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Ethical Gift-Giving in the Workplace 

No matter how big or small your business is, ethical gift-giving is a valuable culture to in-still in the workplace. Gift-giving alone is a powerful way to establish a bond between the giver and the receiver. And, when you apply this culture to a work environment, it can improve morale, help team members feel appreciated, and, ultimately, positively influence employee retention. However, gift-giving in a professional capacity comes with certain rules and regulations. And, it’s important to know and implement these rules into gift-giving in the office. 

Fortunately, ethical gift-giving isn’t as complicated as you might think. And, considering that every workplace is different, not all rules may apply to your specific environment. But, if you wish to promote a healthy gift-giving culture, it’s always good to start with the basic do’s and don’ts. As corporate gifting experts, we want to share a few simple guidelines to ethical gift-giving in the workplace so you can make the best out of your professional gift-giving practices. 

Ethical Gift-Giving: Smiling coworkers using computer together in the office

What do Ethics Have to do With Gift-Giving? 

Gift-giving is one of the many ways that human beings socialize. The right gift can make the recipient feel seen and understood by the giver. And, this may even lead them to want to return the favor. This is how and why gift-giving has the power to build and maintain important relationships. However, when it comes to offering gifts to colleagues, employees, and superiors, gifts have the potential to offend and even damage the relationship. 

That’s why it’s important to practice ethical gift-giving in any professional environment. The giving and acceptance of gifts by any professional person can leave them vulnerable to appearing unethical. To avoid this from happening, companies must put policies in place to protect their employees from accepting or offering inappropriate gifts. 

Of course, workplace gift-giving regulations will look slightly different not only for different working environments but also for different countries. There are religious and cultural beliefs to consider too. But, it is up to employers to adjust these rules and make gift-giving a comfortable experience for all team members. 

How to Implement Ethical Gift-Giving in the Workplace 

There are so many occasions that call for gift-giving in the office. And, as an employer or manager, you want these occasions to bring your team members together. Nothing brings people together like the exchanging of gifts! But, there has to be guidelines in place to avoid any unfairness, offence, and bribery. Below are some basic suggestions as to how you can make gift-giving in the workplace a positive experience for all: 

Ethical Gift-Giving: Colleagues celebrating birthday party in office smiling giving presents to co-worker.

Create a Clear and Concise Company Policy Around Ethical Gift-Giving 

As a leader, it is your responsibility to shape company culture. It is therefore your responsibility to establish clear policies and procedures that gives every employee peace of mind. And, this includes rules and regulations for gift-giving in the workplace. Below is a general checklist of what your company gifting policy should include: 

  • It should state from whom company employees can recieve gifts. 
  • Outline circumstances under which employees may accept gifts (for which occasions/reasons). 
  • A price limit on gifts. 
  • Guidance as to how employees can politely decline a gift when necessary. 
  • A guideline as to what kinds of gifts are appropriate and inappropriate in the workplace. 
  • Define what is prohibited. 

Make Office Gift-Giving Inclusive 

It’s important for all employees to feel included in recreational activities in the workplace. And this includes gift-giving. Although each member of your team plays a different role within the business, they all work hard to get the job done. This means that when it comes to rewarding your employees with gifts, each one of them deserve recognition for their contribution to the team. And, to avoid displaying favoritism, it’s best to offer similar gifts to each employee.

Make Gift-Giving Voluntary for Employees  

Being told or forced to do something can make any task tedious. And, considering that your employees already have a list of mandatory duties to complete, gift-giving should not be one of them. Your employees may or may not want to cultivate a gift-giving culture in the office. However, it is only your job to present the opportunity/option. Ethical gift-giving does not breed negative feelings or resentment, and so offering gifts should always be voluntary to your team members. 

Have Clear Rules Around Offering Gifts to Superiors 

The most reliable rule of thumb is that workplace gift-giving should flow down from superiors and not upward. Therefore, bosses and managers can offer gifts to their direct reports as well as employees. While employees may exchange gifts with one another, but not offer gifts to their superiors. This protects employees from the pressure of purchasing gifts for the people who sign their paychecks. However, if their superior is celebrating a special occasion like a 20 year work anniversary or a professional achievement, or group gift is the most appropriate option. 

Encourage Appropriate and Professional Gift-Giving 

Gifts can often communicate certain intentions to the recipient. So, when it comes to professional gift-giving, your gift can communicate your intentions in the workplace. You not only have to consider the impression you’ll make on your recipient, but also how onlookers may interpret the gift. Personal items such as jewelry, clothing, and perfume are items you should avoid, as well as items typically not allowed in the workplace i.e. alcohol. If you’re looking for a few ideas on appropriate (budget friendly) office gifts, read our blog here

Ethical Gift-Giving: Friendly colleagues giving gifts in the office.

When Does Gift-Giving in Business Become Bribery? 

Creating a gift-giving culture isn’t limited to the office. Building and maintaining connections with your partners, clients, and suppliers forms part of this practice too. However, there are many factors to consider when it comes to sending gifts to your stakeholders. If you’re dealing with international clients and partners, there may also be different rules and regulations to adhere to. Fortunately, with some research on gift-giving etiquette, you can ace ethical gift-giving no matter where you’re sending your business gifts to. 

When sending corporate gifts, it’s important to be aware of the difference between a gift and a bribe. A gift is something of value given without the expectation of return, while a bribe is something given in hope of influence or gaining benefit. If a gift and a bribe have the potential to achieve the same result, it’s debatable as to where we can draw the line in relation to professional ethics. 

However, this is where gift-giving policies and practices come into play. And, since these may vary from company to company, it is up to the gift-giver to stay informed about the gift-giving policies within different businesses as well as in businesses in different countries. 

Thank you for reading our blog on Ethical Gift-Giving, but, don’t go just yet! 

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