HR: Gift-Giving: Holiday Etiquette 101 -Tips for Gift-Giving at the Office

Choosing the right holiday gift for your colleagues, your boss, or your clients can be one more overwhelming task to add to your plate during the holiday season. That’s because gift-giving in the business environment has its own set of rules and guidelines. Author and etiquette expert Jacqueline Whitmore has put together the business gift-giving tips and advice you need to know before beginning your holiday shopping. Below are Whitmore’s “Whit-Bits” that every businessperson should keep in mind this holiday season.

Set a spending limit for gift-giving exchanges. Once a price limit is set among coworkers or for your office’s holiday gift exchange, make sure you stick to it. Limits help participants select an appropriate gift at an affordable price. Whenever you overspend, you run the risk of looking like a show-off. On the other hand, spending considerably below the norm might come off looking stingy.

Give thoughtful and useful gifts. Whether it’s for your boss, colleague, assistant or client, gifts that lend both organization and style to an office environment are always appreciated.

Tailor your gift to the taste and personality of the receiver. Keeping track of your clients’ and colleagues’ likes, dislikes, interests, and hobbies is always helpful at gift-giving time.

Consider corporate culture. Before sending any gifts to clients or vendors, it is best to check the receiver’s corporate policy guidelines on gift-giving. Otherwise, a well-intended gift may be returned to you.

Bring coworkers together to get your boss a gift. Brainstorm gift ideas with your colleagues and have everyone chip in on one group gift for the boss. If you work in a small office or know your boss well, it’s acceptable to give a smaller but personal gift, like a gift card, book, CD, or gift for his/her family or pet.

Personalize but don’t get too personal. Personalizing your gift shows your creative side while letting your recipient know that you’re an attentive listener. Just be careful to stay away from items that are too personal in nature, such as perfume, clothing, red roses, alcohol, or tobacco products.

Beware of humorous or gag gifts. Avoid giving a humorous gift if you don’t know a person well. What you might think is cute or funny may be offensive or insulting to someone else and could quickly damage or even sabotage a business relationship.

Always remember a personal note. The hand-written note adds a nice touch to any gift. Those deserving a note of thanks include anyone who’s given you advice, their time, or a helping hand this year. Appropriate wrapping paper and presentation are also very important, and whenever possible, try to give the gift in person. Jacqueline Whitmore is the founder and director of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, the author of Business Class: Etiquette Essentials for Success at Work, and the gift giving etiquette expert for Sam’s Club. To subscribe to her monthly e-newsletter, visit her Website at -Peggy Duncan, SCORE Atlanta View more posts by Peggy

Peggy Duncan


Great article. I think

Great article. I think another important tip to consider is giving kosher gifts (if you go the food route). That way you are covering everyone in the office.

Peggy, I love your tips. I


I love your tips. I always encourage my corporate clients by tailoring the gift to the recipient. I suggest that every company take advantage of seasonal savings that are already available. My clients report the most savings are achieved through the ability for my customers to save on gas and help reduce their holiday and employee incentive budgets. The additional task of gift buying is usually associated with time away from an employees primary job function and in some cases the extra task leads to overtime pay. Companies will save time, money and internal resources by utilizing my complimentary gift shopping services. I encourage others to contact me directly to learn more about my services as I can typically help each client save a minimum of a 20% savings off their previous year’s corporate retail gift purchases. With this found money, many clients are able to stretch their holiday gift budgets even further without appearing frugal.

Amy Kent
Presented Perfectly

HI Peggy. Great

HI Peggy. Great article.

Karen O'Neil

While there are innumerable

While there are innumerable promotional gift ideas float around on the internet, our company has found that nothing works as well as an electronic items and the ipod at that. This year we gave our employees and corporate clients ipods that we ordered and got the company logo embossed on them before giving them out. They were an instant hit, thankfully.

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