Gift Giving: Avoid inviting the Elephant
Before I get a slew of comments about being a Grinch or not caring, hear me out. Gift giving in organizations or among groups is one of those Elephants at Work or in the room and it makes some people uneasy. I will give you an example and give some tips on how to give gifts without making others feel badly.
Many organizations have a no solicitation policy for the same reason – people do not want to be pressured (peer or otherwise) into giving to a charity, cause or side business at work.
I will bet that the same feelings about gift giving extend inside and outside of work. Here’s an example:
Recently someone collected money from a group of people as a going away present to an instructor. One person stepped up to head up the gift idea even though there was not complete agreement on what the group wanted to do.
There was good reason why there was a difference of opinion – each person had a different experience with the person.
Recognize that relationships are different.
Each person in the group had varying degrees of contact with the person leaving. Some of them had family ties, others worked the person more extensively over a year and the third group had less frequent contact.
It is reasonable to think that the people who had more personal or professional contact with the person may want to do something, the group with minimal contact may think differently.
Don’t suggest a dollar amount.
If you are going to ask a group of people to contribute to a gift, don’t suggest a dollar amount. When you do that, there is overt and subtle pressure being exerted to the individuals in the group.
If you are going to collect money, one of the best ways to do it is anonymously. Pass an envelope around (ideally not publically) and let people put in whatever amount of money they want to contribute – even if it is a dollar.
No one will know what amount was submitted and it lets people evaluate if they want to contribute or at what level they want to contribute without any peer pressure. To ensure that everyone has had a chance to participate, each person signs their name on the envelope, regardless if they if they contributed or not.
Be consistent on gift-giving.
One of the biggest complaints is that gift giving is not fairly done. To be blunt, it’s easy to organize something for one of your favorite people or initiatives; it is far more difficult to do the same for someone or something where you relationship is not as strong.
If you do not plan to be consistent (and that does not mean letting someone else take the responsibility next time) then give gifts privately.
Give gifts privately vs. publicly
You can bet you will see the elephant pop up when gifts are given publicly and not everyone has participated in doing it. While it may be more difficult to orchestrate, give your gift privately with the people who participated in giving the gift. There’s no reason to rub your actions in other people’s faces.
Gift giving when done appropriately and with everyone’s best interests feels good and let’s those elephants play somewhere else.