Office Holiday Etiquette Demystified

with No Comments


Office Holiday Etiquette Demystified

The holidays can be a tricky time of year, especially around the office where your graciousness ties in to your professional reputation. Should you give a gift to your boss? Should you email a “thank you”? Should you show off your CrossFit-cut bod at the holiday party? My most asked questions about office holiday etiquette answered!


How thoughtful that you would like to give gifts at the office! You’ll just want to consider a few things…

  • Give a gift to your boss: Gifts in the workplace typically flow downward, not upward, so it’s neither expected nor appropriate to buy a gift for your boss. Worse, it can make you look like a kiss-up. A better idea for a beloved boss? Go in on a modest group gift with your coworkers.
  • Give a gift to your staff: This is up to you and the current status of your company. If you just laid off workers or skipped the traditional bonuses, it would not be appropriate to spend money on gifts for your staff. If the company is doing well, gifts are a great way to show your appreciation. Be consistent and give the same gift to everyone. Most will prefer gift certificates or money, so you’ll probably want to skip that pocket watch with the company logo.
  • Give a gift to your clients or vendors: Some agencies have a policy on receiving gifts, so check on that first. If there are no restrictions, you’ll want to choose a gift that says “thank you” without creating embarrassment or obligation. A great gift for any agency, no-gift policy or not, is a contribution to a charitable organization. Keep the amount private; just say that a donation was made in their name.



Never underestimate the power of a hand-written thank-you note! It is always an appropriate way to express thanks, and it will benefit most any business or personal situation. Plus it’s so much more meaningful than an email, Tweet, or Facebook post. (Have you ever seen someone pin an email printout to their wall?) In your note, give thanks for the specific gift, then acknowledge the effort put into providing the gift, and finally acknowledge how the gift resulted in a positive effect or how the gift is being used. It is also very nice to remember to say thanks to the committee that plans your office’s Secret Santa exchange or holiday party.



Eat, drink, and be merry at the office holiday party, but remember that it only takes one faux pas to tarnish your hard-earned reputation. You probably know you shouldn’t get sloppy or drunk or flirtatious, but you may not know how to dress appropriately. Choose an outfit one or two levels above what you would normally wear to the office (necklines and hemlines should say “put-together professional,” not “shots, shots, shots!”). For men, if you would normally wear jeans and a polo shirt, wear dress jeans or slacks, nice leather or suede shoes, a long-sleeve shirt, and a sport coat to really impress. If the occasion calls for a suit, step up the tie and shirt selection with elegant solids or small patterns. For women, if you would normally wear basic slacks and a blouse, select velvet or satin pants and add a sparkly camisole top, shrug, or sweater. For formal events, step it up with metallic shoes, fun handbags, faux furs, and dangle earrings.



A hand-written holiday card is a great way to express well wishes and appreciation for business associates. You’ll want to keep it professional: a tasteful business holiday card will always be well received, and if you choose a religious-themed card, make sure you are sensitive to those who may not share your beliefs. Cards about gratitude, peace, or unity are all good choices. You’ll also want to make your cards personal: hand-write a personalized message (don’t just sign your name!) and hand-address the envelopes. And be sure to keep the message focused on appreciation and holiday cheer—now is not the time to stuff the envelope with business cards!

Leave a Reply