Work and Gift Giving
It’s that time of the year when we will be faced with co-workers that insist on giving gifts and others feeling forced into accepting them, but then what? Is there an obligation to now return a gift with a gift? Or should we be able to gracefully decline the gift? And if we do, should the gift giver have the right to be offended or even angry?
I work in an office with people of many different backgrounds and financial obligations, so knowing what is acceptable when in comes to giving holiday gifts is unclear. To make it simple, my manager puts the offer out for a gift exchange, but leaves it up to the individual if they want to participate or not. If you do, there is often a limit on the dollar amount to be spent, usually $20. Now, of course, you will always have the person who spends way above the dollar amount, as well as those who spend very little, and feelings, both good and bad, always come into play. It is for that reason that I do not take part. It truly never ends well.
People never really accept your decision not to take part. It is not unusual to come into work and find a gift left on your desk from a co-worker. Does that now make you obligated to give them a gift in return? I don’t think it should. I mean, I didn’t ask for a gift and didn’t sign up to take part in the gift exchange, so why should someone go against my wishes and leave a gift? It may not seem like a lot, but if 20 people in your office do this, it can be pricey to return the favor. Many people do not have the money and this now places a burden on them financially that they didn’t ask for. Is this fair to do this to someone?
As I mentioned earlier, it also never ends well. If you decide not to give a gift back, there are always hurt feelings. In any office, little comments will get back to the person not giving out gifts that they “weren’t appreciative” or “were thoughtless of the feelings of others.” It’s that last one that I have a real problem with. How is it thoughtless of others feelings when you don’t give a gift back, but the other person didn’t care about the feelings of those that didn’t want to take part? Why do the feelings of one outweigh the feelings of the other? And what about the gift? Is it okay to give it away to someone else? I usually take the gift and drop it off in a gift donation box somewhere. Or give it to a co-worker who is truly struggling. I don’t make a big deal out of it because I don’t want anyone to feel bad, but someone will end up hurt. I just wish that we weren’t put in these situations to begin with. I’ve heard of offices that have banned gift giving all together and I applaud them for doing it. Now if only my office would do the same.