the holidays coming up, we’re faced with that age-old question: What gifts should I get for my co-workers, and is it even appropriate to give out gifts at work? And if you work in a government position, you’ve also got to take into account the regulations laid out by the government Employee Standards of Conduct.

The good news is, if you want to give a holiday gift to a personal friend or family member who also works in government, you’re in the clear. The government rules on gift-giving were largely established to prevent employees from accepting gifts from any party who may have a particular political agenda.

Here are some of the specific things that aren’t allowed:

  • Accepting a gift from anyone seeking to do business with a government employee or anyone significantly affected by the employee’s performance of their duties
  • Giving a gift to an official superior
  • Accepting a gift from a lower-paid employee, unless you are personal friends and are not in a direct superior-subordinate work relationship

If you do want to give a gift to your boss to show your appreciation, you are still allowed to give him or her a gift that costs $10 or less, food and refreshments, or personal hospitality such as an invitation to eat dinner with you and your family. Consider making your boss a card or some baked goods to celebrate the holidays—you don’t need to spend a lot of money, and your boss will hopefully be pleased by the gesture.

Here are a few other small gift ideas for a government superior:

  • Gourmet chocolates for a boss with a sweet tooth
  • A $10 gift card to Starbucks or another popular local coffee shop
  • A fancy pen or other desk accessories
  • A desk plant like a bonsai tree
  • A scratch card inside a nice card, if your boss likes playing the lottery

If you want to give a gift to a co-worker who works on the same level as you, there’s not necessarily any monetary limitation that you have to set, but again, it’s the thought that counts. Sometimes little gifts that show you know something about your co-worker’s personality are the best.

Here are a few gift ideas for government employees to get you started:

  • Any gift that includes a contribution to a charity
  • Tickets to a concert or event you know they’d like to attend
  • A non-fiction or trivia book
  • A food basket with items you know they love
  • A gift card to a popular local movie theater, if they’re a film buff
  • A fun desk addition (like a calendar with pictures taken at one of their favorite places, or a demotivational poster, if they have a dark sense of humor)

Remember, it’s not just about buying gifts this holiday season. Be sure to tell your co-workers and boss that you appreciate them and the work you do. Even a seemingly small gesture like a card with a thoughtful, personal message can go a long way in putting everyone in a good mood for the New Year.

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