Holiday gifts for co-workers

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Buying gifts for co-workers can be pretty tough. You have to draw that line between “fun” and “appropriate” so you don’t offend anyone or come across as unprofessional (especially to your boss). You probably don’t know all of their favorite candy flavors, colors and candle scents, and you’d probably feel weird asking. You have a ton of other gifts to buy, so you’re likely sticking to a pretty tight budget, and to top it all off, you may not even like all of your co-workers.

All of this can add stress to an already busy holiday season. To take the hassle out of office gift-giving, here are our ideas on what to get everyone in your office, handily broken down into two price points: inexpensive and dirt cheap.

Your work friends

You can have a little more fun with the people in your office that you’ve worked with for a while or know well. You’re probably in tune with their likes and dislikes, and you won’t have to worry that they’ll look at you funny if you give them a “unique” gift. (Or at least it won’t bother you if they do look at you funny.)    

Inexpensive

  • Shuffle board game, $29.95, UncommonGoods.com. Okay, so this one might actually be a gift for you and your co-workers, but still. This table top shuffle board is the perfect break room accoutrement and will surely be appreciated by any fun-loving colleague.
  • Purse hanger, $19.95, RedEnvelope.com. What’s the point of having a great bag if you ruin it by throwing it on the floor at work every day? Give the girlie-girls at work these pretty purse hangers that will hook right onto their desks.

Dirt cheap

  • Origami sticky notes, $4.99, ThinkGeek.com. This ordinary-looking set of Post-its comes with directions on how to turn your sticky notes into extra-ordinary origami art. A productive way to pass down-time (when you’re not hitting the shuffle board table).
  • Bacon-flavored popcorn, $4.99, ThinkGeek.com. Your carnivorous co-worker will love you for this, but it’s actually a perfect gift for all perennial work-snackers … it’s even safe for vegetarians!

Your boss

Even though you might be on friendly terms with your boss, it’s best to steer clear of funny presents or gag-gifts when it comes to your superiors, to maintain an appropriate level of respect. (Some of these gifts are obviously gender-leaning, but we trust you’ll figure out what’s what).

Inexpensive

  • Shea butter hand cream trio, $28, Loccitaine.com. Three reasons to give your boss this trio of hand creams: They’re luxurious, desk-size and less than $30.
  • Collar stays, $48, Unicahome.com. Add some excitement, and a touch of class, to your boss’s uniform of dress shirts with mother of pearl collar stays.

Dirt cheap

  • Fleece throw blanket, $8.50, OldNavy.com. It’s almost impossible to get an entire office of people to agree on a comfortable temperature. Give your boss the gift of temperature control with this fleece blanket.
  • iPhone stylus, $9.99, ThinkGeek.com. iPhones are great, except that sometimes it’s hard to maneuver their touch screens with our imprecise fingers (especially for men). This stylus, specifically designed for the iPhone, will finally make it as efficient as it’s meant to be. And for that, your boss will thank you.

People you don’t know very well

“So this guy just started in my office last week, right …” We will cut you off here and say, yes, you need to get him something, too. Same goes for anyone else in your department that you may not know or get along with very well. Unless you’re totally okay with being the mean one, Mr. Grinch, you shouldn’t exclude people from your gift-giving.

Inexpensive

  • Charitable donation gift card, any denomination, TisBest.org or CharityGiftCertificates.org. There are a variety of websites that let you choose a charitable donation amount, but your recipient gets to choose the charity it goes toward.
  • “I am not a paper cup, $16, UncommonGoods.com. Teach the new guy about company cost-saving initiatives. Give him this “I am not a paper cup” mug, so he’ll no longer have to waste all that Styrofoam in the kitchen.

Dirt cheap

  • One-month Netflix subscription, $7.99, Netflix.com. For less than $10, you can give a co-worker a whole month of DVD rentals and online movie watching.
  • Magazine gift subscription, from $10, Magazines.com. Don’t know the person’s favorite magazine? No problem. This general gift certificate allows the recipient to choose his or her own subscription.

Additional options:

Didn’t see anything that would suit your colleague? Try one of these fit-for-anyone gifts:

Inexpensive

  • Box Appétit lunch box, $22, UncommonGoods.com. Brown-baggers will appreciate this awesome lunch-box contraption, and take-out types may even be inspired to change their pizza-ordering ways. It even comes with a matching fork.
  • Gingerbread gift basket, $49.95, HarryandDavid.com. In lieu of purchasing separate gifts for each of your colleagues, get one gift basket as a holiday treat for your entire department.

Dirt cheap

  • Travel slippers, $10, Brookstone.com. If your boss or a colleague is the type that’s always in an airport and never in the office, try a jetsetter-friendly gift like travel slippers, which can be easily thrown into a carry on to make plane rides more comfortable.
  • Starbucks gift card, any denomination, Starbucks.com. Five dollars will cover any Grande-skinny-double-mocha-no whip drink on the menu.

General guidelines:

When it comes to company gift-giving, here are a few rules to follow:

1. If you have an office “best friend,” exchange gifts outside the office. Not only will it be more personal to you, but it won’t make your other co-workers feel left out.

2. Don’t get too personal. There’s no need to find out your boss’s favorite perfume, for example, and purchase a bottle. That would just be strange.

3. Don’t worry too much. No need to stress out about finding the perfect gifts for your colleagues. That’s the job of their family and friends. A little token of appreciation is all that’s needed.

For more on holidays at work, check out:

Attention bargain shoppers: It’s Cyber Monday

Do holidays hinder productivity at work?

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