We select and review products independently we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission.

Gift Giving in the Workplace

    Safe and Creative Gift Giving in the Workplace
    Office gift-giving can almost seem hazardous if you are not sensitive enough to the feelings of others. It also means that this is a great way to form bonds with your coworkers while also being appropriate and tasteful. Whether or not the gift is for your boss, your coworker, or a subordinate, you can pick out the perfect, appropriate gift for the workplace.

    First, learn what is absolutely off-limits for all workplace gifts. Then, think about the position of the receiver relative to you in the business. That is very important because positions in companies can be compromised by inappropriate behavior.

    Things to Avoid

    First, let us look at what you can do to avoid obviously unsuitable gifts. Avoid all of the following:
    Anything Sexual in Nature. All sexually explicit or related material should be avoided, no matter how much you think they might enjoy the joke.
    Anything Referring to Private Parts or Cuss Words. Even if your office commonly uses cuss words or vulgar expressions, it is important to rise above this habit when gift giving. Instead, think of classy and high-quality items.

    Obviously Gender-based Gifts. If you keep even items like flowers and chocolate in the unisex category, your gifts will remain tasteful. Cheap, stereotypical styles can be annoying or irritating.

    Political Gifts, Jokes, or Pranks. Even if your gift receiver is obviously and openly favoring a political position, it is inappropriate to give any kind of gift with a political theme. Politics of any type should be avoided in social gatherings where the arguments can become heated.
    Put-downs and Insults. Don’t hurt anybody’s feelings, no matter how much you think they deserve it. You never know what type of day, month or year they are having.

    Age-related Humor. Twenty years old or eighty years old, there is no age when you can give an age-related gift, humorous or not.
    These social problems can be fixed ahead of time by avoiding the gifts listed above.

    Safe Gifts for Your Boss

    There are two reasons why your boss can be a tricky gift receiver. First, if they are your mentor or role model, it can be tempting to offer them something powerful, deep, ultra-respectful or over lavish. You want them to know what a positive impact they have made in your life. You want to show them the deep appreciation you hold for them. This is nice, but you must only show and say what is necessary to get the basic message across. Anything deep or extraneous can show too much of an emotional connection or a deeper attachment than what is appropriate for the workplace.

    The second reason why it can be difficult to give a gift to your boss is the pressure from your job requirements. If you are temporarily doing poorly at your job, this can feel like a pressure trap. If you are doing well, this can feel like a great way to either stay on top or to drop in the eyes of your boss.

    Safe gifts for your boss. Just remember that the act of giving any gift at all, especially a functional one, is a nice thing to do. Simply notice the office or job site tools which your boss already uses and then get them a new one in a bright color or a fun new pattern.

    Creative Gifts for Your Coworkers

    Your coworkers can be your friends, your frenemies, or just acquaintances. If your coworker is a friend, it may be tempting to share a dirty joke, a funny prank, or some other goofy friendship gift with them. However, they may be opening their gift in front of the rest of your mutual coworkers and two things can happen:

    First, you can do or say something which your coworker does not remember is a shared joke. This can lead to miscommunication or other awkward encounters afterward.

    Second, your other coworkers can view your awesome gift to your friend and feel left out when they receive or give more standard, casual gifts. Your work involves getting along with everyone, and it is unwise to compromise this by being obvious about playing favorites.

    Creative gifts for your coworkers can be joke-bumper stickers, joke keychains, funny t-shirts, gifts from museum gift shops, and funny items related to your city.

    It is okay to play favorites if it is done subtly. Any blatant or obvious show of favoritism will elicit strong dissent from the crowd. Particularly in first-world nations, people naturally view the social and political elite as being on par with the lowliest worker bee. Therefore, be a leader in your workplace by being nice to everyone, not just your friends. Treat your other coworkers with respect by not appearing “too chummy” with anyone in particular.

    Safe Gifts for Subordinates

    Buying gifts for subordinates can be particularly tricky, because you may not realize how much your position of power affects the people below you on the corporate ladder. Your gifts should be tasteful, reasonably priced, and impersonal.

    • Tasteful gifts include small wooden or enamel boxes, a nice pen set, a pretty letter opener, or set of floral or bordered stationery.
    • Reasonably priced gifts include a colorful, non-romantic bouquet of flowers, taking them out to lunch with fellow coworkers, or a nice, friendly card.
    • Impersonal gifts include a gift certificate to their favorite store, a reasonably priced treat for their pet, or the latest season of their favorite TV show.

    Subordinates are sensitive creatures and must be handled with gentility and caution. Miscommunication can easily occur, even in standard gift-giving practices, and it is important that your gifts never send the wrong message. If your subordinate is doing a good job, give them specific praise for specific work done. Do not make overall statements of generalization lest they are misunderstood. Also, always make sure that your praise is given verbally, not in writing where it can be up for debate.

    Standard Corporate Gifts

    Gifts given to a corporate beneficiary of any type or given from a corporation to an individual must be both extravagant and impersonal. Large bouquets of flowers, dinner parties held in their honor, and/or a golf or tennis getaway are fairly standard corporate gifts, for both giving and receiving. Always make sure that the entire gift is given in its entirety, without any expectation of coworkers, employers, or other personnel joining the receiver in the gift.

    Any misunderstanding on the part of the recipient can equal at best a misunderstanding and at worse a lawsuit. Be tasteful, respectful, and impersonal about the act of corporate giving.

    If there is a question over whether the recipient would like that particular gift, then it is wise to give them the option of accepting a cash value the size of the gift, instead. This allows them to have options without having to give their golf resort weekend up to someone who actually plays golf. Be sensitive to the needs of the recipient and allow them to have options in how they receive their gift.

    Sometimes, large businesses stage competitions with prizes in order to drum up business. All prizes should be approved by your company’s public relations officer.

    Small Business Favors

    Business favors usually entail benefits outside of regular wages and insurance provided by an employer. These are usually known as “perks” and can be part of an employment agreement. However, at unplanned times throughout the year, a company may have an unexpected influx of cash or benefits and may wish to distribute some favors or “perks” to its employees.

    Perks can come in a variety of options from which to choose, including paid vacations, extra vacation time, triple-paid overtime, health insurance, dental plans, a company-wide trip to a resort, extended maternity/paternity leave, etc. If your company wishes to offer several benefits from which to choose, it may be wise to distribute a memo which details how each benefit can be used and how long it will be.


    Safe and creative gift giving in the workplace can be both enjoyable and a bit tricky. Understand that not everyone interprets the same gift equally, and getting feedback for ideas from their friends and colleagues may be the best idea. In the world of the job site, a small misunderstanding can lead to a big consequence. By getting their colleagues involved in the decision making, you are ensuring that communication will be used functionally. Good hunting for your perfect gift!

    Leave a Comment: