It can be a forgettable moment, one that destroys any popularity you’ve built up with your officemates, or one that propels you to new heights of prestige and fame. I speak of the moment that one of your co-workers receives your present at the office holiday party and unwraps it. For a single instant, all eyes will be on you and your contribution. For better or worse, the contents will define who you are. This gift, then, must be chosen with the perfect balance of style and wit, boldness and subtlety.

Depending on your company culture and your existing status and image within that organization, your present must be calculated to progress your image and status while staying within company decorum. For instance, an employees known for being quiet and reserved giving a risqué item might be seen as just, well… creepy. In a very conservative, low-humor organization, such a gift could get you ostracized and labeled as lay-off bait.

On the other hand, if the same reserved employee were to bring a gift that was humorous in a very sly, deadpan way, the employee would then become the quiet but witty, deadpan guy. You see, the gift is not such a dramatic shift from his co-workers’ perception of him as to be shocking. Rather, it just slightly nudges the employee’s persona toward humor.

Needless to say, this is a difficult game to play and one which few truly master. So, to aid the novice office Christmas party gift-giver (OCPGG), we have created the Appropriate Office Christmas Party Gift (AOCPG) Matrix. By simply gauging the OCPGG’s perceived level of humor and the level of one’s company’s humor, an employee can successfully find that sensitive balance and advance their position in the office. Most importantly, they can avoid the awkward silence and ostracization that can follow ill-chosen gifts.

Check out the AOCPG and read the recommendations to make sure you get the right gift this year:

The Appropriate Office Christmas Party Gift Matrix | Classes and Careers

The Rogue – If this is where you fall, you have a fine line to walk. You can get away with a lot since you are probably known as the office jester. They expect you to do something slightly outrageous.

On the other hand, you still cannot exceed the limits of your company’s tolerance. They will put up with your highjinks but only up to a certain point. Your gift choice may not move you up the social ladder, but it may prevent you from embarrassing the wrong people.

I recommend that you avoid anything questionable (adult novelties, potty gags, etc.). However, you can still give items that are just plain weird, like your late uncle’s dentures or your vintage Spock tie. You can also give items that are generally accepted as safely funny, like calendars of syndicated comic strips or singing stuffed animals.

The Ringmaster – Anything goes here. What you think is funny the company thinks is funny. As a high humor individual, you may even be looked up to as the office humor guru. If this is the case, you set the standard for funny in your workplace; whatever you contribute needs to meet the challenge. A good gift choice can enhance your humor status; a bad choice may dull your reputation or put a damper on the whole affair.

Whatever you do, do not bring the safely funny stuff (comic calendars, bobblehead dolls, etc.). People will wonder if something is wrong with you. They are expecting something irreverent, and you must deliver. Luckily, this stuff comes naturally to you.

The Cog – You’re not funny. Your company is not funny. No one in your company expects you to be especially funny. Therefore, increasing your humor status is a useless tactic.

My advice is simple: stick to the safe stuff. People in this environment may appreciate more useful items, like tape dispensers, sticky note holders, and paper weights. Your co-workers might actually be happy to get company paraphernalia, like mugs, pens, and fleece vests marked with the company logo.

This makes for a very boring company Christmas party, but what do you care? You are an unfunny person who works at an unfunny office. It will seem like just another day at work.

The Straightman – You have the most to gain from this exercise. As an unfunny member of a humor-loving organization, you can dramatically improve your status by showing your inner comedian. Up to this point, everyone thinks you’re shy, boring, and withdrawn. But, with just the right touch of humor, you will show them the real you. Those invitations to happy hour will come rolling in.

My advice: find a gift that is funny in a slightly edgy way. It can’t be too off-the-wall, of course because, well, as discussed earlier, quiet people who bring very outrageous gifts (especially adult novelties) can paint themselves as closet creepy. That’s bad. So, your gift should match your style. It can be a little weird as long as it doesn’t make people wonder about what you do during your off-hours.

Now that you know where you fit in, you are ready to take the office Christmas party by storm. Which one are you? What present are you bringing this year?

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2 comments on “Mastering the Art of Office Christmas Party Gift-Giving

  • I didn’t know there was so much to think about when gift giving at work. I am a little more like the ringmaster becuase I like to surprise people with gifts they wouldn’t expect. I try not be too bad but I at least try to make it fun.

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