The Cardinals are going to the Super Bowl! Read a couple great posts about the little team that could from Michele PW and Mike Leeds this week.

Michele wrote about how everyone counted the Cardinals out, and no one thought they could do it. But against all odds, they DID IT. And we can and should approach our businesses with the same tenacity.

Mike went in a different direction to discuss the concept of sports fan etiquette, something I’d never considered before. Politics and religion have long been taboo subjects in the office, known to ignite intense controversy, while sports has always been a pretty safe bet. But what happens when you’re rooting for one team and your boss (and/or coworkers) are rooting for the other? Mike gives some great tips about how to be an enthusiastic fan without becoming boorish about it.

Reading Mike’s post got me to thinking about etiquette in other areas of life … which, of course, led me back to the holidays and gift-giving/Christmas stocking etiquette.

First, it helps to know what, precisely, is meant by the word. The first definition from is:


[et-i-kit, -ket] – noun

1. conventional requirements as to social behavior; proprieties of conduct as established in any class or community or for any occasion.
2. a prescribed or accepted code of usage in matters of ceremony, as at a court or in official or other formal observances.
3. the code of ethical behavior regarding professional practice or action among the members of a profession in their dealings with each other: medical etiquette.

1740–50; < F étiquette, MF estiquette ticket, memorandum, deriv. of estiqu(i)er to attach, stick < Gmc. See stick 2 , -ette

So, basically, we’re talking about proper, polite, classy behavior that’s not going to create ill-will or stir up bad reactions in others. Seems easy enough when it comes to gift-giving, right? Maybe. Maybe not.

Tips for Being a Good Gift-Giver

  • Make sure the person to whom you are giving the gift will like it. This may seem rather obvious, but think back to some of the gifts you’ve received. If you’ve ever had that “What the hell were they thinking?!??” thought cross your mind on opening a gift, assess whether you might ever unintentionally create the same response in someone else. That techno gadget may seem cool to you, but you’re not going to be the one using it now, are you?
  • Avoid those obligatory “just because” gifts. Really. If your heart’s not in it, don’t waste your time or money because the recipient will know you picked it up at Home Depot or Staples on your way to the party and it will either be re-gifted, tossed in the trash bin, or sit on a shelf in the closet collecting dust. If etiquette calls for a gift and you don’t know the person well, do some research to find out what they’d like or opt for a gift card.
  • Be sure your gift is lifestyle appropriate for the person receiving it. A large box of Godiva chocolates may be a fantastic gift for one person, but it would be incredibly insensitive for someone with diabetes. Likewise, a gorgeous, personalized Christmas stocking might delight one person, but giving the same gift to someone who is Jewish, Muslim, or does not celebrate Christmas would be disrespectful and could even be perceived as offensive.

Appropriate Gifts for Your Boss

The “women in business” page on had some interesting advice about gifts for the boss. The gist of the question was about the appropriateness of giving your boss a hand-made gift … but the advice is more generic and actually quite helpful.

Generally speaking, the appropriateness of a handmade gift depends on what it is and how well you know your boss. Scented candles are nice and may demonstrate your talent, but not everyone appreciates scented items. Art is also a matter of personal taste, so before you wrap and present that opus magnum into which you’ve poured days and weeks of your life, be absolutely certain it will be appreciated. If you do give a painting, pottery, or any sort of display item, you probably want to keep it small.

No matter how talented you are, the last thing you want to do is make your boss feel obligated to display, use, or consume anything you make.

Like we discussed earlier, you must give the gift with the recipient’s tastes in mind, not yours. While your friends and/or family might appreciate a hand-made gift from you because of the close relationship you have with them, your boss is not necessarily going to have a similar response. And you cannot make him/her wrong for that!

Your boss will be most likely to appreciate something that has a practical use. Your goal with a gift to a fellow business professional is to communicate that you value and appreciate them … not so much the “handmade with love” message.

