7 Last-Minute Office Gift-Giving Rules

Even Santa has to follow the rules when it comes to the holidays. Legal professionals are no different. The legal profession brings its own demands in terms of day-to-day requirements and deadlines. When the holidays roll around, many workers in the field feel an added layer of stress related to gift giving to colleagues and supervisors. Some may rush to select a gift only to find they may have offended a co-worker or added unnecessary stress to their already busy lives.

Since we shared some guidelines for Santa in our holiday video, we thought we’d share some holiday gift giving rules for you in the hopes that they help you make it through the holiday season without getting on the naughty list.

From Special Counsel, we send you warm wishes for a joyous holiday season! May this video of Santa’s “Legal Helper” bring you and your office a little festive cheer!

7 Last-Minute Office Gift-Giving Rules

1. You don’t have to participate in gift-giving.

As a starting point, exchanges should be strictly opt-in, says Allison Green, author of the career and management blog Ask a Manager. Use a private sign-up sheet rather than asking someone to announce whether they’d like to take part.

2. Flow down.

Green also notes that gifts should “flow downward, not upward,” meaning that employees shouldn’t feel pressured to contribute to a gift for a group manager or supervisor.

Along the same lines, managers can graciously discourage gifts from staff. Green advises, “It’s smart to say something [at the start of the holidays] like, ‘I know this is the season of office gift-giving, so I want to preemptively say that simply doing your jobs well is enough of a gift for me. I don’t believe anyone should have to give gifts to their boss, so please put that toward family and friends instead.’”

3. Show appreciation.

What should you do when you receive an unexpected gift from a colleague? Say “thank you,” of course, but don’t feel that you must reciprocate, according to Peggy Post, co-author of The Gift of Good Manners.

4. Make it affordable.

Common sense rules—such as setting a low dollar limit—should prevail when it comes to office gift giving. Recognize that, for most people, the holiday budget starts with immediate family, then trickles down to acquaintances and co-workers. A maximum price point of $20 allows for useful office gifts. Business Insider suggests a variety of low-cost options: A coffee mug, a pair of woolen gloves, an umbrella or hand-warmers for a commuter, a power cube for mobile charging, or a small plant that requires little care.

5. Steer clear of embarrassment or controversy.

Make sure your gift is appropriate for the office environment. “Don’t even think of a gag present,” warns career advisor Randall Hansen, PhD. You should also stay away from presents that are too personal (e.g., perfume/cologne), religious, or tied to controversial topics (such as certain charity donations). Re-gifted and alcoholic items are also unsuitable.

6. Book it.

Books make great gifts for the office environment. A book exchange is a way of passing along a favorite author’s wisdom from one employee to another. Each participant chooses and wraps a book for the gift pool, along with a note explaining the book’s theme or importance. Draw names out of a hat to determine the order of gift selection.

7. Have some fun!

Many companies use formats such as “Secret Santa” or “ White Elephant” to lighten up gift-giving gatherings at work. Here’s another alternative: A “cobweb party” involves spools of yarn attached to presents that are woven around a room. Assign each person a yarn color and watch him or her trace a path to their gift.

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