Awkward office Christmas gifts

by HCA06 Dec 2013
The office can be a minefield for dodgy, weird and inappropriate gifts at Christmas time. Ask a Manager Blogger, Alison Green, has put together a list from her readers of awkward and funny office gift debacles and the lessons that can be learnt from them.

Gift giving lesson one: Avoid self-improvement presents
One reader told Green the story of a co-worker who kept telling the office of her love for The Biggest Loser TV show and how her friends had tried the show’s star trainer’s weight-loss DVD and lost lots of weight. Then came Secret Santa, and what did she get? The DVD. The reader wrote there were tears and the recipient thought she was being told she was fat.

Lesson two: Keep it appropriate
Another tells the tale of a gift exchange in which one of the gifts items was one that is best kept in the privacy of a bedroom.

“It was meant to be a joke, but came off entirely creepy because of the individual who gave it. He showed up halfway through the gift exchange, so we all knew which gift bag he’d brought. We had a great, easy-going office at the time, but reactions varied between stunned silence and awkward laughter."

Lesson three: Don’t off-load your junk
Some organisations use the game where all gifts are put together and individuals are chosen and names are drawn to determine who goes up to pick a present. They can chose to either pick a present or steal a gift of another.

One reader wrote of a gift swap game gone wrong. The only rule specified was the monetary limit to be spent was $15 and as the game began people starting unwrapping gifts each item was nice for the price including luxury boxes of chocolates and gift cards to cafes then an employee opened a small box. Inside it was full of random junk such as paper clips, pennies and screws.

Awkward – not only for the recipient but also the gift giver.

Lesson four: Think it through
Christmas brings out all types of people seeking to sell their goods to make money from those seeking festive gifts but it may pay to stop and think how appropriate they will be as an office gift.

According to the tale of one employee they were stopped on the street outside work by a man selling his self-published poetry. The worker declined and thought nothing of being asked where to find the office receptionist. Fast forward to the office gift giving and as the staff are opening their Christmas hampers there is the poetry book. The receptionist had bought an estimated 100 copies as every employee received one.

Lesson five: Expensive gifts for the boss are inappropriate and their partners shouldn’t win prizes
One reader was incredulous to receive this email and many others may also have the same reaction if it were to turn up in their inbox.

“Dear [staff], Each year we have done a holiday gift for [CEO] to recognize his leadership of [organization] during the year. Given the very busy holiday season, I’d like to start the ball rolling on the collection early this year in order to present him with his gift by December 18th at our annual retreat day. Please send your contribution to me and I will take care of purchase, etc. Last year we presented him with a two night stay at [resort] mountain for him and his family to go skiing and they loved it, so why not repeat the appreciated gift?”

Green points out gifts in a workplace should flow downward not upward.

And if partners are invited to the party in which Christmas prizes are to be handed out it may be best to not let them enter as one reader explained.

“I worked for a small company, less than 20 people. It was privately owned by one person (Terry). Each employee’s name was placed into the hat for a prize ranging from $10 gift certificates to a brand new desktop computer and two tablets. Turned out the boss was included in the drawing. When Terry’s name was pulled for a prize, he politely declined it. But then, Terry’s spouse’s name was pulled for one of the MS Surface Tablets. And it was gleefully accepted by the spouse, who then drove away in a luxury car with the big door prize of the evening.”

Read the other 5 workplace gift giving debacles at The Fast Track by Intuit QuickBase.



  • by Jonathan 6/12/2013 4:30:14 PM

    I shall never forget my wife's Xmas Party two years ago in which sex toys were given to a number of people in the kris kringle. The work place is a medical clinic in which discussions on sex are a bit more open than the average work place. But it had mine and another +1's jaws dropping to the table as we compared to the PC office culture we'd both been indoctrinated with.

  • by AlexF 9/12/2013 2:46:26 PM

    Thank you.