What is corporate gift giving etiquette

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corporate gift basket
A basket of cheese and sausage is a classic choice
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Tips on corporate gift giving etiquette

A thoughtful present around the holidays is one way to boost employee morale, build business relationships and simply bring a bit of festivity to the office. It's a nice thing to do, but there are a few factors to consider first. In addition to timing and sticking to an appropriate budget, international companies should note that not all cultures exchange gifts.

Familiarize yourself with corporate gift giving etiquette, specifically any restrictions your employer may have in place. Review the employee handbook or ask an HR representative if the guidelines are unclear. Some companies have rules against gift giving, in which case your intended recipient would have to recline.

The main difference between shopping for a work associate and a personal friend is that you need to think beyond the individual. As an employee, you represent the company. The gift you give to clients must reflect the company in a positive way.

Gender neutral

The first rule of thumb when you're wondering what is corporate gift giving etiquette is to steer towards gender neutral things. Jewelry, clothing, health, fitness and beauty items are too personal. Business and Labor Resources reported these kinds of items may inadvertently imply you want a relationship with the person that goes beyond the office.

Plants, pens and industry related novelty items will be used and you won't run the risk of giving the person the wrong idea. Good intentions are easily misunderstood in fast-paced environments. For example, a gift certificate to a salon could come across as a comment on their appearance.

Things that can be shared

If you want to send a single gift to a department, try a gift basket. They come in a wide range of varieties, including candy, chocolates, fruit, jams and cheese and sausages, so they're a great gift to send to an office. These items can be shared amongst employees. Even the busiest offices need to take a little snack break to refuel.

The wine question

At first, a bottle of wine may seem like a perfect coworker gift if you know what the person likes. This is definitely a case when you need to also consider the company brand. Some places may see this as contrary to their healthy or family-friendly image. If there aren't any rules against giving wine, follow you're instincts.


Food and sweets are tricky these days when so many people have dietary restrictions. Do a little detective work to find out if they're on a sugar-free diet, allergic to dairy or have other allergies. Even traditionally “safe” foods like fruits may cause an allergic reaction. Always ask to be safe.

Check price limits

Most companies set a dollar limit on gift giving. Don't go over this. It may feel generous at the time, but you risk making the recipient feel bad when they don't have an expensive gift for you. Remember, not everyone can afford to spend a lot on company gifts.

When to give

Companies that throw office parties make it easy – even better if everyone picks a name out of a hat for a gift exchange. If this isn't the case, be mindful of when you give the present. Try to be discreet and give it during lunch hour or leave it on their desk.

Presentation counts

Wrapping a gift elevates it to something special. Elegant wrapping paper and a simple ribbon reflect how much thought you put into the item. It also says something about you and the pride you take in everything you put out.

Shopping for a boss

Don't feel obligated to give your boss something. In many companies, employees will all contribute to one group gift. It's a nice way to say thanks and show how much everyone enjoys working with her. If you're buying something just from you, ask around to see what other people have gotten her in the past.

This overview of what is corporate gift giving etiquette is meant to steer you in the right direction. When in doubt ask a coworker who has been with the company longer. Don't over-think or stress about this. It's supposed to be fun!

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