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Business Gift Giving Etiquette and Mistakes to Avoid

business gift giving etiquette

Giving gifts to clients or business associates can be an awkward experience if you don’t know the etiquette behind it. If you purchase a gift that is too expensive or not aligned with the recipient’s interests, your good intentions may be overshadowed by the gaffe. So before you start shopping for your next round of gifts for clients, colleagues or employees, consider the following business gift giving etiquette tips.

Make Gifts Personal When Possible

It’s always nice, whenever possible, to personalize each gift to each recipient. Your clients and colleagues want to know that you appreciate them. So giving an item that is specifically aligned with their interests can mean more than a generic token or promotional item from your company.

Of course, there are exceptions. For instance, if you can afford it, most employees would be happy with cash bonuses in lieu of a physical gift. And if you have so many clients that you can’t possibly buy for each one individually, pick out a small but useful item or even a gift card. Don’t just send cheap promotional items or ones that are too specific to benefit each client, though.

Know How Much to Spend

Deciding on a budget for your holiday gifts, or other gift-giving occasions throughout the year, will largely have to do with your own company’s finances. Even if you can’t afford much, a small token or even handwritten cards will let people know you’re thinking of them.

But the big mistake to avoid is spending too much on gifts. Certain types of service providers have limits for the types of gifts they can receive. And some are not allowed to accept gifts at all. Postal workers, for instance, aren’t allowed [1] to accept gifts worth more than $20. So do some research, or even ask your service providers, before giving gifts to avoid an awkward situation.

business gift giving etiquette

Be Sensitive to Religious Beliefs

Don’t just assume that all of your clients or colleagues celebrate Christmas. Giving a holiday gift to someone who can’t accept it because of their beliefs can make both you and them uncomfortable. To avoid this, you can simply ask if they celebrate Christmas, without getting into specifics about their religious preferences.

Be sensitive to each person’s religion or beliefs. If someone doesn’t celebrate Christmas and would be uncomfortable receiving a gift, you can show your appreciation in other ways. Send a small token after they complete a big project or offer an end-of-the-year bonus or token for them.

Regift With Caution

Regifting is the practice of giving gifts that you previously received from someone else. This isn’t an accepted practice in every circle, but it is becoming more commonplace. An American Express survey [2] performed during the 2013 holiday season found that 32 percent of all Americans took part in regifting.

A key thing to consider when regifting is whether or not you will hurt any feelings. If the recipient will be able to tell the item is regifted and thus not purchased specifically for them, it could seem less genuine. If the person who originally bought you the gift would be likely to find out that you passed along their purchase, it could hurt both them and the recipient.

And, of course, it would be inappropriate to give back a gift if the original giver is likely to be present when you give it to someone else.

business gift giving etiquette

Include Everyone, When Possible

The most important thing you can do when giving gifts is to make sure you remember everyone. Don’t offer gifts to only certain team members. Your employees are likely to talk to one another.

Even clients within a certain industry or group may talk with one another. A kind gesture meant with the best of intentions, may turn negative if someone feels slighted. You don’t want anyone to feel less important or forgotten.

To avoid overlooking anyone, keep a running list of clients and employees and check it carefully before sending out gifts or cards. And think about any other people who you should send gifts to [3]. This might include certain service providers or consultants. Even a small item or a card can make people feel important to your business.

Gifts [4] Photo via Shutterstock, Wrapped Gift [5] Photo via Shutterstock, Paper Craft Gift [6] Photo via Shutterstock