Here are some tips to save you from making career limiting gift choices and keep you on the A-list. To find a gift for any occasion, including the Chocolate Calling Card above, go to


1. Don’t overspend on the boss. Not only does it make the boss uncomfortable, it makes you look a little desperate.

2. Do your research. It’s great to give gifts to clients for holidays, birthdays or “just because.” Just make sure they are in a position to accept them. Some companies forbid employees to accept gifts from certain suppliers, considering it swag. Others may place a dollar limit on gifts that can be received. By the same token, clients who receive corporate gifts that they feel are cheap or insufficient will tell the world about it. Do a little research before you order those tiny $20 candy bouquets to send to clients who spend thousands with you annually. You may want to raise the bar a little. Also, be sure you are straight on what’s tax deductible and what’s not before you buy.

3. Avoid self-help gifts. No matter how many times your coworker has complained about those extra 10 pounds, DO NOT, repeat DO NOT present her with the latest new dieting book. Well-intentioned gifts like this are extremely risky. You may mean well by giving a self-help gift to an office mate who fears public speaking, is going through a divorce, or is trying to quit smoking, but this sort of gesture could really hurt their feelings.

4. Don’t bring cut flowers to a dinner party. There’s nothing wrong with giving someone a big bouquet of beautiful flowers. Just don’t show up at the door with them when you’re invited to the boss’s fancy dinner party. Your host has enough to do as guests are arriving without having to go hunt a vase to put your flowers in. Besides, it’s a pretty safe bet that the centerpieces and party decorations for this party are already in place, so not only will the host have to find the vase and arrange the flowers (while oohing and aahing for your benefit,) she’ll then have to find a place of honor for them that doesn’t clash with the existing décor. If you’re really set on flowers, order them in a vase and have them delivered the day before the party.

5. Don’t give thoughtless gifts. Just because you love your meat and potatoes, doesn’t mean your vegetarian office mate will be thrilled with an Omaha Steaks gift certificate. Trying to impose your tastes on others can be construed as aggressive and offensive in a competitive work environment.

6. Don’t try to be funny. Even though it seems like you spend more time with these folks than your own family, you may not know them as well as you think. Something you think is hilarious may be perceived as tasteless and gauche to a colleague. And office mates aren’t as forgiving as family.

7. Avoid Booze.  Unless you know for an absolute fact that your recipient has long been a connoisseur of rare single malt scotches, for example, reconsider a gift of hard liquor. If you really want to give libations, wine or champagne are safer (albeit somewhat boring) choices. When giving wine remember, one really great bottle is better than three mediocre ones.

8. Don’t give embarrassing gifts. This may sound like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised at what goes on in some offices. Suffice it to say, even though your boss is pregnant with her first, and even though you’ve had three and know all there is to know about babies, you still shouldn’t give her a breast pump as a birthday present. It’s just wrong.

9. Don’t give advice to an expert. If your recipient has a long time hobby or deep knowledge about a particular subject, it’s tempting to try to find something that directly relates to that expertise. Trouble is, if they’ve spent years developing this expertise, they probably already have it or don’t need it. The guy who has been fly fishing since childhood most likely doesn’t need another book on the basics of fly fishing. 

10. Avoid gifts that are religious, sexual or racist in nature. It’s tacky to give your Jewish employees miniature Christmas trees just because that’s what you’re giving everyone else. And those tickets to Chippendales for the female staff members? Wrong.


What have I missed? Do you have a story about a disastrous office gift? I’d love to hear about it.