cited the creative who offered a martini glass to an Alcoholics Anonymous member as an example of what not to do. This person clearly could have used some outside guidance. If you’re having trouble deciding whether your gift idea is appropriate, ask a friend or trusted colleague for an opinion. If you’re still unsure about a gift, it’s best to find an alternative.

A final word about office presents: The holiday season is about giving and receiving. If you receive an unexpected gift from a manager or colleague, don’t worry that you’ll be perceived as a grinch if you don’t return the favor. A thoughtful thank-you note expressing appreciation for the item is all that’s required.

Get great gift ideas for fellow designers. View HOW’s 2008 Designer Wish List, full of gifts and goodies picked out by designers. Click Here

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