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Most say it’s fine, but please don’t give these weird presents

Wait, you didn’t want a big order of frozen pork? I thought you loved pork!

Office gift exchanges can get awkward. Staffing firm Accountemps found out just how awkward by surveying a bunch of hiring managers. They said both employees and managers agree gift exchanges are a good idea; but admit there have been some really strange gifts given in the past.

Aside from frozen pork, employees have re-gifted what the manager gifted them the year before. There’s also the times that a manager has gifted a framed photo of themselves to employees. Oh. So thoughtful!

office gift giving

Don’t forget the times that managers have shown favoritism. Sometimes managers have given such a lavish gift, it’s obvious it was very valuable and intended for that employee only. Or the times that various amounts of cash were handed out to different employees and some got more than others.

Bill Driscoll, Accountemps district president, says exchanging presents can be a touchy topic around the office.

“As much as people enjoy giving presents, this can be a sensitive issue in the workplace and becomes a personal decision based on individual relationships,” he says. “More important than the dollar amount, the focus should be on giving something meaningful to the recipient. The best gifts are thoughtful and demonstrate care for others.”

Overall, HR managers think that gift-giving is appropriate on some level between bosses and employees. 63 percent think managers should hand out gifts to their team. 58 percent think employees should give gifts to their supervisors.

When it comes to how much should be spent, HR managers think supervisors should spend an average of $24 on employees and employees should spend an average of $20 on their managers. As managers are already on track to embarrass themselves at the holiday parties this year, maybe they can make it up to their employees by buying a little something extra for them.

If not pork, what should you buy?

Please make a mental note that a huge hunk of meat is not appreciated among managers and employees alike. With that out of the way, what sort of gifts should you give?

Accountemps has a few suggestions for you to give without looking like a jerk — or a cheapskate.

First, don’t give a gift because you feel there’s an obligation to give one or that you feel you should get something in return. Make sure your team knows it’s not required to exchange gifts and if you do participate, give because you want to, not because you need to.

Don’t present something that the recipient doesn’t connect with. Easy gifts, like a gift card to their favorite restaurant or coffee shop, show simplicity while also showing you know your team members. You can make it personal without going overboard.

Whatever someone gets you, even if it is a slab of pork, show your appreciation that someone thought of you during the holiday season. As holiday shopping is poised to break all speed records, some may be in the spirit to buy something just because ‘tis the season, and regardless, you should be thankful for the thoughtfulness.

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Meet the Author

Dori Zinn

Dori Zinn


Zinn is a freelance journalist based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


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