Before Buying Your Coworkers Holiday Gifts, Read What 9 Women Really Think About Them

Nine professional women weigh in on whether or not office gift-giving is a good idea.

Gift exchange


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Mardi Humphreys290
Mardi Humphreys
July 23, 2024 at 6:17AM UTC
It’s the most wonderful time of the year again: You have to decide whether or not to buy your coworkers holiday gifts
I asked nine women of varied professions and ages what they thought about giving and getting gifts in the office. Here's what they said:

1. It's OK if it's small.

“I think if the gift is something small then there is no reason why you couldn’t buy your coworkers holiday gifts. I especially don’t think it’s bad if the gift refers to some type of inside joke as well (for example, a Chewbacca coffee mug for a coworker that both drinks coffee everyday and you learned loves Star Wars).” — Casey Humphreys, Fitness Supervisor of Development.

2. It's an unnecessary financial burden.

“I am generally not a big fan of holiday gift giving in the office. Most people feel very stretched financially at the holiday season to buy gifts for their family. Adding additional gifts to that list can create stress. I prefer holiday carry-in lunches where everyone can celebrate together without the stress of buying gifts.” — Tina Rezash Rogal, DMSC, Account Executive.

3. I only buy gifts for my team.

“I buy the people who work directly for me holiday gifts because I believe strongly in showing my appreciation. Paychecks and holiday bonuses are expected. Receiving a gift is a specific acknowledgement that you're recognized and valued.”  — Beth Mathews, Guest Services and Event Leader.

4. Please don't.

“No gift-giving PLEASE! Coworkers buying gifts cause awkward reciprocation situations.  And organized secret Santa gift-giving causes extra holiday stress!  Unless you are particularly close friends, it's not appropriate.  As a manager, I like to give my team a little something to show I appreciate them, such as a home-baked goody or a Christmas ornament, and they don't feel the need to reciprocate.” — Elizabeth Jacoby, Program Manager.

5. Establish team rules and stick to them.

"Gift giving at the office can be tricky. Not everyone has extra or available cash during the holidays to participate in an office gift giving activity. If you’re the boss, establish guidelines for giving. Such as giving down, not up (bosses should not receive gifts). Or, giving to a charity instead of exchanging gifts internally. And, make it easy for everyone to opt out. Make sure to add language that it is ok to say, “I need to pass this year.” No one should ever feel pressured to give or contribute to a collection.” — Marla Halley, Co-founder and Partner of Blue Vines Events.

6. It's OK if you're friends outside of the office.

“I’ve worked with two of my co-workers for 39 1/4 years and for many Christmases I’ve given them a one pound box of caramels that my church makes. Unless I’m friends with the other co-workers outside of the office, I don’t give them a gift, except for our administrative assistant, manager, and marketing specialist.  And the gift that I get for them is in a modest amount.” — Indy Sumner, Realtor.

7. Gifts are not a fair expectation. 

“Now that I have more experience in Diversity & Inclusion, I would say that holiday gift-giving can present some Inclusion challenges: 1. Some folks might be on a tight budget but opting out of the gift exchange, etc. would cause them undue embarrassment. 2. There are many employees who might not be celebrating during the "holiday season" for a variety of reasons.” — Brynne Hovde, Managing Partner, The Nova Collective.

8. Pitch in to get a more meaningful gift for someone who needs it. 

“I do get my closest colleague a gift for Christmas. Our department chair makes homemade cookies for each of us. When someone in the unit is expecting or gets engaged, or married, or sick, we always take up a collection. Because there are over two dozen of us, this equals a tidy sum when we pool our resources together.” — Mary Townsend, High School French Teacher.

9. Secret Santa is the way to go. 

“I work in healthcare, and most places I have worked do a Secret Santa and take up a collection for the doctors and management. I love it because it brings some excitement to the office and is a nice way to ease the tension of whether to buy a gift for which person and no one gets left out. And it’s optional so those who don’t celebrate gift giving aren’t put on the spot.” — Cindy Bentley, Certified Medical Assistant.

Feel better knowing the struggle is real? Whatever you decide to do, communication and kindness are key. Good luck with your decision and happy holidays!

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