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Susan M. Heathfield

Need an Employee Gift Policy?

By December 16, 2013

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It's the holiday season when many organizations seek to put the merry, merry in employee pockets. Do you have an employee gift acceptance policy? I struggled writing my sample employee gift policy because I have such mixed emotions about gifts to employees.

Some employee gifts such as pens, key chains, notebooks, calendars, mugs, t-shirts, and other tschotskes are harmless in my mind. I have trouble imagining an employee buying decision swayed by a coffee mug, no matter how useful. Most of these tschotskes sit around in offices and cubicles until employees get tired of looking at them, and then, they throw them away.

But, especially with more expensive gifts, my employee gift policy states: "To avoid a conflict of interest, the appearance of a conflict of interest, or the need for our employees to examine the ethics of acceptance, our company and its employees do not accept gifts from vendors, suppliers, customers, potential employees, potential vendors or suppliers, or any other individual or organization, under any circumstances."

Employee Gift Stories Are Legion - and Legend

More expensive articles are a problem, however. A manager at a client company received a steak and lobster gift that would feed eight people during the winter holidays every year. No matter how nicely he asked the supplier company to stop sending them, the gift kept coming.

The gift became, in fact, an annual embarassment for him. (I mean, what is your problem that you can't get these people to stop?) And, annually the activity committee auctioned the employee gift with the proceeds going to charity. (The employees anticipated the auction every December.)

In another client company, the employee gift policy said that individual employees could not accept gifts. One intrepid supplier worked around that policy by supplying a gift to every person in the department. Okay, the policy was rewritten - again.

I'm not sure about when companies started cracking down on, especially, employee gifts from vendors. Maybe employee gift policies always existed, but were just unenforced. Working at a Fortune 100 company in the mid-to-late eighties, gossip about the gifts many buyers / purchasing agents accepted were legend. In fact, employee reports about the nature of the expensive gifts and the wining and dining going on were the stuff of winter gossip each year. Maybe, an employee gift policy existed. If an employee gift policy existed, it was not well-known or enforced.

You Need an Employee Gift Policy

The bottom line is that you need an employee gift policy. Employees like knowing what to do and that their behavior meets company standards. Employees respect fairness. What is good for one employee is good for all employees. Employees also appreciate equal treatment. If a supplier provides discounts on entertainment tickets, for example, every employee must be eligible.

I'm curious about your employee gift policy. Tougher than mine? What did I miss? See my sample employee gift policy.

Image Copyright Kelly Mullens

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