Social etiquette doesn’t disappear in a professional setting, even with something as seemingly playful as a gift exchange. It seems so simple, a gift exchange; however, there are rules and regulations that need to be followed in order to do it successfully.
There are people who naturally understand the intricacies of behaving appropriately in a social setting, but for those who aren’t so quick on the take, I present these few guidelines to help you maneuver through company culture and your office gift exchange a little smoother.
First, you have to figure out what sort of gift exchange it is. Once you figure that out, you can assemble your plan of attack. Company culture has created several different types of gift exchanges so this part is particularly important. If it is a Secret Santa situation, it is almost guaranteed that what you buy will be made public, so even if you have to buy a gift for your best friend to remind him or her of that time they did that one thing in the Bahamas, save it for later. Keep it professional and company culture friendly. It can still be something funny, but keep it office friendly. A talking bass is always a gas at gift exchanges.
However, if the gift exchange is a potluck then you have to go neutral. Neutral is the new professional, and by that I mean you can’t buy a gift with someone specific in mind. You have to make sure that the gift is usable by everyone in the office and won’t be offensive to a single person. Why? Because there are no assigned gift receivers- everyone gets a random gift. There is always a chance that what you think most will find funny or amusing, one person may find insulting. It’s not worth the risk, especially at work.
While this may seem like a dicey situation it is actually much easier to overcome. One thing you can be sure everyone in your office does is spend money. Everyone can use money, and money doesn’t offend anyone. Obviously, you can’t just wrap a few crumpled bills found at the bottom of your wallet and call it a gift. That would be lazy, and being lazy isn’t professional. Instead, buy a gift card. A gift card is the safest way to go and is sure to not cause any problems. Even if there’s a vegan who doesn’t use electronics, read books or shop for clothes at any major outlet store you can still get a prepaid Visa gift card for them to use at any thrift store they want.
The following are two rules for every gift exchange situation that will make sure you maintain your professional and company culture-friendly appearance. The potluck and Secret Santa gift exchanges warrant a few special rules, but most other gift exchanges can be completed successfully with two simple rules: make sure your gift is not too cheap, and make sure it is office appropriate. The ideal price range for any gift is $20 to $40. Anything less will make you seem cheap and like you didn’t try. Surviving company culture is about fitting in, so don’t set yourself apart in a bad way. Be the one who helps decorate the office, not the one who gave a plastic decoration as a gift.
What are some tips you’ve picked up through office gift exchanges? DO you think company culture plays a large part? Share with us in the comments section below!
IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by FutUndBeidl