Gift Giving in the Workplace
By Stephen Bucaro
One thing that can add to the stress of the holiday season is workplace gift giving. The problem
with giving a gift is that it sets up an obligation for the person receiving the gift to give a gift
in return. The person receiving the gift may already have enough on their hands with the holidays
without having to give gifts at work.
Giving a gift to a supervisor or manager sets up a conflict of interest and an ethics problem.
Any supervisor or manager receiving a gift from a subordinate should refuse it or return it immediately
with the explanation that it creates an ethics problem. In my opinion, adults should not exchange gifts.
Gifts should be given only to children. Adults can easily purchase anything they desire for themselves.
But some people insist on giving gifts. Why?
1. The most obvious reason is that they want to buy your friendship. In an organizational environment,
friends are power, and especially if you're not the most competent person in the organization, being
liked may mean your survival.
2. Another reason is that the gift giver has a large inventory of received gift items that they would
prefer to get some use out of by regifting. Many of these gifts may have been regifted to them.
3. Some people have an extremely boring life, so they are head-over-heals into the holidays and
every little tradition and activity associated with the holidays. They will be dead set against
any attempt to impede gift giving, and even if everyone else agrees not to exchange gifts, they
will still take each person aside separately, out of public view, and present them with a gift.
4. Some people view their job strictly as a social situation. They show up at work only to socialize
and get the pay check. These are people who are all worried about when everyone's birthday is, even
though it's none of their business. Any distraction from the actual work at hand is like a relief
from severe pain to these people.
5. Some people have relationship problems, maybe with their spouse or mate, maybe with relatives
or friends. They take the holidays as a time when society mandates that people must be nice to each
other. They expect the holidays to, at least temporarily, end the yelling and fighting. For this
reason they are all into every aspect of the holidays, especially the gift giving.