Skip to main content

Holiday Gifts You Should Never Give at the Office

Holiday Gifts You Should Never Give at the Office

Holiday Gifts You Should Never Give at the Office

By Catherine Conlan
Monster Contributing Writer

Have you ever been at one of those office parties where everywhere falls silent in horror as someone opens a wildly inappropriate gift? If you don’t want to be the person who causes that kind of a scene, take heed of this list of things you shouldn’t give as holiday gifts at the office.

Anything Sexual -- Even as a Joke

“While the gifts may be cute and entertaining, it is most definitely inappropriate and could be perceived as sexual harassment,” says life coach Annette Johnson.

You may think you can get away with something shocking or embarrassing, but you need to remember public gifts aren’t just between the giver and receiver, Johnson says. “It doesn’t matter if the giver and receiver are friends. Colleagues may be offended and find it distasteful and unprofessional.”

Perfume or Cologne

There are two reasons you shouldn’t give a colleague perfume or cologne, says Gerald Glascock of the Southern Institute of Etiquette and Protocol. “It may remind them of their ex, or give them the idea that you want something more than just a business relationship.”

If they don’t like their ex, that isn’t going to reflect well on you, Glascock says. “If they think you want something other than a business relationship, that's going to cause an awkward situation.”

Items That Violate Company Policies

When you’re giving gifts at a company-sponsored event -- even if it’s not hosted at the office -- you should only gift items that would be appropriate to show in a business meeting, says business and career coach Laura Lee Rose.

“Safe gifts are Forever Stamps, picture frames or office knick-knacks, something for their kids, movie or restaurant certificates, gift certificate for their favorite hobbies or stores,” Rose says. There are a lot of safe gift options that won’t violate any company policies or “step on the company's legal obligations to provide a safe, secure and friendly work environment.”

Stuff With Strong Scents

Be considerate of your co-workers and avoid giving things with strong odors or irritating dyes, says consultant Debra Ann Matthews.

“Oftentimes gifts that have a strong odor such as candles, perfumes, scented clothes and decorative centerpieces contain dyes, allergens and other concoctions that may bother people in the office place,” Matthews says. “Many times these types of beautiful arrangements are very appealing to the eye, but can be harsh for those who may be sensitive to strong smells.

Insensitive Items

Be aware of religious, cultural or medical issues that could make certain foods, alcoholic drinks or other items inappropriate gifts. Try to find out as much as you can about the co-worker you’ll be getting a gift for in order to avoid anything that might be embarrassing or awkward for them to receive.

“There are lots of non-threatening and useful gifts,” Rose says. “For instance, if you are
an office supply store, giving a stapler with a coupon for life-time supply of staples (for as long as you work for the company) is a funny gag gift. If your company is involved in IT or software, giving a subscription to a technical magazine or e-zine or something that will help your co-worker in their career is a useful gift.”

Back to top