Are Workers Naughty or Nice When it Comes to Office Holiday Gift Giving?

As workers are dashing through the stores to buy gifts for their loved ones, they are also making a list – and checking it twice – for what to buy their colleagues. According to a national holiday survey commissioned by leading staffing company Spherion, the majority of American workers (52 percent) plan to give gifts to their co-workers. Yet, more than half (55 percent) don’t expect to receive anything in return.

Primarily, workers plan to give to peers at their level (36 percent) and to their bosses (27 percent). And when it comes to gifts for bosses, the desire to get ahead and outshine other colleagues are factors in making this decision. In fact, a majority of employees (58 percent) think that most employees give gifts to their bosses in order to get ahead. Roughly one-in-10 workers (11 percent) who have purchased a gift for their boss have spent more than their co-workers in order to outshine them. Just 9 percent of employees plan to give a gift to those who report to them.

The survey also queried what workers would prefer to receive as a gift from their boss, if they received one. Nearly all workers (93 percent) would rather receive non-typical gifts, with a cash bonus being the overwhelming preference (selected by 74 percent of employees). Others would be happy with an extra day off (29 percent), a handwritten thank-you card (12 percent) or a lavish company holiday party (9 percent).

“Although this is the holiday season, these results uncover how workers want to be treated in the office all year long,” said Sandy Mazur, Spherion’s division president. “Workers want to show respect and appreciation for others, but they also want to receive gratitude from their co-workers and bosses, and not just in the form of gifts. There are many other ways to give thanks besides a traditional holiday gift.”

Other survey findings include:

• Two-in-five employees who have given gifts to co-workers (44 percent) have spent, at most, $20.
• At the higher end, almost the same proportion (42 percent) has spent $26 or more.
• Twenty-two percent of workers believe holiday gifts purchased by people in the workplace should be a reflection of how much money they make.

Shopping/Gifting Behaviors:
• Thirty-seven percent of workers agree that buying gifts for co-workers stresses them out just as much as buying gifts for others on their shopping list.
• Among those purchasing gifts for multiple co-workers, 41 percent plan to purchase the same holiday gift for each of them.
• Sixty percent of workers give presents to co-workers because they want to, not because they feel they have to.
• The majority of employees report they don’t feel any pressure to give holiday gifts to their co-workers (59 percent), boss (56 percent) or anyone who reports to them (51 percent).
• Of the 73 percent of workers who have ever received a holiday gift, one-in-four (25 percent) of them have at least sometimes returned their gifts.

Gender Differences:
• Women are more likely than men to report that they expect to give (58 percent vs. 47 percent, respectively) and receive (52 percent vs. 40 percent, respectively) gifts.
• On the other hand, men who have purchased a gift for a boss are nearly three times as likely as their female counterparts (15 percent and 6 percent, respectively) to have spent more on their bosses to outshine their co-workers.

Office Events:

• Only 16 percent of companies host a formal gift-giving event, and 83 percent of those offices set a limit on how much to spend on the gift.
• Fifty-one percent of workers take cultural/religious differences into consideration when purchasing gifts for others in the workplace during the holiday season.

Source: Spherion

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2013. All rights reserved.

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