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  • Margaret Page

Client and colleague gift giving during the holidays

Updated: Jun 15, 2021

The holidays are the perfect time to show colleagues and clients how grateful you are for their hard work and support. With a few simple tips you can gift like a pro, even during COVID.

The biggest question I get this time of year is always, “How much do I spend?” I advise spending no more than the tax credit allowed in your country for professional gifts. For example, in the U.S., the IRS allows a $25 tax deduction for each professional gift.

Gift giving at the office

Your Boss

Ask around to see if there is anything in the company’s rules or in the employee handbook that discourages giving your boss a gift. If others see “gifting up” as a no-no, suggest a gift from the team. If you do go solo, good options include a donation to their favorite charity, a bottle of wine (make sure they drink alcohol!), or a gift certificate to a local small business. And don’t blow your budget trying to impress them — expensive gifts can be awkward.

Your Team/Support Staff

If you manage others, choose gifts that show that you see them as individuals, not just as employees. I like giving gift cards to their favourite store or restaurant, or for activities they love. Gear for hobbies like golf balls, books, fishing flies, or art supplies are also a nice choice. Or upgrade their workspace with a beautiful leather notebook, fancy water bottle, or essential oil diffuser. A handwritten note of thanks that touches on their unique talents or contributions is a must.

Your Co-Workers

Again, feel out the culture for this one. Do others typically gift? Do they organize an activity like a Secret Santa or gift swap? Read the Your Team section above for gift suggestions. Give gifts discreetly so others do not feel left out. And if a co-worker surprises you with an unexpected gift, offer a heartfelt thank you and leave it at that. Scrambling to reciprocate could be seen as insincere.

Other Colleagues

If you want to spread good cheer to colleagues you like but don’t work with directly, bring in a tray of store-bought treats or special nuts, etc. for everyone to share. Avoid home-made goodies this year do to Covid-19 transmission concerns.

Secret Santa, Dirty Santa, or Yankee Swap

Forget gag gifts. Period. Instead, buy something you would like. Gift cards, coffee, wine, and food are all great ideas. Most likely, office Christmas parties will be on hold for this season anyways.


Make sure there isn’t a policy at your company or theirs that precludes you from giving a gift. Rules like these seek to prevent bribery and favoritism. Also, check to see if your company buys a quantity of gifts to send clients (for example, fruit baskets). The gift suggestions in the Your Boss section also work well here.

Most importantly, no matter who you are buying for, keep in mind the following:

  1. Choose gifts that reflect their personality and show that you have spent some time thinking about what they will enjoy or impact them in a positive fashion.

  2. Keep within your budget.

  3. Send the gift giver a thank you note or a Christmas card thanking them for their gift.


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