Holiday Business Gift-Giving Etiquette Issues Solved
Nov 23, 2015
By: Cathie Ericson
To give, or not to give: That is the question.
Just one of the questions, actually, since the whole area of holiday gift-giving can be tricky. Before you make your list (and check it twice) consider these five common gift-giving dilemmas, with expert advice on how to handle them to avoid the naughty list:
Sticky Situation #1: Should you buy gifts for your boss?
In general, no, says corporate etiquette consultant Rachel Wagner. “It can look like you’re trying to gain favor.”
She prefers a group gift from the whole staff or department because then no one’s out a chunk of change, and it seems less self-serving. Try a hobby-related gift or something his or her whole family can enjoy, like tickets to an event or a gourmet food item.
Sticky Situation #2: Should you buy gifts for co-workers? What about just one?
It depends on the size of your office, but chances are, you can’t afford to buy gifts for everyone. Instead, Wagner recommends a “Secret Snowflake” exchange with a reasonable price point.
If you do have a close work comrade, just make sure you gift discreetly, and preferably outside the office.
Sticky Situation #3: What if someone gives you an unexpected gift?
Everyone has been caught off guard by a Secret (or Unexpected) Santa, but don’t fret, says Wagner. “If you blurt out, ‘Oh gosh, I don’t have anything for you,’ you’re just going to make them feel awkward.”
She suggests keeping a small stash of universal gifts on hand that you can drop off later, anything from artisan chocolates or gift cards to a fun desk toy.
But Wagner says not to feel obligated to reciprocate. “Just send a sincere thank you note, and let them enjoy the gift of giving.”
Sticky Situation #4: What if someone gives you an inappropriate or overly expensive gift?
If you’re on the receiving end of a present that feels off for whatever reason, be genuine with your thanks and move on, unless you feel the gift sends the wrong message in some way.
“You have to decide if it’s something you need to bring up with the giver privately,” Wagner says. “You might say, ‘This is a really nice gift and I appreciate it, but I can’t accept it.’” Even if you’re thinking, “You shouldn’t have. No, really, you shouldn’t have.”
Sticky Situation #5: What about client gifts?
Client gifts can be a landmine all their own. Here are some tips on how to handle common scenarios:
How much to spend? As a baseline, one study from the Advertising Specialty Institute found that companies spent an average of $43 per client gift in 2014. But no matter what amount is appropriate for you, try to keep the value consistent from year to year, or it could send an unintended message.
Which clients? The best rule of thumb is to give to all paying clients, to avoid any awkward situations or industry grapevine talk.
Group gift or one person? Either way is fine, Wagner says. An edible gift for the whole crew is much appreciated, but if there’s a specific contact with whom you have a closer relationship, you might decide to give an individual gift.
Wagner also had some suggestions for what to avoid: coffee mugs, calendars or other specialty items with your company logo on it; holiday cards with your company name preprinted; and items that may offend someone of another culture, such as fancy hams or wine.
“You want your clients to know you put some thought into the gift by making it professional, but not dull,” she says. Consider nice stationery, a leather passport cover or an elegant desk accessory. “For local clients, consider delivering the gift in person as an added touch; but if that's not possible, make sure you enclose a sincere, handwritten note.”
About the Author
Cathie Ericson is a freelance writer covering business and consumer topics. She creates branded content for Fortune 500 companies, and her work has appeared in LearnVest, Costco Magazine, Forbes, TheGlassHammer.com and IDEA Fitness. Follow her @cathieericson.
All content provided herein is for educational purposes only. It is provided “as is” and neither the author nor Office Depot, Inc. warrant the accuracy of the information provided, nor do they assume any responsibility for errors, omissions or contrary interpretation of the subject matter herein.
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