Holiday Hazards

By Elizabeth Newell Jochum

December 7, 2011

Federal managers and employees seem to have more than usual to worry about this holiday season, from a new snow policy to the possibility of extended pay freezes. But even during less anxiety-ridden times, navigating the gifts and parties that come with the holidays can be tricky for federal managers. The Defense Department's Standards of Conduct Office releases an annual Holiday Guidance memo for Pentagon personnel, but it's a very good starting point for all government managers and employees as well. A few highlights: While the litany of restrictions governing holiday behavior for federal employees can be a hassle, it's usually more stressful to see something vague and generic like: "Please note, there are no legal restrictions on gifts given to peers or subordinates, however, common sense (and good taste) should apply."

Gifts for employees should be kept small and relatively uniform. It also is a good idea to present them all at once, perhaps during the office holiday event. This will help avoid making any employee feel -- even temporarily -- like he or she is receiving special treatment or being left out. If there is no time to catch everybody at once, then leave gifts on workers' desks one morning before they arrive.

Of course, steer far clear of anything that could seem excessively personal or inappropriate. Business-related gifts like business cardholders, pens or USB drives are the safest bets followed by gift certificates or cards, perhaps to a local coffee shop or movie theater.

By boning up on the relevant laws and regulations and staying well within the bounds of appropriate professional gift-giving, federal managers and employees can ensure that they will have a fun and productive holiday season.

Elizabeth Newell covered management, human resources and contracting at Government Executive for three years.


By Elizabeth Newell Jochum

December 7, 2011

http://www.govexec.com/excellence/management-matters/2011/12/holiday-hazards/35561/