Gift Giving in the Workplace

Olumide Obanla Written by Olumide Obanla · 1 min read >

As the end-of-year holiday gift-giving season approaches, you may start to stress about buying gifts for colleagues. Workplace gift giving can be tricky. You may wonder what to buy, who should receive a gift and how to go about the process of giving presents at work.

Policies help a company avoid conflicts of interest, both real and perceived. Because there’s ongoing potential for gifts to be exchanged between employees and customers, vendors, suppliers, job applicants, and other business stakeholders, it’s smart to have a clear company gift policy in place to prevent problems down the road.

If there’s a special occasion to celebrate, however, the entire team may collect money to purchase a group present for a manager or business owner. Should a team wish to celebrate, say, a supervisor’s 20th work anniversary or exceptional professional achievement, a group gift will show appreciation without giving the appearance of favoritism being sought from a specific employee. 

Most people in the workplace would rather receive a meaningful expression of gratitude than a physical gift. Instead of purchasing an item, the receiver may care little about, why not write a heartfelt card? Alternatively, you could donate to the person’s favorite charity on their behalf. Or maybe bring in a platter of tasty treats for the team to share over coffee. The sentiment is what matters most; not the physical item.

Don’t let workplace gift-giving etiquette stand in the way of embracing the true spirit of the holidays. Remember what it’s all about: spreading joy and goodwill to all. Following these simple rules will help ensure everyone enjoys the holidays together.

Consider the appropriateness of the location for presenting a gift, too. If you’re friends with a co-worker outside the office, and you’re giving a gift based on that relationship, give that gift somewhere outside the office. Often, delivering a gift is the appropriate choice: a gift from a wedding or baby registry that’s delivered to a home. A get-well gift that arrives at the hospital. Flowers that are sent to a funeral. If you’re not sure if it’s okay to send it to someone’s home, just ask. An assistant, family, or spouse can advise you on the situation. If you’re uncomfortable asking for personal information, that may be a sign the situation is too personal for an out-of-office gift.

As I said before, as an employee, avoid gifts that communicate an inappropriate level of familiarity or intimacy entirely. If you can’t find something appropriate, opt for a group gift. A gift like a framed photograph of your whole team, however, is acceptable because it will include the whole group and avoid the perception that you are trying to become his/her false favorite.

A custom plaque that says something like “world’s best boss” or “all about the business” is also acceptable, again, because it has to do with work.

In every case, a functional gift that applies to the daily tasks of work proves universally appropriate for every person in the workplace, including superiors.

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