Author Topic: Work Gifts  (Read 1780 times)

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DaDancingPsych

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Work Gifts
« on: January 21, 2014, 10:01:36 AM »
I work for a small business. There are only three of us who work in the office. Myself and my boss and a part-time person (who happens to be the boss’s sister.) My job involves working with a lot of clients who somewhat compete to do business with us. I have a lot of power as to which businesses get that opportunity. My boss totally trusts my judgment and knows that I have always (and will always) make selections on who is best for the company and not for any personal reasons.

In the past few weeks, two clients have sent gifts to the office addressed to me. Boss knows of these gifts, because he always gets the mail and I NEVER get anything. (I typically get six letters a year. Never any packages.) The first one arrived and boss left it on my desk. I was not in office that day, so I ended up opening it when he was not there. It turned out to be a VERY expensive bottle of champagne. The card read that it was a thank you for doing business / happy holidays sort of thing. I felt that despite the fact that I am the front person (and do a lot of the major work with these clients), the gift was really meant for the whole company. I took it to the boss stating just that. He said that he does not drink champagne, but that he thought that his sister (the part-time office worker) would appreciate it for her parties. She said that she actually does not drink champagne, but that their (boss and part-time sister’s) twenty-one year old nephew drinks expensive champagne, so that it should go to him. Honestly, I am not pleased by this decision. Sure, I would have gladly made a home for this bottle, but I didn’t feel right to keep it when it should have been labeled to the company. But I am also not interested in my hard work supporting the drinking habits of a kid who quite frankly needs to stop partying and keep his behind in school! If the bottle would have went to someone in the office or used for in-company purposes; I would have felt much better about the decision.

Today, boss came to me with another package. He waited while I opened another gift from a different client addressed to me (I think mainly out of curiosity reasons.) It was a small box of gourmet chocolates (significantly less in value than the previous gift.) Again, it was labeled as a thank you / happy holidays thing and probably should be labeled as to the company and not only me specifically.

What is the proper way to be handling these gifts? There is no formal company policy. Should I be asking my boss how he wants them handled? I do not want to make a big deal out of this, but I also do not want these gifts rubbing him the wrong way. (It is possible that I am over thinking his reaction, though. He is incredibly laid back.) Should I stop feeling guilty as the front person and just accept them? I don’t think boss sees this as clients “paying me off” and it will not sway my decisions, but I always want to monitor his reactions to ensure that he does not believe this. (I think him believing that is very slim; he knows my high ethics.) Should I continue passing the gifts to boss stating that it should have been addressed to the company and let him pass it along to whoever he wants… even if I am personally disappointed by the individual ends up receiving it? Any thoughts on what etiquette might suggest that I do?

Outdoor Girl

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2014, 10:08:27 AM »
I agree with you that they are more 'company' gifts than to you personally.  Maybe you could develop a policy and present it to Boss for his approval?

I'm thinking that if it is a food gift that can be shared, like the chocolates, you could just put them out at work for everyone to enjoy.  But that is more problematic for a gift that can't be shared - or shouldn't be shared at work, like the champagne.  What we did at my previous workplace was to run a 'lottery'.  When something came in, everyone's name went in a hat and one name was drawn out to win whatever was the gift.  Every name drawn stayed out of the hat until everyone had 'won' something.  Then we put everyone's names back in and started over.  Some gifts were worth more than others but it worked out.  Sometimes, there would be two different things won at the same time and the winners would trade.

So in the case of the champagne, it might still have gone to nephew if Boss or part-timer won it but at least you'd have had a shot at it.
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YummyMummy66

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2014, 10:55:14 AM »
The chocolates, I would put out for everyone to enjoy or anything that is like that, that is food related. 

Anything else, like the champagne, I would ask the boss/owner (if they are one and the same), if they desire the item before you take it home for yourself.  This way, it does not leave the door open for them to say, "Oh, I don't want it, but a relative of mine would like it, so I will take it".  I might reply, "Oh, no, in that case I will take it myself.  It was sent to our office for our hard work, but I wanted to make sure that either you or boss did not want it first before I took it home for myself". 

Now, if they decide to take it without mentioning anything and then you find out later that they gave it away, there is not much you can do. 

But, if they take an item, I would give them a thank you card to send to the client and let them fill it out themselves. 


camlan

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2014, 11:17:39 AM »
The owner of a company where I used to work got a lot of gifts at the holidays, both from clients and from the freelancers that we used a lot. I liked the way she handled it.

