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Here are a couple of tricky questions for you…
Should you give Christmas gifts to work colleagues? If you do, should you give to everyone you work with or just your cubicle buddies? What about the boss? Could it be interpreted as sucking up if you give them a gift?
If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right. Depending on how long you've been at your workplace, you may already know the protocol around buying gifts.
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Then again, you may be like me and get it completely wrong. I recall one disastrous year when I was new at a particular job and just assumed it would be customary to exchange gifts. We had done so in my previous workplace.
I worked closely with the office manager and department manager, so I scoured the stores for something just right to reflect how I felt about them.
For the ‘big boss’ I bought a beautiful conductors baton with a cherry-wood handle. This would symbolize the way he ‘conducted’ the workplace like a maestro and, because I knew he also had an appreciation for classical music, I thought it would be perfect for him. For the office manager who was a lovely and well-respected woman, I bought a really cool coffee mug that read ‘Office Queen.’
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Fortunately (or unfortunately for my wallet), I found out before I gave them their gifts that it wasn't customary in that particular workplace to do so. I sold the baton at a garage sale a couple of years later, and still have the ‘Office Queen’ mug in the bottom of a cupboard.
At my next job, I worked as part of a team of five and was told that the custom was to go out for lunch and exchange gifts (to a maximum value of five dollars) at the table. Great! At least I knew what was expected.
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So before you hit the shops to find that just-right gift for your boss or colleague, it might be a good idea to ask beforehand what the protocol is, and if you’re still not sure where to draw the line, why not invest in a big box of chocolates or shortbread and offer them around. If you’re a bit handy in the kitchen, nothing beats some home-made gingerbread.
For my colleagues this year I've done something a little different. They already know that my budget is a bit tight this Christmas because of some unexpected expenses, so I've bought a couple of sets of Christmas pencils and have them sitting on my desk in a bright Christmas mug. When a colleague pops in I offer them a pencil and they’re thrilled at the idea. It’s also great to know it’s something they’re using!