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Sticky Situations: Whom, How Much, and What? The Holiday Office Gift Giving Guide

12/04/2013 05:28 EST | Updated 02/03/2014 05:59 EST

Holiday gift-giving is the opportunity to thank those that make your work world good, throughout the entire year.

To avoid being part of the office's morning office gossip, like J.C. who got A.M. a G.C. (gift certificate) from V.S. (Victoria's Secret) last year, read the answers to HuffPost readers' most frequently asked questions on holiday office gift giving.

1. Whom should I give to?

Participate in all organized gift-giving activities including a Secret Santa. This is not optional.

It is always a nice gesture to buy for your subordinates. Appreciation and recognition go a long way in employee satisfaction. When giving to your team, make sure to give the same item to every member. Even if you offer your gift one-on-one; they will talk.

If you wish to offer to a peer, do so privately away from the office. Meet for breakfast, lunch or after work drinks.

Buying for your boss is generally a "no-no." The reason is simple: It could be perceived as a quest for favours. The colour of Rudolph's nose is red, not brown. Keep your nose colour intact. Bottom line, your gift to the boss is doing a good job and meeting expectations. The only exception would be when the entire team pitches in for a group gift.

Sticky situation: A colleague gives you a gift and you don't have one for him.

Solution: You do not have an obligation to reciprocate. Acknowledge the gesture, say thank you, and offer your best holiday wishes. If you wish to reciprocate understand that you may be starting a new tradition. If you have no intention of annually giving to this person, don't make up a story by saying that you forgot his gift.

"How thoughtful of you. Thank you for thinking of me. I appreciate it."

2. How much should I spend?

Don't spend less or more than expected. The usual price is that of a hostess gift at about $20. In doubt? Find out. Ask the organizer, human resources or a veteran employee. The Grinch and Richie Rich are fictional characters and their behaviors have no place in a civil office environment.

Your boss knows how much you make. Based on the value of your gifts, she may deduce that you're not very good at managing money or that she's paying you too much.

Your colleagues also have a pretty good idea of your salary, especially if you are a public servant.

Sticky situation: A colleague offers you a gift that clearly exceeds the agreed upon amount.

Solution: Just as when you receive an overly generous gift from a client, you should decline it.

"Although I value you as a colleague, I really cannot accept this gift. It is much too expensive for our professional relationship."

3. What should I give?

Listen carefully to your teammates during water cooler talks and breaks. Update your inner "gift GPS" with likes, hobbies, and collectibles.

Popular office gifts include USB keys, personalized iPad or eReader covers, and charity gift cards.

More traditional gifts include journals, upscale pens, desktop or travelling accessories, or gift cards to favourite coffee shops or bookstores.

Never buy gag, personal, intimate, or fragrant items. These gifts could offend, embarrass, or put you and the receiver in a very slippery situation. Stay clear of alcohol. Some employers forbid it. Instead opt for sweet or salty treats.

Sticky situation: My client gave me a gift that I don't like, can I re-gift it at work?

Solution: Nope. Absolutely not, not in your work world. Not even the gift from a distant client who lives in Nunavut. Your worlds may collide. Remember the 'Worlds' Theory' from Seinfeld? Watch and learn.

With our current recycling trends and over-consumption concerns, you could re-gift a professional present in your social or family circle if you are certain that your worlds will not collide.

Not sure? Don't do it.

Lastly, acknowledge all gifts with a sincere thank you. When you receive a gift by mail, handwritten notes are always appropriate and they have a lasting impact. Email is fine too. If you are on texting terms, that could do, but it will be quickly forgotten.

Have a Sticky Situation at work or home? This is your forum and your chance to enlighten others, just like you. Write to Julie and she will reply promptly. Want more Solutions to Sticky Situations? Like her fan page on Facebook, and follow her on Twitter or read Etiquette: Confidence & Credibility, now available for pre-order. Planning a conference? Julie happily travels coast to coast to present customized activities.