All foods gifts were put out for all to share. Gifts that couldn't be shared, like tickets to sporting events, a bottle of wine, etc., were handed out in rotation. She must have kept a list, because those sorts of gifts would be offered to different people in different departments, so that no one could complain that one person or one department got the bulk of the gifts.

Her feeling was that the gifts were earned by the entire company and therefore everyone should share in them.
Nothing is impossible, the word itself says, “I’m possible!” –Audrey Hepburn


lowspark

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2014, 11:19:22 AM »
Since this is a new thing, I might just ask the boss to clarify what our policy is for future reference. Just mention that since you've now received two gifts unexpectedly you'd like to know what the policy is in case you receive any more. Then go from there.

In our office we have people whose job entails dealing with multiple suppliers who, in effect, compete for our business. In December, packages arrive for multiple people almost daily. Everyone gets to keep what was sent to them if they choose to. Many of them are shared with the entire office since so much of it is consumable snacky type stuff. We also get King Cakes in late January and those are always shared in the office kitchen. I don't think anyone ever chooses a supplier based on these gifts. It's much more important to choose based on service because the business, and their jobs, depend on that. And for that reason, no one sees these gifts as an attempt at a bribe but more as a thank you for previous business.

Lynn2000

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2014, 11:32:32 AM »
I agree that this would be a good time to ask your boss to establish a policy, or write one up yourself and suggest it to him. Shareable gifts could be put out in the break room for everyone to partake of, at work; and non-shareable gifts could be offered to people in a rotation. Although, with only three employees, making it too complicated could seem a bit silly. I would focus on the fact that you want to have a policy to point to, should anyone think or suggest that your company can be influenced by gifts--no, we always do XYZ, as stated here...

With the champagne, it might just have been a case of you getting too much information. I mean, it sounds like it isn't something that was going to be shared at work, ever--the three of you weren't going to open the bottle and pass it around at lunch one day. So if you brought it to the boss and he said, "Yeah, I'll take it home," and made no mention of the fact that it would be going to his nephew, would you still have been upset? If you were really hoping everyone would pass and insist YOU take it home, well, I think that's the risk you took when you (correctly, IMO) brought it to the boss's attention and stated you felt it was really meant for the whole company.

Maybe the policy could be that with a non-shareable item, it will be automatically donated to a charity? Or sold and the money donated to a charity? I work for a state university and there are pretty strict rules about "gifts" over a certain amount of money, $50 I think. Donating the item to a recognized charity (or keeping the item for personal use but donating the equivalent amount of money to the charity) is one allowed way to deal with it.
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bopper

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #6 on: January 21, 2014, 11:38:44 AM »
Just announce "Is it okay if I take these chocolates home?"

TootsNYC

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #7 on: January 21, 2014, 03:23:15 PM »
Yep, ask boss about the policy.

And between you and me, the whole "this gift sent to the company will now be going to the relative of the boss, instead of to the one person in the office who *does* drink champagne" is really off to me.

Boss doesn't drink champagne; sister/part-timer doesn't drink champagne; to me, that would mean that -you- get it. I think you could have said, when sister was coveting the bottle on behalf of the nephew, "Well, I drink champagne; could I just take it home?" Frankly, that should have been part-timer/sister's reaction. And even if it wasn't, I think you could treat that "give it to nephew" as a suggestion only, and say to Boss, "Your sister doesn't drink champagne, but I do--is it OK if I take it home?"

If I were the boss, my policy would be that I should be aware of every gift you get that's more than $25 in value. And that if we can't all share it, then we should sort of divvy it up based on who will use it, who got a splashy gift the last time.


ClaireC79

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2014, 04:31:19 PM »
Is it possible that the other two are thinking by taking it to the boss that you were, in part, saying you didn't want it

TootsNYC

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2014, 05:18:42 PM »
Is it possible that the other two are thinking by taking it to the boss that you were, in part, saying you didn't want it


Interesting thought! I could see that happening.

And in fact, OP, if you'd like to keep most of these things, maybe phrase your request to reflect that. "Sometimes I feel odd accepting these things, since I don't want you to think I'd steer business the wrong way for the sake of a bottle of champagne. But some of them are sort of neat. What should I do?"

Mikayla

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2014, 02:49:34 PM »
It sounds like you're close enough to either create a policy and get his approval, or just talk to him about creating a policy.  Even in this small a group, these are business gifts, not personal ones.

Also, I really like Outdoor Girl's idea about the lottery.  That would fix a situation like the champagne going to Party Boy.  If the boss wins that gift's lottery, and chooses to regift it, this is a lot more palatable than taking something you might have wanted and saving it for someone who doesn't even work there.

