Do you ever wonder if it is appropriate to give a client or someone at the office a gift during the holiday season? If so, what should you give? I love the holiday season and gift giving. I enjoy the giving portion far more than receiving and I enjoy being creative in finding something that I felt confident my client would enjoy but will also be creative or clever. There are some things you need to consider before you make your decision. For example, what is your company’s policy about giving gifts? What is the client’s company’s policy about giving gifts? Whether this is a professional thank you gift to a client or a group gift to the boss, it is very important to maintain business etiquette at all times.
You need to make sure the gift is appropriate and follows the customs and norms of your industry. They’re there for a reason and you should never expect a gift in return. Also, just as you must consider the business culture in your office you need to consider the country culture. In some countries gifts are inappropriate, regardless of the reason. In other countries, there is a specific cultural way to give and receive gifts. For example, I had a client from China and they did not open the present that I gave them in front of me. The best intentions can backfire if you don’t, and it can take you and the client to a very awkward place. If you are giving a gift to clients in other countries. I recommend a great resource: Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands by Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conaway. This is an incredible resource on how to give or receive when trying to determine the ins and outs of different cultures other than just gift giving.
How to Choose an Appropriate Gift:
When choosing a gift for a business associate or client you should be creative and relevant to the occasion. However, always avoid anything too personal that may be misinterpreted as a bribe or something that may be insulting or embarrassing. It is important not to give any intimate apparel, expensive perfume, or jewelry that is not related to the business. I enjoy giving things that are unique to the client. For example, if I have talked with the client and know some of the things they like for example, certain wines, books, hobbies. I remember the time my insurance broker, Brent gave me this amazing book, Tools of Titans by Tim Ferriss. It’s a great resource for a business person or entrepreneur that is looking to others to hear their stories of struggles to triumphs. Examples of appropriate business gifts include:
- Fruit Baskets
- Bottle of wine
- Box of candy
- Bouquet of flowers
- Scarf or tie
- Briefcase or leather portfolio
- Book of interest
- Items manufactured by your company
- Tickets to an event and/or performance
Gifts to your manager:
Most of the time it is not expected for employees to give their managers presents. However, if you feel comfortable a small, inexpensive item is suitable if it is in good taste. It is important not to put the supervisor in an uncomfortable place. It may upset him or her and may create tension in the future. The same items such as personal items clothes, perfume, or expensive items are not ideal and should not be given to the manager. If a group of you are going in on a gift, a fun idea can be a collection of little gifts from each coworker. For example, I remember receiving a miniature Christmas tree with assorted gift cards on it. I remember how excited I was about receiving a tree as such with gift cards to Starbucks, the movies, restaurants and some other fun spots. It was such a fun gift and I remember displaying it on my desk. These types of items are fun, and everyone can contribute what they are able to without feeling too much pressure to break their budget.
Acknowledging and saying thank you:
Always acknowledge any gift you receive as soon as possible. I am old fashion and I like receiving a handwritten thank you note, but email or text is acceptable as well depending on the environment. If you are receiving large quantities of gifts, don’t take company time to write your notes. I suggest doing this at home and then sending them out that week. The thank you note should be brief and say something such as, “thank you for the Gift Card Christmas tree, I appreciate the team’s generosity and will look forward to visiting these different spots”.
It is very common to give clients and prospects gifts to maintain or develop a closer business relationship. Before giving something to the client be sure to check the company’s policies on receiving gifts. Many companies have different rules in the value of the gift and if it is over a certain amount they have to share it with the whole office or reject it out of hand. You want to be sure you do not put anyone in an awkward position. As always, avoid anything too personal. One idea that is very fun is perhaps giving an inspiring book, a bottle of wine they might enjoy, a gift basket of yummy treats, and a decorative or food gift that can be shared by everyone in the office. Also, I like to include branding on the item as well. For example, the crate or container the items arrive in might have the company logo or slogan on it. It can be helpful because it will be on their desk or the assistants desk and people will see the name of the company, increasing your branding and notability.
Gifts to your employees:
I love everything monogrammed, I feel its it makes it very special and personalized. For example, a couple of years back I gave my team each a business card holder with their initials on it and they were a neat gift they can take and use for themselves later. You want to be sure its not too expensive and doesn’t break the rules of appropriateness. The following are a couple of neat ideas:
- Engraved pen or key ring
- Gift cards to restaurants, movies, or local events
- Picture frame for desk
- Cups engraved with initials and company logo.
Secret Santa has become popular in the workplace because it makes it a fun multiday celebration, it allows co-workers to learn more about each other. It is important that the Supervisor and HR Manager are both on the same page when sending out the message to the team. You also want to be sure that if someone does not want to participate or can not due to financial restrictions that you are sensitive to that. I would recommend having the participating employees fill out a quick info sheet about their likes, dislikes and allergic reaction, so there are no mistakes. Also, be sure to include the monetary amount and limits of the gifts during Secret Santa. You do not want anyone to feel bad about this.
Holiday Gifts to Co-workers:
Holiday gift giving can be very tricky because you are not sure what everyone celebrates. The office can have varying faiths and they may be uncomfortable receiving Christmas presents. It is important not give gifts at the holiday party unless you have a gift for everyone or it is designated that you bring the final gift for your Secret Santa reveal. If you are unsure it is always good to check with the manager or office manager. They can help steer you in making good decisions on how to handle the situation. A simple holiday or winter celebration might be a better option if you are unsure of different individuals’ beliefs.
If you have any fun and creative ideas that you have used in giving gifts to clients, co-workers or bosses. Please share them with us on our feed in this thread.