By Vicky Oliver

Proper etiquette around gift giving at the office is a snake pit for most people. But if you follow some simple guidelines, you’ll sail through the holidays without a single faux pas. Here are the rest of my suggestions:

Don’t overspend. The rule of thumb for office gifts is that they be inexpensive. It’s poor etiquette to spend, say, $50 on a bottle of eau de toilette or a designer scarf for a co-worker, because chances are she’ll buy you chocolates and then feel embarrassed. If you have a lot of gifts to give out, try to stay under $20 for each. Some ideas include: a gift card to Starbucks, monogrammed notecards, a cookbook, a bottle of wine, a gourmet food item, a gift certificate to a favorite lunch spot, a potted flower, or a two-drink voucher at the local watering hole. 

Keep a few “anybody” gifts handy. What if someone gets you a present and you didn’t get one for him or her? That won’t happen to you because you’ve already gone to the corner CVS or Duane Reade and stocked up on fistfuls of fashionable finds. A drop-dead eyeglass design might be copied and recopied until it shows up on the reader magnifier shelf of Duane Reade or a CVS. Comb the aisles of discounter chains before the holidays and then invest in some upscale wrapping paper. Watch these “generic” gifts transform into the world’s most glamorous (and inexpensive) presents. Your recipient won’t know that you didn’t shop ahead just for her or him. 

Institute a “Secret Santa” policy at work. If you’re concerned about whom to give to and how much it’s all going to cost, go to your friendly HR person and ask if your company might consider instituting a Secret Santa policy – in which everyone buys ONE person a gift. (You draw for who buys whom gifts.) This can save a lot of money and is ordinarily considered to be even more fun too, as there is a “luck” element in whom you draw and a shared sense of camaraderie.

Vicky Oliver is the author of five bestselling books on personal branding, etiquette, and career development, including, “The Millionaire’s Handbook: How to Look and Act Like a Millionaire Even If You’re Not” (Skyhorse, 2011). To find out more, check out