How To Foster a Culture of Ethical Gift Giving in the Workplace

A person wearing a suit holds a red-wrapped gift box in the foreground, while in the background an individual seated at a desk works with a cup of coffee and a phone nearby.

Many employers value a culture of ethical gift giving, given how well it establishes bonds between the gift giver and receiver.

Gift giving in the workplace can improve morale, enhance productivity levels, and help employees at all levels feel appreciated. Some companies also believe that gift giving can improve employee retention; after all, satisfied employees are often less likely to seek employment elsewhere.

Ethical gift giving at work takes many forms. Some employees or companies give flowers to company workers to demonstrate recognition. For example, you might send an arrangement of preserved roses to a coworker as an enduring message of appreciation.

Similarly, you can send corporate gifts to clients, sponsors, or fellow employees that help demonstrate your ongoing gratitude for their support.

Review Your Company’s Gift Giving Policy

A gift giving policy is a series of written rules that outline a company’s accepted gift giving practices. When giving gifts, employees are expected to maintain a high ethical standard. This means that gifts should be given tastefully — to recognize one or more workers — for genuine reasons.

In addition, many gift giving policies explicitly ban bribes — gifts given illegally or dishonestly, with the expectation of a favor in return.

Before you purchase any gift to give a coworker, take the time to review your company’s gift giving policy. Some companies might suggest parameters on the total value of a gift. In certain cases, your company may also limit when, and how, you can give gifts.

While corporate gift giving policies can feel restrictive, they’re often implemented with employees in mind. Gift giving policies are meant to help employees, and employers, avoid potential conflicts of interest. Policies should help preserve gift giving as a fun, innocent gesture that demonstrates your appreciation for fellow workers.

Make It a Group Effort

Sometimes, you might want to individually give one or more employees in the office a gift. However, you can often save time and money by making gift giving a group effort. Group gift giving is particularly useful when you’re planning on giving larger, more expensive gifts.

If you plan on giving gifts as a group, it’s helpful to coordinate your efforts. Identify which group member will obtain the gift, who will manage gift payment, who will package the gift appropriately, and who will give the gift.

You might also want to give a gift as a group when recognizing a superior’s work performance or celebrating a noteworthy occasion. For example, employees who want to recognize a direct supervisor’s pending retirement will often give one, collective gift alongside a thoughtful note or card.

Don’t Pressure Employees To Participate

In the workplace, gifts should be freely given. Employees should not feel pressured to partake in any office gift giving, even if others are participating. Employees who give gifts because they feel forced into it can lose the genuine appreciation they have for the process.

There are a variety of reasons why employees might not want to participate in workplace gift giving. Perhaps some employees aren’t comfortable contributing a specific amount of money for a gift. It’s also possible that some employees show appreciation in different ways besides gift giving.

If you want to give gifts in the workplace, you should be allowed to do so. If you would like to refrain from gift giving, you should have that option without any pressure or judgment from others.

Be Personal, But Not Too Personal

Personalized gifts help to show recipients that you put thought into the gift. At the same time, your gift should still be entirely appropriate for a work environment. Particularly if gifts will be opened during work hours and viewed by other employees, the gifts you give should strike a balance between thoughtful and professional.

There are several ways to strike a balance when giving gifts, so that your gift is personal but not intrusive. For example, you could give roses for the particular meaning behind their colors. You might also look to align your gift with an employee’s interests, whether it’s a favorite sports team, author, or candle manufacturer.

Give Discreetly to Work Friends

It’s important to stay mindful of how your gift giving might be perceived. Practice humility when giving gifts in the workplace, and allow each gift you give to speak for itself. This allows gift recipients to enjoy the gifts you give, without making other employees feel excluded in any way.

Sometimes, you might choose to give gifts only to certain coworkers. If you’re limiting who receives your gifts in the workplace, discretion is particularly important. You won’t want to draw attention to the fact that you have only given gifts to select employees in the office. Rather, be discreet in your gift giving.

Observe the Price Tag of a Gift

The price tag is an important aspect of any gift you give in the workplace. As a result of this, many companies outline acceptable gift prices in their gift giving policies.

Traditionally, expensive gifts are better given by groups. This way, each member of the group only contributes a portion of the gift’s overall cost, and the gift’s recipient is still flattered by the thoughtful gesture.

Giving a card is often a smart, effective choice for paring with a gift. Whether you’re congratulating a fellow employee or wishing someone well in recovery from a health concern, including a card can help you appropriately express your thoughts. If you would like to include a monetary contribution with your gift, slip a gift card into your envelope alongside your note.
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