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Staples Offers Gift-Giving Etiquette for the Office

FRAMINGHAM, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 26, 2001--Staples knows that the holiday season is filled with cheer, goodwill -- and the potential for social blunders at the office. Before you purchase gifts for colleagues, bosses and employees, don't forget to carefully consider the implications. To assist with the task, the experts at Staples teamed up with etiquette consultant Jodi Smith of Mannersmith to offer guidelines and tips on how to avoid committing an office gift-giving faux pas.

When in Rome

The first thing you should consider is the particular culture of your workplace. If you recently started a job, ask your new colleagues what the gift-giving policies are. Request specifics instead of general guidelines.

  • What's been done in previous years?

  • What kinds of gifts were given, and to whom?

  • Is gift giving usually restricted to office parties?

Giving to the Boss

Asking colleagues about gift giving to the boss is also advisable. Keep in mind that many offices don't encourage gift giving to superiors. Additionally, offering gifts to your boss may be seen as an attempt to curry favor, or may cause resentment by co-workers who then feel obligated to purchase a gift for their boss. The bottom line is that giving a gift to your boss is something you should consider only if it's common and encouraged at your place of work. If you're determined to get something for your boss, consider the following items:

  • Pens - Calendars

  • Stationery - Electronic organizers

  • Food baskets

Colleague Gift-Swaps

Before buying a gift for a colleague, ask if your office has an annual gift swap. If it does, there will likely be spending-limit guidelines and a plan for assigning your "swap mate". The major error to avoid is giving a thoughtless or inappropriate gift. Any of the gifts suggested for your boss would make an ideal present for co-workers, or you can personalize the gift. For gifts for the entire office, think about personalized shirts, mugs or t-shirts.

Gift Giving to Employees

Wine or flowers are gifts best suited to employees you know well. Although wine makes a great gift (and for this reason is a popular choice), you need to make sure that the recipient doesn't have personal objections to - or problems with -alcohol. Flowers are also a popular choice, but you should be aware that they could be misinterpreted as a romantic gesture. Since different flowers have different meanings, be careful with your selection. It may be smart to send a basket of baked goods instead.

For more personal work relationships, Jodi Smith suggests exchanging gifts outside of work. Elaborate and emotional gift exchanges at the office can result in co-worker resentment.

Gift-Giving Guidelines

  • 1. Know the person's preferences and try to match those with an appropriate gift. If the "giftee" is an avid traveler, for example, consider expandable/collapsible luggage.

  • 2. Be aware of cultural, religious or international taboos. Also, some company policies prohibit gifts over a certain value. Check your company's Human Resources handbook.

  • 3. Use your common sense, despite what the salesperson says is appropriate.

  • 4. Save the gag gifts for purely social occasions.

  • 5. Save items with your company's name on them for marketing campaigns.

  • 6. Select a gift that reflects your business and your image.

  • 7. A gift basket for the client's office can bring greater good will, especially if the staff participates in projects for your business.

  • 8. Wrap the gift. Half of the thought is the presentation.

  • 9. If you need some gift hints for a client, speak to his/her assistant.

  • 10. Start planning in advance.

Expanded tips on office gift giving and many other helpful holiday tips are available at under the Staples Holiday Center icon. Happy Gift Giving!

CONTACT: Staples, Inc.
Jennifer Rosenberg
Meara Murphy