Unless you’re a Scrooge-like monster, you can get down with the holidays. Who doesn’t enjoy a well-made turkey (or tofurkey) and good tidings? Still, between forced merriment and office holiday parties, December in the workplace can be a bit of a headache. And the whole gift-giving business is the icing on that slightly rotting, overly sweet communal gingerbread cake.
I get it. HR wants to break up the monotony of the work day with some good old-fashioned Fun and Joy. But picking a gift is hard, especially with the standard-issue achingly miserly money limit. What’s more, Murphy’s Law means you’re inevitably going to draw someone you’ve only had two awkward office kitchen encounters with, and all you know about them is how they like their toast. But don’t worry. Just follow these simple tips, brought to you by Coors Banquet Beer.
A Complete Stranger
What do you do if you pick someone you’ve never spoken to before? The puzzle here is finding that perfect, deeply personal gift without knowing a single solitary thing about him or her.
- You’re a smart guy, right? You have an office job and everything! Put that brain to use and do some basic intel-gathering. Figure out who your person eats lunch with, then ply them for information. For example, if they love sandwiches, a sandwich-of-the-month club subscription would be a good bet. In fact, that’s a good gift for anyone. Sign me up.
- If they’re younger than you, pick something age-appropriate. No Aaron Neville tickets for the millenial intern. Likewise, don’t give Gramps in Accounting two tickets to that hot new DJ, Flashtron 5000.
- Don’t overthink this. Stick to something simple, so you don’t end up spending a lot. At the end of the day, this guy’s a stranger and — honestly — doesn’t matter that much.
- In general, socks are dumb. Sure, they’re pretty unobtrusive, but they’re also something a grandmother would give. Avoid at all cost.
- Pro tip: No gift cards. Nothing says “I don’t care about you, bozo” like a fixed-price plastic card for a predetermined garbage store. Gift cards should be a jailable offense.
Your Work Wife
So you’ve found yourself a special lady work friend. Generally, this should be pretty easy. You know what she likes, you’ve got a special (but platonic) relationship, and you just really get her, you know? (I get it, platonic, sure man.) Here’s how to get the best gift without going overboard.
- Play to your strengths and make this personal. Pick her brain during your lunch hour for a gift idea or just riff on an inside joke you have together.
- But don’t get too weird. Remember, this is a professional environment. Just because you think something is hilarious doesn’t mean your boss will.
- Some thoughtstarters: a meal out at one of her favorite (affordable-ish) restaurants, a cocktail-making kit with bitters and other fun accessories, a small bottle of perfume — you get the idea.
- Pro tip: Sure you love Work Wifey, but stay under the designated price limit. Sure you may think spending $100 is a great idea, but things are going to get pretty weird when you roll up with a Ferrari of a gift only to receive a T-shirt or something. This isn’t corporate kickball, and this isn’t a contest. Cool your jets, buddy.
Now it gets real. A solid present here could help you score some coveted Boss Points, helping you level up to the next Employment Level. But screw this up and you might as well quit.
- Recon that shit. Notice what sorts of things Boss eats for lunch, and suss out their hobbies via social media. But don’t be creepy: The cyber-stalking should happen out of the office.
- Don’t suck up with something expensive. If you buy him or her a really fancy bottle of bourbon, your boss and your coworkers are going to know you’re angling for a promotion or a fancy new standing desk or something. Go over the limit but not by more than ~$5.
- Under no circumstances should you make food (the horror!). Unless you are intimately aware of your superior’s likes, dislikes, and allergies, you stand a good chance of screwing up. And you’re going to feel real sad when that beautiful buche de noel rots on his desk until January. Plus, you’ll look like a cheapskate.
- Stick to something neutral like a nice bottle opener, good chocolate, or a not-boring desk organizer. A succulent plant will check a lot of the above boxes and still be trendy and interesting.
Last but not least, remember that when you get your gift, be gracious! Even if it is a gift card. And now that your gift shopping is sorted, get out there and bequeath joy on your fellow work drones. The best way to do that? A 12-pack of some ice-cold Coors Banquet Beers. Can’t go wrong with a classic.
Illustrations by Rob Dobi.
Nandita Raghuram is a Senior Writer at Studio@Gawker. She tweets here.