Friday, February 19, 2010

Group-office Gifts

This topic was a request by a friend who frequently has office parties where her department is asked to financially contribute to a group gift. For anyone that has worked in an office environment you know exactly what we’re referring to: wedding and baby showers, significant anniversaries and birthdays, retirements, and possible deaths are all reasons for coworkers to give a group gift.

While these are certainly important events to celebrate, and is a sign of respect for the office to acknowledge these personal-life happenings, they can add up. The size of the office is key to considering how much/often these instances can comfortably take place. Large departments may find themselves having parties more than once a month. You can imagine that this could become an expensive practice for some, especially those lower on the totem pole (sorry for the corporate slang…it is a habit I’m trying to kick).

Peggy Post does speak to office gift buying extensively in her book, “The Etiquette Advantage in Business,” second edition, but doesn’t get too specific about setting contribution caps. After reading Peggy’s advice on the broad topic I came up with a few guidelines you can take back with you.

Group Gift Guidelines:

  • Create a committee for your department/group that is in charge of organizing these types of events. This committee will then communicate to the greater group the details.
  • Set a specific dollar amount for the group-gift contribution (I recommend $5 and with a $10 limit).
  • If you are doing food items either use a portion of the gift money or ask for the committee to have a corporate budget for which this can be funded.
  • Committee should buy one card for all monetary contributors to sign.

Following these guidelines will set a standard for the department so no one feels like they are getting more or less than the next person. Also, one committee in charge usually takes away from anyone being “forgotten.”

If you are closer to someone that is facing their life milestone you can either contribute more than the asked donation or you can get them a gift separately. If you are someone’s direct boss or they are your number one client etc., getting them a separate card and/or gift is appropriate. On the flipside, if you don’t have a relationship with gift receiver, don’t feel obligated to give. If you do not contribute, do not partake in the food and drink portion of the celebration.

What is an “appropriate office gift” is a whole other topic that we will touch on another time.

Please share your thoughts on office-group gifts and experiences.


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