Employee Gift Etiquette: Determining When and What to Give Employees


Determining What an Employee Gift Should Be

Most employers want to show as much gratitude as possible to their employees. One of the popular ways to do this is through small gifts, but gift-giving in the workplace can be ethically thorny. Gifts can be mistaken as patronization or a signal that the giver is interested in more than showing gratitude, particularly if gifts are exchanged among workers of opposite sexes. Yet this doesn’t mean gifts should never be exchanged. Today, we’ll give you a primer on workplace gift-giving etiquette and suggest some failsafe occasions for gifts.

Basic Gift Etiquette

The first thing employers usually wonder is, when and how is it appropriate to give my employees gifts? Basic etiquette dictates never “[to construe] gift-giving as a bribe, but as a token of appreciation or incentive reward.” Reserve gift-giving for particular days such as Administrative Professionals Day on April 22, or as rewards after the successful completion of a big task. Most etiquette sites offer these tips:

Use the company logo

You can put it on a folder or portfolio, a mug, a pen, or another small token. The logo takes some pressure out of gift-giving because it sends the message that the gift is something everyone in the company can receive. It also sends the message that while the gift is sincere, it’s not inherently personal.


Check your spending limits

An employee handbook will probably have guidelines on what you can spend on certain gifts, whether that’s a retirement gift, an incentive, or something else. In general, tokens of appreciation, wedding gifts, and so forth should not exceed around $25. You may have more or less leeway on gift cards.

Give a useful gift

This could be a desk or office item, travel items for employees who go on several business trips a year, or a new watch or briefcase on special occasions. Again, these gifts are not inherently personal and less likely to be construed as bribes or a request for non-work favors.

Special Gift-Giving Occasions

Many employees like to give gifts if they know an employee is getting married, is pregnant, or will be hitting a milestone soon, such as moving into a first home. In these cases, go by basic gift etiquette – don’t let your gift exceed $25. Give the gift privately unless it’s a group presentation from the office. Retirement gifts may exceed $25 and be more personal. Consult your handbook for specifics.


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