It was nearly a foolproof way to collect money for the boss’ holiday gift. His admin kept a card in her desk drawer. When you paid your contribution, she smiled, said thanks and opened the drawer so you could sign the card. No money, no signature. Someone at that company remembers that he always contributed during the several years he worked there. And he always felt coerced.

That kind of subtle pressure doesn’t go over anymore. In fact, many companies are downplaying gift giving—keeping gifts modest or substituting other office gift giving ideas and ways of sharing the holiday spirit.

“I don’t exchange gifts with my boss and vice versa, and I don’t encourage it here. Once it starts, it’s hard to keep the political pressure out of it,” said one employee. When asked what a director for a public relations firm does, he jokingly said “We eat a lot.” He takes his co-workers out for a holiday lunch or attends an all hands company reception.

Personal thought—but minimal expense—appears to be the new norm for internal gifts, as well as gifts to clients. People now do cards and personal notes. Tangible gifts are reserved for special client relationships, and even those are of nominal value. An example is a subscription to a fishing magazine for an executive who loves the sport.

As author of Do It Right: The New Book of Business Etiquette, I believe we need to think about not only what you give, but should you give in today’s world. If you’re new to a company, ask your peers what’s done. If they say everyone exchanges, that’s great. But know that before you do something on your own. As a boss, it’s best to treat a group equally in order to emulate teamsmanship and not single out anyone.

One president of a manufacturing company involves employees in one of his favorite causes, Toys for Tots. He has a pot luck party where every employee brings a toy and gets a T-shirt in return. The company also throws in a product they make as a small gift for everyone. It brings together people on different floors who don’t usually see one another.

“Last year we had soufflés and venison meatballs. There were two big buckets of Blue Bell ice cream. Everyone brought a unisex gift that cost no more than $10. There were lottery tickets, a bunch of coffee warmers. The hottest item was a tray so you could have breakfast in bed.”

As alternative office gift giving ideas go, this is really clever. A client of mine decorates the headquarters generously with poinsettias, then donates the plants before the holidays to a hospital or other charity.

Make this a joyous holiday for everyone. Use discretion, get others involved and don’t forget the Attitude of Gratitude!

Here are a bunch of fun alternative office gift giving ideas that work for anyone!

Taken from a Dallas Morning News interview by Diane Kunde.

 

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