According to Pedro Diaz, workplace culture expert and founder of Australia's Workplace Mental Health Institute, the issue of workplace gift giving at Christmas time can be fraught with danger but it is still appropriate to give your boss a present provided you follow some key rules.
"Our workplaces have become so 'politically correct' that people are becoming scared to give gifts to others in the workplace, especially their boss, for fear of getting it wrong and being fired" Mr Diaz said.
"Even if you are not fired, you can find yourself being bullied by coworkers for being considered a brown noser for giving your boss a gift in front of other workers.
"I recently heard a story about a male worker who gave his female boss a bottle of perfume for Christmas and found himself responding to complaints of 'sexual harassment'.
"One of the other big issues, is that many workplaces are playing down christmas for fear of offending workers who are not Christian. Many people believe that celebrating christmas in the workplace goes against workplace diversity and inclusion.
"I am hearing of situations where workers are concerned about giving gifts because this may be seen as a form of harassment or discrimination.
"Every nation, every country has their culture, beliefs and traditions. As a multi-cultural nation, I encourage workplaces to embrace and celebrate Christmas, and any other festivities they believe reflect their organisational cultural make up. The important thing is to ensure workplaces have character. Without character and personality, workplaces are boring and awful places to work.
"Political correctness can go too far. We need to ensure it doesn't get to the point where people stop celebrating Christmas at work. This would be a tragedy."
Question: How does gift giving cause tension and issues in the office?
Pedro Diaz: The workplace can be described as an artificial environment. You come into prolonged contact with a collection of very diverse people. People not commonly of your chosing but chosen for you. Mostly because of the skill set they bring not because of their personalities. People that can be quite different from you. Have different points of view, different sense of humour and they don't have to like you. You don't have to like them either. Then you throw Christmas and gift giving into the mix. And in some workplaces Secret Santa. Some people don't even celebrate Christmas, so they may already feel on the outer. It's not that difficult to see how things could go wrong and, at times, do.
But even in the best of settings with the best of intentions there can still be the normal tension of 'what to get?' 'how much to spend without seeming frivolous?' 'will they like it?' 'do they even celebrate Christmas?' 'will my gift be seen in the light that I intend or will it be misunderstood?'
Question: Is this specifically when gifting to the boss or everyone?
Pedro Diaz: This tends to be true of everyone. We've become a very sensitive society. Sadly, there are some of us at the ready to feel offended fast. Of course, the majority of us still love Christmas and we want Christmas to be of good cheer so we are not going to give up easily. So the question is 'how do we make Christmas in our workplace as enjoyable as possible, full of cheer, and still avoid any potential pitfalls? it's possible.
Question: What is the best way to give a gift to our boss?
Pedro Diaz: It's a good idea to have an agreed amount on what is okay to spend for your collegues, whether they are your boss or not. Make sure it's fair. There's no reason why the boss should get a more expensive present than anyone else unless the present comes from the team not an individual person.
If your boss happens to be your secret santa then stick to the budget.
If you are thinking of giving your boss a gift as appreciation, remember than in certain circumstances it maybe best not to. Especially if it's going to trigger jealousy in your team mates. Are there other more discreet ways to show appreciation? for example, a card?
When in doubt, ask a respected friend and colleague what they think.
Question: Why is it important to be discreet when giving gifts in the workplace?
Pedro Diaz: Not everyone share our sense of humour. What is funny to you can be offensive for another person. Even if it isn't, your gift could be misconstrued as 'brown nosing'. Not everyone can afford or is willing to afford as much as you in a present, this could make them resentful.
Question: What gifts would you suggest for the workplace?
Pedro Diaz: Make gifts of good taste that lets the person know they are held in high esteem. No one should walk away wondering if they are appreciated. A good rule of thumb would be:
is the gift gender neutral?
is it tasteful?
will the person feel appreciated?
did you keep to the agreed budget?
is it something the person could share with their loved ones?
in short, is it of 'good cheer'?
Question: What are the five key rules to follow when giving our bosses a gift?
Pedro Diaz: Give your boss a christmas gift that is gender neutral, ie, can be used by a male or female,
Give your boss a gift that is not personal, ie, work or career related, business card holder, new diary, coffee mug, pen, etc,
Give your boss the gift in a discreet manner, so that other workers do not see you giving the gift.
If you work in a close team, rather than give an individual gift to your boss, arrange a group gift on behalf of every team member; and
Organise a secret santa so everyone in the workplace can contribute, participate and receive a gift, not just your boss.
Interview by Brooke Hunter