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What Should I Consider When Giving Gifts at Work?

Bronwyn Harris
Bronwyn Harris

Giving gifts at work can be a tricky procedure. Since each office has its own culture and customs, a new employee may find it difficult to determine what the norm is. You may wonder if you should give gifts during the holiday season, or if baby and bridal showers encouraged or frowned upon. There are several criteria to take into consideration regarding gift giving at work, including both formal company policies and informal practices.

First of all, check your company's policy on giving gifts at work. Many employee handbooks include guidelines on gift giving, which should definitely be followed. It is also common for a company to have informal guidelines regarding gift giving, even if they do not have written rules about these policies. Ask somebody who has been at the company for longer than you have, or even better, ask several people before giving gifts at work.

Before giving a present to a colleague, check your employer's policy on gifts.
Before giving a present to a colleague, check your employer's policy on gifts.

No matter what the official company policy is, make sure that you never gift inappropriate gifts at work. Stay away from anything that could be construed as sexual or offensive, or even overly personal. If you give joke gifts, check with someone else to determine if the gift will be taken well or be considered offensive.

Giving gifts at work can be tricky if you work with a large group of people. It is extremely awkward to have a colleague find out that you gave gifts to some, but not all, of your co-workers. It is generally better to avoid gifts altogether than to leave one or two people out. In addition, remember that all of your colleagues may not celebrate the same holidays. Try to make gift-giving occasions less about religious holidays so that you don't leave someone out or offend them that way.

Employees may participate in a gift exchange at work.
Employees may participate in a gift exchange at work.

Many people find that they spend a considerable amount of money on giving gifts at work, and that some of the gifts will never be used. Instead, try to find cards that express good wishes, or make a donation in a co-worker's name. When making a donation, it is best if you can find out which cause or charity is important to your co-worker, as this thoughtfulness is usually much appreciated.

Some offices now skip gift giving for holidays and provide a special lunch for employees instead. Bridal and baby showers are still often held in the workplace, however, often in offices with a large number of female employees.

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Discussion Comments


Unless you are Martha Stewart, please keep in mind your home-baked banana bread, etc. is going to either be passed on or thrown out. I know I would rather have a $10 gift card than dubious 'treats' from some unknown kitchen.


BrickBack- What I love is receiving Valentine’s gifts at the office. I love when my husband’s sends me flowers or a cookie basket. It really makes my day.

I also love giving anniversary gifts especially if the person has worked for the company a long time or is about to retire.

These types of gifts tend to be more meaningful and can be something like an engraved watch or a piece of expensive crystal. It is usually something that the gift recipient will treasure.


Comfyshoes-I agree. I think that buying wedding gifts for someone in the office is probably the easiest thing to do.

They usually have a wedding registry which lets you know exactly which gifts they need or want. This takes the guessing out of buying a gift because the list is spelled out for you.

Now buying 50th birthday gifts or 60th birthday gifts are tricky because some people embrace their age and have fun with the number, but others do not.

There are some people that find these milestone ages traumatic and some may even have a mini life crisis that results in depression.

You really have to be sensitive to these people and make a general birthday gift or even treat them to lunch rather than make a large festive event out of it.

Something low key is best for these types of people. However, if the person is happy about their birthday and has a good sense of humor there are all sorts of gag gifts that you can buy and then present them with their real gift.

There are some stores that actually specialize in gag gifts. A store that comes to mind is Spencer’s. They have a lot of unusual and funny gifts that you can ever imagine.


Sunny27-I agree. I think that giving to a charity of your choice is also a great idea. Unique gifts like this can really warm your heart and really make a difference in this time of need for so, many.

There are many children’s organizations that actually have a wish list of the children’s name and what they would love to have for Christmas.

Having each member of the office buy a gift for a specific child might be a better idea that will promote the values of Christmas.

Although it is fun receiving gifts at an office party it is far more meaningful to offer a toy to a child that may not receive anything for Christmas.

I know that giving a donation in the name of the gift recipient is considered unusual, but these unusual gifts are the ones that really make the biggest difference.

How many people actually remember the office party gift they received the year before? If you ask the same question of an underprivileged child that received some toys due to generous donations they could probably tell you about every gift they received because it was so meaningful to them.


Most companies allow gift giving and many companies do gift exchanges during the Christmas holidays.

Usually a name is drawn from a hat and the name you pull is the person that you will buy a gift for. This makes buying Christmas gifts in the office less costly because instead of buying gifts for all of your colleagues you are buying for that one person.

Sometimes people make handmade gifts. Baking is very popular this time of year, but you have to make sure that the person receiving the gift will enjoy your baked goods.

If you are buying a gift for someone that you do not know much about a gift card is probably the safest choice because they can pick out what they want to buy.

Most companies also set a monetary limit of what the gift should cost. It is important to adhere to this limit because if you buy something extravagant then it will only make the gift recipient uncomfortable because they did not spend as much.

This defeat the purpose of giving in the first place because you want to make the person feel better and the gift is really about the gift recipient and not the gift giver trying to stand out.

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    • Before giving a present to a colleague, check your employer's policy on gifts.
      By: Hadi Yuswanto Djunae
      Before giving a present to a colleague, check your employer's policy on gifts.
    • Employees may participate in a gift exchange at work.
      By: Dustin Dennis
      Employees may participate in a gift exchange at work.