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How to Shop for a Coworker (and not give them another candle)

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Workplace secret santa traditions are difficult. It's hard enough shopping for friends and family, who you presumably know well and love dearly, but coworkers are a whole different ball game. How do you buy something under the $20 limit and not look thoughtless?

I always got the advice from my mother that gifts, even gifts for a coworker, should be personal. So it makes sense that you should figure out something personal about your coworker. But that can be tricky; nobody wants a snooping workmate, and it'll tip them off to your intentions. So instead of asking them about their hobbies and dreams, make an educated guess from what you know. Do they keep a lot of plants on their desk? A beautiful pot with some heirloom seeds would likely be appreciated. Do they read on breaks? Gift them a book that you really love. Do they love talking about their kids? Find a pretty picture frame for their most recent shots.

It's also important to keep professional distance in your gifts. Too personal a gift carries the risk of an uncomfortable visit to HR. A good rule of thumb is to limit the personal factor of a gift to something easily observable from a look at their workspace, or from a short conversation. Leave out political or religious themes, and of course, any raunchy or suggestive gift is best left out. If you know absolutely nothing about your assigned coworker, gather some hints from your fellow workers.

Go forth and shop!

Photo: Flickr