The New Grad’s Guide To Holiday Gift-Giving At Work


When it comes to gift giving, the task is often daunting and expensive.

In addition to family and friends, as young professionals we now have to consider what to give when it comes to the workplace. In an office as small as 10 people, giving individual gifts certainly adds up. What happens if you work among dozens or even hundreds of people?

As a solution for this, I suggest the classic Secret Santa approach. Pulling names out of a hat and setting a price limit not only gives gift-giving a creative touch as you try to find the perfect gift for your co-worker, but it’s also economical.

You can take various approaches when it comes to office gift giving – you can choose gifts that are practical or creative, ones that give back to your community or a charity, or even gifts that give your boss or co-worker a much-needed break.

Secret Santa gifts that are appropriate for work:

  • a donation to a charity in your recipient’s name
  • a gift certificate to their favourite lunch spot or cafe
  • something goofy for their desk (silly stationary or notebooks)
  • a novel to relax with during those long train rides to visit family or while they’re commuting
  • gourmet cooking oils or condiments
  • travel accessories (e.g., passport cover or luggage tag) for those who take frequent business trips

Goodies are always a great gift

If your office isn’t doing a Secret Santa exchange, one alternative to ensure that everyone feels included is to bring a gift suitable for your whole office or department to enjoy together.

For example, showing up with holiday-flavoured coffee grounds or tea for you to brew together is a great treat for everyone in your office. Another alternative is baking cookies or other holiday goodies. These are great options to ensure that everyone is included.

What about your boss?

If you decide to give a gift to your boss or manager, make sure you don’t get anything too extravagant. Around the holidays, it is important to consider your individual office’s culture. Some are characterized by a social and creative approach while others are more conservative, structured and traditional.

If you work in close proximity and are on friendly terms with your boss, it is acceptable to give a more personalized gift that is tailored to their interests. However, if the relationship with your boss is far more professional and your office is on the conservative side, it is better to give gifts that are more generic and work-oriented; fancy desk supplies, photo frames or gourmet food items are all good options.

Getting together with other co-workers and giving one gift collectively is another alternative.

Gifts to avoid:

Religious references

When purchasing gifts, the best bet is to avoid anything that is affiliated to one particular religion or practice. Offices bring together people of various different cultural and religious backgrounds, so it is best to give gifts that are non-denominational. Similarly, don’t assume that anyone isn’t celebrating just because they belong to a particular cultural or religious group. Most people like to feel included even if they don’t officially celebrate a holiday.

Personal care items

Cosmetics, bath products or perfumes should be avoided. People have allergies and sensitivities to certain scents and ingredients in these products.


A bottle of wine is often considered a safe bet. However, don’t make assumptions. Many people avoid alcohol for medical, religious or personal reasons, so approach with caution when considering this option.

Most importantly, keep in mind that the holidays should be fun and relaxed. Don’t let office gift-giving become a stressful ordeal!

What are your best workplace gift ideas? Share them in the comments section below!

Photo credit: daniel