The holidays are a time when the workforce gathers to share good tidings and cheer with colleagues and supervisors, but seemingly harmless acts of kindness can cause embarrassment and even cross legal and ethical lines. Without meaning to, you can hurt your reputation or someone’s feelings. Here are some holiday do’s and don’ts to follow to avoid awkward office situations.

Do keep it simple.

Buying elaborate or expensive gifts for coworkers or supervisors isn’t the norm and can appear inappropriate. A picture frame, mug, candle, or low denomination gift card (under $20) is thoughtful and modest.When in doubt, keep it simple.

Don’t buy a supervisor a gift – especially an expensive gift.

If you work for the federal government there are specific ethics rules which should be understood and followed by government employees and contractors. It’s best to learn the gift-giving guidelines before making a potentially embarrassing mistake.

Don’t assume everyone celebrates Christmas.

It may seem like a small thing but best to avoid uncomfortable situations in the office and err on the side of consideration and respect. Wait for them to make the first move. There’s nothing wrong with saying, “Happy Holidays” if you aren’t sure.

Do use holiday festivities to Branch Out

Take time to speak to as many people in the office as possible during holiday festivities, even those you rarely get a chance to chat with. Holiday parties and office gatherings are a perfect chance to get to know people you don’t ordinarily work with, and that’s a perfect way to network within the organization.

Don’t buy alcohol for a co-worker or boss.

There’s no way of knowing if they have issues with alcohol.

Don’t assume everyone wants your fruitcake.

More and more people have food allergies or sensitivities that may cause unpleasant reactions if they eat something with certain ingredients. If you bring a treat to the office, note ingredients that may be an allergy issue.

Don’t give gifts that may be too personal.

Makeup, perfume/cologne or clothing other than a hat, gloves, or a scarf – the kinds of gifts you give your spouse probably shouldn’t be the ones you give at the office. When in doubt, keep it simple.

Do try to find an office activity that helps others in the spirit of the season.

This is the time of year the federal government starts the Combined Federal Campaign, and many organizations and companies have Toys for Tots campaigns. Giving gifts to charity is something everyone can benefit from, especially when it’s done as a group or office. A joint service project can help build your team spirit and allows you to give back to others.

Don’t assume everyone has a family to spend the holidays with.

Be sensitive when going on and on about all your own plans. It’s more appropriate to talk about mutually enjoyable things that everyone can join in the conversation. Keep in mind that while the holidays are a time of joy, they’re also a source of disappointment and depression for many.

During this festive time of year, it’s a cultural norm for people to exchange cards and small tokens of generosity. Keeping things kind, simple, compliant, and basic is the perfect way to avoid unpleasant situations and ensure everyone in the office enjoys the festivities.

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Diana M. Rodriguez is a native Washingtonian who works as a professional freelance writer, commentator, and blogger; as well as a public affairs, website content and social media manager for the Department of Defense.