Holiday Office Gifts Not Always Tasteful

December 2, 2008

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Nearly eight of 10 (79%) marketing and advertising executives say some form of holiday gift giving occurs among workers in their offices, but gifts can range from thoughtful and appropriate to bizarre and humorous, according to a survey from The Creative Group.

The most common forms of gift giving are from managers to staff (51%) and among co-workers (51%). Gifts are least often given to managers from employees (39%), the study found.


“Given the current economy, office gift giving may be toned down this year, but there still will be those who want to spread holiday cheer by giving colleagues tokens of appreciation,” said Megan Slabinski, executive director of The Creative Group. “Although presents don’t have to be expensive, they do need to be thoughtful and appropriate to the work environment. A gift that works in one setting may not be well received in another.”

Some gifts given in the office aren’t always appreciated or understood, The Creative Group said. Among the most questionable gifts cited by respondents in an open-ended question:

  • A voodoo doll of the boss, given to a co-worker.
  • A wrapped six-pack of beer.
  • Portraits of an employee, given to other employees.
  • A case of tuna.
  • Orange hair extensions.
  • A fully-stocked 125-pound aquarium.
  • A plastic pizza with a face on it.

In contrast, respondents said other presents showed considerable thought:

  • A membership to a local art gallery.
  • A ride on a parade float with Santa Claus.
  • Ohio State football helmets given to Ohio State football fans.
  • Custom-made bobble-head dolls that were replicas of employees.
  • A photo collage of someone’s children.
  • A customized Disney toy.

Among the most humorous gifts :

  • The Clapper device for turning on and off lights and electronic devices.
  • A punching bag that emits curses when hit.
  • A radar detector for an employee who received numerous speeding tickets.

Some respondents say those in their workplaces often opt for charity-based gifts around the holidays in order to give back to their communities. Such gifts included a certificate to a charity in an employees’ name and an office-wide effort to collect and distribute gifts to needy families.

“This year, especially, many nonprofits could use the help, whether it’s a gift in an individual’s name to a cause he or she believes in, or a group outing to provide assistance to those in need,” Slabinski said.

About the survey: The national survey was developed by The Creative Group and conducted by an independent research firm. It is based on 250 telephone interviews – 125 with advertising executives randomly selected from the US’s 2,000 largest advertising agencies and 125 with senior marketing executives randomly selected from the nation’s 2,000 largest companies.

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