Q: It’s holiday time and I’m confused about gift-giving. Should I get something for my boss? Should I expect something from her? What about my colleagues and the people I supervise? To make things even more confusing, I haven’t worked at my present job long enough to have experienced the holiday season.
A: Holiday time can be stressful enough for people at home without the additional pressure of making all the right gift-giving choices in the workplace. However, if you observe the customs of your “work family” just as you practice traditions and customs in your home family, you should be able to dial back the stress.
Here are some ideas: Get a sense of company culture when it comes to gifts. By now you have been on the job long enough to see how birthdays, new parents, going away parties, etc. are celebrated. Are things kept inside departments or announced company-wide? Does someone set up a collection for a group gift?
Ask a trusted colleague about how holidays are observed across the organizational chart. What is customary with regard to giving “up”? Are people open to any new workplace holiday traditions?
If you do end up giving gifts, your best bet is to keep it simple. Aim to please rather than impress. A consumable or gift basket acknowledges the time of year and any work relationship – boss to subordinate, colleague to colleague — without being too overbearing.
Certainly there is no business etiquette rule that requires you give gifts to anyone at work, and most especially, not to your supervisor. Keep it simple, follow the culture, and you will survive the holiday season just fine.
Sherri Sacks is a Career Coach for the JCS Career Center. The JCS Career Center offers comprehensive employment services to help job seekers of all abilities and skill levels find and maintain employment or change their career. Services include career coaching, career assessments, resumes, interview preparation, and connections to employers who are hiring. For more information, call 410-466-9200 or visit jcsbaltimore.org.