It’s Official, All Your Coworkers Wants Gift Cards (And No One Wants Desk Clutter)

By Amanda Postma
Dec. 22, 2020

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A gift exchange can be either a smashing hit or a disaster. It all depends on who’s bringing the gifts and what they’re bringing.

But an office gift exchange is way more complicated.

From workers not liking their coworkers to gifts of office supplies, we found out that the best gift is as simple as a gift card.

Through a survey we conducted, we not only found what each state hopes to receive at gift exchange but also found out some of the worst gifts ever given. Some of them will make your jaw drop.

Interesting Facts About Office Gift Exchanges

  • A whopping 47% of people agreed that office supplies were the worst gift to receive during a gift exchange.
  • 31% don’t participate in office gift exchanges.
  • 46% of people spend $10-$25 on gifts for coworkers.
  • 1% of employees spend $100 or more on gifts for coworkers.
  • Only 2% said that receiving a useful gift was the worst gift to receive.
  • Most people, 43% to be exact, hope for a gift card from these gift exchanges.
  • While office supplies don’t sound too great to us, 1% of people thought it would make for a great gift.
  • While only 6% of people thought an experience gift would be the worst, only 1% agreed it would make for the best gift.
  • The runner-up best gift at an office gift exchange is money with 23% hopeful that’s what they’ll receive.
  • Only 26% of people participate in their office gift exchange.

Everyone Wants An Amazon Gift Card

Supporting a local book store is great, but it’s not what employees are looking for at an office gift exchange.

And really, the outdoors are great, but leave the REI and Cabela’s gift cards at the store.

Instead, 65% of employees/coworkers prefer Amazon gift cards. I mean, free shipping is the dream.

Some of the Worst Gifts Given in the History of Giving Gifts

Religious items. Political party hats. Pens. Pencils. Stale candy. Feminine products. What do all of these items have in common?

These are gifts that you definitely wouldn’t expect to show up at a gift exchange. But they have shown up there. Why?

Maybe people are cruel. Maybe they hate their coworkers. Maybe they thought it would be funny. But the bad gifts don’t stop there.

Check out these other horrible gifts people thought would be ok. These are several responses from the survey we conducted.

  • An IOU – (they forgot my gift).
  • A $3 gift card to Subway.
  • Just a plain card. No message or nice saying in it, with no gift card nor any money.
  • Broken cup
  • Used makeup
  • A self-portrait of a fellow employee.
  • A broken Santa Claus.
  • Old toilet seat.
  • A book with drugs in it.
  • I got a check and then was told not to cash it.
  • Dog turd
  • A toy toilet that made funny noises.
  • A painted rock

We don’t know about you, but if you’re planning on giving any of these as gifts we’d rather not get a gift at all.

METHODOLOGY, a career resource website, conducted a study of 500 workers.

Each respondent was asked the same series of questions about their thoughts on office gift exchanges. Alaska and Hawaii were excluded from this survey.

To Give or Not to Give

Some gifts are well thought out. Sometimes you can just tell that person put a lot of thought into your gift. Other times (like the gifts listed above) not so much.

Gift exchanges at the office can be a fun thing. But it can also be a disaster. That’s probably why the majority of states would prefer a gift card over any other kind of gift.

The table below shows what gifts each state prefers and doesn’t prefer at office White Elephant gift exchanges.

What Gift Each State Wants (and Doesn’t) at Gift Exchanges

State Wanted Gift Gifts Not Wanted
Alabama Money Money
Arizona Money Gift Card
Arkansas Money Office Supplies
California Gift Card Office Supplies
Colorado Money Experience
Connecticut Money Money
Delaware Gift Card Experience
Florida Useful Office Supplies
Georgia Gift Card Money
Idaho Money Decorative
Illinois Money Experience
Indiana Decorative Money
Iowa Gift Card Office Supplies
Kansas Useful Decorative
Kentucky Gift Card Experience
Louisiana Decorative Experience
Maine Gift Card Experience
Maryland Gift Card Experience
Massachusetts Experience Office Supplies
Michigan Gift Card Gift Card
Minnesota Gift Card Money
Mississippi Money Office Supplies
Missouri Gift Card Experience
Montana Personal/Sentimental Decorative
Nebraska Gift Card Experience
Nevada Gift Card Office Supplies
New Hampshire Money Office Supplies
New Jersey Gift Card Money
New Mexico Money Office Supplies
New York Experience Gift Card
North Carolina Gift Card Money
North Dakota Gift Card Office Supplies
Ohio Gift Card Experience
Oklahoma Gift Card Decorative
Oregon Gift Card Experience
Pennsylvania Money Experience
Rhode Island Gift Card Experience
South Carolina Gift Card Office Supplies
South Dakota Money Experience
Tennessee Gift Card Experience
Texas Gift Card Office Supplies
Utah Money Gift Card
Vermont Personal/Sentimental Office Supplies
Virginia Money Office Supplies
Washington Decorative Experience
West Virginia Money Experience
Wisconsin Gift Card Office Supplies
Wyoming Decorative Experience

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Amanda Postma

Amanda Postma is a writer for the Zippia Career Advice blog with a focus on creating entertaining content to help you through your job search. She received her BA from the University Of Missouri-Columbia.

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Topics: Study