— Q: I feel obligated to give everyone in my department a small token holiday gift because I've done so every year -- and everyone else does it. But the department is just way too big now to make it practical. We already do a Secret Santa gift exchange. How do I not give out gifts to everyone but not feel guilty?
A: This is a very real and tough issue that many folks are facing. If you can, do more joint events (Secret Santa, holiday lunch, etc.), that helps the entire group. If you can get everyone to do the same thing, to not give small tokens, then this would help you out, too. The other thing to do is to spend some time to write a personalized note to each person thanking them for their unique contributions. While it does not involve money (and would save you in costs), it could serve the effect you want by "touching" each person to let them know they matter to the firm and to you.
Another possibility is to bring up this issue when you have a group meeting to see how others feel about the issue. You may be surprised to find that others also agree with you and would rather stop the small gifts in lieu of some fun community events (maybe the group goes out to lunch or bowling or something else that they can all enjoy).
Q: Is it possible to throw an office holiday party without spending a lot of money?
A: It might be important to watch costs for a number of reasons, including the fact that the firm might be undergoing budget cuts, or there's reductions in salaries or head count. When this is the case, having an expensive holiday party sends the wrong signal and can get employees upset who may see a better use for that money.