Careers

5 do’s and don’ts of office gift giving

The Office
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The Office

Giving gifts at work can turn even the jolliest of folks into Scrooges. You have to determine the right price point, find something thoughtful but not too intimate and give a gift they will actually appreciate.

In order to help you navigate this holiday season maze, here are five key do's and don'ts of office gift giving:

Don't: Opt-out

Even if you're not feeling in the holiday spirit, Monster Career Expert Vicki Salemi says you should always be a part of office traditions.

"Even if you're feeling 'bah humbug' this year, you should still strive to participate. Even if you're just not into the season," she tells CNBC Make It. "If financial hardships make it challenging, then you still should participate, but think of more thrifty D.I.Y. ideas such as baked goods, handwritten cards, etc."

Do: Learn the rules

Barbara Pachter, author of "The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success" tells CNBC that the secret to avoiding a faux pas is to "know what the unwritten rules are."

In order to learn about the unwritten rules in your office, Salemi says employees should talk with their co-workers. "Ask colleagues for ideas if you're new to the company and it's your first holiday season," she says. "Find out a few examples of gifts given in previous years so you get a sense of the price range as well as ideas, especially if it's more like a white elephant swap."

By asking what the gift giving culture is like your company, you can make sure you navigate the holiday season with grace.

Don't: Overspend

It can be tempting to be extra generous, but don't let the holiday spirit — or office competition —hurt your pocketbook too much. Especially if you are considering getting a gift for your boss, an overly extravagant gift can make you seem like you are sucking up.

"Stay within the price range without skimping or going overboard," says Salemi. "Don't be extravagant by giving someone a trendy gadget that would be $200 and make the recipient feel uncomfortable."

Do: Be fair

If you are giving gifts to some of your employees, you should try to get something for all of your employees. Similarly, if you have more than one manager, you should avoid showing favoritism to just one.

In order to avoid this potentially awkward situation, you can either get something small for everyone or you can only provide gifts to your very direct coworkers. Giving out a limited number of gifts only to the people you work closest with can help you be fair and save money.

Alternatively, a card with a nice note is a cost-effective way to give everyone a small token of appreciation.

Don't: Be too personal

Don't let the festivities distract you from the fact that you still have to follow the general social guidelines of office culture. Even if you know that your friend Alex in accounting truly needs a nose-hair trimmer, the office gift exchange is not the time to give one.

A gift that is too personal or intimate can make someone uncomfortable, says Salemi. "Nothing should be exchanged that would make the other person uncomfortable, and if you're unsure, the fact that you're questioning it means there's probably a reason for it," she explains. "Go more neutral instead."

Do: Be thoughtful

You spend tens of hours each week interacting with your coworkers. Most people spend more time with their coworkers than they do with their own family. Use the holiday season as a chance to show them how much you care about them.

"Ask yourself if it's something you'd like to receive," says Salemi. "Even if it may feel generic, chances are that'll be a good gift."

If your co-worker always talks about their favorite sports team, get them some paraphernalia. If they have a favorite snack, wrap up some of that treat. No matter what you choose, it should be something that shows your appreciation.

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