Tips for organizing a workplace gift exchange
The average person will spend around eight hours at work each day, and do so roughly five days a week. Over time, relationships with coworkers may grow and many people become friendly with their colleagues. In such settings, it can be customary to celebrate holidays with coworkers at company-sanctioned events.
Personnel tasked with organizing the sharing of gifts across departments or the company can employ the following tips to make things run smoothly.
• Defer to company rules. Companies may have guidelines in place that govern gifting. Check employee handbooks or company policies, which may dictate spending limits or even prohibit gift-giving.
• Keep it holiday nonspecific. Companies can feature staff from various cultures, ethnicities and religious backgrounds. Therefore, resist any urge to affiliate the gift exchange with a specific holiday. Keep terms generalized, avoiding the use of “Secret Santa” or references to Christmas or Chanukah. Specify that gift wrap be generic as well.
• Recognize that gift-giving flows downward. The general rule of the workplace is that people at the same employment level can give gifts among themselves, but employees should not feel pressured to give gifts to their supervisors or bosses. Should one choose to do so, it could be misinterpreted and may cause rumblings across the company. If supervisors and managers want to gift their subordinates, then that is fine so long as everyone is treated fairly.
• Decide on a spending limit. Set a firm spending limit. A range of $15 to $20 may be affordable to most and ensures a nice gift. However, if yours is a laid back environment and everyone is lighthearted, you can have gag gifts or set a silly amount for laughs.
• Do not pressure participation. Engaging in a companywide gift exchange should be completely voluntary. Only those who choose to participate will exchange with others. The easiest way to do this is to collect the gifts, then hand out grab bag numbers, enabling all participants to grab a random gift from the bag or table. Also, gifts should not be highly personal or anything that may be viewed as offensive.
• Keep some spare gifts on hand. It’s happened before when someone has become ill or simply forgotten to bring a gift to the exchange. Human resource managers or department heads may want to use an expense account to have a spare gift or two on hand so that no participant walks away empty-handed.
• Exchange at the party. If an office party is part of the plan, the gift exchange can take place there at a certain point in the festivities where it will be convenient for all involved.
Office gift exchanges are common during the holiday season. A few guidelines can keep such exchanges festive and fun.