Business Gift Giving Etiquette and Mistakes to Avoid

Business Gift Giving Etiquette and Mistakes to Avoid

For business owners, the holiday season is often a time for purchasing client, employee, and partner gifts for everyone who supports your business throughout the year. However, it’s important to give gifts in a way that won’t offend or create awkward situations among those who are important to your small business.

Before shopping for holiday gifts for clients, colleagues, or employees, consider the following business gift giving etiquette tips for all occasions.

Business Gift Giving Etiquette

Choose Your Budget Carefully

Choosing an amount to spend on each gift is one of the trickiest parts about business gift giving etiquette. When it comes to gifts for your team, it mainly comes down to what you can afford. However, buying gifts for vendors, service providers, or partners outside of your business can be a bit more sensitive. Some entities have limits for what they’re allowed to accept. So make sure you don’t surpass these limits with excessive gifts. If you work within a business or organization, follow the guidelines outlined by your leadership team for any gift exchange spending limits.

Don’t Leave People Out

Can you afford to get business gifts for your team? Make sure you get them for everyone. You should also try to make the gifts as equal in value as possible. It may be acceptable to spend a bit more on your management team. You may also spend more on team members who have been around for a very long time. You should also apply this concept to partners or service providers outside of your business. Within an organization, coworkers should also make sure to include everyone unless there’s a secret Santa exchange or some kind of arrangement where you only need to buy for one person.

Personalize When Possible

It’s not always possible for business owners to purchase different gifts for each team member, partner, and client. But if you have a fairly short gift list, try to purchase individual gifts that are relevant to each recipient. For example, if you know that a particular client loves their morning coffee, getting them a Starbucks gift card instead of a generic Visa one could mean a lot more to them.

Keep It Practical for Vendors, Suppliers, and Customers

Though it may be fun to give members of your team items that call back to inside jokes or funny things that have happened in the office throughout the year, it’s not as easy to gauge how those outside of your business might view those types of gifts. Unless you have a very close relationship with someone, it’s usually safer to stick with items that are useful, like gift cards or office supplies.

Use Caution with Humor

Even if you’re purchasing gifts for people you work with directly, make sure that any humorous items are appropriate for the office and for the recipient. If you’re not sure about someone’s sense of humor or if you think that a gift might be offensive to anyone in your workplace, steer clear.

Don’t Assume Everyone Celebrates Christmas

Holiday parties and gifts are pretty widely accepted in workplaces throughout the country. However, if you make gifts very specific to Christmas, it could make people who don’t celebrate uncomfortable. If you’re not sure about a specific person’s preference, keep your gift and message fairly general.

Research International Customs

If you do business internationally, your clients or partners may have different expectations when it comes to the etiquette of gift giving. You should research the holiday customs in that part of the world before purchasing a gift.

Keep Promotional Gifts Minimal

It’s pretty common for businesses to print their logos on items like tote bags or hats that they give out for holiday gifts. While this isn’t necessarily a no-go, you should try not to rely on gifts as a source of promotion. Make sure they’re actually useful for the recipient, meaning they should be fairly high quality, and the logos should be small and understated.

Create Guidelines for Team Members

As a business owner, the etiquette of gift giving isn’t just about the items you give to people. It’s also partially your responsibility to try to avoid any awkward situations between employees. If you feel that it’s necessary, set price limits or policies about purchasing gifts for everyone. This is less important if people exchange gifts with coworkers outside the office. You could also just set up a secret Santa or white elephant gift exchange with a specific price limit.

Say Thank You

Have you receive gifts from team members, partners, or clients throughout the holiday season? It’s also important to acknowledge them as quickly as possible. Send a handwritten thank you note to the sender when possible. An email may be acceptable if the gift was sent virtually.


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Annie Pilon Annie Pilon is a Senior Staff Writer for Small Business Trends, covering entrepreneur profiles, interviews, feature stories, community news and in-depth, expert-based guides. When she’s not writing she can be found exploring all that her home state of Michigan has to offer.

4 Reactions
  1. It is all about personalization. People tend to respond more if they know that you thought about them before you give them anything.

  2. I found it interesting when you said that it’s pretty common for businesses to print their logos on items like tote bags or hats that they give out for holiday gifts. My boss is asking us for suggestions so that he can buy marketing gifts to give to our customers. It would be nice to give them magnets with the bran’s logo on them so that they can promote our company as well.

  3. We appreciate your thoughts shared in this fantastic blog post. We are looking forward to reading more similar blogs from your side. Keep posting good stuff.

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