Holiday gift guide for your coworkers
The holidays are a time for appreciating those who’ve supported you through the year and honoring your friendships… but gift-giving in the workplace can be confusing, even in the hospitality industry where small businesses can often create a more relaxed, sometimes even familial, work environment. What’s an appropriate gift, to whom should you give gifts and how/when do you present your gift? You want to get in the spirit and participate with your team, but you also want to be sure you’re not offending anyone.
Bosses and Supervisors
Be aware that it’s not expected that you and your team give gifts to supervisors and managers. Typically, gifts flow down the chain of command, not up. Because of the dynamics of the relationship, bosses are seen to have power over employees and gift-giving up the chain can be seen as trying to “buy favor” with the boss. So, typically with your superiors, a nice note or holiday message will do.
If you are the boss, you can certainly treat your team to gifts. Just be sure that it’s given in the holiday spirit and everyone gets equal treatment. This isn’t a bonus or reward for good performance throughout the year; it’s simply part of the generosity of the season. Keep the cost reasonable and don’t play favorites.
When giving gifts to those on your team and others with whom you work every day, keep in mind that you want to keep the gift in perspective, nothing overly extravagant. If you want to exchange something with a special friend or someone who’s been a special mentor throughout the year, do it outside of work and in private.
Your goal is to make those around you feel special and appreciated. It should be a heartfelt gift that makes him/her feel good, not uncomfortable. Ask yourself: what message is your gift sending? It should show that you cared enough to give a thoughtful gift that shows appreciation.
Stay within the spending limit: That works both ways—don’t give something very expensive and don’t give something very cheap. You don’t want to “outshine” your coworkers, but you don’t want to be seen as lazy or uncaring either.
Be aware of your company’s culture: If you work in a small, family-run restaurant, you likely know everyone and the culture may be quite casual. If you work in a large, up-scale hotel, the culture may require you to be a little more formal and restrained.
No gag gifts: Gag gifts are not appropriate for the workplace. What you think is funny may be offensive to someone else. Just because you’re a big fan of silly humor, others may not “get” the joke. Don't run the risk.
Consider gifts that can be shared: If you’re not sure what to get, bring treats for the team to share over coffee or tea. Nearly everyone enjoys sweets over the holidays, and if you’re a baker or have a holiday specialty, bring enough for everyone to enjoy.
Include a gift receipt: If you do give a gift, be sure to make it easy for someone to return or exchange the gift. Gift receipts let the recipient make the choice without asking you where you got it or if it can be exchanged.
Gift Cards are a good choice: If you know someone loves a particular coffee shop, book store or local shop, giving a gift card shows that you know them well and still allows them to get something they can choose for themselves. It’s a thoughtful way to give a gift. While gift cards work like cash, you shouldn’t ever give cash.
Keep a couple of wrapped gifts on hand: It’s a good idea to keep a small box or two of candy or cookies on hand, wrapped and ready to give in the event someone unexpected shows up with a gift for you. It’s not too personal and most everyone can use those or re-gift them if they don’t want them.
A Few Final Notes
- In the case of doing a Secret Santa with your crew, it’s a good idea to participate, even if it’s “not your thing.” Stick to the price limits and join in… it shows your team spirit and that you appreciate the joy of the season with your co-workers. It’s an opportunity to bond over a fun activity and may bring some additional goodwill into the New Year.
- What do you do if everyone is chipping in for a group gift to the boss? You don’t want to look bad if you don’t participate. Join in if you can, but if you truly can’t afford it or just don’t want to, you can say “I’m sorry, I can’t participate this year. My budget won’t allow it.” Most bosses do not expect gifts from their teams.
- A heartfelt note and a thank you are always welcome, especially if the culture of your company doesn’t include gift exchanges. Showing meaningful gratitude to someone who has been particularly helpful is appropriate and you should feel free to treat that person to lunch or a drink outside of work.