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Listen Up↑ -- Holiday Gift Ideas for the Office

19 December 2017
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Some practical and anecdotal advice on holiday gift ideas at the office: what works and what doesn't.

It's the most wonderful time of the year ... and sometimes the most stressful, too. As the winter holidays -- Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's, Festivus, or whatever else you might celebrate -- get ever closer, many of us face the tricky task of buying holiday gifts for coworkers.

This might not be a problem if you've got a great relationship with your boss or colleagues. But if you're getting a generic gift for an office swap, or you're more or less compelled to get something for the manager because that's just how it's done at your place, then your holiday gift ideas can come under higher scrutiny.

You need to walk several fine lines, right? Low-dollar value but not cheap. Thoughtful but not too personal. Practical but not boring. Witty but not offensive. Throw in the fact that you often don't even know the tastes or interests of who ends up with your gift and it's no wonder so many of us agonize over this year-end office ritual.

In the spirit of giving, and based on my own 25 years of hits and misses, I'll offer some general guidance and a few specific holiday gift ideas that'll keep you in your boss's and coworkers' good graces well into 2018. After that, you're on your own.

Gifts to Avoid

Gift cards. Forget 'em. They're the easy way out and tell everyone you put zero thought into the process. Save gift cards for the niece or nephew you only see once a year.

Lottery tickets. Again, shows minimal effort. And lottery tickets are problematic win or lose. Odds are the recipient ends up with nothing, or maybe a couple bucks. But if they win big? You're going to be kicking yourself that you gave them away, and so will everyone else if they were part of a swap scenario. Stirring up worker resentment isn't a path to success.

Candy. First, it's not Valentine's Day. Second, you've got lots of people avoiding fats, sugar, nuts, etc., so why make it awkward for them? Third, everyone knows you bought that box of chocolates at the Walgreen's check-out line, not from L.A. Burdick.

Holiday Gift ideas to Consider

Booze. If your workplace is keeping the gift limit under $25, or even $20, that still leaves a wide range of alcoholic options. From quality wines and new micro-brews to smaller bottles of craft bourbon, aperitifs or liqueurs, you've got plenty of options to choose from. I have NEVER seen a good bottle not be one of, if not the, most popular gift in 25 years of holiday office parties. It won't stop this year.

Calendars. They come in all shapes and sizes, but a fun daily calendar (think, 'The Office,' 'Parks and Rec,' etc.) is one of those practical yet entertaining items that many folks end up appreciating. Plus, it has the added bonus of reminding the person of your thoughtfulness for the next 365 days.

Plants. Again, you might look at this as you would calendars and say, "Seriously?" But there's something to be said for real, living organisms. Whether it's a small succulent that needs almost no care or, say, an amaryllis bulb that will bloom spectacularly in a few weeks, many will appreciate having something green to liven up their workspace, or will know someone close to them who does (#re-gifting).

You can also do like I did and check out recent articles from Money and Business News Daily for more ideas on holiday office gifts.

Every workplace is different, and every gift-giving environment therein will be as well. Unless you just started a new job, you'll probably have a sense of what are and what aren’t quality holiday gift ideas appropriate at your employer. Bottom line? Just have fun with it.

And if someone doesn't like your choice of gift?

Tell them to save it for the 'airing of grievances.'

Happy Festivus ... and season's greetings to all!

Joe Ailinger

Joe Ailinger Jr. has more than 20 years experience in employee and crisis communications, public relations, and brand-building for the financial services, defense technology, healthcare and nonprofit industries. Connect with him and learn more at http://linkedin.com/in/joeailinger

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