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My co-worker asked me to chip in for a group gift for our boss, how do I politely decline?

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If you work in an office long enough, you will eventually face this awkward situation. Your co-worker wants to get your boss a gift and wants you to contribute money to buy it. Now you’re put on the spot to provide an answer. The best approach is to be prepared with an answer that can help you abide by office gifting etiquette.

Why decline to participate in office gift-giving

There are several reasons why you should not participate in office gifting. While other individuals may feel the need to give gifts, you shouldn’t feel pressured to participate in this often inappropriate practice.

Perceived favoritism

Gift-giving in a professional setting, when it is between employees at different levels, can create perceived favoritism. This can lead to tension among employees and hinder the fostering of a positive company culture.

Unequal financial burden

Employees have different pay rates. This puts everyone on an unequal footing when giving gifts. This also doesn’t take into account their personal financial situation. Requiring employees to participate in gift-giving can create financial tension and pressure on employees who do not have the budget for it.

Professional boundaries

While you can be friendly with your fellow employees, you should maintain a level of professionalism. Gift-giving may cross the line of professionalism and overstep established boundaries.

Potential for misinterpretation

You may feel that your gift is innocent or sends a certain type of message. However, that does not mean that is how others will perceive your gift. Your boss or fellow employees may misinterpret your intentions, which can create awkwardness or tension in the office.

Ethical concerns

Some companies choose to avoid all of the potential issues that come with professional gift-giving by establishing policies that discourage it. Ignoring company policy and giving a gift can create ethical concerns for you and the recipient. Your boss won’t appreciate you violating company policy and putting them in a questionable position.

Creating a precedent

Once you give one gift, you have now set a precedent. This can quickly become problematic for future occasions. There will be an expectation of participation, requiring you to continue to participate.

How to decline

Once you decide you don’t want to contribute money, you need to have an elegant way of declining. Your response to requests for participation needs to clearly communicate your desire to not contribute while also not offending or alienating your fellow employee asking you to participate.

Keep your response polite, simple, and honest. You don’t need to get too personal with the details or overshare. Share a reason or two mentioned above.

Finally, have tact and consider how the other person will respond to your declining to participate. It may also be helpful to be prepared by reviewing your company handbook for any policies that would prohibit gifts.

How to practice proper office gift etiquette

Office politics may have you feeling as though declining to participate is not an option. Thankfully, there are a few ways you can give gifts while maintaining professionalism. Consider a thoughtful small gift that puts the focus on effort and not on monetary value. Choose a gift for your boss that won’t cross the professionalism boundary.

These funny gifts are perfect for your boss’s birthday as they are thoughtful and office-appropriate.

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