Holiday Gift Giving—What Employers Need to Consider


If you already know what you plan to get your friends and family for the holidays, congratulations! It’s safe to say that you’re ahead of the game. But what about your employees? Have you given any thought to what to get them?

Employee gifts do require extra consideration. A gift that’s too personal could cross the line of professionalism while something thoughtless could discount your employee’s hard work. And if you plan to forgo holiday gifts all together, you risk creating an environment where your staff doesn’t feel appreciated—not the best way to end the year. Still, deciding on the perfect gift for your employees can be a challenge. To help make that process easier, below we’ve compiled some best practices to keep in mind.

Set a budget – While it may seem obvious, it’s worth noting that you should avoid thinking about employee gifts without first setting your budget. Don’t let a gesture as simple as a holiday gift run your business into the ground.

Avoid favoritism – There’s a good possibility that you have more than one employee under your watch. So keep in mind that giving one person a noticeably pricier or more attractive gift than the rest of your staff will certainly get you accused of playing favorites. Exceptions can be made for personal assistants or secretaries, however it’s a good idea to spend the same amount for every employee.

Rethink cash or bonuses – Monetary rewards can be tricky—though these types of gifts are typically highly desirable, your employees may feel entitled to receive the same amount, if not more, every year. If you don’t want to get stuck giving bonuses every holiday season or have a limited budget, you’ll need to look into other, more creative ways to thank your employees.

Keep it professional – Keep in mind that giving a gift that’s too personal may cross professional boundaries in the workplace. Furthermore, steer clear of gag gifts and gifts with religious or romantic overtones. This doesn’t mean your gift can’t be fun or meaningful. Consider choosing a gift that’s related to your employee’s day-to-day work life. For instance, a gift card to a local coffee shop for your java addicts or a new cooler or water jug for your people on the go.

Consider shared gifts – If you don’t have time to buy individually thought-out gifts, go with something your whole staff can enjoy, such as a holiday party or special staff lunch. Creating a memorable experience for your employees is not only a great way to show your appreciation, but also build comradery amongst your staff. However, keep in mind that holiday parties come with potential liability issues, so make sure you plan accordingly.

Remember your IRS obligations – Be aware that the gifts you give your employees may fall within the definition of wages for income tax withholding and payroll tax purposes.  There are exceptions so it’s important that you discuss this with your payroll and tax representatives to make sure you are in compliance.

The holiday season is a wonderful time to show your employees that you appreciate their work. Saying “thank you” by offering your employees a gift will go a long way in maintaining a positive and productive work culture.