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Tis the Season: Know the Rules for Gift Giving

The rapidly approaching time of year to buy gifts for everyone you know and love is here. During the season of giving, what is appropriate and/or expected when it comes to giving gifts to the people in your life? Do you need to get all of your coworkers a holiday present? If someone gives you something, do you have to return the kindness? To answer all of your gift giving questions, here are a few rules to help you avoid a holiday present faux pas.

Understand the Recipient

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Is this a gift for a person you just started dating or is it something for your best friend of multiple years? A gift you might give a close relative probably greatly differs from the present you’re going to pick up for the guy in cubicle next to yours. A gift is something you put thought into for someone you care about, so consider that when you’re thinking about what to get the people in your life.

Do Unto Others

Gift Exchange
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While it is the season of giving, many also consider it the season of receiving. If someone gives you a gift, it’s common courtesy to return the gesture. While the giver shouldn’t expect a gift in return, he/she might be offended if you don’t do the same. Also, if you receive a gift from someone you were not planning on buying one for, try to purchase something of the same value so the other person doesn’t feel jipped in any way.

In The Office

Workplace Gifts
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The workplace can be tricky when it comes to the holiday season, as you don’t want to offend or exclude anyone. If you want to give your supervisor a gift, get your entire team to chip in so you can give the gift as a group. In the case that you were the only person in your department to give your boss a gift, you run the risk of coming off as a sycophant. If you’re wanting to only give a select group of co-workers holiday presents, be sure to do so discreetly to avoid hurting the feelings of the others in your office. If you really want to spread the love and get gifts to everyone in the office, avoid going bankrupt by baking a big batch of your favorite holiday cookies and placing them in the break room.

Gift Exchanges

Wrapping Paper
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Most importantly, when it comes to gift exchanges or secret Santas, stick to the budget that has been set. If the person’s name you pull for a gift exchange is not someone you know well, ask around to see if you can learn something about their personal interests. If uncovering this information is harder than it seems, safe bets like a gift card to Starbucks or Target help you fulfill your obligation while still giving something that many people will happily use.

The holiday season is full of instances that can lead to awkward, uncomfortable social situations that linger far after Santa Claus has retreated to the North Pole for the year. With these rules, hopefully you’ll avoid offending anyone while still getting everyone on your present list something they’ll enjoy.

Alli Sands is a freelance writer. Her work can be found on

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