Surviving the Holidays With Your Job Intact

The do’s and don’ts of making it to the new year while preserving your professional reputation.

Rear view of co-workers holding presents behind back for their  boss.
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[Read: 5 Tips for Gifting in the Workplace.]

Gift Giving

It's hard enough plotting out what to give loved ones, but for co-workers there are so many missteps you could make regarding whom to buy gifts for, what those gifts should be and how much money to spend. According to Gottsman, the first thing to remember is that gifts usually flow downward, not upward. In other words, it's a nice gesture to buy a present for your boss, but it isn't a necessary one. "The gift you're giving is your best efforts throughout the year," she says.

Office gift exchanges are fun for some, but pressure-filled for others, so Delouvrier suggests that those who want to coordinate some commemoration of the season do so by bringing in treats for everyone as opposed to planning a gift exchange that might exclude a few. If there is an office gift exchange, "it's perfectly understandable if you don't want to participate because of money, or because it's against your religion or whatever reason," Gottsman says. "See if you can arrange to work from home on those days that exchanges will take place if it makes you uncomfortable, or use the extra time to work on a lingering project."

Last-minute tip: If you're giving gifts in the office, keep these two basic buying guidelines top of mind: One, look for items that cost more than $5 (so you don't look cheap) but less than $25 (so that you don't look like you're trying too hard). Two, be conscientious of the recipient when planning a present – diabetics don't want cookies and teetotalers don't want a bottle of wine. If you're scratching your brain, Gottsman suggests neutral items like coffee thermoses, gift cards and nice writing pens. If you're not planning to give gifts, then you could still distribute generic cards to your boss and colleagues. Write a holiday greeting inside each card, expressing your thanks for the work they've done throughout the year.