The majority of companies have holiday parties, and for those who do, it becomes somewhat of a tradition. Many employees actually enjoy these parties — they may even look forward to them. “Remember last year’s Christmas party when Sue got so drunk that she fell off of the table?” members of the office staff will say nostalgically throughout the year.
A survey by the executive search firm Battalia Winston found that 91% of offices planned to throw a holiday party during the 2012 holiday season. Is your company throwing a party this year? Does your workplace have a Secret Santa program?
Secret Santa pools are fun, but they are also somewhat of a challenge. “What the heck do I buy for Dave over in payroll? I’ve never even met the guy,” you may think to yourself after drawing his name from the hat. Because people have no idea what to get their coworkers as gifts, sometimes, Secret Santa arrangements end up being more of a disaster than anything else.
A study by Consumer Reports from a few years back found that around 30% of people agree that coworkers and bosses gift the worst holiday gifts. These are the cases where one coworker hands another a nicely wrapped box full of something completely inappropriate, something insinuating the completely wrong message, or something that’s just plain wrong.
We’ve created a list of some of these gift-giving fails. These are the absolute worst gifts that one professional can give to another. And, although they are kind of funny, you do not one to be the one giving a gift like any of these.
Lingerie or an intimate coupon
So, you draw Sue’s name from the hat and you know she’s a happily married women. Her husband would love for her to have sexy lingerie, wouldn’t he? What about Dave? He looks like he’s stressed; maybe you should give him a coupon for “one free massage?” Your significant other loves those cute little coupon books you make, so Dave will too, right?
Wrong. Can you even imagine? Glaring at Dave as he opens your creepy present? You smile at him and crack your knuckles.
As crazy as this all sounds, this hasn’t stopped office staff members from giving these types of gifts. In a CBS News article, a women named Allison describes how a few years ago, her boss gave her “a pack of wine coolers and a gift certificate to Victoria’s Secret.”
A self-help (or how to do your job better) book
If you draw your bosses name, would you ever think about giving him a book entitled Management for Dummies or Manager to Leader: Skills and Insights for a Successful Transition?
What about the fictional Sue from payroll who enjoys a few too many cocktails at the company party? Would you give her The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Etiquette or The Alcoholic Society: Addiction and Recovery of the Self?
These books almost always send out the wrong message: You are not very good at life, here’s a book to help you.
Some people wait until the last minute to buy a gift for the secret Santa pool, and instead of quickly buying a gift card (or even giving cash), they decide to re-gift an item they’ve already received. Now, in some cases, the re-gift works out — it’s still in the original packaging, and the other party actually likes the present better than they would have.
But it’s generally best to refrain from pushing the idea of re-gifting to the extreme and giving a coworker the shirt you wore yesterday, a toaster you’ve already used all week (with crumbs in it), or something that’s non-functional.
Toiletries or beauty products
Perfume, deodorant, or any other hygiene product is never a good idea for an office gift. You should think twice before giving a colleague anything that could insinuate that he or she smells bad or looks bad in any way.
“It’s one thing to give a manicure, which is fun and relaxing,” says Constance Hoffman of Social and Business Graces, Inc. in an IAAP publication, “but it’s another to offer a session of hair coloring.” It’s also another thing to say, “here’s a gym membership.”
A Bible or religious gifts
The holidays are a time of togetherness and celebrating one’s faith. Religion is something that a lot of people don’t talk about in the office (because, of course, religion talk in the office is a big no-no). So, you may not know your gift recipient’s faith.
CBS spoke with a women whose extremely religious boss handed out books that’s titles began with phrases like “answers to all the big questions in life” and “why other religions are wrong.” This makes others uncomfortable, and it’s just plain inappropriate
So, this is the first holiday season where people in some parts of the country can walk into a shop and buy marijuana. However, just because it’s legal in the state where you live, this does not mean that it’s a good idea to give a coworker marijuana, marijuana paraphernalia, or marijuana decor — like a pot leaf ornament — for a holiday gift.
Even if you know the recipient well, and know that they are for legalization (maybe they even use marijuana during their off time), it’s still a horrible idea to bring anything related to marijuana to the office holiday party. This is still a hot-button issue and not everyone is comfortable with marijuana, plus, legal or illegal, you can still get fired for using the substance.
A 10% off coupon
As the subject of many sitcoms, the old “here’s a coupon for 10% off at my store if you buy 20 items” gift makes fun of just how cheap people can really be. Gifts where the recipient has to shell out money to redeem the gift’s value are not really gifts, they’re deals. You don’t want to be the one who gave your colleague a deal for Christmas.