Christmas Stocking Etiquette

  • Make sure you’ve got a stocking for everyone! If you will have a house guest celebrating with your family at the time you will be opening stockings, be sure you’ve got a stocking for them, too.
  • Allow the guest to take the stocking with them when they depart. This question came up in response to my Google search for “Christmas stocking etiquette,” and my first thought was, “You’ve got to be kidding me!!” Of course your guests should take their stockings home with them! Why on earth would you buy/make them a stocking if you didn’t intend for them to take it home? Just have enough sense not to designate as theirs an expensive stocking or family heirloom you prefer to keep. Yes, there’s something to be said for having all the stockings match your decor perfectly. There’s also common sense. Pull it out of the linen closet at the last minute, if you don’t want the guest’s stocking to clash with your decorations.
  • On the other hand, just because you offer to allow them to take it, realize they may politely decline. Who knows – perhaps they’ve got piles of stockings at their house and just don’t need another one. Whatever their reason, unless they are ungracious (and even if they are), suggest that your guest take the stocking, but be flexible and fine with it if they prefer not to.
    • Fill the stockings proportionately, but don’t make yourself crazy about this. When you’ve got little kids (and maybe even older kids), it’s sometimes really important to do things proportionately. If Johnny gets 7 items in his stocking, Janie gets 7 in hers. But sometimes trying to be fair and equal can get preposterous. Just don’t go overboard and fill one stocking to the brim, while all the others look like they each contain a miniature Hershey bar and a stick of gum.
    • Take care with the size of your stockings! The bigger it is, the more it will take to fill it. I still think the dollar store is a great place to find stocking stuffers … but even that can add up if you’ve got four or five giant stockings with big gaping mouths.

    Post Script

    Gotta love the rant about Christmas carol etiquette … where else? At the Christmas Rants blog.



    Actually, the Cardinals worked their asses off to get to the playoffs and to win today’s game . . . so it’s a bit misleading to say the win was a gift. I suppose it would be more correct to say, “Christmas came a few weeks late for Cardinals fans.”

    And what a game it was for the fans. I attended a playoff party with some friends and the whooping, hollering, and high-fiving that went on after every score was deafening. I thought to myself, “You’d think these people had made the play themselves.”

    I guess that’s part of being a fan. The word, in fact, comes from “fanatic.”

    Never having been much into football (something tells me that’s related to the fact that the only deficiency note I received in high school was for failing a written test on football in PE class), I’ve always been a baseball lover – but sports fans are sports fans. We have our teams, look forward to game day, bask in the glow of glorious wins, and shake our fists in frustration when our teams fail. This Cardinals’ playoff season, though, has drawn me into the game of football like never before.

    One thing I noticed about today’s game was how easily – and seemingly sincerely – some of the Eagles players congratulated the Cardinals on their win. It may happen more often than I realize, but I don’t really recall having seen such graciousness after a tough game and a hard loss.

    So we’re off to see the Steelers in the Big Game in Tampa. Did you catch that? We. Funny how that happens, isn’t it? Now I’m part of the we  . . . this team, this city, this collection of fans.

    Regardless of who wins, I’m just grateful for the observations and experience of the last few weeks.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    P.S. – I attended an all-girls Catholic high school. Till the day I die, I will never forget them telling us the reason we had to learn the game of football (yes, we really had written tests on the rules!) was so that we would have something to talk about with boys. Crikey! But don’t get me started…

    What – were the elves hopped up on too much caffeine when they put the plans in place for this coming weekend? OK – so unless they’ve got a secret stash of crystal balls, they probably didn’t know the Cardinals would make the playoffs at home … but have you seen the calendar for the Phoenix area for this coming Sunday??

    We’ve got the last day of the Barrett Jackson car show, the Cardinals taking on the Eagles at Arena, and the PF Chang Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. All of them happening this coming Sunday, January 18!

    Those savvy gift-givers who got their ticket stocking stuffers  ahead of time are breathing easy right now, while all the folks who didn’t quite get around to it yet are scrambling for seats. I suppose there aren’t really tickets to the marathon – unless you wanted to run in it. But that deadline is long gone. Still, it’s a happening event at which to see and be seen.

    And…if all of this weren’t enough, just around the corner, we’ve got the FBR Open coming to Scottsdale on Monday, January 26!

    With an average high of 66, Phoenix is a sport lover’s paradise, particularly in the cold season (one almost hesitates to call it winter). Sixty-six degrees sure beats the average January high of 22 in Minneapolis! And speaking of Minneapolis, we get lots of Minnesotans, Michiganders, and other folks from the Midwest.  The pet name for them is snowbirds … but I’ll spare you the jokes.

    Unless you’re sitting on piles of cash and/or have friends who are scalpers, it may be too late this season for you to get your loved one the tickets of their dreams … but it’s never too early to plan for next year!

    Barrett Jackson – Jan. 11-18

    Arizona Cardinals – second round of NFC playoffs – Jan. 18

    PF Chang Rock ‘n Roll Marathon – Jan. 18

    FBR Open – Jan 26-Feb 1

    P.S. – For those of you who just aren’t all that into the whole sports scene, no matter how exciting – or local – the events may be … perhaps you’d be more interested in attending the Maricopa County Home & Garden Show, also taking place this weekend, Jan. 16-18, at the Arizona State Fairgrounds.