It's not just the thought that counts. Here's how to get corporate gifts right this year.
Lingerie for a customer. A singing stripper who sang holiday carols. A bottle of rare cognac for an Alcoholics Anonymous member. A box of steaks for a Hindu vegetarian.

Don't laugh. All these wrongheaded gifts are real examples, and the errant givers certainly weren't laughing - at least not after the boss' vengeance struck. Give the wrong gift to a client or boss, and it can damage your career.

But the right gift can label the giver as thoughtful, insightful, caring - and that's why there's likely to be anxiety among the cubicles as holidays approach. Says Kim Zoller, president of Dallas-based training firm Image Dynamics, "Everyone is trying to find an edge; they are trying to stand out with their business gifts."

The good news: Follow the rules that govern gift- giving - particularly this year, when a new paradigm prevails because of global and economic concerns - and success almost certainly will follow.

The challenge of selection
"Business gifts usually are much harder to come up with," says Tara Riceberg, co-owner of Tesoro, a Los Angeles gift shop that caters to a trendy entertainment industry clientele. Why? Reason one, says Riceberg, is, "You don't necessarily know that much about the person." Business relationships are one-dimensional. You're likely to have an incomplete picture of your business associates - be they customers, bosses, co-workers, or direct reports.