December 6, 2008
Do you have to give coworkers and colleagues a holiday gift this year?
Or does the crummy economy give you an out?
That depends. A couple recent surveys show that despite the recession we're in, the holiday spirit lingers on in many workplaces.
According to a survey released in November by online payroll service SurePayroll, 60 percent of small businesses plan to throw their employees a holiday bash this year. Another November survey, from staffing firm The Creative Group, found that 80 percent of marketing and advertising execs from 2,000 of the nation's largest firms say that some sort of gift swapping occurs in their office.
My advice: If you work a job where gift swapping among cubicle mates or between managers and subordinates is the norm, don't write it off this year. Scale back if you must; everyone loves a $5 coffee gift certificate or a free movie ticket. Or suggest some sort of Secret Santa or White Elephant gift swap (with a firm price limit) so you only have to procure one gift, or that everyone make a small contribution to charity.
If you're new to the office, ask around to see what the norm was last year. And if you're unemployed or recently hired, don't forget to thank those who've helped you the most with advice and job leads, even if all you do is send a card. Nobody appreciates the ungrateful.
Finally, remember to keep your gifts appropriate, relevant, and religiously neutral (not all of us celebrate Christmas). For examples of what not to do, the good folks at The Creative Group recently put out a list of the worst holiday gifts received at work. Among the responses:
"Someone gave his assistant a case of tuna. It was really strange."
"My staff gave me an industrial-size can of chicken loaf. I never ate it."
"One employee liked to give out portraits of himself. I'm glad I never received one."
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Kristen Fife is a senior recruiter, career mentor, blogger and resume consultant based in the Seattle area.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
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