Gift Giving Etiquette in the Office

Gift giving in the office can be an exercise in patience, diplomacy, and learning how not to scream when the etiquette becomes an issue. It can also be a personal relationships exercise, charting a way through the possible minefields of sensitivities.

Gift giving etiquette

Gift giving in the office is based on a semi-traditional etiquette. Gifts are usually given for major events in the life of the recipient: 

Gift occasions:

  • Weddings
  • Baby showers
  • Births
  • Birthdays (depending on the office traditions and preferences)
  • Going away gifts for departing staff
  • Personal celebration events, like graduation, etc.

Rules of gift giving

The etiquette of office gifts is pretty simple:

  • Don't give expensive gifts.
  • Don't give embarrassing, conspicuous, or inappropriate gifts.
  • Don't give "impossible to carry" gifts. (If you do, pay for the taxi, too.)
  • Don't ask donors for large amounts.
  • Don't put the recipient on the spot, particularly if they're shy people. 

Who gives, and how gift giving is organized

Gifts are usually given collectively by the office group. All office staff are asked to contribute as a matter of courtesy. Usually, a friend of the recipient does the collecting and chooses the gifts. The person handling buying the gifts also arranges packaging, a card, and any other appropriate gestures.


Presentations are made a small, informal ceremony. This may be held in the office, or another location like a restaurant.

Office presentations

The person managing the gifts usually enlists a couple of helpers where needed to deal with presentations. It's common to organize a morning or afternoon tea, or a luncheon, to present the gifts in The tea is usually organized by either the person in charge of the gifts, or the local expert office party organizer, who can usually handle the catering issues better.

External presentations

  •  The coordinator books the restaurant on consultation with the recipient and attendees. (This is a typical booking scenario, needing to be prepared well in advance. It's advisable to have several choices available.)
  • The coordinator is responsible for making sure the gift and the recipient are where they're supposed to be, on time.
  • A small presentation is made, sometimes by a supervisor or manager, but also often by a colleague or friend, depending on the occasion.

Individual gifts

It's not uncommon for individuals to give gifts on special occasions, as well as the collective gift. These are usually "customized" gifts, similar to birthday presents. Because the gifts are given in the office environment, they're given on the same basis as the Rules of gift giving above.

The same general rules for giving gifts apply, but with some slight modifications:

  • Gifts from close friends who know the recipient well are usually coordinated to make sure they give different gifts.
  • Gifts from colleagues are given individually by the donors at the time of the presentation. 
  • Gifts from managers or senior staff should be well thought out, not ostentatious, but may also be slightly more expensive than others.