Gift-giving etiquette in a corporate setting can be a tricky. What's fitting for one person could be taboo for another. Here are tips to help you choose the right gift for your employees and clients.

For Employees

Know Your People

It's OK to give gifts and cards to people who do not celebrate the season or holiday in the same way that you do. Just stick to secular sayings such as “Happy Holidays” or “Season's Greetings.”

Don't Play Favorites

Include the whole department when distributing gifts, rather than singling out members of the team.

Keep It Versatile

Make sure that the gift is not directed to just women or just men (i.e., spa gift certificates or baseball caps).

Don't Get Personal

Your gift should be office-appropriate. Lingerie, perfume, and jewelry are out of the question. Think books, CDs, personal organizers, fruit or candy baskets, or theater tickets.

Think Price

When giving a present to your assistant or support staff, the choice will depend on the length of service: For fewer than five years, a gift valued at $25 is sufficient; with longer-term assistants, a more generous gift is appropriate.

Holiday Parties are not Gifts

They are a great way to boost morale and celebrate the season, but they are not a substitute for a personal gift.

For Clients

Spend Appropriately

The first thing to consider is the business relationship. You want to give an appropriate gift in the appropriate price range. In many industries, gifts cannot exceed $25, so keep under this price point if you are unsure. However, your personal relationship and budget will also dictate what you spend.

Send the Right Message

Client gift giving can be effective advertising, but it is important to make sure that these gifts are not construed as bribes. Never give a gift to an outside business associate who is involved in a bidding process with your company or is receiving a bid from you or your company.

Choose the Right Gift

It is never a good idea to give anything too personal, but something with thought is always appreciated. For traditional gifts, executive-type items such as leather notepad holders, desk clocks, and writing instruments are a good place to start.

Know your Audience

Before presenting a gift to a client or vendor, make sure that you are aware of the recipient company's gift policy. Sending a gift to a client who is unable to keep it is awkward for both parties. Also, take note of international etiquette when giving gifts to business associates abroad.

Make It Count

If you cannot afford gifts for all your customers and vendors, keep the 80/20 rule in mind. That is, in most cases, 80 percent of your business comes from 20 percent of your customers. Consider buying gifts for only your biggest customers and your most accommodating suppliers.

Logo with Care

Everyone enjoys seeing their logo on products, but not every recipient appreciates it. Less expensive gifts such as mugs, pens, or mousepads are generally good choices for your company logo, but keep it discreet.

Sources: The Emily Post Institute;; Holiday Gift-Giving Tips by Karen Philip, Kinteco Inc.