Every year around this time, the same dilemma arises. What do you give as holiday gifts to your colleagues? Who do you buy for? How much do you spend? You want to give a small memento of your appreciation and friendship. Sounds simple, but it's anything but. If you know they celebrate a certain holiday, do you get them something related? Does a gag gift work, at work? There are a thousand things to consider, and a thousand more ways you can get it wrong.
How did something intended to be a nice token turn into such an opportunity for misstep? Maybe it's a stress from family life that crept into work, maybe it's a product of the current culture, maybe it's a fear of poor performance. Whatever the reason, the stress is real. Evaluate these components of your office to help you select the right thing:
1. Universal vs. Individual
Do you get everyone the same thing, or get something different for everyone? For those outside your immediate team, it's ok to get them all the same thing. If you're worried about appearing lazy, get a variety of related items, such as several different kinds of nice chocolates, or a variety of soaps and lotions. For people on your immediate team, it may behoove you to get unique items that require some thought. This is especially true if someone really went out of their way to help you. Make sure you put a little extra effort into that item, or make it a bit more sizable. The more important thing is this - don't forget anyone! Especially if you're getting something generic, make sure you grab a few extras.
2. Avoid Favoritism
Nobody likes a brownnoser. Don't look like you're sucking up to your boss by bestowing an elaborate gift. For team members, it's ok if someone who really went out of their way for you gets something nice, but make sure there is an event you can point to in explanation. Outside of that, all the gifts for your immediate team should cost about the same. Items for your wider circle should also have an even price point. And if you really want to get into the holiday spirit, get something nice for your least favorite person. You may even build a bridge!
3. Watch the Optics
Pay attention to the mores in your particular office. Is the boss a teetotaler? Alcohol might not be an appropriate gift, even for a colleague. Use humor carefully. Just like you would at a party, avoid politics and religion. It may be a hilarious inside joke that no one on your team is offended by, but it's simply not worth the risk of offending someone outside your team. Seriously, don't get yourself fired over a gag.
4. Build Friendships
The holidays are an opportunity. Take the time to appreciate your colleagues. Demonstrate your gratitude. Reach out to the colleague you don't love. Use the holidays as a chance to deepen existing friendships, and to make new relationships. You won't regret extending a hand.