Gift-Giving Etiquette and Other Tips for Office Holiday Celebrations

Here are tips and suggestions for the right kind of office gathering this season.

What exactly is proper gift-giving etiquette for an office holiday party? For that matter, what types of office gatherings are more likely to make everyone feel part of the team, regardless of religion or holiday preference?

The answers to these questions don't need to put a tamper on your fun. Use these tips to not only toast to the holiday season but also embrace the diversity of your wonderful staff:

Your Gift Exchange

While some businesses call it Secret Santa, others simply emphasize the generous nature of the holiday season. In case you're not familiar with the ritual, it involves employees drawing names from a list of everyone in the office and then finding a gift for that individual; these gifts are typically unwrapped at a holiday party (the names of the givers may or may not be disclosed at that time).

If you choose this type of event, certain standards of gift-giving etiquette should be declared beforehand:

  • Keep it voluntary. No one should be obligated to participate in a gift exchange.
  • Announce price limits. To ensure an appropriate occasion, specify that gifts shouldn't cost more than a certain amount (say $20).
  • Set guidelines and rule out inappropriate gifts. Use common sense as to what is appropriate, and avoid gifts that are overly personal or expensive. Setting parameters reduces the potential for employees to feel embarrassed or offended when they open gifts in front of each other.

Beyond Presents

You don't have to include gifts at your end-of-year events. Try some of these options when planning to promote inclusiveness and a sense of teamwork and camaraderie:

  • Potlucks. A potluck lunch or after-dinner party is generally considered a safe and enjoyable option. Invite employees to bring something that shows off their culinary talents or a favorite family recipe.
  • Nondenominational party. If you decide to host an office celebration, do everything possible to emphasize inclusiveness. This doesn't mean, however, you try to recognize specific religions — because in all likelihood, you'll still end up making the wrong move. You can focus on celebrating a successful quarter as a company or emphasizing hope for the upcoming year. Additionally, keep the decorations and invitations neutral.
  • Family gathering. Another variation worth considering is extending an invitation for your employees' families to attend the holiday party. Rent a large enough space to accommodate spouses and children, indicate that casual attire is acceptable (and that no gifts are needed) and offer a variety of games and activities to keep things moving.
  • A charitable alternative. In lieu of a costly office gathering, some businesses take the opportunity to emphasize philanthropy during the holidays. If your business is associated with a particular cause or nonprofit organization, let your employees know you welcome their charitable gifts, or announce that specific parts of the workday can be set aside for active participation in community service.