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To Gift or Not to Gift: And What to Give?

To Gift or Not to Gift: And What to Give?

Do you spend hours trying to find the right holiday gifts for your employees and clients? As more companies move away from traditional gift giving and emphasize experience giving, employment expert Avery Plavin said she has wondered if Groupons, gift cards and movie tickets would seem tacky. She said she finds it easier to remove the guesswork by writing a check or giving a gift card.

To make those involved with your organization feel appreciated, try creating holiday rewards that feel genuine and authentic. Gift giving shouldn’t impact your personal budget or stress you out. Set a spending limit and have clear expectations.

The perfect gift

Money. Your employees can decide for themselves how they will spend the cash, and this form of gift giving will keep you from those busy shopping malls or the online marketplace.

Gift cards. Prepaid gift cards (Visa/MC are best) allow employees to buy exactly what they want and from who they want. They can be customized by budget, retailer and delivery method — physical cards vs. electronic. You also can reload the cards, but they tend to have activation fees ranging from $2.95 - $6.95. Beware some may charge monthly inactivity fees if the card goes unused for 12 months or more.

Gifts. Gifts need not be expensive or flashy, but make sure they are appropriate, thoughtful and in good taste. I follow this easy rule: Keep it simple. I once received a small decorative trinket box from a co-worker. I displayed it on my desk and have appreciated it for many years.

Life/balance gifts. Some holiday gifts have no monetary value. Not every company can offer high-value gifts and bonuses. But companies can afford to make you feel appreciated by offering paid time off. If employees use this PTO to spend more quality time with their families, then the gift is priceless.

Group gifts. Lottery exchanges, pooling exchanges and secret Santas are usually affordable. Contributions may range from $5 - $25 per person and can bring coworkers together to serve a common cause.

Lottery gift exchange. An economical means to exchange gifts, often called “Secret Santa,” the participants throw their names into a hat and everyone takes a turn pulling one out. You shop for one person instead of several.

Pooling gift exchange. Employees “pool” their funds together. The gift is from everyone, and participants can contribute what they are comfortable with.

Do you have to participate?

Gift exchanges are voluntary. The decision to give a gift to a colleague depends on your relationship. If you are willing to spend lunchtime with your coworkers and consider them friends, get them a gift. If you believe you’ll never have any sort of relationship outside of work, then getting them a gift may appear disingenuous.

In the spirit of the holidays, people naturally want to give a gift. But it’s your decision. When you are mulling the idea of what to give your coworker, boss or friend, you decide what’s best. It’s your gift, your choice, and your money. Spend wisely and happy holidays!


StarStaff President and Headhunter Avery Plavin has been helping businesses expand their human capital for 20 years. She gathers insights into the organizations she serves — and has partnered with Fortune 100 companies, private entities, and smaller businesses to grow their market share. Avery helps clients prosper by providing competitive analysis, tools, expert resume writing, and resources to allow them to remain competitive in our ever-changing market.


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