Business Gifting Etiquette

Etiquette and Advice from the Emily Post Institute

Business Gifting Etiquette Q&A

Q.  I have had the same, wonderful assistant for 15 years now. She has made my work-life manageable and much more pleasant than it could have been. Obviously, I really appreciate her. Is it appropriate for me to give her a significant gift?

A. Yes! Often companies provide standard gifts for all employees during the holidays or for Administrative Professionals? Day. However, you may also want to reward your assistant yourself during one of these time periods, or on a work anniversary. The gift choice depends on length of service: if it is less than five years, a gift costing $25 is sufficient; with longer-term assistants, like yours, you may want to be more generous.

Here are some gift examples:
Under 5 years Books, CDs, personal organizers, fruit baskets, floral arrangements, boxes of chocolate or other favorite treats
5 to 10 years Movie, sporting event or theater tickets, gift certificates (home, garden or appliance stores)
More than 10 years A day at the spa, leather briefcase, nice watch, more substantial gift certificate
Q. I want to give a colleague flowers for his office. What type of floral arrangement is appropriate for the workplace?

A. Flowers are a great all-purpose gift for a business associate. Consider the following when choosing flowers for the office setting:
  • Scent: While your colleague might love a very fragrant flower, his office mates might not. Take this into consideration when choosing.
  • Arrangement: A bouquet of long-stemmed roses might imply romantic interest. Consider a more standard arrangement, like a classic spring mix, or a potted plant.
  • Care: If you send a plant, make sure it is low maintenance. At the office, it?s likely that a high-maintenance plant will either die (very sad) or be taken home (defeating your purpose of supplying greenery in the office).
Q. It?s my boss?s birthday. Should I give her a gift?

A. Don?t give your supervisor a gift that is just from you. Other employees may see this as you trying to garner favor. The best solution is to get together with co-workers and give a gift jointly, or just give a card.
Q. I was recently invited to a co-worker?s birthday celebration which was held at his home. On the invitation, it stated "no gifts." I felt funny not bringing something, like a bottle of wine or some flowers, especially when I saw that other guests had. Would it have been appropriate for me to bring a gift?

A. It is very common both in business and social gatherings for invitations to specify "No Gifts, Please." The host?s wishes should be respected: don?t bring a gift. When a guest brings a gift, they are not only ignoring the host?s wishes, but they are also making others feel uncomfortable. So, go to the party with a clear conscience. And, if you wish, when you send a thank you note, you can also send an arrangement of flowers.
Q. What is the proper etiquette for office donations like chipping in on a baby shower or wedding gift? Should a dollar amount be sent or should it be left to each individual to decide how much to give?

A. Giving makes us all feel good. However, many of us start feeling the burden of being asked again and again. People working in a large office may be asked to give several times a week. If this is the case, it is difficult to say ?no,? but it is more difficult to keep giving. People should never go from desk to desk soliciting: this is a time waster and puts unfair stress on those being asked. Depending on your office policy, a group e-mail can be sent or the request can be posted in the staff room. People interested in contributing can then visit the solicitor to make a donation. Donors should offer whatever they feel they can afford, and the solicitor should be appreciative of all the gifts

About the
Emily Post Institute
The Emily Post Institute, created by Emily in 1946 and run today by third generation family members, serves as a "civility barometer" for American society and continues Emily's work. That work has grown to address the societal concerns of the 21st century including business etiquette, raising polite children and civility in America.
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