How to Stop Gift Giving at Work
I’m against gift giving at work. If you currently give gifts at work, be a scrooge and end the practice.
Find an authentic alternative for spreading holiday cheer. For example, adopt a poor family and buy gifts for them rather than each other.
Giving gifts is one of my favorite things. When our children were young, Christmas gift giving was magic. Some year’s money was tight and we added homemade gifts to store-bought. During prosperous years we probably over did it.
Generosity invigorates and delights everyone. However…
Office gift giving is an awkward obligation where gifts are usually not gifts. They’re obligatory strokes and butt-kisses. Sometimes you give gifts to people you don’t like.
If you are personal friends with co-workers, bosses, or support staff, give them gifts outside the office. Make it personal and private.
5 rules for giving gifts in the office:
- Never give personal gifts in the office.
- If you don’t have authority, follow the current gift giving protocols. Rocking the boat isn’t worth it.
- Gift giving in small offices makes sense.
- If you must give gifts, give the same one to everyone.
- Office parties are the best alternative to gift giving.
Point of Clarity:
I’m all about generosity. I love giving and continue learning the joy of receiving.
Office gift giving isn’t gift giving because it’s obligatory.
What are your thoughts on giving gifts in the office?
I’m glad you put on there that gift giving in small offices makes sense. We have about 7 or 8 people that work tightly in our office and we usually get something small for each of us each year.
I should have added to that, and no one really has hurt feelings or is “kissing-up” to anyone else. It’s just a nice gesture to a close knit group of people.
Thanks for your comment. I love the authentic generosity you employ.
I have never been comfortable with gift giving at work. In part because it felt forced but I couldn’t really pinpoint it until recently. What happened recently? First I read a blog post by a financial planner, Pete the Planner. In the post he talked about the difference between thoughtfulness and generosity. Thoughtfulness is when we buy Christmas presents for our friends, family and co-workers. Generosity is when we give to those who really need our help. The catch is that when we purchase and give those thoughtful gifts we trick ourselves into believing we have been generous. That leads to denying ourselves the joy of being truly generous as we give to those who need it most. The second thing that happened was Dan’s friends over at the Lead Change Group created an opportunity for me to be truly generous by setting up the opportunity to give back to Dan when he needs it. Trust me, giving to someone who needs it is a much better experience than giving because it is expected.
I do believe that giving gifts in office is like butt-kissing. It is selfish motive. If you want to gift someone, your motive should be on human relationship or helping. The concept of giving gift is helping someone in need. It is about creating happiness, joy and sense of sensitivity towards someone. Giving gift to powerful people is sign of selfish motive. I agree with you that in case you want to gift in office, it should not be on selective basis. It should be in public rather than in private.
I believe that holiday cheer can be spread by strengthening relationship at workplace. In absence of good relationship among employees, holiday trip cannot create cheer. Leaders should encourage people to openly express their views. Leaders should start a culture of courage, honesty and ethics. When such culture exists in the organization, holiday cheer makes meaningful sense.
YES! You nailed it Dan. More eloquently then I did on your FB page yesterday.
In the workplace, gift giving seems to have too many ulterior motives rather then giving from the heart. These motives can range anywhere from an organization wanting to force ‘good cheer’ and team spirit. Or it can often wind up being a way for competing employees to play a 1 up game with each other. And yes, it can also be all about getting that next promotion or being ‘seen’ by someone otherwise important that can further the career. All of which create a tension in the workplace that can be felt. By everyone.
I LOVE the idea of donating to families in need where the focus is a group effort facing outward. (out of the office)
In my office we sometimes get gift baskets from suppliers. We use this opportunity to get an office raffle going with the proceeds going to one of the local Christmas charities. We do the same with perks, like hockey tickets, etc. This way the gift or perk doesn’t go to just a boss or the same person all the time. Everyone has a chance to win it.
This year, we received a very limited number of gift baskets, so we decided to open them & share the wealth with all three floors of people in our department. Some of the goodies went into the Christmas hampers (as extras) we donate every year.
I never give gifts to my boss – I feel it would be inappropriate. I do give small homemade gifts to a couple of people within my department who do the same type of job I do & with whom I’ve become friendly. We cover off for each other when extra busy or someone has to be away. I like to do the small homemade gift because it cuts down on the feeling of obligation from the recipient. I don’t expect my co-workers to reciprocate, I give the gift because I want them to know I appreciate them.
Happy Holidays to all & hope your recovery goes well Dan!
Perhaps the office groups would instead give a gift to a charity in their name. There are many worthy charities out there.
One that crossed my awareness last year was charity:water. Most in the USA take water very much for granted. We just assume there’s always going to be water in the facet. Sadly, not a world-wide reality. 100% of the charity:water.org public donations go to ground water projects. Operating costs are funded separately. There are a few other organizations that have a similar structure.
