Office Holiday Gift Giving Etiquette

Should you give your boss a gift this holiday season? Your co-workers? How about your favorite clients? Before you give your boss a much-needed nose hair clipper, read these guidelines below:

At work, we spend so much time with our colleagues that we, hopefully, form friendly relationships with them. The holiday season is a time to show the people in our life how much we appreciate them, so it seems only natural that we would give something to the people we work with, for, and to those who make our jobs easier. However, gifting at work can have a downside if you give, (a) an inappropriate gift, (b) something that’s too expensive and conveys the wrong message, or (c) a gift that’s too personal.



Typically, an individual does not give a gift to the boss. If you want to give something to the boss at the holidays or for their birthday, it’s much better for everyone in the office to go in on a gift together. However, if you do feel compelled to give your boss something here are a couple of guidelines.

  • Make sure there are no HR policies against gift giving.
  • Don’t give anything that is too personal (a massage or teeth-whitening certificate).
  • Don’t give anything that is too expensive that would in any way seem inappropriate or like you are trying to curry favor.
  • Don’t give the boss an item for their office that they would feel obligated to use/display or that would be resented by others in the office.
  • If you give them something homemade, make sure it’s something that is not too personal (sweater), but that could be taken home and enjoyed by their family.



If you want to show your gratitude to those people who work for you over the holidays, there are some things to keep in mind. First, if you have just laid people off it’s not the time to be giving expensive gifts to anyone. Second, it’s best to give the same thing to everyone at the same level so that things are seen as equal and that you are not playing favorites.  While cash or a monetary bonus is most appreciated, good gifts are:

  • Gift certificates to restaurants, coffee shops, national stores.
  • Tickets to sporting events or plays.
  • Something the employee can use in the office (picture frame).
  • Electronics or a household item.

Remember to include an individualized hand-written note with each gift if you can. That will be appreciated and remembered as much as, if not more than, the gift itself.



When thinking about what to give to the people you work with, please refer to the tips for gift giving to your boss, and then also keep in mind the following:

  • Include a personal hand-written card and give the gift in person if you can.
  • If others will be seeing what you give someone then make sure you give the same thing, or a very similar item, to everyone. You don’t want anyone to have hurt feelings when they see that you spent more money on someone else.
  • Think about home-made gifts and whether or not the person would like it or just feel obligated to use it (holiday sweater or scarf).
  • Don’t give anything religious.





  • Check corporate policies. Check if any limitations on gifts.
  • Determine wants. Know the client’s likes and hobbies.
  • Consider religious and cultural differences. Don’t give a Christmas gift to the client or to their office if not everyone celebrates Christmas. A more generic gift like the gift basket above is a better idea if you are unsure.
  • Go for quality. Any gift reflects the image of your company.
  • Give the gift with a handwritten card.
  • Spend on packaging and deliver personally if you can.
  • Know your tax deductions. Between $25-$75 deductions per person.
  • Typically, do not give anything home-made as this will come across as you are being cheap unless it’s something really special or something they said they wanted.

Safe choices for clients is something that their whole office can enjoy. If you want to give an individual gift then consider a gift card to restaurants or places they like, tickets to an event they might want to go to, food items, a nice bottle of wine ONLY if you know that they drink, something for their office, or something related to their hobby or interest.







Aimee Symington
Aimee is the CEO of Finesse Worldwide, and an etiquette expert with almost 20 year's experience teaching etiquette to adults and children throughout North America, Europe and Asia. Aimee has appeared on NBC’s The Today Show, and she regularly shares her etiquette advice on Charlotte Today, Fox News, and WBTV, on radio programs such as NPR, and in newspapers and national magazines such as Good Housekeeping and Woman's Health. Ms. Symington is also the creator of the award-winning, nationally acclaimed products on manners for children called “Blunders®” and “Manner Mats®” For more etiquette tips for adults and children, please visit her website at Connect on Facebook.