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December 05, 2011

Comments

Ruth

Nice post. Much needed. Having been in corporate America for ~25 yrs I have given and received and lot of gifts from managers and co-workers. I especially appreciate the comment about inclusion. Simply be aware of how it appears to others to give gifts at work. I have a co-worker that has become a good friend (or so I thought). We share private personal details and do things outside of work. She can be hot and cold. At an out-of-town conference this year she all but ignored me which I decided to just let it go since she is a rubbing elbows kind of person and I am not. This person will say how she loves me and values our friendship. Many times over many years. In e-mail, phone calls and in person. However her actions do not align with her words. She leaves extraordinary birthday gifts on other co-workers desks but not mine, including decorating their cubes. This has led to a conflict inside of me: is she serious when she says she loves me or is she saying that so I can will help her when she needs it? If she loves me, does that not include similar recognition as other co-workers in the form of a gift? I blew it off the first few years, but I ask myself why as the years go by. I confess it is selfish of me to compare this way. As long as I am being transparent here, I decided long ago that I would only give gifts (Christmas, birthday, etc) to co-workers when I felt I could afford it and only from my heart, not from obligation, to avoid "faking" and to avoid any "reciprocal" tendencies in myself and the other person. This results in some years gifts are given from me to co-workers; other years, they are not. While it shouldn't send a mixed signal IMO, apparently it does, and perhaps this confuses her (& others). I am sad if I only get gifts when I give them, but it may just be that simple - the age-old "tit-for-tat" score-keeping system. Hopefully my transparency won't bite me, but I think the sum of what I am trying to say is this: If you are going to give gifts to co-workers, do it somewhere besides the office to avoid the potential for comparison, which is basic human nature. Is comparison immature? Probably so. But still, it is basic human nature and I suggest to anyone who thinks they are above comparison to monitor their heart reactions closely to see if they truly are.

Jared Cole

Thanks for the post, Ruth. It's best to know what kind of culture and customs are in your workplace before you start giving gifts. When in doubt, give them on your off time when you aren't at work.

Kate

What a great article...your advice is particularly helpful to folks about to spend their first holiday season in a new workplace. Our best advice is to be proactive -- ask casually in lunchroom "So, what do you guys do to celebrate the holidays here." Include a funny anecdote about a previous office to keep it casual...you don't want to be too obvious about your fact-finding mission!!!

Jared Cole

That's a fun piece of advice. I wouldn't worry too much about being casual on your fact finding. You're taking interest in the company and wanting to be a part of the celebration. But always be aware of what is and isn't acceptable holiday behavior at your work. Thank you so much for sharing!

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