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10 ways to mind your manners at work during the holidays

4 min read


The holidays are a great time to get to know your colleagues through workplace activities, including parties and volunteer events. To kick off this two-part blog series, I reached out to Anna Post, great-great-granddaughter of etiquette expert Emily Post and co-author of “Emily Post’s Etiquette, 18th Edition,” to find out the modern do’s and don’ts of workplace situations this time of year.


As a manager, am I required to give gifts to my employees?

It’s a popular thing to do. It’s a great time to give gift cards from a place that a few employees have a consensus about, such as Starbucks. American Express gift cards are good for all-purpose gifting.

As an employee, should I give my manager a gift?

No, not unless you go in as a group — by your floor, team or department. It removes the feeling that you’re currying favor with the boss. As a group, go for something that’s not personal and steer clear of alcohol (even if you know your boss’ favorite scotch).

Should there be gift guidelines posted in the workplace?

It’s not a bad idea, but it depends on the culture. At The Emily Post Institute, we do a Yankee Swap, and everyone is good to sticking to a gift under $10. Gift guidelines in a really big office might make more sense, but that depends on human resources more than etiquette.

If a co-worker gives me a gift and I didn’t get one for the person, what should I do?

Say thank you. Write a thank-you note or thank in person. You can reciprocate, but you don’t need to lie and say you have a gift at home if you weren’t planning on giving to them. If receiving the gift changes your mind and you have an extra small gift, such as a jar of jam, you could gift that.

The company party

Is it OK to post company holiday-party photos on Facebook?

Your professional image is now appearing in a personal setting, and it can make people uncomfortable. I wouldn’t do it. It’s not a good idea unless you are the head of HR and it’s a vetted and approved photo for the company page. If you do plan to post, check with others first.

What should employees keep in mind this time of year so they don’t cross the line?

Don’t get drunk. Alcohol can make people do stupid, stupid things and they are caught on camera, and they get in trouble the next day. People have the potential to do stupid things without alcohol — you don’t need any help. The days of the lampshade on the head and photocopying of rear ends seem quaint compared with what can happen nowadays. Set your limits beforehand.

Do I need to tip the bartenders at a work-sponsored party?

It depends on venue. If it’s a privately hosted event and the host has paid, it’s optional. If there is a tip jar, it’s a nice thing to do. If it’s at a bar and you’re paying for your drinks, yes.

Is it appropriate to talk to HR when I think an employee has had one too many drinks at the work event?

Safety trumps manners.

The leftovers

My co-workers love to bring in food to the office around the holidays. Can I decline tasting some treats and not others?

You don’t need to eat anything you don’t want to.

On work e-mail, are holiday e-cards and online thank-yous acceptable?

Virtually sending holiday cards has become more acceptable in the workplace. Sending an e-mail thank-you is fine for small things, such as acknowledging a hostess gift.

Image credit: mediaphotos, via iStockphoto

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