Daily Archives: December 5, 2011

To Give, or Not to Give Gifts at Work: That is the Question

Gifts at WorkIn our November poll, we asked how you felt about workplace gift giving during the holidays. Almost 40% of the voters give gifts but don’t expect any in return while a close 32% wanted to, but couldn’t give gifts to so many employees in large companies. While most of the votes went toward giving without expecting anything in return, you may not be comfortable with what is or isn’t acceptable business practice for gift giving during the holiday season.

Each employer has different ideas and expectations on how they should celebrate and it can be confusing or frightening to figure out what is appropriate when giving gifts at work. The holiday hullabaloo is not lost on us, and if you follow these guidelines when considering whether or not to hand out gifts to celebrate the season, you’ll have a better chance of giving your office a little holiday cheer.

Check Guidelines and Policies

When in doubt, always check with your employer’s protocols. There could be some strict guidelines concerning holiday celebrations. This is especially important if you’re in a business where you work closely with clients, vendors, or business associates outside of your company. Several companies have detailed restrictions on giving or receiving gifts from clients outside of your employer.

An increasing trend with American employers is celebrating the holidays as a whole group so it can deter employees from one-on-one gifting. There are more employers without policies than there are with them, so be mindful of your company culture and see what is expected during the holiday season. Some workplaces may have a Secret Santa type of celebrating where workers choose the name of a fellow employee randomly and buy that person a low-cost gift. Other companies have each department throw their own lunch party to celebrate, while others have no real celebration at all.

It’s All Voluntary

The workplace is more diverse than ever. Not only are there many diverse cultures, but there are also diverse age groups working with each other. When dealing with so many different views, opting out of gift giving should be free of consequences.  You have to be sensible and respectful of your co-workers holiday beliefs. If someone doesn’t want to be involved, you shouldn’t make them feel badly about it.

If you don’t desire or are incapable of participating in your company’s celebrations, you shouldn’t feel pressured into it either. The majority of respondents in our poll didn’t expect anything in return, so don’t feel like you have to return the act if you receive a gift. Take pride in knowing that a co-worker or boss is expressing their appreciation of you and what you do for them. Acknowledging the gift with a thank you is sufficient.

It’s All About Inclusion, Inclusion, Inclusion

The biggest concern when it comes to office gift giving is the issue of inclusion. Nobody wants to feel left out, un-favored compared to a peer, or appear to be schmoozing to get ahead with a boss. If you want to show extra appreciation to a co-worker you have a strong relationship with, consider giving it to them outside of work so it doesn’t alienate your colleagues.  You may also want to consider avoiding impersonalized, super cheap, or generic gifts to all employees. This will characterize you as un-thoughtful and missing out on the point of the holidays.

If you want to give your boss a gift, ask your co-workers if they would like to go in as a group. It can help make the holiday work environment feel less inclusive and can establish teamwork skills among your peers. If in a leadership role, consider donating money in your teammates name to charitable organizations that they are involved with or would appreciate.

Does your employer have any gift giving policies? How are the holidays celebrated where you work? I’d love to hear some ideas on how you give gifts at work.