Not sure what to give your boss or office mate for the holidays? Business gifts for colleagues should be creative, yet not overly personal. Try these tips to ensure your gifts send the right message.
From Amber Travis-Ballinas, BBA ’91, Career Creators—The Career Design Specialists 
The most special holiday gifts are chosen with great consideration to show thoughtfulness for the recipients’ professional interests, needs and desires. Business gifts intended for clients, associates and coworkers should be creative yet not overly personal.
The safest gifts are "communal gifts." which include items that can be enjoyed by an entire team, department or office. This prevents accidentally omitting someone and avoids hurting feelings or offending someone.
Most organizations have a limit on the value of gifts given and accepted for business purposes. An appropriate amount to spend on a business gift should range between $20 to $35 per gift.
Most organizations prohibit the acceptance of cash gifts. It is always a good idea to check the organization’s gifting policies to ensure that the gifts fall within the acceptable type and value range.
A note of caution: Homemade gifts or food are not appropriate business gifts. When giving food and beverage items as gifts, it is recommended that you give sealed, pre-packaged and non-perishable commercially-produced items. Non-alcoholic beverages such as coffees, teas and cocoas, are most appropriate for business gifts.
Whom Shall You Gift?
Generally, it is not necessary to give your boss or direct supervisor a gift. In fact, it could be considered "brown-nosing" or seeking favoritism. However, depending on the circumstances, it may be appropriate to give your supervisor a tasteful, unique and not too personal gift.
It is appropriate for supervisors to give a small gift to their employees to show appreciation for their hard work all year. Be certain to include all subordinates and give the same or similar type/cost of gift to each employee.
Exchanging gifts with coworkers is optional. If you choose to give gifts to coworkers either give everyone on your team the same gift or be discreet and exchange gifts with individual coworkers outside of the workplace.
It is always appropriate to give communal gifts for an entire office/department/team. Whenever possible, choose a gift which is unique and meaningful to the recipients. This is an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of the recipients’ tastes, interests and wants.
Group Gift Suggestions
- Food baskets with individually packaged and sealed healthy snacks and beverages
- Oversized cookie cake with a message or logo decoration in icing
- Creative and unique fruit, cookie or candy bouquets
- Lunch catered to their office
Individual Gift Suggestions
- Office or computer accessories
- Writing utensils or stationary sets
- Clocks and calendars
- Event or movie tickets
- Gift certificates or gift cards
The best gift is one that leaves a lasting positive impression and a feeling of goodwill with the recipients.
This article originally appeared on Dec. 17, 2010.