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Your guide to business gift etiquette

business person in suit holding small wrapped gift in hand

’Tis the season for generosity and showing others appreciation, which commonly means the giving of gifts. It can be tricky to know if it’s appropriate to give a client or a coworker a gift, and if so, what should you give? Here are some pointers to make sure any present you give (or receive) follows proper business etiquette...

If your coworkers or clients are from other countries, make sure you research specific gift-giving customs. In some countries, business gifts are inappropriate, regardless of the reason. In other countries, there are certain ways a gift must be wrapped or presented. Taking the time to understand these customs will help you avoid potentially awkward situations for you and your colleagues or clients.

When choosing gifts, try to make them creative while avoiding anything too personal or extravagant. Remember to check your company’s gift-giving policy and that of your clients if you are unsure. In addition, the IRS has specific guidelines on the type and value of gifts that can be deducted at tax time.

If you are planning to give a larger gift to a special coworker or your superior, you could take up a collection with your colleagues to purchase one nice gift instead of several smaller ones. If you do this, offer a suggested range and be sensitive to those who are unable to give.

When it comes to giving gifts or throwing parties or office gatherings, all should occur during a time when everyone can participate. However, participation should not be mandatory. Gift giving and celebrations should always be optional in a business setting.

For the most part, managers usually only give gifts to those who work directly on their team, if they desire to do so. An alternative might be to host a group lunch or dinner in lieu of gifts.

Expensive gifts should never be given by an individual employee to their supervisor. If you are a supervisor and a direct report unknowingly chooses to give something that exceeds the normal range, such as a set of luggage or an expensive bottle of wine, it is up to the supervisor to graciously decline with a truthful explanation of why such a gift cannot be accepted.

If you receive a gift yourself, be sure to practice proper etiquette and send a thank you note as soon as possible. The note can be brief, but it should be unique to the gift received.

Happy giving!

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