Editor's note: Inc.com columnist Alison Green answers questions about workplace and management issues -- everything from how to deal with a micromanaging boss to how to talk to someone on your team about body odor.

Questions about giving gifts in your office this holiday season? We've got answers. Here's a roundup of answers to five holiday-related questions from readers.

1. Should I get my boss a gift for the holidays?

A reader writes:

I just started a new job, and I am working in a team of three. Should I get my boss a gift for the holidays? I would round up the other co-worker, but I've had second thoughts because she is a temp. I don't want to be gimmicky or a teacher's pet, but I also think it might be a nice gesture. What would you suggest?

Green responds:

Nope. Etiquette says that gifts in a workplace should flow downward, not upward -- meaning that gifts from bosses to employees are fine, but employees shouldn't give gifts to those above them. This rule stems from the power dynamics in the boss-employee relationship, because otherwise people can feel obligated to purchase gifts when they don't want to or can't afford to -- and managers should never benefit from the power dynamic in that way.

2. Giving a boss a holiday gift, part 2

A reader writes:

I'm wondering if I should get my boss a gift this year. I work very closely with her as I am her only employee. I started my current job just before Christmas last year, and she gave me a bonus last year, as well as a very nice birthday gift. She treats me well, I respect her, and we get along fine. I'd like to get her a gift, but I have no idea what to get her as she's kind of wealthy and I'm far from. Basically, I don't know if it's appropriate to even get a boss a gift if it's not a group-effort type thing. I don't have any co-workers. What do you think?

Green responds:

Nope. See above.

If you feel you must do something, a card and some homemade treats would be fine -- but don't go beyond that.

3. My new co-workers want me to pitch in to buy our manager a gift

A reader writes:

I just started a new job two months ago, and so far I'm enjoying it. Another member of my team sent out an email asking for a $5 voluntary contribution to buy our manager a gift. I enjoy working with this team member, and she actually spent a significant amount of time training me and getting me well prepared for my job. I also get the feeling that my manager understands that proper office etiquette is to have gifts flow downward. We recently did a secret Santa, and she requested that anyone who drew her name simply make a donation to any charity.

I'm just wondering how I should approach this. The other co-workers seem to be really into Christmas and probably won't have an issue with this, since we all enjoy working with this particular manager. Also, my finances are in good shape, so $5 out of my pocket is not a big deal, and I'm not sure if it's worth it to be saying anything since I've only been here for three months.

Green responds:

This is a little more complicated than the two situations above, because you're new and your co-workers are all doing it.

If you didn't want to spend the money, it would be perfectly reasonable for you to say, "Unfortunately, my budget won't allow me to chip in." But since you're willing, you're new, and it's only $5, it probably makes sense to go with the flow on this one.

If it were a significant amount of money, I'd be more inclined to encourage you to opt out. And if you'd been there longer, I'd encourage you to steer your co-workers away from gifting upward, but that's not a battle worth expending capital on when you're so new to the job.

4. Should I get my employees gifts?

A reader writes:

I'm new to an organization. We do a holiday gift exchange, but do I need to get my direct reports additional gifts as well? The gift exchange max is $30, so it is pretty generous already.

Green responds:

In general, no, managers don't need to get their staff gifts. That said, you might discreetly inquire with other managers about the culture of the office on this; if it's the norm for managers to do something for their staff, you'd want to have that context when making your decision. But absent some compelling pressure from your particular workplace culture, no. However, you could certainly make a small group gesture, like bringing in baked goods for people to share, as a marker of the season and general expression of goodwill.

5. Can my company refuse to allow spouses to attend the holiday party?

A reader writes:

Can a company require employees to attend the company holiday party without spouses? We start work at 8 a.m., and then will leave at noon to attend the holiday party. Can they really say we can't bring spouses?

Green responds:

Absolutely. First of all, hosts of a party can limit the guest list however they want. Second, this party is during your workday, so it's even more reasonable that it's employees-only. (And really, how many spouses will want to take off time from their own jobs to attend a holiday party full of someone else's co-workers?)

Want to submit a question of your own? Send it to alison@askamanager.org.

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Published on: Dec 13, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.