Fast Fix - Gift buying for colleagues

The Baltimore Business Journal, December 15-21, 2006

by Ryan Sharow

Problem: The holidays are here and I still haven’t picked out presents for my colleagues. With so many options, is there something I should be keeping in mind when scouring for the ideal gift?

Fix: You spend a lot of time with your co-workers and you want to make sure the gift you get for them isn’t insulating or inappropriate.
Nancy Green, vice president of Charm City Concierge in Baltimore, said the latest trend is gift cards. When buying a gift card for a co-worker, you want to stay away from anything too personal. American Express gift cards, gas cards and travel cards that can be used for airlines and hotels are good ideas to consider because they are neutral, Green added.

Green lists the following tips to consider when doing your last-minute, holiday shopping for co-workers and bosses:

Typically, the hardest person to buy for is your boss. If you know that he or she enjoys wine, a wine basket would be a fitting gift. Also, tickets for an upcoming local theater show or sporting event make for a good choice.
Managers who oversee a team of employees with the same titles should make sure the gifts they purchase for their workers are equal in value and meaning.
If you’re looking to buy a gift for clients, food is always a good route to take. A gourmet gift basket with your company’s logo reinforces your relationship and the food is something your client can put out for their entire office or family to share. For companies with headquarters in Maryland, consider sending a state theme basket with local items such as crab cakes.

Cathleen Hanson, a director at the International School of Protocol in Hunt Valley, suggests that office management should set the standard with their employees on gift-giving. That standard should be based on the history of the office and will help in determining the price of your gift.
When asking yourself the proper etiquette for holiday gift-giving, Hanson suggests the following:

Before selecting a gift, try to determine what the recipient likes and dislikes. For example, don’t give alcohol unless you are certain that the person is a drinker.
If you know your colleagues on a personal level, this is a golden opportunity to pause and show these people you’ve been listening and understand them.
Lastly, it is important to include a note to accompany each gift. In the individual notes, say you’ve appreciated the work your colleagues have done.