Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Etiquette of Sending Business Gifts

Corporate gift giving can be a touchy issue. Most people-in particular those with a keen desire to keep to the boundaries of ethical business practices-are not entirely certain where the line between professionalism and over-familiarity lies. And, while it's not exactly brain surgery (most experts will tell you to simply exercise common sense), there are a few considerations you may want to bear in mind before spending a thousand dollars on a business gift you may regret having sent.

Is it Okay?

Gifts are our way of expressing appreciation, but when it comes to professional relationships sometimes, there are rules that we must abide by. And, these are not just unwritten rules, but they are actual guidelines. Some corporations enforce a strict policy barring their employees from accepting gifts of even minor value-try tipping the bag boy at your local supermarket sometime and you may just find this rule filters down to all levels. Therefore, it's important to research a company's gift policy prior to sending a physical token of your appreciation in order to prevent unnecessary embarrassment or a potentially uncomfortable situation.

Give it Serious Thought

Although most of us like to subscribe to the notion that "it's not the gift but the thought that counts most," some careful consideration of what gift to send should be given, especially if the recipient is of a different culture. The last thing you want to do is send a Christmas-themed floral arrangement to a company based in Mumbai or a non-kosher gift basket to the head of a company in Israel.

Different Types of Gifts

Choosing a business gift for a single individual is difficult enough without having to take into consideration what to give to an entire team of people. Depending on the size of the company doing the gift giving as well as that of the company on the receiving end, sometimes it's proper to express appreciation by sending gifts to every employee. Naturally, the value of the gifts should be proportional to the number of gifts being sent. Depending on the recipient, every situation requires a slightly different approach.

  • Gifts to the Client - Regardless of the length of the professional relationship, business gifts should be kept just that: professional. Corporations celebrating milestone anniversaries of partnerships have been known to send gifts, ranging from gift baskets for executive-level recipients to desktop trinkets for an employee force.
  • Gifts to the Boss - Regardless of the occasion being celebrated, gifts to the boss should always be delivered as a group effort. Gifts from single individuals should be discouraged as inappropriate for obvious reasons. Nobody wants to be accused of trying to butter up their boss and increase their chances of promotion by showering them with gifts. And, no boss wants to be put into that kind of situation.Gifts to the Individual Employee - Quite possibly the touchiest of all business gift giving scenarios is the gift from the boss to the individual subordinate. In such situations, only work-appropriate gifts should be given (again, a no-brainer that only requires exercising common sense). And, if flowers are involved, it's vital to avoid conveying the wrong message. Seasonal floral arrangements, plants, or gift baskets are strongly recommended over more personal gestures, such as roses.
The Forget-Me-Nots of Office Life

Despite any reservations you may have about the propriety of sending business gifts, there are some unofficially recognized dates that shouldn't be overlooked. The consequences of doing so could result in hurt feelings, and might inadvertently create friction in your work environment.

  • Administrative Professionals' Day (also known as Secretary's Day). Celebrated on the Wednesday of the last full week of April, this unofficial holiday dates back to 1952 with the creation of National Secretaries Week. It has evolved into one of the most recognized workplace events second only to birthdays and federal holidays. During this time period, it's customary to give minor gifts, such as time off, flowers, candies or dinner vouchers.
  • Boss's Day (also known as National Boss Day). Celebrated on October 16 (or the weekday closest to it, anytime the 16th lands on a weekend), this unofficial holiday has spread in international popularity. Although not as fervently celebrated as Administrative Professionals' Day, it continues to rank high in popularity, in particular, among those who appreciate the efforts of their workplace superiors. Although gift giving is acceptable, it's always best to follow the etiquette rules that dictate gifts should be given as a group effort in order to avoid the appearance of employees trying to outdo one another to win their boss's favor.

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