how to avoid giving gifts at work

That’s right:  how to AVOID giving gifts at work.  A pet peeve of mine, for a long time, has been the corporate office “pitch in for a gift” routine. If you aren’t a corporate employee, let me explain.  What happens is that there’s one perky busybody in every department who decides to buy a flower basket when co-workers gets sick, or a teddy bear when they have a baby, or an item from the registry when someone gets married, or even a little gift for everyone’s birthday. This busybody goes around and asks everyone for a “donation,” knowing full well that for most people refusing is an embarrassing proposition.

I have never liked this business of pitching in.  I like it even less now that I’m a consultant, and anyone with half a brain should be able to realize that I have even less interest than the average employee in participating.  Plus:

  • 1. I don’t always like the person for whom the present is being purchased.
  • 2. Sometimes the reason for the gift is trivial – someone is having a birthday? What, are we 12?
  • 3. There is a subtle discrimination – someone who has been around longer, or has a better position, or is simply more popular gets bigger or better gifts.
  • 4. If the busybody is encouraged, soon you are shelling out $10-$20 a week for “voluntary” gifts.

I am also very uncomfortable accepting such gifts, and have often said point-blank that I don’t want any gifts. Maybe I have a distorted view, but to me if I receive a gift I feel an obligation to return it the next time I’m asked to contribute. Then I’m “stuck” as a regular contributor.  And I won’t do it.  I often make a point early on to tell people that I do not participate with any “optional” offerings – gifts, flowers, etc.  I don’t give to the boss’s favorite charity, either, another pet peeve.  Going around soliciting for your daughter’s Girl Scout cookie sales is soliciting, plain and simple.  So is Yankee Candle and anything else the boss brings in and coos about being “fun, you should try it!”  Imagine if I started bringing in sales brochures for my consulting business and handing them out to people in the finance department.

Now that I’m a consultant – and technically not “part” of the department – I find it easier to refuse. I am stingy enough with gift-giving for my family and friends (and myself) that I resent any “required” gifts for my co-workers. I know, in a sense, that this just reflects the realities of most people’s lives – that they spend more time with their co-workers than with their friends and families and therefore want to contribute to the morale of their workplace. Yet every time I’m asked to pitch in $10 for a co-worker’s cheese-and-sausage gift basket I see $10 that could buy my son some books, or $10 to add to my nieces’ and nephew’s custodial accounts, or even $10 that Bubelah and I could put towards an occasional evening out. I am selfish that way.  I want to give money to charities of my choice, not to a charity chosen by a coworker who had a great-aunt pass away.

So am I crazy? Do you have people asking you to contribute to “departmental” gifts at the office? Do you participate? Am I just being a jerk?

As we know it is always something, whether it be anniversary, birthday, or new born baby gifts.