Quiz: Test your office holiday etiquette

Do you know how to navigate holiday norms at work? Take the quiz.


When you’re new to the working world, navigating workplace culture can be a challenge. From who cleans out the coffeepot to parking space protocol, there are a lot of unspoken rules. And these cultural norms really peak around the holidays.

Take this quick quiz to see if you know some general do’s and don’ts for navigating holiday office expectations, like the taking time off, gifting, and attending the office holiday party.

1. Do or don’t: Stick with the $15 limit that was set for the gift exchange.

Do. There’s really no need to go over budget for your holiday gift swap — you may end up making others feel bad for not spending more on you. On the same note, don’t go way under budget: If the limit is $15 and you show up with a pack of gum, you may get a few questioning looks.

Other gifts to avoid include overly personal things like clothing, jewelry, music, perfumes (many people are sensitive to fragrances), and alcohol. If you’re in doubt, ask someone who’s been at your company for awhile and has knowledge about office gifting history.

2. Do or don’t: Get your boss a gift.

Don’t. Though it’s not a hard and fast rule, typically gifts should flow down — from manager to employee — not vice versa.

If you want to give your boss a gift, you may want to wait to see if they give you anything first, then have your gift waiting in your desk. If you give an unsolicited gift to your boss, they may feel guilty for not having anything for you. And don’t feel like you need to spend a lot: Surveys reveal 73% of respondents spend $20 or less on a gift for a coworker or boss.

Another related note: If you work for a company where you have clients, make sure you know the rules around accepting gifts from clients. Many employers forbid it, because it’s a legal gray area.

3. Do or don’t: Assume you can bring a guest to your holiday party.

Don’t. Hopefully your party invitation stipulated if you can or can’t bring a guest, but if not, you should ask the host before you assume you can bring a plus one. If you can’t, don’t feel snubbed by the organizers: Remember there’s a lot of planning that goes into holiday parties and, typically, a strict budget that determines how many people can attend.

4. Do or don’t: Introduce yourself to your company CEO and executives at the holiday party.

Do. If you work for a large company, office parties may be the only time you see your CEO, president, or other company executives. Introduce yourself and share what you do at the company. It’s a great opportunity to make a good first impression in a social, low-pressure environment.

5. Do or don’t: Plan to take off an entire week or more during the holidays.

Don’t. Just because you had winter break in college does not mean you’ll automatically get time off from your employer. Many companies only give a day or two around the holidays, otherwise you have to use paid time off. And, you may not even be able to do that — if the rest of your team has already put in for time off, as a new employee you might be expected to provide coverage for those who are out.

6. Do or don’t: Count on an expected holiday bonus to buy gifts.

Don’t. Last year 25% of surveyed human resources executives said they had no plans to give their workers a monetary bonus. A bonus is truly a nice-to-have, but you can’t count on it every year. Make sure you’re budgeting for your holiday shopping ahead of time. If you do get a holiday bonus, it’ll be a nice surprise (and maybe even a chance to put some extra money into savings).

7. Do or don’t: Ask about snow day policies at the start of winter.

Do. Every employer handles this differently, so you should find out the policy at your company before bad weather hits. Your employer can require you to come to work despite severe weather, although many companies will make allowances for employees who cannot make it in, like allowing them to work from home or take a vacation day. Sometimes it’s up to the discretion of individual managers. If your office actually shuts down for the day, your employer may charge you a vacation day — though that’s not common. Talk to your boss well before a storm hits, so you know the protocol before a blizzard is on your radar.