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What are Appropriate Gifts for a Co-worker or Colleague?

Updated on March 27, 2016
stephhicks68 profile image

Stephanie has been a lawyer since 1994 and knows her way around a professional office environment.

Shopping for Holiday Gifts, Birthday Gifts or other Occasions Celebrated at the Workplace

Whether its your boss's birthday, or Administrative Professionals Day, its easy to get stumped in determining appropriate gifts for a co-worker or colleague. In some cases, you will have to more carefully select a business gift, to ensure that it is appropriate and appreciated, than you would when shopping for a friend or relative.

Tasteful gifts are always appropriate for people at the office. You will want to avoid raunchy greeting cards or presents that will embarrass the recipient, particularly if they are opening the gift at a gathering. Corporate gift giving should be considered an opportunity for you to showcase proper etiquette.

Having worked in a law office for 15 years, I've seen some wonderful and quite awful gifts exchanged between coworkers!

This business gift guide should help you plan your holiday shopping, or prepare for the next time there is an office celebration - retirement, baby shower, promotion, etc. Simply choose from the category below and select from a number of corporate gift ideas in a range of prices, starting with least expensive to the most generous. And, if you have other ideas of well-received office gifts, be sure to share in the comment section below.

How to shop for business gifts
How to shop for business gifts | Source

Experience Gifts for Co-Workers or Colleagues

  • Treat them to a coffee break
  • Take them out to lunch
  • Purchase movie tickets or gift card for the movies
  • Give a gift certificate to a favorite restaurant
  • Give a gift certificate to a spa
  • Give tickets to an upcoming play, musical or ballet
  • Get tickets to a favorite sports team/event
  • Give a one-day pass for skiing, admission for ice-skating or another sporting activity
  • If you are the boss or authorized superior, give them a paid vacation day, or at least the afternoon off

Avoid Giving Terrible Gifts to a Co-Worker or Colleague

Thoughtful Gifts for Co-Workers or Colleagues

  • Homemade cookies, fudge or other baked goods
  • A book your co-worker would enjoy (think interests, hobbies, etc.)
  • A favorite CD or DVD
  • Flowers or a potted plant
  • Fine chocolates
  • Leather-bound daily planner
  • A bottle of wine or champagne
  • Gift basket (wide range of styles, themes and prices)
  • Wine or coffee club membership
  • Gift certificate to a favorite store - consider the recipient's hobbies (photography, golf, fly fishing, running)
  • Fine art - framed photography or painting, sculpture, etc.

Gift Ideas for Co-Workers and Friends

What gifts for a co-worker or colleague?
What gifts for a co-worker or colleague? | Source

Inexpensive Gifts for a Co-Worker or Colleague

  • Coffee gift certificates - be sure to at least get a pretty card!
  • Gourmet coffee
  • Homemade gifts (i.e., truffles, gingerbread, infused vodka, etc. - always include a recipe)
  • Package of favorite gum, mints or candies, presented well
  • Create your own gift basket
  • Offer a service or time (e.g., babysitting for an afternoon so they can go holiday shopping, dog walking, etc.)
  • Combine resources with several other coworkers to purchase a gift beyond your personal budget (group gift)

Holiday Gifts Under $3 for Co-workers or Colleagues

Least Appreciated and Appropriate Gifts for a Co-Worker or Colleague

  • Coffee mugs
  • Pencil holders
  • Post-it notes or other cheap office supplies
  • Picture frames
  • Motivational posters
  • Scented lotion or candles
  • Any item that has obviously been re-gifted and/or used
  • Any item with a suggestive/sexy overtone
  • Any personalized item (particularly if it has the wrong name or misspelled name!)
  • Anything with the corporate logo (caps, t-shirts, Christmas ornaments, etc.)
  • Any item that cannot be used or consumed due to the recipient's allergies or health condition

© 2012 Stephanie Hicks

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    • bridalletter profile image

      Brenda Kyle 5 years ago from Blue Springs, Missouri, USA

      All great ideas. I know I have followed many of the good choices you suggest. I am more thankful for the items you included that should not be gifted. That will prevent me from making that mistake in the future. Great detailed hub, thank you!

    • Careermommy profile image

      Tirralan Watkins 5 years ago from Los Angeles, CA

      These are great ideas stephhicks68. I like the idea of taking them to coffee or getting them gift cards. Thank you for sharing your ideas.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thanks all - I agree that office gift exchanges are so difficult. At my law firm a few years ago, we had a White Elephant gift exchange with a limit of $10. It was hilarious and fun. But, like you, Stephanie - I've received my share of useless coffee mugs, candles and even printed socks! :)

      I'll take a $10 Starbucks card any day.... ! Happy gift giving, Steph

    • Stephanie Henkel profile image

      Stephanie Henkel 5 years ago from USA

      Amazingly, I think I've received every of the least appreciated gifts at office holiday gift exchanges! Those scented candles and coffee mugs usually ended up in the back of a closet or the "yard sale" box. I did love the homemade fudge that one office mate gave me each year! Useful and interesting hub!

    • everythingdazzles profile image

      Janelle 5 years ago from Houston

      Nice list! This is always very difficult for me when we do a gift exchange for our theatre group.

    • Shawnte87 profile image

      Shawnte 5 years ago

      Great advice here! I haven't had to buy gifts for a co-worker since a few Christmas's ago for a Secret Santa.

    • Mommy Needs a Nap profile image

      Michelle Clairday 5 years ago from Arkansas

      Very nice list. Good advice and you really thought outside of the box. I wouldn't have thought of that many options.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you midget38! I agree! Years ago, I thought they were impersonal, but these days when so many of us have a wide range of friends, co-workers, colleagues and relatives, a gift certificate allows the recipient to get something they really want, rather than an item they will not use. All the best, Steph

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      I really am into gift certificates too, Stephanie. I think they are useful, especially when we do not really know what the other party would like. It gives them the freedom of choice as well. Thanks for the share, voted up and sharing.

    • aykianink profile image

      aykianink 5 years ago

      I didn't expect such a large list. Good stuff.

    • stephhicks68 profile image
      Author

      Stephanie Hicks 5 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Thank you algarveview,

      Yes, I have often scratched my head in trying to determine an appropriate gift for coworkers. Hopefully this hub will give people some ideas, or lead to them thinking about something they have not previously considered. Thanks for the vote/read. Best, Steph

    • algarveview profile image

      Joana e Bruno 5 years ago from Algarve, Portugal

      Hello, Steph, as usual a very interesting and useful hub... I find it so difficult to chose gifts for colleagues, I'm always afraid I'm giving them the wrong thing... You have some nice ideas here... Voted up and useful and sharing. Take care!

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