10 Worst Gifts to Give Your Workmate (And What to Gift Instead)

Posted by Guthrie-Jensen Consultants

Christmas is just around the corner, and once again, it’s time for the traditional gift-exchange in the workplace. A gift is a form of communication as it speaks the words you almost never say out loud. It’s also a great way to show your workmate how much you appreciate his hard work in the office.

But for a lot of people, holiday gift-giving is a tricky thing to master and sometimes, you end up giving the wrong gift. Instead of conveying your appreciation to your workmate, you might end up sending the wrong message. Consider holiday gift-giving a part of your communication skills training. We’ve collated a list of what you should never give your colleague for Christmas and what you should give instead.


Be a good Secret Santa this Christmas! Here are some gifts you should NEVER give your officemate:

1. Calendars

Calendars are common store and corporate giveaways during the holiday season. Brands give them away to clients and customers. Often, people end up bringing home more calendars than they actually need.

It’s impersonal and conveys the message that you didn’t think too much of the gesture. No matter how pretty the pictures are in it, a calendar is a big no-no if you want to make your workmate smile after opening your present.

2. Mugs

A mug is too easy. You can do better than that! Yes, mugs are very useful at work. But, who doesn’t already own a mug? Plus, they are also common corporate giveaways. Unless it has a special straw, shape, or design that you’re sure your workmate will fancy, step away from the mugs.

3. Anything re-gifted.

Imagine the horror of opening a present and then quickly recognizing the item inside as the boss’s gift from last year. Save yourself the embarrassment, and make an effort to shop for actual gift that your coworker will like.

4. DVDs.

DVDs are fantastic gifts – maybe five years ago. It’s not so cool anymore. People now get their movie fix from online streaming sites such as Netflix or media boxes like Apple TV.

5. Picture Frame

This is another common corporate gift that tends to overload people’s Christmas trees. So, why bother giving your coworker a present that he already has loads of? Be more personal and think of something he would appreciate and use, instead of something he will potentially just re-gift.

6. Deodorant and Other Personal Hygiene Items

A deodorant, really? It’s almost like telling your officemate that he smells bad. “Here’s something that will help you smell better.” It can be misconstrued as offensive for others and may send the wrong message. Stay away from personal hygiene section when you’re shopping for holiday presents.

7. Food with short shelf life

If you’re going to give food as a gift, make sure that it doesn’t expire soon, especially if the person you’re giving it to doesn’t have a huge family who can consume mountains of cake, pastries, and cookies every holiday season. Plus, are you even sure of what your coworker likes to eat?

8. Same Gift as Last Year

Some people have go-to gifts or giveaways, and they tend to repeat the idea the following year. Do your professional life a favor and personalize your gift. Consider the things that your coworker likes. This will help you shop for the great gift that he will remember and thank you for!

9. Company Branded Items

Company branded giveaways say you’re cheap. Everyone knows that corporate giveaways are bought in bulk. It’s impersonal and unnecessary. Those should be given to clients or just given to employees on regular occasions. It’s not for Christmas.

10. Intimate Clothing

As mentioned, gifts communicate a message. If you’re giving it to a significant other, then that’s considered romantic. But, if you’re giving it to a co-worker, that’s just creepy. You don’t want a sexual harassment report filed on you now, do you?


Instead, consider giving one of these gifts:

1. Sophisticated Infuser Mug

Here’s something that can let your coworker make the perfect cup of tea at work. Giving your coworker a special vessel for his tea that he can use in the office daily, says that you’re thoughtful. Make sure it’s something he will really like, whether that means it has a special design, a cute cartoon or a joke printed on the side.

2. Gift Certificate to a Favorite Coffee or Lunch Place

Your coworker will appreciate a gift certificate to a place he frequents. If you notice that he goes to Starbucks daily for his coffee, then why not give him a Starbucks gift card? If you know of a favorite restaurant, then that’s even better. It shows him that you notice what he likes and that you listen to his stories.

3. Laptop Bag

If your office regularly uses laptops at work instead of a desktop, then giving him a laptop bag is something useful. Laptop bags can get worn out, especially if it’s used daily. Your colleague will love you for this!

4. Earphones

You won’t go wrong with earphones. It’s a common trinket that’s used every day. You can even find cute ones that remind you of your officemate. Take note of his favorite color, so you can make it a more thoughtful gesture.


You don’t need to buy an expensive gift. Remember, the price tag doesn’t matter as much as the thought and time you put into your present.

Communication Assertiveness Training

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