December 4, 2012

Holiday Gift Giving and Accepting

By Paul Bieber

Holy Cow! Is it that time of the year already?

Yup. It is.

You are probably giving give some gifts to customers and vendors and you will be receiving gifts as well.  Let’s look at some situations. 

  • A good customer wants to give a gift to your Foreman who helped button up a critical job.  The customer walks in with an expensive bottle of scotch, and asks you to give this to the Foreman.  Unfortunately, three of the men on his crew hear this and they are upset that they did all the work and the Foreman got the credit.
  • The trucking company you primarily use brings in two tickets to a special game and gives them to your dispatcher, along with a hundred dollars to go out for dinner before the game.  Did it in the middle of the day, too.
  • A good vendor sends a large box of chocolate to your customer service team, and one person takes it home that night.

Sounds like you need a policy on incoming gifts.  Do they belong to you as the owner, or do you share with all employees?  How do you share two tickets to a game when you have seven employees?  If one of your employees does a really good job for a customer, shouldn’t he get the full reward from that customer, or should he share with all of your other employees?

Some large companies prohibit their employees from receiving gifts during the holiday season, because of the impression of possible improprieties.  Our average glass shop isn’t in this category.  But you do have to consider how a gift to one employee impacts the rest of your company.  If you have one person that does most of your purchasing, should he get a gift from a vendor?  I think not. 

Here’s what I recommend:

  • No employees are allowed to give out their home addresses to vendors.  No exceptions.
  • Any gifts that come in to the company should be discussed with you.  If it’s food, share with everyone in the lunch room.  All other specific gifts should be kept together until a date closer to Christmas.  Put everyone’s name in a hat, and distribute the gifts based on pulling names out.  This reinforces that your company is a team and that everyone is involved in keeping customers happy.
  • In larger companies, you might distribute these gifts based on departments.  If you have a five truck drivers and they get gifts, include the truck loaders in the hat-pulling.
  • What about gifts that you are not made aware of?  A customer or vendor sends a gift home, or sends a Christmas card with a check in it?  There’s not much you can do, other than constantly reinforce that it takes a team to build a business.

What about gifts to you as the owner?  Try to keep these low-key, don’t open these boxes at work or show them to your employees.  You can throw these gifts into the company pool provided they are roughly of the same value as others.  If you get a significant gift, take it home.   If a vendor or customer ask if it is OK to send a gift, and many are now doing this, the answer is always yes, but steer them to gifts that can be distributed to your whole team, or have them give a donation to a local food pantry or the YMCA in your honor.    

Be sure that thank-you notes are sent for each gift acknowledging the gift went to the whole company. 

Next week we’ll discuss how your company should give gifts.