Are Workers Naughty or Nice When it Comes to Office Holiday Gift Giving?

National survey reveals more workers plan to give rather than receive, prefer nontraditional gifts

Dec 06, 2013, 11:52 ET from Spherion

ATLANTA, Dec. 6, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- As workers are dashing through the stores to buy gifts for their loved ones, they are also making a list – and checking it twice – for what to buy their colleagues. According to a national holiday survey commissioned by leading staffing company Spherion and conducted online in November by Harris Interactive, the majority of American workers (52 percent) plan to give gifts to their co-workers. Yet, more than half (55 percent) don't expect to receive anything in return.

Primarily, workers plan to give to peers at their level (36 percent) and to their bosses (27 percent).  And when it comes to gifts for bosses, the desire to get ahead and outshine other colleagues are factors in making this decision. In fact, a majority of employees (58 percent) think that most employees give gifts to their bosses in order to get ahead. Roughly one-in-10 workers (11 percent) who have purchased a gift for their boss have spent more than their co-workers in order to outshine them. Just 9 percent of employees plan to give a gift to those who report to them.

The survey also queried what workers would prefer to receive as a gift from their boss, if they received one. Nearly all workers (93 percent) would rather receive non-typical gifts, with a cash bonus being the overwhelming preference (selected by 74 percent of employees). Others would be happy with an extra day off (29 percent), a handwritten thank-you card (12 percent) or a lavish company holiday party (9 percent).

"Although this is the holiday season, these results uncover how workers want to be treated in the office all year long," said Sandy Mazur, Spherion's division president. "Workers want to show respect and appreciation for others, but they also want to receive gratitude from their co-workers and bosses, and not just in the form of gifts. There are many other ways to give thanks besides a traditional holiday gift."

Other survey findings include:


  • Two-in-five employees who have given gifts to co-workers (44 percent) have spent, at most, $20.
  • At the higher end, almost the same proportion (42 percent) has spent $26 or more.
  • Twenty-two percent of workers believe holiday gifts purchased by people in the workplace should be a reflection of how much money they make.

Shopping/Gifting Behaviors:

  • Thirty-seven percent of workers agree that buying gifts for co-workers stresses them out just as much as buying gifts for others on their shopping list.
  • Among those purchasing gifts for multiple co-workers, 41 percent plan to purchase the same holiday gift for each of them.
  • Sixty percent of workers give presents to co-workers because they want to, not because they feel they have to.
  • The majority of employees report they don't feel any pressure to give holiday gifts to their co-workers (59 percent), boss (56 percent) or anyone who reports to them (51 percent).
  • Of the 73 percent of workers who have ever received a holiday gift, one-in-four (25 percent) of them have at least sometimes returned their gifts.

Gender Differences:

  • Women are more likely than men to report that they expect to give (58 percent vs. 47 percent, respectively) and receive (52 percent vs. 40 percent, respectively) gifts.
  • On the other hand, men who have purchased a gift for a boss are nearly three times as likely as their female counterparts (15 percent and 6 percent, respectively) to have spent more on their bosses to outshine their co-workers.

Office Events:

  • Only 16 percent of companies host a formal gift-giving event, and 83 percent of those offices set a limit on how much to spend on the gift.
  • Fifty-one percent of workers take cultural/religious differences into consideration when purchasing gifts for others in the workplace during the holiday season.

Spherion's "Holiday Gift Giving at Work" survey was conducted online among 970 employed (full or part-time) U.S. adults aged 18 years or older via Harris Interactive QuickQuery. Interviews took place from November 22 through November 26, 2013. The total sample was 2,033 adults. The sample was weighted on age, sex, education, race, household income and education where necessary to bring them into line with the U.S. population. Propensity score weighting was also used to adjust for respondents' propensity to be online.  

About Spherion
Spherion Staffing Services is a leading recruiting and staffing provider that specializes in placing administrative, clerical, customer service and light industrial candidates in temporary and full-time opportunities. As an industry pioneer for more than 65 years, Spherion has sourced, screened and placed millions of individuals in virtually every industry through a network of offices across the United States. Spherion offers companies a unique combination of personalized customer service backed by the resources, knowledge and geographic breadth of a $2 billion dollar workforce leader. Last year we helped more than 3,000 clients find the right talent to meet their workforce goals. Each local office is individually owned and operated by a team of staffing specialists who are known throughout the community, well-acquainted with your business and supported by a strong network of talent. To learn more, visit

SOURCE Spherion