 

wolfie

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2014, 03:21:43 PM »
Is it possible that the other two are thinking by taking it to the boss that you were, in part, saying you didn't want it

That is how I interpreted the first post to. If I had been the boss I would have thought that the OP didn't want it so wouldn't have offered it back to her.

Lynn2000

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2014, 03:38:59 PM »
Is it possible that the other two are thinking by taking it to the boss that you were, in part, saying you didn't want it

That is how I interpreted the first post to. If I had been the boss I would have thought that the OP didn't want it so wouldn't have offered it back to her.

Yes, that's how I interpreted it as well at first. I had to go back and read the post a couple of times, and even then read between the lines a bit to realize that the OP actually wanted the champagne. Uh, if that actually is the case, I'm still a little iffy on it. :) Maybe next time the wording could be, "I received this as a gift for Client X, and I wanted you to know about it. I feel like it's a gift for the whole company, really, but I'm not sure how we would all share it. I wondered if it would be okay for me to take it home? Or is there something else that we should do with it?"

I think the attitude of "this is really for the whole company" is the most professional one to have in this situation. But, that also means, the default thing to happen with that gift is that everyone shares it. If that's not possible, the rest of the (future) work policy kicks into gear, meaning it goes to whoever is next in the rotation, or gets sold and the money split three ways, or whatever. There should be no expectation that it will automatically go to the person who initially received it or who wants it most. What if company policy already said it was to be handed out on rotation, and it was the woman's turn to receive the gift, and she was like, "Yeah! I'll give it to my son, who loves expensive champagne!" Same outcome, but no room for complaint, really.

Also, you could end up with a "work policy" that all gifts end up going home with the boss! I mean, probably this particular boss wouldn't do that, but some would. So I think coming up with an official work policy would really just work to the protection of everyone--to avoid even the appearance of impropriety.
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purple

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2014, 09:10:17 PM »
Is it possible that the other two are thinking by taking it to the boss that you were, in part, saying you didn't want it
I'd vote for this too.

I would handle the others as follows:
Chocolates - open in the office and leave in a central place for all to share.
Champagne - leave it on your desk and if anybody asks where it came from tell them, then pack it in your bag when you leave and take it home with you.

DaDancingPsych

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Re: Work Gifts
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2014, 10:12:46 AM »
OP here... Oh gosh! I guess I should have checked this sooner! Thanks for all of your thoughtful replies.

To answer a few questions, would I feel differently if boss or coworker won the bottle in the lottery and decided to give it to nephew? Yes and no (if that makes sense.) If one of them won it and decided to give it to nephew, I would feel that that was totally their right. When it's yours you get to do what you please with it. On a personal level, I would still feel that nephew needs a kick in the hiney and he should not be rewarded in this fashion. But there are many things that we think personally that we keep to ourselves. If that makes sense.

I feel like there was a line jumped, though. It didn't go to a company employee; it went to a family member. I suppose that this is a typical problem with family owned types of businesses. There is a blur between business and family.

Did boss think that I did not want the bottle and did I actually want the bottle? Boss may have thought I didn't want it. He did not verify that, but I also don't fault him for assuming that I didn't. I brought it to him to help establish what to do with the gift; I felt that it belonged to the company (still do). Being that at the time it was the first and only gift (and I have worked for this company for almost 10 years), I didn't really think to word things in a fashion that would establish a policy. But I could see him thinking that I was really saying, "Eww... champagne! You take this!" So, I don't completely fault him.

Did I really want the bottle? Sure! I am not one to pass up a good glass of something. But I was not necessary expecting it nor am I devastated that I did not get it. If it had went to co-worker/sister, I would have been happy. (She deals with some individuals who should be sending her thank you gifts!!!)

I guess I was just looking for the most professional way to handle these types of situations. I adore my boss, but his laid back attitude does not always establish the most professional office. I have over the years had to establish some professional boundaries. ("No, I will not pick up your son's football equipment for you.") Sometimes I have to sort of suggest the professional way of handling things... not only for my protection, but also because we have had other office employees over the years, too. We need a professional running office. So, my intent is not to find a polite way for me to take all of the gifts, but rather a sensible way to ensure that the gifts rewarded employees and not family members (at least not directly.)

That said, I love the lottery idea! Since the box of chocolates can be shared, I have done just that. But if another gift comes in, I am going to suggest something like a lottery. Thank you all for your thoughts and ideas!!!