03/28/2008 02:45 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

From Bonuses To Gifts: How To Handle The Holidays At Work

Dear Christine,

This is the last week of work before the holiday vacation and I am not sure of the etiquette surrounding gift-giving at the office. Do I give my fellow co-workers gifts? And what about my direct boss - what do I give him? And since I do anticipate a bonus from my boss, what is the protocol for thanking him?

- In a Gifting Dilemma, 25, St. Louis

Dear In a Gifting Dilemma,

During the Holiday season, the lines of giving and receiving gifts can become a little blurry at the workplace especially since everyone holds different positions with different salaries. In other words, it's not exactly a level playing field in terms of gifting. I encourage smaller offices or organizations to arrange a "Secret Santa" game where a price limit for a gift is set and everyone draws one person's name out of a hat to give a gift to. This eliminates the "what to get for whom" question when it comes to your co-workers. So consider putting that together for next year!

But for this year, when it comes to your fellow employees, once you get one person a gift, it creates a chain reaction . . . and you have to keep buying for the other people you work with. So unless you have a very close relationship with one particular person that you want to get something special for, I don't recommend buying for co-workers - it's expensive and time consuming. Instead, make something yummy for the staff (this is when your cookie sheet comes in handy) or give simple holiday cards that you personalize for each person. The people I do suggest are the support staff at the office like the cleaning crew, parking attendant, door man, receptionist, etc.

As far as your boss, I think some gesture will be appreciated. The hard part is that bosses are hard to shop for. I remember working as an assistant at a talent agency and I never knew what to get my boss because from my $350 a week perspective, he was loaded and had everything! I suggest thinking about the little things your boss enjoys and get him or her something that demonstrates your attentiveness and consideration.

I reached out to Jason Dorsey, consultant on generations in the workplace, author of My Reality Check Bounced! for some further advice on what to give the head honcho for the holidays. Jason suggests, "Go with something they will actually appreciate. Don't give them a stack of high gloss post-it notes or a book of coupons. Find something they like and give accordingly. For example, if they like baseball give them a book about baseball. If they like home decorating, give them a subscription to a magazine about home decorations. Give a gift that means something, and they will feel like they mean something to you."

With your gift, I also suggest writing your boss a nice note in a Holiday card to include with the gift. Not sure of what to write? My fellow Huffington Post blogger Samara O'Shea suggests, "If you've been hired recently, you can tell your boss you're still very excited about the position and having a great time so far. On the flip side, if you've been working for a while, you can say that you find the job to be an enjoyable and continuous challenge and you're excited for the year ahead. After that, the message can go into standard mode by wishing your boss and his or her family a fantastic holiday season and joyous New Year."

When it comes to thanking your boss for your bonus (or whatever gift you receive), the etiquette for gratitude is important. If he gives you a gift face to face, a very pleasant "thank you" will suffice. You don't have to open it on the spot. Just put it aside and open it later. If your boss leaves it on your desk, be sure to give him a face-to-face "thanks" to let him know you received it. Next, it is imperative, to write your boss a hand-written thank you note. It may be tempting to send an email, especially if you don't really like your boss or aren't happy with your bonus, put take the high road of etiquette and break out your nice stationary. For tips on what to write, check out the Twenty-Something Tidbit on letter writing below.

And one final word to the wise during this festive season. If you are going to your workplace holiday party- behave yourself. This is not the event to cozy up to the open bar at. I recommend not drinking at all, but if you do, stop at one. Even though it's the holiday "party" - you are still surrounded by people who you interact with on a professional level . . . and believe me they are watching you. Sure holiday office parties are supposed to be fun, but don't confuse them with spring break.

Happy Holidays

- Christine

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TWENY-SOMETHING TIDBIT from Samara O'Shea founder of Letter Lover and author of For the Love of Letters.

Tips on Writing Thank-You letters to your boss:

An e-mail thank you will be well received, however, a handwritten thank-you note drives the point home that you are especially grateful. The latter act takes more time, which is why it equals appreciation to a higher degree. The note doesn't have to be long--just enthusiastic. In either case, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1. Whether opting for an e-mail or actual note, start off using the word "Dear." It sets a more official tone--automatically separating this from any run-of-the-mill e-mail or memo.
2. Mention that you're thankful to have been rewarded so generously. If you feel comfortable, you can say what you plan to splurge on. For example, I'm off to the Caribbean now, or This will certainly come in handy as we're getting ready to redo our kitchen. You can go on say that the bonus makes you feel that all your effort has been noticed, and you look forward to keeping up the good work.
3. Depending on your style and your relationship with your boss, the closing can be casual, semi-formal, or mega formal.

Casual: Thanks again, Yours, or Best wishes.

Semi-formal: Appreciatively, Thankfully, or Gratefully

Mega-formal: With deep gratitude and all my best wishes, Sincerely, or Cordially

Come back every Tuesday for more advice from Christine Hassler.
For more holiday season tips, click here for more from Huffington Post's Living!