Five rules of holiday gift-giving at work

Exchanging holiday gifts in the workplace is often a tricky affair. The rules tend to be ambiguous, and expectations tend to vary widely from employee to employee. 

Rob Wilson, President of Employco USA and human resources expert says, “The biggest mistake I see is that managers think they shouldn’t weigh in on gift-giving. Yet employees want clear, concise guidelines. Some employees wonder: Should I give my boss a gift? And, if I don’t and everyone else does, what will they think of me? Others are strapped for cash yet feel obligated to give to everyone in the office, while some employees feel maligned because they are expected to give gifts when they don’t even celebrate the holidays.”

So, what is the answer? Wilson believes a carefully crafted “gift-giving policy” is needed, and should be passed out to all new employees as well as circulated again at the holiday season. Possible tips to consider include:

1) No gifts from supervisors to employees. “It could lead to the appearance of favoritism. “Christmases bonuses” and the like are a different matter, but managers should not be giving personal gifts to their staff, unless the same gift is given to each employee.”

2) No direct presents between employees. “This is a good way to ensure that employees won’t feel left out or obligated to give gifts to everyone. Gifts among coworkers can be a financial strain, and it is also a drain on employee productivity. Instead, organize an office gift exchange. Those who wish to participate may do so, while those who do not can opt out without penalty or embarrassment. Set a gift price limit ($20, for example). Those who participate can receive a voucher from which they can select a gift at the holiday office party.”

3) Holiday office parties are best if employee-only. “If you make your office party open to spouses, you could be looking at tricky situations regarding the ‘rules’ about bringing dates, i.e. Can it be a date from Tinder? Or does it have to be a husband/wife? What if an employee identifies as asexual/romantic? What if an employee is gay or bisexual but not openly ‘out’ in the office? It’s best to simply avoid all these matters by making it employee-only. A simple brunch or lunch will suffice.”

4) Think about what employees really desire. “It might be better to simply skip the office party altogether and instead update the office Keurig. Find ways to make employee’ more enjoyable and productive, and you will reap the benefit long after the holiday season has ended.”

5) Don’t allow office charity collections. “Now is the time of year when employees start coming to work selling wrapping paper, popcorn and other sundries from their kids’ schools. Nix this as it can get out of hand quickly and easily become a distraction. Instead, work with a local charity or shelter in your area to make an office-wide donation. Place a bin in your office lobby where employees can donate if they so desire.”

What do you think about this? How has your office handled it?

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