Know the Rules for Holiday Gift Giving
Tis the season for gift giving. But, know the rules for giving and receiving gifts before you commit an ethics violation.
I remember one young Marine gave our Commanding Officer and Executive Officer a day planner for Christmas. Within minutes, the First Sergeant was discreetly asking someone to search the regulations to see if they could accept the gifts. It is one thing to accept a cookie from the office baker but it another to accept a gift that may be considered by others as “sucking up.”
Below is an easy to read guide to keep you from making a faux pas depending on where you work.
Do NOT give gifts to your supervisors.
- Do not accept gifts from subordinates or other federal employees who make less than you.
- Do not ask employees to contribute toward a gift for an official superior.
- Always be mindful of the possibility that others may view your gift giving as favoritism.
- Be careful someone does not expect a promotion or special assignment because they gave you a gift.
The Exception to the rules – You may accept refreshments, greeting card, or small gift other than cash valued at less than $10 from an employee or coworker. Likewise, employees make accept a gift – not cash – from the public valued up to $20, if all gifts received do not total more than $50 in a calendar year.
Large Corporations – know the rules.
- Consult your Human Resource Department and employee handbook for guidance.
- If gifts are allowed, find out to whom you can give a gift. Know the rules of your office.
- Allow people to opt-out of the Secret Santa or gift exchange. Set a clear spending limit and let people know about it ahead of time.
- If you receive a gift from a client know if you can keep it and if there are any stipulations on the value of the gift. If you cannot keep the gift due to company ethics policies consult your Human Resources Department on disposal of the gift. Most Human Resource Departments will provide you a list of non-profit organizations to donate the gift. Be sure to send a thank you note and explain the gift was donated. This will let the person know not to send you something in the future.
- Consult your manager or Human Resources Department on whether it is appropriate to send a gift to a client.
Remember to be kind. If you know someone is struggling financially do NOT embarrass the person by singling him or her out and presenting them a gift card, cash, or food box containing a holiday meal in front of everyone.
Small Businesses – often treat their employees like family.
- Ask your supervisor what is the proper protocol for gift giving.
- Pool your spending power if you are buying a gift for the owners. Suggested contribution is $5-$10.
- If it is a small office or workplace if you give to one co-worker you should give to all co-workers. Small businesses thrive on having a cohesive work environment. You do not want to make someone feel unwanted by not giving that person a gift.
Instead of buying gifts for everyone you may choose to bake a tray of cookies or your specialty item for everyone to enjoy at work or take home to share with their families.
Don’t let the holiday gift giving fever catch you unprepared. You do not want to get coal in your stocking. Know the ethical guidelines for gift giving for your place of employment.