What are Some Appropriate Gifts for Coworkers?

Lori Smith
Lori Smith
A gift card from a favorite store, such as a bookstore, may be a good gift for a coworker.
A gift card from a favorite store, such as a bookstore, may be a good gift for a coworker.

When holidays approach, some people find it difficult to choose suitable gifts for coworkers, which can lead to undue stress. Avoiding items that are overly personal, such as clothing, jewelry, or perfume, is probably best, but that does not mean that gifts should be completely generic. Careful observation of a coworker’s office space may provide valuable clues for an offering that will be appreciated and treasured. Regardless of the occasion, the gift should fit the personality of the recipient, and the price should appropriately match the culture of the work environment.

Birthdays are a common reason to host an office party.
Birthdays are a common reason to host an office party.

Many companies adopt spending limits on office gift exchanges to reduce the financial strain on employees. When such a price cap is determined, it is best to stick with it. For example, if everyone in the office exchanges presents that cost roughly $20 US Dollars (USD) each, one with a price of $100 USD may seem inappropriate. Overspending can send the wrong message, and often leads to uncomfortable feelings in the workplace.

Homemade brownies are appropriate gifts for coworkers.
Homemade brownies are appropriate gifts for coworkers.

Once the price range is established, examining an associate's office area can inspire creative ideas when choosing the best potential gifts for coworkers. Some people display collectible items, like snow globes, figurines, or sports memorabilia, on their desks. A gift that adds to a coworker’s collection is thoughtful and often an ideal choice. In other situations, a colleague who has children or grandchildren may appreciate a frame or photo album for exhibiting family pictures.

Watches are given out to coworkers who are retiring.
Watches are given out to coworkers who are retiring.

While it may be tempting to purchase gift cards, these should usually be avoided. An exception would be in cases where there is something specific that a coworker is known to enjoy. For example, if an associate has an affinity for a special restaurant, bookstore, or movie theater, then a corresponding gift card may be the most appropriate.

Sometimes, it is difficult to figure out what the most suitable present is for a particular colleague. When all else fails, professional items and desktop accessories make good gifts for coworkers who spend a lot of time in an office setting. A stationary box, business card holder, or leather-bound portfolio can even be adorned with a colleague’s name or initials, for an added touch of personalization. If the gift is for someone who spends a lot of time outside of an office, however, then an electronic gadget or travel accessory may be a better option.

Items that are overly personal should be avoided when choosing gifts for coworkers.
Items that are overly personal should be avoided when choosing gifts for coworkers.

In a large company, where multiple gifts for coworkers are needed, candy dishes filled with mints or chocolates can eliminate difficulty in finding presents for several different people. As an alternative, baking homemade cookies or brownies in advance, then individually packaging them festively, can be a fun and effective way to spread cheer throughout the office.

Discussion Comments

Reminiscence

One of my former co-workers had a romantic crush on a new employee. He attended a house warming party and noticed she had two dogs. During the office Christmas party, he presented her with an automatic dog food dispenser. It wasn't a bad gift or anything, but not appropriate for platonic co-workers. She was gracious at the time, but she later returned the feeder and limited her contact with him at work. Gifts from co-workers fall under the same guidelines as other gifts from near-strangers. They shouldn't be too personal.

Phaedrus

At my office, gift cards are generally acceptable, especially to local restaurants or online stores. I realize they may sound impersonal, but just about everyone appreciates a free meal or book or movie. The main thing about gift cards is to find something appropriate for the person. A vegetarian co-worker may not get much out of a gift card to a steak restaurant, for example. I'd also suggest putting together a mix of gift cards that complement each other, like a movie theater gift card and a restaurant gift card.

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    • A gift card from a favorite store, such as a bookstore, may be a good gift for a coworker.
      By: Monkey Business
      A gift card from a favorite store, such as a bookstore, may be a good gift for a coworker.
    • Birthdays are a common reason to host an office party.
      By: Monkey Business
      Birthdays are a common reason to host an office party.
    • Homemade brownies are appropriate gifts for coworkers.
      By: mustafa_dastekin
      Homemade brownies are appropriate gifts for coworkers.
    • Watches are given out to coworkers who are retiring.
      By: Andrzej Wilusz
      Watches are given out to coworkers who are retiring.
    • Items that are overly personal should be avoided when choosing gifts for coworkers.
      By: mast3r
      Items that are overly personal should be avoided when choosing gifts for coworkers.
    • Gift certificates can be appropriate for co-workers.
      By: 14ktgold
      Gift certificates can be appropriate for co-workers.
    • Coworkers may participate in a gift exchange.
      By: Dustin Dennis
      Coworkers may participate in a gift exchange.
    • A colleague who has grandchildren may appreciate a gift like a photo album for family pictures.
      By: Photographee.eu
      A colleague who has grandchildren may appreciate a gift like a photo album for family pictures.