Ho! Ho! No.

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Workplace gift exchanges give some employees a cold sweat. Whether it’s through Secret Santa or swapping trinkets with cubicle mates, few gifting decisions can be as fraught as this one. “You don’t want it to be too personal,” advises Suzanne Willis, a Southwest Florida-based etiquette expert. “Work is work.” If employees decide to swap gifts among themselves, she suggests keeping things on the down-low. “Remember that this is your place of business,” she says. “It’s fine to have relationships, but keep it private.”

For the boss, consider a group contribution instead of an individual gift. “Sometimes that’s the best way to go about it,” Willis says. But don’t worry about giving something expensive. “Obviously, the boss has the most money. They’re not looking for your gift to break the bank. It’s just a thoughtful gesture to show you care.”

Unsure if a gift is appropriate? When in doubt, Willis says, check the handbook. “A lot of companies have rules about gift-giving and receiving. Check the HR handbook to make sure you’re not breaking any.”

Some companies may want to establish a gifting policy before the holidays, suggests Doni Landefeld, a business coach and consultant in Fort Myers. “Keep it simple and use a system, especially if it’s a large organization,” she says. “Give examples and keep them broad, and get input from HR so diversity of demographics is considered. Nobody wants to be offended.”

And because diversity and inclusion are critical, make sure that employees can opt out for any reason if they feel uncomfortable. “Bottom line, not everyone views gift-giving the same,” Landefeld says.

 

GIVE A PLANT

“Plants are one of the best gifts you can give,” says Rick Molek, owner of Thrifty Garden in Fort Myers. “They’re personal without being too intimate. And if you treat them right, they’ll last for a long time.”

But skip the novel plant from the grocery store, Molek advises. “If you’re talking about a $10 office gift exchange, then buy an orchid at Publix and be done with it. But if you want to up your game, consider something a little nicer.”

For workplace giving, Molek suggests either a sansevieria or a ZZ plant. Sansevieria, also known as mother-in-law’s tongue, have a beautiful structural design. They can go for long stretches without water, and they tolerate low-light conditions well. The ZZ plant offers fine aesthetics at an affordable price point. “They’re super stunning to look at and super easy to care for,” Molek says. “Plus, they look like they’d be really expensive.”

 

GIVE A COOKIE

Chocolate chip cookies may be the universal crowd-pleaser. “I’ve never met anybody who says, ‘Jeez, I just don’t like cookies,’” says Ken Weiner, who owns Fort Myers-based Chloe’s Cookies. Weiner’s homemade chocolate chip cookies are a local workplace holiday favorite. Last Christmas, a law firm in Fort Myers ordered 45 dozen.

Chloe’s has 28 varieties available to choose from, and during the holidays Weiner adds flavors including peppermint, maple and spiced rum (made with Wicked Dolphin rum). For the picky eater in the office, Chloe’s offers vegan and gluten-free varieties. The cookies are $48 for a dozen, plus a $5-$10 delivery charge depending on location.

 

GIVE A GIFT CARD (BUT NOT THE LAME KIND)

When holiday stress gets the best of us, it may be easy to reach for the generic gift cards in the grocery line. Don’t do it. Nothing says “I put no thought into this present” more than an Amazon gift card purchased at the grocery store. If you do decide to go the gift card route, seek out unique, locally-owned stores.

Try Remedies Parlor (2541 Thompson St., Fort Myers; 239.887.4802; remediesparlor.com) for handcrafted scents, quirky chinaware and one-of-a-kind vintage. Or DAAS Co-op (1815 Fowler St., Fort Myers; 239.590.8645; daascoop.com) for work from local artists. Or Sirena Del Sol (1815 Hough St., Fort Myers; 239.791.8034) for tastefully curated antiques and vintage. There’s no shortage of good options across Southwest Florida.

Photo Credit: Getty; Courtesy Thrifty Garden; Courtesy Chloe’s Cookies; Courtesy Remedies Parlor

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