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The Ultimate Etiquette Guide for Exchanging Gifts
Unsure of what or whom you should give to? Here's your guide.

Gift giving isn't always cut and dry. Follow these tips to maintain etiquette.

The act of gift giving during the holiday season is often a highly anticipated tradition among family members and close friends. But toss in the decision to "gift" a boss, fellow colleagues, a dinner party host and a few distant neighbors, and gift giving can quickly become a hassle and an expensive chore. Questions such as, "Do I have to reciprocate with a gift?" and, "Is it necessary to give my boss a gift?" are common. The following are the most commonly asked holiday questions:

1. If given a gift by someone not on my gift-receiving list should I feel the need to make an excuse for not having a gift and immediately run out and buy one to give in return?

No, it is not mandatory to reciprocate, but it is essential to accept the gift with a genuine smile on your face and say something such as, "How thoughtful. Thank you so much for thinking of me."

2. Do I give my boss a gift and if so, what would be appropriate?

First of all, take a look at the company’s gift giving policy and make sure you are not breaching any gift giving rules. It is not necessary to give your boss a gift unless it is a small token, such as homemade muffins or a tray of cookies. A better idea would be to go in with a group of colleagues and buy your boss a joint gift from the entire staff.

3. Who gets a gift outside of the family?

The decision to give a gift is personal and is usually reserved for those that have made an impact on your life or business within the past year. A holiday gift generally shows appreciation for a job well done or a service that you have appreciated.

4. Are gag gifts a safe gift giving option?

On the contrary, gag gifts can be offensive and mistaken for a sentiment that is not intended by the giver.

5. Is a gift card an acceptable holiday gift?

Gift cards are becoming more popular and a safe choice for someone that you do not know very well or for someone that is newly married, newly single, a student or anyone that enjoys selecting their own gift. A gift card from a mega store is a better choice than a store that is limited in a selection of merchandise.

6. I want to give a gift to a couple of colleagues at the office but not everyone, what should I do?

Exchange gifts away from the office to ensure that other people’s feelings will not be bruised.

7. Is it rude to enclose a gift receipt?

It is a thoughtful gesture to enclose a gift receipt with the present. This allows the receiver the opportunity to return the item for another size or to select something else that may be more flattering or appropriate.

8. What are some safe office gifts for the boss, a colleague or client?

Here's a rundown of appropriate gifts for the various groups in your life.

For your boss:
* Cookies/muffins/homemade candy
* A joint gift from the entire staff

For a colleague:
* Stationary
* Gift card to a coffee shop
* Coffee mug or tea mug with dry coffee or tea enclosed
* Decorative (unscented) candle or a scented candle if you know what they prefer

For a client:
* A box of grapefruit, oranges or seasonal fruit
* A decorative box of gourmet candy
* A pair of tickets to a sports game
* A donation to a charity in his or her name
* A bottle of wine (if you are certain he/she enjoys wine)
* All of the above should be accompanied with a handwritten note of thanks from you

Don’ts for all of the above:
* Cologne or perfume
* Personal items of any kind
* Spa treatments and massages
* A vacation

Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, is the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in etiquette training for corporations, universities and individuals, striving to polish their interpersonal skills. You can reach Diane at 877-490-1077 or www.protocolschooloftexas.com.

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