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The Office Gift Conundrum: How the Right Gift Can Foster Good Will At Work

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“Your labor is gift enough." I was struck by this headline in a recent Metro newspaper.  The article reported that 70 of 100 employees surveyed weren't giving the boss a gift this year. Sixty-seven percent don't get holiday gifts from their bosses, either.

If you ask me, this is sorry commentary on the state of the holiday spirit.  So I'm spreading season’s greetings with gift ideas for the office that might make you reconsider your approach.

Don't just give something to give something. You need to give something meaningful for a gift to foster a relationship.  What does the person want or need? I believe this is what the holidays were created for.  For us to listen and take notice of each other so we can really give something of meaning and forge stronger bonds.

You say, But I have no idea what they need. Are you sure?  If you listen, most people will tell you exactly what they want.  Take my former colleague Jan.  We meet for lunch a few times a year and she loves the restaurant we go to.  She talks about it every time.  So when the holidays rolled around, I knew a gift certificate was the perfect fit.

Expensive does not equal more meaningful. Remember when Michael Scott, the boss on the TV series The Office, failed miserably with his staff, circumventing the $20 gift exchange with a $200 iPod? The resulting resentment negated any gift giving goodwill or relationship building.

You don’t have to spend a lot to make a difference.  Someone’s favorite quote on a coffee mug can be a great gift.  When I was first starting my coaching practice, a friend bought me a paperweight with the quote, “What would you do if you knew you couldn’t fail?”  Almost ten years later, it’s still an inspiring fixture on my desk and I think fondly of that person every time I see it.

Sometimes the best gift is support. For former colleagues who are job seeking or career changing (we all know someone), consider buying their product or service as a gift.  I know an X-ray technician who is embarking on his own bakery (read more about him on Turning Your Passion into a Business.)  I’ve sent his fabulous cookies to others on my gift list.  It’s a holiday win-win!

What’s the best gift you’ve given or received at work?  For some it might be a cashmere scarf, for others an inspirational calendar.   What would you love to receive (and yes, a nice bonus check and time off count!)?  Share your best gift ideas and your wish list.  Let’s all spread some holiday cheer!

Maggie Mistal is a certified career & life purpose coach and the host of "Making a Living with Maggie," which airs every Friday at 4 p.m. ET on Martha Stewart Living Radio, Sirius 112, XM 157. Please visit her website at MaggieMistal.com.

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