'Tis the season for giving — but should your holiday shopping list include your boss or your co-workers?
Workplace gift giving can be tricky. As the end-of-the-year holiday season fast approaches, you might stress about which of your colleagues should receive a gift, how much to spend, what to buy, or whether you should get them a gift at all.
Ideally, gift giving should be a show of appreciation, or to remind a colleague that you really enjoy working with them, Burgette White, the vice president of human resources at Adecco North America, a staffing firm, tells CNBC Make It. "It shouldn't be a costly or anxiety-inducing endeavor," she says.
But timing is everything with workplace gift giving, White adds. Presenting a lavish, expensive gift to your manager right before your annual performance review, for example, could be perceived as an attempt at bribery — and "you don't want to make things awkward for your boss," White adds.
Here are three rules you should follow when it comes to gift giving at work, according to HR executives:
White recommends not spending more than $30 on a gift for your manager or co-workers.
"Everyone has different financial comfort levels, and you want to be respectful of that, especially in times of inflation and a possible recession," she explains.
HR managers recommend that employees spend somewhere in the ballpark of $20 on gifts for bosses or co-workers, according to a report from recruiting firm Robert Half — spending more than that could come across like you're trying to bribe them with a luxury item.
While gift giving should be work-appropriate, it should also be personal, André Heinz, the chief people and culture officer at software vendor Celonis, says.
"Gift giving is a really effective way to create a sense of belonging, camaraderie and joy, especially around the holidays," he says.
At a recent holiday dinner with colleagues, Heinz left a handwritten card on each person's plate, which included specific compliments on their work and reasons why he appreciated them.
If a heartfelt holiday card isn't your style, consider gifting your boss or co-workers baked goods, a gift card to their favorite coffee shop or donating to a charity in their name.
Avoid gifts with possible sexual, political or religious overtones, Heinz adds. The same rule applies to alcohol and gag gifts, which could cross HR lines or be offensive to others.
Ultimately, do not feel pressured to get a gift for anyone at work, White says. It's a corporate tradition some people embrace, but it's certainly not a must.
If you're undecided, or a newer employee, ask a co-worker what people at the company have done in previous years. It's important to note that more companies are moving away from individual gift giving and embracing a White Elephant or Secret Santa exchange, which can be "low-stakes and more fun," White says.
Or, skip the gift giving routine altogether. Says White: "You can express gratitude to your colleagues and celebrate the holidays without presents."