Choosing a gift for your colleagues and clients during the holiday season can be a challenging task. It is not always easy to come up with the perfect present while following business gift protocol.
Whether you head for the mall, haul out those holiday catalogs or go online, the following tips should guide you to a gift that will be appropriate, appreciated and remembered for all the right reasons.
Follow corporate guidelines.
Some companies have strict policies about what kinds of gifts, if any, their employees may receive. If you have any doubt, ask your clients or check with their human resources department.
Consider your client’s interests.
Find out what sports, hobbies or pastimes your clients enjoy. Perhaps your client has a favorite food or beverage. If you can’t determine this on your own, contact an assistant or associate. Make your gift stand out just as you want your company to stand out.
Consider the cost.
An inexpensive gift can make you look cheap. On the other hand, a lavish present could be embarrassing or alienating. Giving or receiving expensive items may be against company policy.
Do your homework. What could be more embarrassing than to have your corporate gift returned or refused?
Rethink printing the company logo on your gift. Make sure the item meets a certain quality standard and your logo is understated enough so as not to look like a blatant advertisement.
Sometimes a gift given in innocence can be taken the wrong way, Avoid anything that is even slightly intimate when giving to members of the opposite sex.
Think twice about a humorous gift. What seems funny to one person could be insulting to another. Know your client’s sense of humor first.
Consider a charitable donation. Find out what charities your client supports and choose one of those. Everyone wins. A charity is served, and no one has another unwanted gift to deal with.
Presentation is important.
Have your gift wrapped and presented in a festive way. The packaging is part of the present. A gift certificate or notice of a donation to charity should arrive in a special envelope with a handwritten note.
Be generous with group gifts. If you decide to send food to your client’s office, make sure there is enough for everybody. The holiday season is not the time to cause a food fight.
Keep the goal in mind. The purpose of gift giving is to show appreciation and have people think of you when it’s time to do business. It’s also a means of expressing gratitude to those who support you.
Proceed with caution when exchanging gifts with colleagues and co-workers. Inner office gift-giving, although well-intended, can cause problems and confusion. Establish guidelines.
Everyone in the office or department should be in agreement as to how this will be done. Will everyone be expected to have a gift for everyone else? Will there be a drawing for names — like a Secret Santa — so only one gift needs to be purchased? Will a price range be established?
All of these are important questions to have answered before the holidays arrive. In difficult financial times, consideration should be given to each individual’s circumstances. No one should be made to feel embarrassed if entering the office pool is a financial burden.
Do you need to give the boss a gift?
The boss, whose salary no doubt exceeds yours, should give gifts to his staff, not the other way around. Often members of a department will contribute to a pool for the boss’s gift. As a result the boss ends up with the most elaborate or expensive gift of all.
If you decide to give your boss a gift, choose something in a low to moderate range. Anything lavish looks as if you are attempting to curry favor.
What if you want to give special gifts to just a few close colleagues and not everyone? If that is the case, give your gifts at a time and place away from the office and other co-workers.
The boss should be even–handed when giving gifts to employees. Everyone need not receive an identical gift — although it is the easiest route to go — but they should all be of equal value.
When all is said and done, remember to say thank you. Say it when you receive the gift and say it again in a handwritten note
Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, speaker, trainer, author and coach. You can contact her at 912-598-9812 or go to her website at www.mannersthatsell.com to leave a comment.