I'm male and I'm only two months into a new job. There is one colleague in another department, a woman, who I don't currently work with (and, sometimes, don't even meet in the office during the day), but because I was placed in the room of that another department, I became acquainted with her. Her birthday is coming up, and there is a fund raising going right now for a birthday gift.

I'm not in a good financial situation right now, so this is not an option for me. Which is not an issue at all, because fund raising is not obligatory in any sense or way, and even partly anonymous.

However, I would like to make a personalized handmade gift, which comes from a hobby of mine. Personalization of the gift comes form one particular episode during my work here, when she helped me in a way.

So the question is: is it appropriate to make such a gift to a coworker, who I am not very close to?

P.S. I'm sorry for my bad English and weird wording. I'm using a throwaway account and I trying my best not to disclose any information because of the awkwardness of situation and myself about it.

  • it might depend on what your hobby is
    – Kilisi
    Oct 31, 2015 at 21:58
  • 2
    that seems perfectly reasonable to me
    – Kilisi
    Oct 31, 2015 at 23:58
  • 2
    not a lot, too much rationalisation of what is just a harmless enough gesture. It's just a card, people can read anything into that gesture, but at the end of the day it's not a declaration of undying love or anything too wierd.
    – Kilisi
    Nov 1, 2015 at 5:09
  • 3
    I have the impression that you do like her more than your other colleagues. In this case, ask her out instead of making awkward gifts.
    – daraos
    Sep 21, 2016 at 18:08
  • 1
    You should edit the clarification about it being a card into your question.
    – Kat
    Sep 22, 2016 at 9:12

5 Answers 5


I was thinking about making a happy birthday card with paper collage.

The person taking up the collection is almost certainly planning on buying a card to go with the group gift. Tell the person collecting money that you'd like to make the card to go with the gift. That way, you're back to contributing to the group collection, just with time & materials instead of money.

The only thing you have to worry about is it becoming an expectation that you'll always do this. If that's the case anyway then you have nothing to worry about. If not, you may want to tell the organizer up front that you only plan on doing this for folks in your department/floor/whatever.

Personalization of the gift comes form one particular episode during my work here, when she helped me in a way.

My advice to supply the card for the group gift would mean making a card that could be seen as coming from the group. That may mean changing how you personalized it if it wouldn't make sense for the whole group to sign it.


Personal presents are usually appropriate as a thank-you for an extraordinary job-related favor someone did which goes beyond their normal work duty. When you want to express gratitude for her help, then this would be an appropriate way to do so.

In most companies, the etiquette for birthday presents is to collect money from everyone in the company who works with them and then buy a common present from everyone. But when you make a personal birthday gift to a co-worker, it implies that you have a personal relation with them which goes beyond a normal co-worker relationship, properly a romantic one.

By mixing a thank-you present with a birthday-present, you are creating unnecessary ambiguity which could be misunderstood. It would be safer to give the present to her on another day and not on her birthday.

  • It's not exactly a thank-you present, I just want to reference this particular episode in the gift itself, because it's somewhat funny and it's only memorable thing I share with said colleague. That "help" wasn't something people give thank-you present for, it was very minor.
    – user43515
    Nov 1, 2015 at 0:12

Giving birthday gifts at work I would classify as weird, unless you are in some country where that is normal.

Just give her a card or wish her happy birthday. A physical gift is way overboard.

  • 2
    Read comments to question, I explicitly tell sbout card
    – user43515
    Nov 2, 2015 at 6:04

If it's something small and inexpensive, and you're going to give things away generally on birthdays, no problem. Once you begin picking recipients by anything but the most obviously fair of reasons, it becomes a possible point of contention. That doesn't mean you can't give a co-worker a gift, but it means you may want to clearly separate the gift from work.


Every company is different, and you are best placed to determine the appropriate culture.

At my own office (UK), it is perfectly appropriate for me to give gifts to my close friends, and also fine for me not to give gifts to those I'm not close with. Here, we have a general culture that blurs the lines between professional colleagues and genuine friends.

However, every workplace is different. In some, you'll clearly see a divide between professional relationships and being friends outside work. There are offices where people will rarely talk much about their personal life or interests.

There is no one-size-fits-all rule for these things. Being the employee there, you are best placed to determine the kind of culture you are in - and whether a gift would be appropriate or not.

That said, if you have any incline that giving the gift may make your colleague uncomfortable, stirr up the office politics or in any other way "be a bad idea" - it's always best to err on the side of caution. As the only benefit of a personal gift is a potentially better personal relationship with a colleague - any risk to your professional career is not a risk worth taking.

  • I had a colleague once who loved to give small birthday gifts to everyone whose birthday he could find out. Everyone knew that, so that was perfectly fine. He just liked giving gifts. A gift from someone else might have been suspicious.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 20, 2023 at 9:55

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