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Ramsey: Think through office gift-giving

We are all busy enough during the holidays without the added stress of buying gifts for co-workers and bosses. More than a few people struggle with this every year. Do any of the following questions ring a seasonal bell with you?

Should you give a gift to everyone you work with?

Do you need to buy a present for your boss?

What are appropriate gifts?

How much should you be expected to spend?

When is the right time to present your gifts?

What if you cannot afford a gift exchange?

The list goes on. So what can you or your office do to eliminate the stress and confusion around this long-standing workplace tradition?

The first thing to do is to establish a company policy on gift-giving. If the company does not have one, then decide with your co-workers how you want to handle this challenge. Make sure that everyone is on board with the collective decision. Many people would prefer not to give gifts at work during the holidays. If you choose to exchange gifts in the office, here are some points to consider.

1. Honor those people who don’t want to participate in a holiday gift exchange. Reasons for not engaging could range from religious or cultural to financial. Choose a process which allows people to opt-in, rather than opt-out. One way to do this is by passing around a sign-up sheet for those who want in. No pressure or judgment should be placed on those who don’t sign up.

2. Set a low dollar limit which will make it easier for everyone to participate. After all, holiday time can be costly at best.

3. Stay within the limits set. Just because you can afford something better, going over will not win you any friends. Now if you found something you like on sale, that’s okay. However, avoid going into detail about the original price as opposed what you paid for it. That is completely unnecessary.

4. Avoid giving inappropriate items to your co-workers. Those include personal gifts such as clothing, jewelry or perfume. Save those items for family and friends. Gag gifts are also on the banned list. Not everyone thinks the same things are funny so don’t give a gift that could be offensive. You’ll have to work with the person you offended long after the holidays.

5. If you want to give a special gift to a close colleague, do it outside the office, not in front of others.

6. There is no obligation to give the boss a gift. Sorry, boss. Gifting should flow downward, not upward. Consider this: The boss makes the most money and is the person who should be buying for the employees. When everyone pitches in to buy something for the boss, guess who ends up with the most expensive gift in the office? If everyone feels strongly about giving to the boss, set a dollar limit there as well and collect a minimal amount from each employee.

These rules for gift-giving in the office are designed to make the process more joyful and less stressful. Don’t use them as an excuse to play Scrooge or the office Grinch.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-598-9812 or visit her at LydiaRamsey.com to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products.

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