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The Etiquette of Business Gifts

Gift-giving is by nature well-intentioned, and the last thing you want is for something to go wrong. That is particularly true in the business world, where the wrong choice of a present may affect your reputation or relationships with clients, co-workers, and customers. Fortunately, trial and error over the years has produced a general list of gifts that are appropriate for the business environment. Here are some suggestions to avoid a potentially awkward or embarrassing situation.

A good rule of thumb when deciding on gifts for co-workers is to think about how the gift will be perceived by the recipient and by all who watch the gift unwrapping, which may include bosses, CEOs, clients, and customers. A gift should be personal, such as something that aligns with their interests and hobbies. It should never, however, be something embarrassing or offensive like lingerie or expensive jewelry. It’s also a good idea to avoid alcohol, as some people may have problems with alcohol or abstain from drinking for religious reasons.

Just as employees can give gifts to their superiors, bosses can give presents to their employees. This exchange is fine, provided the gift is not too expensive and doesn’t violate any rules established by the company. Some appropriate gifts that bosses can give are: wallets, engraved key rings, and gift cards to local restaurants, cafés, and movie theater gift cards. Of course, tasty treats are almost universally welcomed by staff, so business gift baskets featuring a nice spread of delicious goodies are highly recommended, especially the ones offered by Manhattan Fruitier. They offer a wide array of baskets for an occasion and suitable for any co-worker.

Religion is another factor when choosing gifts for co-workers. This is a particular concern around the holidays. People should not, for instance, assume that their co-workers all celebrate Christmas. Even with the best of intentions, giving someone a holiday gift that they cannot accept due to religious beliefs makes for an uncomfortable situation. You can certainly ask your gift recipient if he or she celebrates Christmas if you feel comfortable doing so. Otherwise, non-denominational presents like gift cards, hats, and gloves are suitable choices. To avoid this problem in the first place, some companies host simple, generic winter celebrations.

A major consideration at office gift exchanges is how much to spend. To avoid the humiliating situation of overspending or underspending for an occasion, many companies establish a price range, such as $15-$20. Some establishments, like the United States Postal Service, forbid employees from accepting gifts over a certain price range. Other institutions prohibit employees from accepting gifts at all.

Just as religion and price are factors in giving business gifts, so is hierarchy. For employees, giving a gift to the boss can be tricky. Some good foolproof options are: desk items (paperweights, letter openers, frames, or small decorative items), neckties (provided they are conservative and not adorned with flaky or inappropriate images or words), and food. Personal sized fruit baskets, cookie platters, and assorted baskets with mixed items like coffee, chocolate, and biscotti are good choices. Before giving a food gift, ask if your boss has any dietary restrictions or food allergies.

Most people think of the holidays as a time for gift-giving, but other special occasions can warrant gift exchanges too. Retirement and departure gifts are good ways to show recipients that they will be remembered after leaving. Sometimes, employees pool their money to get a special gift like a plaque to commemorate many years of service or lottery tickets. An endearing and less expensive option is a framed photograph or a collage filled with candidate shots of the office staff. You can also show appreciation when an employee or coworker goes out of his or way to do something special, such as working extra hard to drum up business or staying late to finish a project. In this case, a simple handwritten note is just fine.

Regardless of whether you are giving a gift to co-workers, an employee, clients and customers or the boss, remember to check with all company guidelines first. If you can’t afford to give a present to everyone, consider giving your selected recipients their presents outside of the office, such as on your lunch break, or before or after work. Sometimes, people choose to get inexpensive presents for everyone in the office to avoid excluding anyone. Another good alternative is to get one present that the entire office can share, such as large fruit baskets or flowers.

Once the gift-giving ceremony is over, sending a thank-you note to your gift bearers is a kind and memorable token of appreciation.

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