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To Gift or Not to Gift: How to Navigate Gift-Giving During the Holiday Season

When it comes to gift-giving and the holiday season, there can be a lot of gray areas. Sure, you know what to get your parent, best friend, or significant other - but what about your neighbor? Or your coworker who doesn’t celebrate the same holiday traditions?

In these cases, it can be hard to know exactly how to navigate gift-giving and how to get it right. Here, we discuss some of these gray areas and break down how to nail your gift-giving etiquette so that you can ring in the holidays with a bang.

SEE ALSO: 3 Things to Consider About Corporate Gift-Giving 


In the Workplace

This is probably the biggest area of confusion and frustration when it comes to holiday gift-giving. Do you get a present for the person who works right next to you? How about the receptionist? Or - perhaps most daunting of all - for your boss? And what do you do if someone gives you a gift and you don’t have anything to give in return?

Well, the bottom line is that you’re going to be in contact with these people all the time, so you want to make a good impression. A good rule of thumb, then, is to make sure that you’re not the person that shows up empty-handed. Don’t worry, though - this doesn’t mean that you have to over-gift or spend out of your means.

Here’s what you do:

Understand Your Company and their Policies

What’s your company culture when it comes to gift-giving, and are there any specific policies in place? Answering these questions can help set the tone when it comes to your gifts. Either way, here are some go-to ground rules:

  • Don’t showboat: Whether it’s a gift for your boss or your best friend, it’s always good to keep it low-key. Present your gift in a one-on-one setting or ask the recipient to unwrap it when they’re on their own to make sure that the gift doesn’t attract any negative attention.
  • Keep it neutral: Remember, your coworkers may not share the same religious beliefs or holiday traditions. Make sure to keep this in mind and gift accordingly so that your present doesn’t come off as insensitive or exclusionary.  
  • Less is more: An expensive or over-the-top gift is likely to make someone feel uncomfortable. It’s better to choose a thoughtful option and go with something that’s meaningful and approachable.

On that note, we recommend:

Start Small

Are you good at crafting, baking, or even picking through the smaller goodies that you always find near the checkout? Go on a Costco run and get supplies for something homemade or affordable- maybe a handmaid soap, a decoration, or a useful gift card. These can serve as your catch-all gifts, small tokens of appreciation that show you’ve put thought into it without being too over-the-top.

gift-giving in workplace start small

Recognize Key Players

Recognize the people in the workplace that made a true impact on you. Did one of your coworkers save you from a mental breakdown? Do you have anything for your boss? These are the people that you want to buy a more thoughtful gift for. Choose something that you know they’ll like or write a meaningful card to make the gift personal and impactful.


Extended Family

Another big area of confusion is extended family, or relatives that you’re not particularly close to, but that you may be seeing or thinking about this holiday season.  

Once again, the goal is to make sure that everyone feels comfortable, welcome, and included. For those that live far away, this could simply take the form of a holiday card, eCard, or end-of-year letter - just let them know that you’re thinking of them and wishing them the best this holiday season. For the extended family that you’ll be seeing, here are some go-to options:

Opt For an Item That Can Be Shared

This could be a game, a bottle of wine, or a luxury food item that you know they’ll enjoy. Not only will they enjoy the gesture, but you’ll be able to use the item to bond with them and make an impactful memory.  

Make it Memorable

Alternatively, pick an item that they will use often and appreciate. This could be:

  • A useful item of clothing, like a scarf or a hat in their favorite color
  • An item for the home like a candle, a blanket, or a beautiful mug
  • An electronic gadget like a shower speaker or a great pair of headphones.

Again, if this is someone that you’re not particularly close to, it’s best to pick something general and universally enjoyed.


A Holiday Event

So, what about a company holiday party, a school event, or a get-together at your neighbor’s house? In these instances, it’s best to stick to the basics. We recommend:

  • A bottle of wine
  • A dessert item
  • A small decoration for the home
  • A gift basket

holiday event gift basket gift-giving

The great part about these items is that you can make them as fancy or as casual as you’d like. Feel out the tone of the event and consider your relationship with the host when making your final decision.


Finally, Those Who Have Helped

This may go without saying, but don’t forget to get a token of appreciation for your mailman, housekeeper, teacher, or anyone else who has helped you out this year and made an impact on your life. It’ll likely be unexpected and they will certainly enjoy the spirit of the gesture.

Looking for more holiday gift-giving inspiration? Check out My Gift Stop for more ideas today.