Holiday gift giving and tipping

There is often confusion about who we should give gifts and holiday tips to. The most important aspect of gift giving is that it comes from the heart and you give to express thanks and appreciation, not out of obligation or because you received a gift. Here are a few of the most frequent gift giving situations.

In the workplace
Do not give a gift to your boss, unless it’s a gift from a group. It can look like brown nosing and it can make a manager feel he or she needs to give a gift to every employee.

Managers can give their employees a small gift, but it is not necessary. A holiday bonus would be an appropriate gift for all employees if it’s within the company’s budget.

A senior executive should consider giving gifts to the following people – close friends and peers in the business community, the board of directors, his or her executive assistant, the employee who managed his or her gift giving if it wasn’t the executive assistant and senior staff members.

Use caution when sending gifts to clients or customers. Many companies do not allow gifts from vendors at all or over a certain dollar amount. Usually, a basket of goodies that can be shared with a group is acceptable. Making a donation to a charity in the company’s name is a very safe and acceptable gift.

Avoid sending a holiday gift that has your company logo on it, unless the logo is small and unobtrusive. The gift should be a thank you, not an advertisement for your business.

Gift giving between employees is fine, but should be done quietly. It can be hard for those people who don’t receive a gift. The better way to approach office gift giving between peers is to conduct a secret Santa exchange where you draw a name and anonymously give a small gift or series of small gifts to the person whose name you drew.

Holiday tipping
Holiday tipping is a way to thank those people who make your life easier. The tip or gift should be based on your relationship with the service provider, your personal resources, and how long you’ve worked with the person. Also, if you live in a big city the tips tend to be bigger. Note; holiday tipping is not required, it is something you can choose to do or not. Here are some general guidelines for a person with average means.

Beauty salon staff – some chocolates or a plate of cookies or cash up to the cost of one visit split between the staff who work on you

Housecleaner – up to one week’s pay and maybe a small gift

Newspaper delivery person – $10 to $30 in a holiday card or a small gift

Nanny – one week’s salary and a gift from the children

Regular babysitter – one day’s pay and a small gift from the kids

Dog walker – up to one week’s pay or a gift

Mail carrier – a small gift valued at no more than $20. The USPS does not allow cash, checks or gift cards.

Gardner/Yard worker – $20 to $50

Teacher – a small gift, no cash

Massage therapist – gift or cash up to the cost of one session

Barber – gift or cash up to the cost of one visit

This is not a complete list, but it covers the most common service professionals. Is there someone not on the list you make a point of tipping every holiday? Have you received a particulary unique or thoughtful gift from a client or customer?

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Arden Clise is founder and president of Clise Etiquette. Her love for business etiquette began in previous jobs when she was frequently asked for etiquette, public speaking and business attire advice by executives and board members. The passion for etiquette took hold and compelled Arden to start a consulting business to help others. Read more >>


  1. fergusonsarah on December 7, 2011 at 11:03 am

    Thanks for the tips! I think I should include the garbage collectors.

  2. ArdenClise on December 7, 2011 at 1:09 pm


    I’m sure they would appreciate it Sarah.

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