You’ve made a list, you’ve checked it twice and you’re ready to hit the stores. Before you get to the door, you have a second thought, “Am I forgetting my boss?,” then a third, “Should I get a gift for my boyfriend’s parents?” There can be enough awkward holiday moments as it is (I’m looking at you, drunk uncles of the world), the last thing you need is to receive a gift from someone you didn’t even think about putting on your list. Your parents, siblings and children are no-brainers, but after that it gets a little questionable. To help you avoid a red-faced debacle, I turned to Diane Gottsman, etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, to help you figure out who to get a gift for.
Should I get a gift for…
From serving as your office’s gatekeeper to answering your phone calls all day long, you wouldn’t be able to get out of work at a reasonable hour without your assistant. When the holidays come around, getting her a gift is a must. “I think it’s always a nice gesture to buy a gift for your assistant because it shows your appreciation for their work throughout the year,” Gottsman said. For some companies, that’s a bonus. If that’s not an option, Gottsman recommends getting something nice but not too personal. “It should fit in the professional environment. It shouldn’t be too personal because it’s uncomfortable,” she said. A picture frame she can put a photo of her family in is a good bet.
They may not be your besties, but you probably see your colleagues more than you see your dog. Hopefully, you even love working with them, but you’re not sure whether or not to get your cube-mates a gift. First of all, if there’s a holiday gift exchange, like a Secret Santa or White Elephant Gift, sign up. “Unless you’re not participating for cultural or religious reasons, it’s a good idea to participate because it shows that you have team spirit and enjoy working with your co-workers.”
If there’s no organized exchange and you’re not going to be the person to start one, follow Gottsman’s rule: “If you’re going to give it to one co-worker, you should give to either you’re entire team of co-workers or give away from the office. Otherwise it’s awkward and some people may be put off.”
A gift card to a coffee shop or favorite lunch spot is a good idea, especially if it’s a gift grab. “Some people think that they’re cold, but if it’s something that everybody enjoys, that’s good. Coffee shops sell sandwiches, they sell tea.” Gottsman’s other favorite options include coffee mugs or home baked goods like peanut brittle or fudge. Steer clear of scented items like lotions and candles. “You have to like that scent and very few people will like what you pick,” Gottsman said.
This one can be tricky. Whether you love working for your boss or not, you don’t want to be rude, but you don’t want to look like the office suck up either. “It’s not necessary to gift your boss but the reality is it’s a nice gesture,” Gottsman said. “It shows appreciation and respect and it’s a symbol of good cheer, of holiday good will.” Gottsman suggests getting something inexpensive but thoughtful. “You don’t want to give a big elaborate gift because it will look like you’re brown nosing.” Grab a bottle of infused olive oil or a personalized golf item if she’s a golfer. Herbs picked straight from your garden make for a great gift as well.
My Friend’s Kid?
You’re headed over to your friend’s for some good talks, wine and homemade cookies. No dilemmas there, but she has a kid and you aren’t sure whether or not you should get him something. Ah, nothing is ever easy, and the answer to this one isn’t black and white. It depends on how close you are to the child. “Generally, just friends exchanging with friends, no you don’t have to extend to their kid,” Gottsman said. There are exceptions, of course, like if you’re a godparent or the baby is new and you haven’t seen your friend since he was born. In those cases, find an age-appropriate gift that isn’t controversial (no violent Xbox Games unless you have her OK). For babies, go for sleepers, sweaters, stuffed animals or a blanket that can become a keepsake. “They’re going to get multiple stuffed animals and sleepers, but it’s the thought that counts.”
My Significant Other’s Parents?
There’s no gray area here, according to Gottsman, and let’s just say she didn’t stutter when she answered this one. “There’s no doubt. You want to give your significant other’s parents a gift,” she said. This includes SOs you’re not exactly official with or just started seriously dating. “If you’re going over to their home for the holidays, yes, get something small and wrapped. Call it a host gift,” she said. She likes linen napkins with cinnamon sticks as gifts for parents of someone you just started seeing. If you’re more long-term with your arm candy, you likely know the parents better. Gift a bottle of their favorite wine, cheese and a cutting board, a basket full of their favorite teas or their favorite fruit.