Philly Creative Guide

Guest Columnist

Gail Madison

CODE RED: Business Holiday Gift Giving
by Gail Madison, 1 Dec 2007

Gail Madison, Founder of The Madison School of Etiquette and Protocol, is a graduate of the Protocol School of Washington, D.C. - the nation's most respected institution of etiquette training. Recognized by the National Speakers Association, Ms. Madison frequently serves as an expert resource for journalists. She is a regular columnist for local and national newspapers and has appeared on several TV networks.


While I may still be shaking the sand out of my beach towels, I am keenly aware that the holidays are nearly here and it is time to prepare for business gift giving! This can strike fear in the hearts of even the savviest shoppers but relax, it really is easier than you think. One of the secrets is to start planning now. Make a list of people for whom giving a gift is important to you and your business. The holidays are a wonderful time to recognize those whom we appreciate and gift giving should be a pleasure not a chore. The internet is a wonderful resource for shopping and there is much information regarding appropriate gifts for business here in the United States and abroad.

There are certain "Do's" to consider for the etiquette success of gift giving for work and they are: Do check with the recipient's company to see if they have a gift policy for employees accepting gifts. Do choose a gift that expresses how much you value the relationship and remember that quality and good taste are important. Do choose a gift that reflects the interests of your recipient; a subscription to a wine magazine for a wine lover is a better choice than a gift of alcohol in business. Do wrap the gift beautifully as the presentation is often remembered more than the gift and enclose a handwritten "thank you" card and make sure that you do not include a business card or any information that might be seen as business solicitation thus negating the spirit of the gift. Do consider religious and cultural differences and what is appropriate. Cross cultural protocol is important in our global business climate. Always do your research to avoid a potential relationship destroying faux pas.

While gift giving is important, one should never feel pressured. If you are an employee in a large office and are asked to donate to a gift and can honestly not afford to, you do not need to do so. Just say, "Thank you but I do not wish to contribute at this time." If your boss gives you a gift, you do not need to give one in return, unless you have a close relationship and choose to do so. Gifts for a boss or superior should not be too extravagant as to be mistaken as a bribe or inappropriate, certainly nothing too personal. A safe price range is fifty to seventy five dollars. If you receive an extravagant gift from a client or someone at work, it is acceptable to decline the gift saying that, "I cannot accept such an extravagant gift, thank you." Return the gift immediately, within twenty four hours. Gifts given to select colleagues or other individuals at the office should be given in private so as not to hurt the feelings of non-recipients, unless there is a large party where gifts are freely exchanged and the giving or receiving of gifts will not make others uncomfortable.

When choosing a gift for a client or anyone with whom you have a business relationship, the choice should be based on the importance of that relationship; highly valued clients receive more attention, etc. Some gift ideas that I have seen used successfully for business and that are considered appropriate and not too personal are: Pens, business card cases in metal or leather embossed or engraved with the recipient's monogram, "coffee table" books of high quality tailored to the recipient's interest (antiques, art, wine, travel, fashion, cooking), a gift certificate to a fine restaurant, movie gift cards, tickets to sporting events, theater tickets or orchestra tickets. I often entertain my clients by taking them to a fine restaurant of their choice purely for the business of entertaining them and not discussing business. I find that doing this at other times of the year rather than at holiday "crunch" time is very much appreciated. The holidays are a great time to entertain though as everyone is feeling festive and most restaurants are beautifully decorated which only adds to the good cheer of the season and to nurturing those all important relationships.

Many companies are turning away from gift giving and this is fine. If you choose to send a card with "Happy Holidays" or "Seasons Greetings" instead of a gift, make sure that it is not seen as any sort of personal or business promotion. This is so important. A handwritten greeting by you to the recipient will be valued when not seen as a "pitch" for more business.

Last but certainly not least is the duty of the recipient to write a hand written thank you note in addition to a verbal thank you when you receive a gift. Choose quality stationary, a company logo is acceptable but nothing pre-printed with "merci beau coup" or "thank you"! Using a good pen, thank the person and mention the actual gift and how much you appreciate it and the thought behind it. Do not just say, "Thank you for your gift." "Thank you for the book on fine wines, how wonderful of you to remember me in this way" will continue to nurture and strengthen your relationship. Happy shopping and best wishes for a wonderful holiday season!

Print Article Brought to you by: Gail Madison | Founder of The Madison School of Etiquette and Protocol

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