What’s Appropriate?

September 11, 2007

He accepted what?
 
Business can get complicated. We sometimes want to express appreciation but what is appropriate for business giving?
 
As I said in the previous post, I do believe giving a token of gratitude is a good practice as long as you don’t go overboard. You don’t want to make the recipient feel uneasy about accepting your gift and you don’t want to violate any company policies.
 
Here are some thoughts on guidelines.
 
Does your gift make a material difference to the recipient? It shouldn’t. If it does, you’re over the line unless you’re making payment for some service rendered. If someone helps you out or does some work for you without charging, it’s okay to give a suitable bonus. But if you are simply trying to express gratitude, keep it simple. Would you like a good guideline for how much is too much? If you read in the local paper that your congressional representative accepted “X” from the firm of Big Wally Enterprises, would you be upset? Would you think Big Wally was buying favorable treatment? If no, you’re okay. “Congressman Accepts Keys to New Viper from Chris Reich” or “Congresswoman Smiles as She Receives Coffee Sampler from Local Merchant”.  See?
 
Be careful of the message you send. All gifts should be gender neutral. I hate political correctness but I also abhor ignorant sexism. It would not be appropriate to show your appreciation for that big order by giving the female customer something from Victoria’s Secret. It’s not a good idea to send over a couple of hookers for that nice guy in purchasing either. Obviously, right? But what about flowers? Hummmm? I don’t think flowers are gender neutral despite the flower industry’s constant reminder that guys like flowers too. They may like them but publicly receiving them is another issue. Sort of like hookers.
 
Include a note but don’t gush. “Thank you. I look forward to working with you again.” That’s enough. I don’t think it’s wise to say, “Thank you for that big fat huge order”. Again, we want to express gratitude, not render payment in kind.
 
Finally, if you’re stumped about what to give, consider something the whole office can use. By giving coffee or cookies or something like that to the boss, it makes it easy for him to share the gift with his staff. He can take it home if he so choses, but if he’s not a coffee drinker he’ll still get the perk of being able to give it to his people. You achieve your purpose.
 
I know this is a fairly common sense topic but I wouldn’t write about it if I didn’t see some questionable practices. 
 
Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog
 

Chris Reich

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