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Gift Giving in the Workplace

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.

6. Some people have self-esteem problems, and let's make no mistake, in the giving of a gift, its the giver that feels good about themselves, not the receiver.

7. Are there actually some people who give gifts because they are genuinely generous? People who give you a gift because they like you and they want you to be happy? I sincerely hope so, but I think if someone really likes you and wants you to be happy, this is best achieved by giving you their time and attention and treating you with respect all-year-round. A gift during the holidays is very superficial.

One popular way to get out of the stress of workplace gift giving is to inform every person that this year, rather than exchanging gifts, each person will be asked donate to a specific charitable organization. Here is how this is done.

1. Start far in advance of the holidays, otherwise some people will claim they already purchased some gifts.

2. Make sure that you reiterate that the charitable contribution is in lieu of gift giving.

3. Make sure that the charity you select is to every ones satisfaction.

4. Make one individual in charge of gathering the gifts (usually money), keeping a written record of each individuals contribution so everyone feels they're getting credit. The same or a different person may be in charge of presenting the actual collection of gifts to the charity.

5. If the receiving organization provides any comments or information as to the use of the gifts or the appreciation of receiving the gifts, be sure to pass that on to every gift contributor.

One way to reduce the stress of workplace gift giving is to, instead of allowing everyone to give gifts to everyone else, have everyone pick a name out of a hat. That way each person needs to provide only one gift. A person should keep secret the name that they pulled out of the hat. That way if they don't like the person who's name they received, they may be able to swap with someone.

Some people like to give home made gifts. If the gift is personalized to the receiver and the receiver is a close friend, this can be highly valued gift. If not, it may result in the giver getting a reputation for being cheap.

Gag gifts can be fun, but make sure the receiver is a close friend and that the gag gift is not insulting, and accompany the gag gift with a real and thoughtful gift.

It's not the cost of the gift, it's the Personalisation of the gift that’s important. If a person is into gardening, give them a gardening related gift. If they are into art, give them an artist related gift. If they are into cars, give them a gift related to the type of vehicle they are into. A personalized gift shows that you listen to them and that you really know them. This is much more thoughtful than a generic gift.

Of course, if the gift giving is forced upon you by company culture, regifting is fine.

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