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What Are Appropriate Gifts for a Co-Worker?

Tricia Christensen
By
Updated: May 16, 2024

Giving co-worker gifts requires some thought. They should be appropriate and in keeping with company policies. They should represent thoughtfulness but not a great deal of expense. Some companies have specific policies about when it is acceptable to give gifts to a co-worker, and also may limit price range on gifts. Prior to choosing a gift for a co-worker, an employee should check company policy to make sure any gifts are not in excess of the amounts one’s company allows one to spend.

Co-worker gifts should never be jokes or gifts that are sexually inappropriate, as this may be considered sexual harassment. Along the same lines, the gift should not be of an intimate nature. One should never, for example, give night clothing or underclothing to a co-worker, or a gift that might imply a crass joke.

Instead, an employee should make co-worker gifts as general as possible. Gift certificates or gift cards are a terrific way to go. Certificates or cards will allow the co-worker to choose a gift of his or her choice. Alternately, gift certificates to restaurants or movie theaters are good choices too. If the co-worker has a well-known hobby, like golfing or scrapbooking, gift certificates to a golf shop or crafts shop are very acceptable.

Co-worker gifts that are also acceptable are presents of food, such as food baskets or boxes of candy, although it's a good idea to check if the co-worker has allergies or avoids certain foods. Personalized mugs or picture frames are also good general gifts for co-workers. Flowers can be given, although a male employee should probably avoid sending them to a female co-worker. This may be wrongly interpreted as romantic interest, unless one always gives flowers to everyone. If you're unsure on what to get your male co-worker, there are plenty of helpful articles on gifts for men.

People are also concerned about giving co-worker gifts when other co-workers are receiving no gifts. If the co-worker is celebrating a special moment, like a promotion, retirement, or a birthday, it is usually acceptable to give gifts only to one specific person. Politeness dictates that all co-workers should be treated in the same manner, however. If one celebrates the birthday of one co-worker, then one should celebrate the birthday of all co-workers.

If an employee doesn't choose to celebrate the birthday of every co-worker, then some may choose form a private friendship with co-workers and have get-togethers outside of the office, and not during normal office hours. It is best to discuss and plan such outings outside of the office so as not to make others feel excluded.

During holiday seasons, co-worker gifts should involve minimal expense. It is important to bear in mind that not everyone has the same income. Especially if the office has an annual gift exchange, gifts should not be excessive in price.

SmartCapitalMind is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a SmartCapitalMind contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By anon278693 — On Jul 08, 2012

Actually, nowadays, you must be very careful. We had a female coworker drop hints and complain to us that no one ever remembered her birthday for months before her birthday (or every time a birthday was celebrated in our office). So, I got her card and couple of non-personal gifts (she liked a particular football team, so I got her a mug and a magnet and a pennant) a day or so before her birthday. She got beyond angry. I got the rudest email ever from her about how it was not appropriate to give a coworker a "gift" at work and how it starts rumors in the office and how to never do it again or decorate her cube (I didn't do anything to her cube).

On the day of her birthday, no one did anything but wish her a happy birthday here and there. Two days later, another coworker had a birthday and everyone decorated her cube and the coworker who chastised me for giving her a gift went back to whining how no one remembered her birthday again in the office this year and how it must be nice.

Be careful about gifts and the people you give them to, even though they drop hints. The person may just like complaining and in reality, doesn't want anyone to do anything for them.

By sevenseas — On Dec 18, 2009

Also if you have a hobby, such as if you like painting, or crochet it is nice to do something personal.

If a coworker is a collector of some particular item, than it helps to buy something in that area. One person is collecting snails because it was the family name on her mother's side. Interestingly enough, the snails come in all kind of sizes, beautiful materials and some even serve a purpose, like a salt and pepper shaker. She has quite a beautiful collection, and it made it easy to buy her a present.

By anon56886 — On Dec 18, 2009

that's great. that was informative and if the same is followed in one's organization, that would be a great source of entertainment and mutual understanding.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a SmartCapitalMind contributor, Tricia...
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