Office gift exchanges are not as simple as giving gifts to friends and family members. Gifts that might be entirely appropriate to give to relatives and friends may raise eyebrows if given to coworkers.

To avoid awkward situations, professionals can consider the following tips before purchasing gifts for coworkers.

Contact your human resources department. Many companies have established protocols that govern office gift exchanges. Some may prohibit gift-giving altogether, while others may place dollar limits on gifts or restrict gifts to certain items, such as food or gift cards. Contact human resources before organizing an exchange or purchasing gifts to ensure you don’t violate company rules.

Keep it simple. Even if your office has no rules governing gift exchanges, keeping things simple and placing a dollar limit on gifts can avoid hurt feelings and awkward situations. No one expects an elaborate gift from a coworker, so something as simple as a $20 gift card should suffice.

Reach a consensus regarding gifts for supervisors. Discuss exchanges with your coworkers before purchasing gifts for supervisors. Workplace environments can become awkward and uncomfortable if one person appears to have spent more on a gift for a supervisor than his or her coworkers. When gifting supervisors, decide on a dollar amount that everyone is comfortable with and agree to only purchase gifts for a supervisor if everyone can afford to do so. Someone may not be able to afford a gift, and that person should not be made to feel bad.

Supervisors must think before buying gifts as well. Supervisors who intend to buy their subordinates gifts also must take steps to avoid potentially awkward situations. Giving the same gift, such as gift cards to local stores and restaurants, will avoid giving the impression that you’re playing favorites.

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