The 5 G’s of Gift-Giving at Work
“The manner of giving is worth more than the gift.” Pierre Corneille
Gift-giving, both personally and professionally, should always be a choice. Any present that is given out of a sense of obligation is not really a gift at all; it’s a guilt trip. Things have changed dramatically since the days of extravagant gifting at work. Our fluctuating economy, tightening regulations, and growing diversity have changed expectations of employees and employers. Many companies, charities, and individuals are now more festive-focused than Christmas-centric, inviting everyone to celebrate and share their unique customs and traditions.
To help you sort out whether and/or what to exchange with colleagues during the holidays and beyond, here are the 5 G’s of gift-giving at work.
- Every business, no matter how large or small, needs to have a gift-giving policy that outlines details of what, if anything, is acceptable when it comes to offering presents to employees, employers, clients, colleagues, and providers.
- These guidelines should address monetary values and appropriate occasions for gift-giving (such as cultural holidays, birthdays, professional achievements, and retirement).
- They should also clarify if employees at any level of an organization are allowed to accept gifts and, if so, to what value.
- It’s important to create crystal clear, no judgment/no pressure guidelines that are inclusive and easy to opt in or opt out of.
- Employees should never feel pressured to give a gift to their employer or anyone else.
- It’s wise to include staff when determining these guidelines so all perspectives are included.
- It is also vital to honour cultural, spiritual, financial, and religious traditions when considering gift-giving policies.
- Even if you’re a small business owner or solopreneur, it’s important to have a gift-giving policy in place.
- While we want to be thoughtful when selecting gifts for co-workers, it’s important to avoid giving items that are too personal or valuable. For example, a piece of jewellery or an inside joke/gag-gift may be easily misinterpreted as being inappropriate or overly intimate.
- This doesn’t mean gifts have to be generic, though. You can still personalize a gift by learning about the general interests and likes/dislikes of the recipient or by selecting items that would be enjoyed by most people.
- Stay within the agreed upon budget and keep your offering simple and useful.
- You’re almost always safe giving something to eat (keeping allergies and dietary restrictions in mind), something to educate (an interesting or inspiring book), or something to entertain (like a gift of music).
- Find an activity that can include everyone’s participation. One suggestion is to serve rather than spend.
- Your company, department, or team could host a food or toy drive, volunteer at a shelter, or help a local charity with the sorting or delivering of gifts.
- A shared group experience can be more meaningful, more inclusive, and less stressful than an office gift exchange.
- A potluck lunch is a great idea. But even that can be awkward for some folks. It’s time-consuming and can be a real burden for those who don’t enjoy cooking or baking. Potlucks can also be challenging for people who walk, transit, or cycle to work.
- A catered work lunch or a casual after-hours get together is a simple way to celebrate the season with colleagues without feeling pressured to provide any presents or food.
- For some of us, the office party just isn’t our thing. We can forego the festivities with a sincere, straightforward declaration like, “I’ve decided not to participate in the office gift exchange (or potluck or charity drive…) this year. I hope you have a good time.” There is no need to justify or defend that position.
- We can offer to start a new, more contemporary office tradition by making suggestions. Try saying something like, “Though I’m not interested in a gift exchange, I’d be happy to volunteer for a couple of hours at the food bank. Or, we could gather items for those less fortunate. Would anyone like to join me?”
- If you have a genuine personal relationship with someone at work whom you’d like to share a gift with, make sure they also want to exchange presents, then do it discreetly and off-site.
- Colleagues, bosses, and event organizers shouldn’t needle or push people to participate in any workplace event.
- If you are uncomfortable or unable to accept a gift based on corporate or personal policy, say so.
- Every now and then we’ll be given a gift we weren’t expecting. When we’re caught off-guard with a gift from someone and we have nothing to give them in return, a heartfelt thank you will suffice.
- Share your gratitude by saying something like, “How thoughtful of you to give me a gift! I certainly wasn’t expecting anything and I appreciate your kindness.”
- Communication is the key to making sure reciprocity doesn’t spiral out of control. Have respectful conversations with people about agreeing to forego gifts in the future.
- Here’s one way to approach it, “Can we please agree not to give gifts to one another from this point on? Let’s share some time together instead. I’d much rather have your presence than your presents. Thanks.”
- Try to resist the temptation to run out and buy someone a gift just because they gave you one. If it feels like you absolutely must give something in return, consider having a variety of gift cards wrapped and ready on standby for those occasions (though it’s awkward to run to your desk or car to get one!).
- No matter when or why someone presents us with a gift, it’s imperative that we let them know how much we appreciate their generosity and thoughtfulness.
Holiday gift-giving gaffes can be avoided at work when we focus on the purpose more than the presents, because the festive season is about grace, not guilt.
Sue Jacques is a keynote speaker, professionalism and civility expert, and former forensic death investigator. She is the author of “What The Fork? An Unpretentious Guide to Formal Dining for Informal People” and is currently writing her next book, “Life Lessons From a Death Investigator: How to Live Like There’s No Tomorrow.”