Gift-giving on the job need not feel like challenging work. Here's some tips to keep in mind before making your list.
Check company policy and protocol. Some companies forbid the exchange of gifts; others set limits on the value. Determine too what's standard for your department or office. If there's a Secret Santa or a party, but not an individual exchange of gifts, you'll want to follow that plan. If everyone agrees to chip in for the boss, it's best to do that instead of buying your own gift.
Determine the right etiquette. Some etiquette dictates that nobody should give to the boss, while the boss gives to his or her direct reports. The reality is those rules don't apply today.
Giving shouldn't be mandatory or expected — it's all based on workplace relationships and dynamics. Don't give out of a sense of obligation or to suck up. Give because you genuinely want to thank someone for their support throughout the year — or because you really like them and enjoyed working together and simply want to wish good cheer.
Don't break the bank. Workplace gift-giving should be more about the sentiment than the dollar value.
Be discreet. If you're only giving to one or two select colleagues, don't do it in front of everyone else. Discretion also involves the type of gift. In the workplace, avoid getting too personal — such as lingerie, religious objects, gift cards (especially if you're not positive where someone likes to shop) and even alcohol.
Here are some suggestions — ranging in price from $5 to $70 — to help tackle your workplace list
Make 2008 the Year of Brilliant Ideas
Napkin Notebook: $6.50
Some of the very best business ideas and deals have originated on napkins over drinks or a meal. So here's 20 spiral-bound napkins and a pen to say, "May 2008 be your year of brilliant ideas."
Kick Off the Year on the Perfect Note!
Personalized samples: $20 to $32
In business, nothing beats the beauty of a handwritten note. Personalized options are simply the best. Shwamy personalized note cards combine elegance with four brand new pairs of shoes that any career woman would covet! ($32 for 8 cards)
Swoozies offers an enormous selection of affordable personalized paper products and more. And Three Designing Women has beautiful options to personalize your notes and greetings.
Eight million people are victims of identity theft each year — and countless others are victims of office snoops seeking confidential memos and other discarded treasures! So enable your boss or colleagues to protect themselves. Attach a card that reads, "Wishing you a very safe New Year!"
Enjoy Your Holiday Cookies — Without the Crumbs
Keyboard vacuum: $5
Combine store-bought or homemade cookies with a keyboard vacuum so your colleagues can have their cookies without the crumbs. This inexpensive gift makes a lasting impact.
Scented fruit essence throws: $70
Imported from Italy and available at only one place in the United States, these throws, which are scented with natural fruit essence, are a unique way to tell someone that they're sensational. Six scents — chocolate, apple, lemon, orange, strawberry, raspberry — last for three to five washes. This is great for an office where people often get chilly or certainly for the couch at home. It's an original option for any age.
Humor and Whimsy
Office cube fish tank: $24 RedEnvelope.com
For that co-worker or small group of colleagues with a really great sense of humor, you can say "Tanks for all your hard work." Or you can go the opposite route and say, "Better make it a good year or you'll be swimming with the fishes!"
Playaway Books: $30 and up PlayawayDigital.com
This is the perfect gift for a traveler or book lover who's short on time. These single-use iPod-style players contain the audio of one popular book, along with ear phones and batteries. All you need are ears to listen and it's ready to go. There are many choices available in best-selling fiction and nonfiction, plus a range of tutorials.
Tory Johnson is the workplace contributor for ABC's "Good Morning America" and the CEO of Women for Hire. Connect with her at www.womenforhire.com.