Gift giving is a universal way to show your respect and appreciation for someone's companionship or their contribution to your life. But in the workplace, the etiquette of gifting is somewhat more complicated. You might want to thank your employees or your biggest clients for their performance or patronage, but it can be a challenge to choose something appropriate. On the other hand, you might not know what to give to the boss or coworker who seems to have everything. What are the rules of workplace gifting?
"Should I Give a Gift?" A Word about Corporate Policies
First and foremost, you should check with your company handbook or HR department to determine whether your company allows gifts. Some businesses forbid gift exchanges, while others encourage the practice. Make sure you follow the rules set by your office to avoid embarrassment.
Next, consider the unspoken boundaries in your workplace. Is a gift really appropriate? If you do choose to give something to a work associate, always make sure to present it professionally and deliver it in person, if possible. Short notes are also advised for corporate gifts - a brief thank-you or friendly wish for the holiday season is best.
Cash or a Gift?
When you're choosing a gift for a boss, coworker, or superior, this is an easy decision: always give a gift, rather than cash. But the choice is not as clear-cut when it comes to gifts for employees.
While a promotional gift with your company's branding is nice-especially if it's a useful item like book ends, a clock, or clothing that the recipient is likely to wear-cash is more useful. This is especially true during the holiday season or in workplaces where budgets are tight. But a cash gift may remind employees that they're not being paid enough, or make them feel unappreciated if the amount of your gift is smaller than they expected. How much cash is enough? How much is too much? It's a very subjective and dicey area.
While there are benefits and drawbacks to cash and other gifts, it's easier (and usually less expensive) to make an impact with an elegant but practical corporate gift.
When in Doubt...
If you're considering a gift for your boss, coworker, business associate, or employee, it's always good to err on the side of caution. You're better off giving a "safe", politically correct gift than to risk a gag gift or more personal present that might offend. It's important to keep work boundaries in mind when choosing gifts, and maintain the decorum and respect you'd like to see in the office every day.