• Leah Norman

'Tis the season of giving - Gift giving in the Workplace

Workplace gift giving can be a blessing and a curse for employers.

On the one hand it brings out the generous, team-oriented qualities in employees but equally, it can cause animosity between employees not to mention embarrassment and even anger.

Right now the focus may be a secret Santa, but there are many occasions throughout the year that may give rise to gift giving - think; birthday's, promotions, milestone workplace anniversaries etc.

Generally, workplace gift giving is coordinated amongst employees, but employers should not shy away from having a say for the sake of workplace harmony.

Here are some tips for employers in managing workplace gift giving:

  1. Develop gift giving guidelines – set up some employer endorsed guidelines about workplace gift giving and tell employees about the guidelines. That way, when it comes time for a collection to make the rounds, both the employees doing the collecting and those contributing know what to expect.

  2. Place a limit on the value of a gift and the contributions requested – gifts given in the workplace should be symbols of appreciation and gestures of well-wishing. Employers could set a limit on how much should be spent on gifts and cap contributions so that employees aren’t filled with anxiety about how much they should give. For example, a $10 cap on contributions for any gift will still enable the purchasing of an appropriate gift. In larger teams, the total gift budget may be limited to $100 meaning that employees individually contribute less and the gift remains reasonable, but not over the top (also remember that larger teams will have more gifts overall so a lower contribution cap is important).

  3. Only notify relevant employees about a gift collection – if you are a large organisation, keep requests for contributions to within the team that works with the gift recipient.

  4. Promote, foster and recruit for a positive and generous workplace cultureAll workplaces have a culture of some kind, whether they actively encourage it or not. Developing and maintaining a culture that embraces gift giving flows from the top down and starts with recruitment. Managers should encourage a culture that celebrates employee life events and should recruit employees that they feel share their values. Where a team approaches gift giving from a shared understanding, expectations will be clear, employees will support each other and dramas, are less likely to develop.

  5. If it simply doesn’t work, put a stop to it – remember; you are within your rights to set rules of conduct within the workplace. If gift giving and money collections are simply causing too much drama and conflict, put a ban in place. This doesn’t prevent employees who are friends from celebrating life events away from work, but it may calm the seas within the workplace.


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