December the seventh and I have received the first of what will be dozens of Christmas cards from co-workers. 'Merry Christmas, love from Miss N.' - struck me as unusual because I am quite certain that Miss N. has no love for me whatsoever. Consequently, I am trying to creep into other people's offices to see if they have a solitary card atop their monitor and, if so, what the message inside might be.

The purchase and distribution of Christmas cards in the office environment is not really optional; failure to comply with this tradition can damage your reputation irreparably. To ease you through this potential minefield I have prepared the following suggestions (I welcome any further submissions):


  • Select cards of the right quality. Really thin ones will inspire loathing among your colleagues; excessively high quality cards will do the same. Avoid those tiny cards. Cards that support a popular charity are a good bet. You will usually be safe with a modestly priced pack of forty assorted.
  • Time distribution correctly. Early cards are an irritating distraction. Similarly, if you wait too long you may miss people taking holidays, who will then be left with the impression that you did not return their good wishes. Recommended is the Monday of the last full week before your company closes for the festive season.
  • Practise consistency. It will create an unfavourable impression if you select a nicer card for preferred personnel or save all the ones with pictures of dogs for staff who have offended you in the past year.
  • Distribute universally. It may be tempting to wait until the last week and simply offer reply cards to those who have included you. This opens you up to the possibility of one of those you excluded giving you a card the next day. You would then have to go through the embarrassing encumbrance of issuing one additional etc. The only sure-fire way to avoid this is to cover everyone.
  • If you are aware of your colleague having a partner or spouse, it is friendly to include their name in your card. You do not have to have met them.
  • Consider using the staff phone book both to ensure you cover everyone and to check spelling of names - people are offended if you get this wrong.

Do not:

  • Include book tokens in cards for personnel you consider to be dishy.
  • Include humorous comments, particularly those of a sexual nature. Even if you believe that this would be appreciated by the recipient - it may cause embarrassment.
  • Although Christmas is a Christian festival, the use of images particularly associated with this religion may cause offence to certain people. If in any doubt at all, you should select neutral images of snowmen etc. with messages alluding to the holiday season and the New Year.
  • Distribute 'crafty' cards. You may be an accomplished artist, but the sending en masse of home-made cards to people around the office will create the impression that you are rather sad. Particularly nasty are recycled cards: recycling of materials is to be encouraged but you should draw the line at gluing bits of white paper into the cards you received last year and sending them out again (this procedure also presents the risk of accidentally returning someone the card they sent you last year).
  • Select an identical set of cards to a close associate.
  • Fail to send cards. People are offended if you do not return their gesture. You may have to work with these people for some time yet.

If you stick to these simple rules then there is no reason you cannot relax over the festive period safe in the knowledge that you have performed your annual duty to the best of your abilities.

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