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What Are Appropriate Gifts for a Co-Worker or Colleague?

Updated on August 7, 2020
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! Let's help you avoid the risk of being tagged as the one co-worker who gives cringe-worthy gifts!

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" Gift Ideas 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 Gift Ideas 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 Gift Ideas 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 Gifts for a Co-Worker or Colleague

Put these items on your "do-not-gift" list for your co-workers!

  • 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

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Stephanie Marshall


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