What is the Proper Holiday Gift for a Coworker?

Getting the proper holiday gift for a coworker is very important; make sure you act properly in your gift giving, with these 3 tips.

Richie Frieman
4-minute read
Episode #141

Tis’ the season for holiday gift giving. Who doesn’t like it when someone remembers them for the holidays? I’ll never forget when I was a kid and the prettiest girl in school made sure to leave a holiday card on my desk that said “Ho-Ho-Hope You Have A Good Holiday!” It really brightened up my day. Well, it would have brightened up my day had it been on my desk, not the desk next to mine…sigh.

Sad anecdote aside, when it comes to finding presents for your coworkers’ desks, there are major dos and don’ts to follow.

People say it’s the thought that counts, but that really gives you, oh, zero help when it comes to actually purchasing a gift for a coworker. Before you head out to grab a last-minute office gift, make sure to check out my top 3 tips for the proper holiday gift for your coworkers.

Proper Holiday Gift Tip #1: A Gun Rack?

There is a great line from the 90s hit, “Wayne’s World” where Wayne’s psychotic ex-girlfriend surprises him with the gift of a gun rack. Wayne was not impressed, “A gun rack... a gun rack?... I don't even own *a* gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack. What am I gonna do... with a gun rack?” Now, granted Wayne was a little unmannerly with his vocal dislike for the gift, which I do not recommend, but he offers a very good point. Basically, what were you thinking? If you can’t answer that, you might want to rethink your gift.

I received a present one time from a coworker that was anything but me--a knitting set. Now, there is nothing wrong with knitting. In fact even the Get-It-Done Guy tweeted last week about how he loves knitting. However, I never gave this coworker any hint that I liked knitting--and therein lies problem.

I was polite and thanked my coworker for her generous present, but trust me--it was not used. I take that back, I tried and got too frustrated--sorry. Here is a good example of just not knowing the person you are buying for well enough. Which I find odd since in a work setting--between seeing the person every day, seeing photos in a person’s cube or office, and even just talking with them--you should easily be able to find at least ONE thing a person likes.

If you are worried about what to get a coworker, simply ask someone else who knows them better. And if the coworker is such a loner that no one knows them, then choose a broader gift, like a fruit basket or tin of holiday cookies (that is not religion specific). Those are safe bets because the person could either eat the food himself or share it with others.

Proper Holiday Gift Tip #2: Know Their Religion

This next problem tends to happen more often than not. Although it may seem rude when a person does not take the time to consider your religion, I chalk it up to just being caught up in the excitement of the holidays. I’m Jewish but believe me, I LOVE Christmas! Christmas movies, decorations, you name it. However, come Christmas day, I’m at the movies and eating Chinese food with every other Jew in America.

Many times, I have received a card with Santa Claus on it, saying “Merry Christmas!” Yes, I would have preferred a “Happy Hanukkah” or “Happy Holiday” card but still, it was the thought that counts. I’ve been guilty of this same thing. I gave someone a Christmas card because I overheard him talking about going to a Christmas dinner. Turns out he was just complaining because his girlfriend was taking him to her family dinner… and he is an atheist. Oh well, my bad.

When giving someone a card, in the office--even if you know their religion--stick with “Happy Holidays”; it’s the preferred office message. It allows the meaning to be much broader. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah and Happy Kwanza all speak to a specific religion. Whoever you are, whatever you celebrate, “Happy Holidays” is an across the board a message of love and holiday spirit. Plus, that way you’ll be able to buy cards for the office in bulk—and you’ll save money too!