Oh no, you didn't! Inappropriate office gifts

By Ali + Julie on 13 Apr 2023

“But it’s funny!”, “He knows we didn’t mean it, it’s a joke." Never, ever should these words be uttered to your co-workers about a gift gone wrong. In case you’re not sure, we’re here to help you out. We can identify some pretty clear lines in the sand about what you should and shouldn’t give as a gift to your co-worker.

In case you think it’s just our view, never fear! We surveyed hundreds of our wise and wonderful organisers at GroupTogether who’ve been in the corporate world long enough to know what is appropriate and what is not.

We understand that you need to tailor your gift to the personality of your colleague. That’s a given, however, we caution you against giving a gift that is too personal. Here is our, “OMG! WHATEVER YOU GIVE – DO NOT GIVE THAT ” list to make sure that you get a warm thank you rather than the cold shoulder after you give your gift.

Too Intimate

Even if you believe your team is really tight, giving gifts such as lingerie, perfume, and scented candles is too intimate a gift from the office. Why? You run the risk of making the recipient feel uncomfortable and casting yourself as the creepy co-worker.


Likewise, gifts that imply that your colleague needs self-improvement are a big no-no. Just say no to gift certificates for hair salons, cosmetic retailers, body wash & lotions, or personal hygiene gadgets (nose hair trimmers!). Even if you discount the “you-could-use-some-work” message you’re sending, there may be allergies that you are not aware of that would make the gift inadvisable.

So... You Think You Need to Lose Weight?

While “experiential gifts” like a day spa retreat or a glamping weekend are fun alternative gifts, stay away from giving the gift of a tanning salon or gym membership. You want to make them feel good, not insecure.

Um... Are You Asking Me On A Date?

Ditto for all gifts that seem too romantic, such as long-stem roses or expensive jewelry. Anything with diamonds, pearls, gemstones, and thorns is best avoided. The exception is a watch that is less polarising from a romantic perspective.

Is This A Statue Of...?

Need we even mention that any religious or political items are not appropriate to be given in the office setting? If you know the person that well, perhaps a gift outside the office would be more appreciated and suitable.

You Shouldn't Have...

Stay away from cheap gag gifts or corporate giveaways such as T-shirts, coffee mugs, or other branded items from the office that you can buy (or steal) cheaply. It will only make your gift feel cheap. Better a lovely card with warm wishes than a gift like this.

Thanks... I Think

Finally, don’t go the other direction and give only utilitarian gifts, it takes the joy out of receiving a gift. No one wants to receive a dust-buster or toaster (no matter how useful it really might be :).

TMI: How Do I Remember Any of This?

Too much information? We’ve come up with a cheat sheet for you.

  • Think Lululemon not lingere
  • Think museum membership, not gym membership
  • Think mohair scarf, not perfume
  • Think delicious dinners delivered to the door, not a toaster.

Now that you know what not to give, check out our Best Gifts Farewell Gift Ideas, for a wide selection of appropriate gifts.

You can also take the awkwardness out of collecting money from office mates

It’s too easy, GroupTogether takes away the hassles by; inviting, reminding, collecting, tracking, and transferring the money for you. Bonus! We also create an amazing group card with pics and messages from everyone in the office. You also are able to easily include co-workers from other divisions, from other cities, and from other countries to chip in for the group gift. To learn more, click GroupTogether for more information.

Ali Julie Square

Ali + Julie

Co-Founders, GroupTogether

Life’s busy. That’s why we’re here to make it easy for you to collect money from a group. Less wasted time, less packaging waste, and spending a little less but giving a lot better!

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