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Holidays Gifts: Dos & Don'ts

Present Box The holidays will soon be upon us and — along with it — the season of giving, which can bring up some sticky situations. Whether it's between clients and their contractors and designers, gifts amid coworkers or even between supervisors and employees, it's important to remember some dos and don'ts so that everyone has a happy holiday.


  • The etiquette of giving a client a gift can be a bit tricky. If you want to send a gift, there are ways that won't cross the line between "loved working with you" and "give me more work." If you don't want to spend a lot of money (after all, you're a small business or sole proprietor), there are other ways to show your appreciation. A coffee card thank you is always a good choice.
  • When it comes to accepting client gifts, things can even get a little more precarious. As a general rule, extravagant gifts — while generous — should not be accepted. A general guideline is that a gift worth $25 or less is acceptable. If significantly higher, the gift should either be kindly returned or donated.


This time of year, secret Santas can be found at just about every workplace so here are a few things to consider:

  • Be aware that many people would rather not participate in workplace gift-giving. They might be on a tight budget or might not want one more thing to do during such a busy time.
  • If your workplace holds a yearly gift exchange, make it opt-in rather than opt-out. Most people feel uncomfortable saying, "no," so ask people to sign up rather than than making someone announce that they don't want to take part.
  • A low dollar limit should be set for gift exchanges. This way, people who do want to take part. You might even consider a lower-cost, less traditional take, like a sock or calendar exchange.
  • If gifts are given, they should flow downward, not upward. This means that gifts from bosses to employees are fine but employees should not be expected to give gifts to those above them. If everyone wants to chip in for a group gift, just make sure to keep to the individual.


For managers, gift-giving can be difficult, particularly if you don't follow these best practices.

  • Spend the same on everyone. People are price-aware and they know what you spent. The idea of, "it's the thought that counts," is all well and good but if you give Ann a $10 box of chocolates and Joe a $30 bottle of wine, feelings will be hurt.
  • $20 or less is the way to go. Gifts needn't be expensive. In fact, they can make people feel uncomfortable. They can even feel like bribes if they are seen as too pricey. Besides, most people want to spend their hard-earned money on friends and family so keeping the price low is ideal.
  • Everyone or no one. If you are going to give gifts, be sure to include everyone in your team. Nobody likes to feel left out.