December 20, 2010
How to avoid awkward holiday gift situations at work
Last year on NWjobs, we talked about budget-friendly holiday gifts that bosses and subordinates can give one another during lean financial times. But what we haven't talked about is ad-hoc gift-giving among officemates outside those department-wide Secret Santa and white elephant gift exchanges.
[Photo by Aaron Jacobs]
In a recent holiday survey conducted by staffing firm Randstad, 48 percent of 1,000 U.S. workers polled said they avoid giving holiday gifts at work. A mere 21 percent said that workplace gift-giving during the holidays is "the right thing to do," and 8 percent said that they only give their co-workers holiday gifts because everyone else in the office does so and they feel pressured to follow suit.
These statistics shouldn't come as much of a surprise. Spontaneous, unexpected gift-giving at the office can be fraught with awkwardness, especially if you're not close with your teammates. Receive an unanticipated gift from a co-worker, and you might be left wondering whether you need to reciprocate (and when the heck you'll have time to get them something). Bestow a gift on an admired colleague, and you may worry that they'll feel obligated to give you a gift in return, or that the person in the cubicle next to them will feel snubbed.
To eliminate the awkwardness of holiday gift giving among co-workers, Randstad offers these helpful suggestions:
Stick to small or homemade gifts. A sack of cookies or handmade holiday ornament does the trick. Inexpensive is key. So is an item you can easily explain away as "just a little something you make every year" so the recipient doesn't feel they have to reciprocate.
Skip the remorse. When receiving a gift at the office, say thanks and show your appreciation -- without the whole song and dance about how you feel guilty for not getting the gift-giver anything.
Keep a stash of gifts handy. This helps eliminate the above situation and spares you any last-minute trips to the mall.
To Randstad's list of suggestions, I'll add more one:
Don't play favorites. If you want to give holiday gifts at the office, give a gift of equal value to everyone on your team. If you feel compelled to give your office BFF a present that's a bit more special, do it outside of work so your other colleagues won't feel slighted.
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.
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."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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