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Golden Rules of Employee Gift Giving

An employee’s work anniversary is coming up, or maybe it is their birthday or the end of a big and important project. Whatever the occasion, you might correctly assume that you need to give your worker some kind of gift, to show your appreciation and help commemorate their hard work and commitment to the company.

Unfortunately, giving gifts can be difficult in the workplace, even for experienced gift-givers. Before you buy anything for your employee, you should consider the following golden rules of gift giving, which will help ensure that everyone feels appropriately rewarded for their work.

Everyone Gets a Gift

The number-one, most important, absolutely unshakeable rule of gift giving in the office is: If one person receives a gift, everyone should receive a gift. Now, this rule is not stating that every time anyone receives a gift that gifts should be given to anyone in the office. Rather, it means that when different employees encounter a comparable occasion, they should be rewarded comparably.

For example, if one employee receives a gift from the boss on their birthday, all employee birthdays should be celebrated with gifts from leadership. The same is true for work anniversaries and other milestones, like promotions and project completions. During the winter holidays, if an employee wants to give close coworkers gifts in the workplace, they need to be willing to give everyone something (or else exchange gifts outside of company time).

This rule is so important because it helps to prevent envy, jealousy and animosity from infecting the workplace. These comparison emotions can quickly poison the office environment, imbuing the culture with negativity that leads to low morale and high turnover. By upholding the most golden rule of gift-giving — that everyone gets a gift — you can establish a sense of equity that leads to comfort and confidence in the workplace.

Gifts Are Appropriate to the Occasion

In one of the most memorable scenes in the American sitcom “The Office,” boss Michael Scott purchases a video iPod for his office Secret Santa gift — an extreme luxury at the time of the episode’s release. The drama of the scene is that Michael Scott has purchased a gift that is inappropriate for the occasion and out of league with the other gifts being passed around. From this uncomfortable albeit uproarious example, you should learn the second golden rule of gift giving in the office: Gifts given in the workplace should have a scope that is appropriate to the occasion.

This rule is particularly important when it comes to work-related gift-giving. When a worker or team completes a project, earns a promotion, celebrates an anniversary or has some other reason to receive a gift from management, you need to be careful to select gifts that appropriately match their achievement. Employee anniversary recognition is of particular importance, as around anniversaries, workers tend to reflect on their past and present to make plans for their future. If they do not receive a gift that is in line with their contributions to the company, they will likely look elsewhere for a new role. A worker with one or two years of experience might earn some company swag, but after five or 10 years at the same organization, employees need more valuable gifts to keep them satisfied.

Meaning Matters as Much as Cost

Employees care about how much their gifts cost. Especially at a larger organization that is known to have a large amount of income, employees will feel slighted if they are gifted cheap, worthless junk on almost any occasion. However, giving every worker the same high-value gift is not the answer, either. Here, you need to learn the third golden rule of gift giving in the office: Meaning matters.

As per the first golden rule, you need to be able to afford comparably priced gifts for every employee, but that does not mean that every gift has to be the exact same. In fact, your gifts will have more impact if you tailor them to the interests, passions and talents of each individual worker. Giving meaningful gifts is an art form, and it can take some effort to build up your gift-giving skill. Generally, the more you get to know your workers on a personal level, the easier it will be to identify gifts that will carry meaning.

Armed with the golden rules of employee gift giving, you should see much more success with the gifts you give during any workplace occasion.


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