Subscribe and download our eBook, "100+ Tax Deductions for Small Business A to Z."
Get the:

© Rose1509 | - Collection Row Of Colorful Gift Boxes With Bows, Isolated On White Photo

Holiday Giving at Work

© Rose1509 | - <a href="">Collection Row Of Colorful Gift Boxes With Bows, Isolated On White Photo</a>The old expression “I gave at the office” is something to consider at this time of the year. Owners are thinking about what to give to employees, managers are mulling over gifts to those they supervise, and rank-and-file employees are considering giving to each other and to owners and managers.

Here are some office-gifting considerations.

Owners to staff

When owners are considering holiday gifts to employees, jelly-of-the-month club won’t cut it. Employees want monetary gifts. The matter of year-end bonuses are covered in the next blog on my site.

Managers to staff

According to a recent Accountemps survey 63% thought it was appropriate for managers to give holiday gifts to the people they supervise. The average amount to be spent by a manager: $24.

One of the tricky issues is whether a manager should give a gift to everyone he/she manages. It certainly depends on the situation (e.g., number of people). Clearly a manager wants to avoid the impression of favoritism by only giving to a select person(s). However, it’s permissible for a manager to give gifts only to personal assistants or other people with whom he/she works closely.

The managers responding to the survey reported some of the more inappropriate gifts received, including cash, liquor, roses, and a re-gift of an item the manager had given to an employee the year before.

Staff gifts to owners/supervisors

The same survey found that 58% thought it was appropriate for an employee to give a gift to the boss. Only 20% thought it was inappropriate for an employee to give a gift to a boss. The average amount to be spent by an employee: $20.

Staff gifts to each other

Can any office avoid the annual Secret Santa ritual? If your office is doing a gift exchange this year, here are some pointers:

  • Set a price (say $20 to $25). This helps to avoid junky items but won’t break anyone’s bank.
  • Don’t require participation. If someone doesn’t want to join in, no worries.
  • Choose appropriate gifts. The item should be personal, but not embarrassing.
  • Set a date for the exchange. Employees need time to get find their gifts. If there’s an office party, the exchange can be done at that time.

Esquire posted a list of 25 gifts under $25 dollars appropriate for office gifts.

Tips for holiday gifts

Accountemps has five rules for holiday gifts at the office:

  1. Give unconditionally. Don’t gift out of obligation or because there's an expectation of something in return. Similarly, managers should make sure employees know trading presents, even if there is a group exchange, is optional and not a requirement.
  2. Make it personal. Show you are thinking of the recipient by finding something he or she will specifically enjoy, such as a gift card to their favorite coffee shop or a book related to a hobby they pursue.
  3. Don't be overly extravagant – or a Scrooge. Spending too much can make the receiver uncomfortable, while spending too little can make the gift seem like an afterthought.
  4. Present it nicely. No matter the present, cheerful packaging shows thoughtfulness. Include a personalized holiday card with it.
  5. Be thankful. Always express your appreciation. Go the extra step and send a handwritten thank-you note that expresses your appreciation for their help throughout the year.”

To this list I would add the need to be sensitive about any religious sentiment. Non-religious cards and wrapping paper (materials that don’t say “Christmas” or “Hanukkah” or display a Santa) are probably best so that you avoid any bad feelings by those who don’t share the holiday observances.


Gifting at the office need not be limited to exchanging items among workers. It can also include giving to needy individuals or organizations. The office can collect canned goods to give to local food banks or toys and books to give to Toys for Tots (new items), Goodwill (used items), or other organizations.

Word of caution: Employees should not be pressured or shamed into giving.


Big Ideas for Small Business® Find it for free on the App Store.