Q) I love this time of year and yet I hate this time of year. I feel very conflicted about whether or not to buy my co-workers presents and there is always pressure to chip in for something for the boss. I don't have a ton of extra money and I work very hard to live debt free, can you help me out? I don't want my co-workers to think I am the Grinch or Ebenezer Scrooge.
There is enough pressure this time of year with end of year deadlines, social gatherings and the search for the perfect gift(s) for your family and friends. There is no need for you to let yourself become part of the madness.
Some people absolutely love to give presents to all of their co-workers and they spend a small fortune doing so. You do NOT have to do this. You do NOT have to buy a present for someone just because they buy you a present. You do NOT have to chip in for a present for the boss.
Here are some things you can do:
- Bring a tray of treats or bagels on a day when you know most people will be around and set them out with a card from you to everyone.
- Give cards to your team and colleagues.
- If you enjoy baking, then bake some treats and bring a tray in as a gift from you to everyone.
- Think of something special that you appreciate about each of your co-workers and write this to them as part of a card or in a special voicemail, text or email. (Be professional please, this is not the time to tell your co-worker she looks hot in her jeans.)
- Make a point to visit each co-worker in person and give them a quick yet sincere holiday greeting.
- This is less personal, but you could draft a special email and share with your colleagues exactly why you are happy to be part of their team.
- Organize a holiday potluck lunch or an afternoon cookie break.
Now what about that gift to your boss. If you do not wish to contribute, you do not have to. Don't worry that your name is not on the card. Just give your boss a separate card that is from you. You do not have to explain to your boss or to anyone else why you did not chip in.
In fact, it is important for you to remember that you do not owe anyone any explanations about why you do not give gifts at the office. Once you begin to explain it simply draws attention to your situation. So don't bring it up and don't give excuses. The truth is that in this economy you would think people would understand! If they do not understand, nothing you say is going to make it better.
The best gift I ever received at work was a phone call from someone I had worked for all year. I worked my tail off for this specific project sponsor. Never a word of acknowledgement from him. I was in the office late on the last day before our holiday shutdown. My phone rang, I saw it was him and realized I had better pick up, he must need something. He was calling to thank me. I do not know how he even knew I was still in the office. He thanked me for all of my hard work and told me that the reason his team had achieved so much during the past year was due largely to my efforts. I just about fell out of my chair.
Remember the ending of 'The Grinch' and of 'A Christmas Carol' too; it's NOT the material things that bring the spirit of the season. The real spirit comes from within.