Gift Giving at Work

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Along with the office party, the art of gift giving in the office can be either an enjoyable or fraught experience. 

It may be a small gift of appreciation, the office Secret Santa or selecting a charity to support, all of which requires some thought and consideration.

The Sydney School of Protocol has pleasure in sharing our etiquette tips for choosing the perfect Christmas gift and avoiding any awkwardness in the office.

Choose wisely for the boss

  • Selecting a small gift that may be taken home is appropriate. Nothing that is either highly individual or personal and requires an explanation to the manager’s family/partner or colleagues is appropriate.  Alternatively coordinate and purchase one gift from everyone in the office. This gets over any awkwardness about individual gifting.

Personalise your thanks

  • You will make an even greater impression with a handwritten note or card, thanking your boss/manager for their support during the year, and if applicable a personal note that may apply to an individual work experience where the manager was supportive.

Be creative

  • As a boss or a team member if you work in a small team buying a gift for each person is a nice gesture. Keep it simple and similar for each person, to avoid “unwanted” and embarrassing comparisons behind the scenes. For a large team, rather than individual gifts delight them with a surprise cake or Christmas cookies to share over a morning or afternoon tea.

Remember it is the thought that counts

  • Do not embarrass either the boss or your colleagues with overly expensive gifts. Play it safe with gift vouchers, candles, books, or edibles and be mindful of the person’s cultural background  – for example, it may not be appropriate to give alcohol. It is the thought that counts rather than the magnitude of the gift.

Be prepared

  • A useful strategy is to have a few gifts such as chocolates, notepaper and small fun reference books, (beautifully wrapped) and cards tucked away as a back up, for those surprise moments.
  • Remember you do not need to be prepared with a gift for everyone. If you receive a gift from someone you were not expecting to, a thank you note showing your appreciation is perfectly appropriate.


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