Gift Giving in the Workplace

Updated on November 19, 2018
W.W. asks from Los Angeles, CA
15 answers

I work in a small office (about 15 people). My CEO and my boss gives me gifts (for birthdays and christmas), and in my previous workplaces, I never gifted back because I was always taught that gifts should flow down in a company, not float up. But in this new company that I'm at, I've noticed that my colleagues give gifts to the CEO and to my boss. So I'm thinking I should also do so?? Curious what you all would do in my situation? and if the answer is yes, to gift, then what are some good gifts to get? Thanks!

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answers from Dallas on

My husband has always had a lot of people under him and while he always gives gifts, he has also received quite a few over the years too. I think it's a personal preference. Not all of his people give him gifts, but the ones that do usually do a gift card or something like that.

I agree that if you're going to, don't make it extravagant. You could always "gift" a catered lunch or a cookie delivery to the office and everyone can benefit. If you like to cook or bake you could even make some things and bring them in one day.

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answers from San Diego on

You can find one of those charities that you can buy a cow, chicken, mosquito nets, etc for a family in a poor country in their name. You could even get other workers to pitch in on the donation.

How fun will it be to tell your boss a cow was donated in their name to a farmer in xyz.

I agree it’s a tacky and tricky situation gift giving up. So play along.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Where I worked - gifts flowed down just like you describe.
Gifts flowing up looks too much like bribery.

If this companies culture is different and you are going to give something you can't go wrong with candles or flashlights.
They are practical and almost everybody can use them - and if they can't they are easy to re-gift to someone else.

One of the best gifts our boss ever gave us (we were a small department) was an emergency car kit.
I still have it in my car!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

It's so awkward, isn't it? It's not like everyone in the world celebrates Christmas anyway, and it really adds to people's financial burdens at the worst time of the year.

If you feel you must, I'd suggest you go with something impersonal and consumable. No one wants to have to display the plant or the decorative item from every single person. I think of all those poor teachers who have 25 "world's best teacher" coffee mugs and picture frames. I'd bake a cranberry bread or some cookies, I think. If you're sure it's okay, you could consider a bottle of wine. Especially if you are new, I'c keep is small and very generic.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

I gift down and am a little uncomfortable when people gift up. If you feel you must in your new culture, I suggest some food (cookies, cranberry bread, etc) you’ve made or a token coffee shop gift card.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I worked in a small office once - not that small mind you. We got office gifts like corporate fleece jackets or something at Christmas. It had the logo on it. I never bought my boss anything. I didn't really work with him. It would have been odd.

I gave gifts to my friends at the office, but those I was friends with.

I'd be more inclined to go in as a department and give to a boss I think.

However, where your colleagues are giving to them - I would not want to be the one not to. I like the ideas below. I'd give something like a nice bottle of wine, or something edible (but gourmet like ..chocolates or something) - something with a bit of flair. In short, something you'd like to receive at Christmas, not something you just picked up just 'cuz.

My friend and I make salsa every year or something like that. That and a nice holiday card even, with yummy speciality chips/nachos ...

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

I give to my department. I receive from them as well. Nothing fancy but I appreciate my peeps tremendously.

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answers from Washington DC on

If you don't know them that well? Keep it simple like a fruit and cheese basket. or a bottle of wine.

If you know them well? I would find something that suits them - movie tickets, etc. things that they do after work....and do that. Nothing extravagant but something that shows you thought of them.

As to "down flow" - in small companies the "rules" don't apply. Especially when the CEO is involved and sees you daily.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

If you have a specialty item you make or bake over the holidays I would gift one to everyone in the office, including the upper echelon. I would think this would feel less awkward.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

It's really up to you. At my job now we don't get gifts from my boss. At my old job we would give gifts for Christmas and Birthdays. In my department. There is nothing wrong with getting your boss a little gift. I would do maybe a gift card to Starbucks or something like that. Where it doesn't have to be a lot but shows you are thinking of them.

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answers from Santa Fe on

I'd just give everyone something generic like a box of chocolates.

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answers from New York on

My "go to" gift for co-worker's, boss, etc. is Merci Chocolates (the smaller boxes). I gift the same to both my boss(es) (there are various layers of who could be considered "my boss" at any given time) and my co-workers so as not to look like I am currying favor with my boss with a nicer gift than say a person that I work more closely with on a daily basis. I buy a stack of them in November and tape "Happy Holidays, From: Susie" cards on each one. Then, I am always ready in case of a gift exchange or whatever. For people that work underneath me, I usually show my gratitude with small gifts/homemade gifts at times other than Christmas. That way, it doesn't create crazy gift giving at holiday time.

Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

we do gifts in our work place.

since it's a gift shop, it makes sense. :)

nothing extravagant. last year i got my co-workers each a small box of really good chocolates, and cute little animal figurines that reminded me of each one of 'em. same thing for the boss.

if your workplace is big, though, of course you have to restrict the gifting circle. hopefully there's some sort of protocol in place, sneaky santa or something similar.

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answers from San Francisco on

It is always nice to be a part
Of the positive.
Some companies pick names so you give one gift. Gift cards are good. Happy holidays

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

Something edible. I wouldn't spend more than $10-15.

If you want to give gifts to everyone as someone suggested below, you can just give everyone a $5 Starbucks card.

1 mom found this helpful
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