Thanks Dan for all your energy! Hope everyone has a happy & healing, holiday season.
Thanks for helping me be a better leader in 2011.Thank you for allowing me
The chance to give back to you.
I supervise 7 people at a rural junior college. They don’t make a lot of money and so I try to give each of them a $20 gift certificate to a local restaurant. As their boss, I don’t want them to give me a gift so I try to mail it to them during the one week we have off between semesters. A public institution would never give a year end bonus, but I do wan to give them a little something from me that says, “Thanks for your hard work this last year.” Am I making things worst by doing this or is it a nice gesture?
My opinion: I like WHAT you are doing and HOW you are doing it, i.e. It’s the same gift for each person, and it’s mailed when they are away. It’s simple versus extravagant, and it’s a nice token from a caring boss.
To exchange gifts puts pressure on everyone anyway. I would rather give a gift with no expectation of return. That is what makes you happiest – truly. Receive free, give free.
I go through this same conversation every year with my employees. Most of my employees are young, still in college, and work only between 12-16 hours a week. Every year, one of my new managers says, “let’s have a secret Santa, or let’s do a white elephant.” And every year I state the say thing. I explain “now you know everybody who works here, survives paycheck to paycheck. I know they are struggling to make ends meet in regards to buying gifts for their parents, siblings, significant others. I would never want someone to feel obligated, or pressured to make sacrifices. Sometimes people are afraid to speak up and say that ‘I don’t have money.’ And we should never make someone go through those emotions.” I then give specific examples of what I mean. Then all of a sudden they get that “Ah-ha moment.” And when they do, they spread the word to the rest of the team, why we don’t exchange gifts at work. And it’s a great thing to see the reactions of the team. Like a heavy burden and weight has just been lifted off their shoulders. I then find that this kind of Leadership message gives them all a very important gift to each other. The gift of “understanding.” What a beautiful gift “understanding” is. I find that this gift means way more, than a box of chocolate or a cool nick-knack. Part of Leadership is the ability to see and understand where your team is coming from. And helping them obtain the ability to do the same, is my gift to them.
Giving gifts at work is really akward. I think it can almost be insensitive in a way. Especially in an office environment where it is obvious that certain people received gifts from someone and others did not. It can be hurtful and co-workers may feel excluded. Doesn’t really seem to help the team atmosphere that most companies try to build and maintain.
Great common sense post Dan. In the UK we often use a “Secret Santa” system where everyone buys a $5 gift suitable for either gender and then they’re distributed across the office. Pleasant, cheap, fun and avoids some of the snidiness that your post is pointing to.
I hope you dont mind, I referenced your blog in my own christmas post. http://muchclearer.wordpress.com/2011/12/24/20-reasons-why-leadership-is-a-gift/ . Would love for you to leave a comment. Godbless and best wishes for a best-ever 2012.
This is so true. When I worked in a small office (5 people), we all gave small gifts to each other because we WANTED to do so. There was no discussion about it beforehand, no obligation to do so, and everyone just really got along and wanted to spread the love.
On the other hand, when I’ve been one of 50+ employees, a Secret Santa is often employed to make things “fair”. Inevitably, everyone bought each other either (a) chocolates, or (b) a trinket that would end up in the rubbish before New Year’s. What a waste. If I’d thought about it back then, I would definitely have suggested we all put that $10 into a pool to donate to one cause or another.
Another helpful post! Great topic to explore.
I’ve finally found someone in-line with my thinking, even though this is my first X’mas in the organisation that I have joined, and enjoyed their X’mas celebration, I just feel giving gift to each other (setting a budget, being a secret ‘angel’ for someone whom you picked from the lots) was obligatory.
Imagined you happened to pick someone you does not like, and you have to go town to get something within that certain budget and buy something you he/she likes. This will make X’mas a chore rather than a celebration.
I am also with the idea of “authentic alternative for spreading holiday cheer”, I believe that is much more fulfilling than getting too many gifts from people (which may or may not be useful for yourself). I also believe it could be a norm that is practiced that make people believe that on this festive season you have to give gift to everyone (but happened to be those who already have enough, not those who really needs it).
Thank you for sharing your thoughts about gift giving at work, and also the other articles.
p.s: I happened to chance upon this blog on the main page of WP on their list of Featured blogs. Great job for the finding future article.
Have a wonderful year ahead!
I find that gift giving in school and places that have lots of people there, is, as you said, not authentic. More obligatory than anything else…You absolutely nailed it!!!
i don’t like gift giving at work too.. and even among circle of friends sometimes where people tend to calculate the gifts you give. I much prefer close family and to people that really matters.