Giving business gifts is a delicate dance. There are a lot of pitfalls too avoid, or toes to step on, so to speak, when buying a gift for a client or colleague, whether it is during the holidays or to celebrate an event like a new partnership or closing a deal. Either way, the gift needs to be several things at once: it must be price-appropriate, culturally sensitive, useful but not too personal, but still a little bit personal. And they should definitely not be offensive.
It really is tricky, because some gifts are just straight up inappropriate.
Let’s talk about inappropriate business gifts that you will want to avoid giving at all costs. But don’t worry, we won’t leave you hanging. We’ll wrap up with a few gifts that do a great job of walking that tightrope that is the world of business gift giving.
So yes, it’s tricky, but not impossible. Here is a list of gifts to avoid!
Gifts that are too personal
Any gift that feels “too close for comfort” are gifts to avoid. The gift shouldn’t be so personal that it is clear you’ve done a deep dive into their social media profiles. Gifts shouldn’t be personal items either – like clothing, perfume or jewelry – things that assume you know their personal style or that could be seen as a romantic gesture.
If you want to know a little more about the person for whom you are buying a business gift, it is reasonable to call their personal assistant or office manager to find a ball park theme. For example, you might find out they are health conscious or enjoy fine dining. But go no further than that. You don’t need to know exactly what gym they go to or what they wear there. Or instead of buying a gift card for a restaurant close to their home, find one close to their office. In other words, respect their personal life and space.
Gifts that are too expensive or too cheap
It’s another fine line to walk, but do be considerate in the cost department. A gift that is too cheap will make the recipient feel underappreciated, and a gift that’s too expensive is simply inappropriate. Of course, the cost of the gift will depend on the occasion.
For example, if you are sending a thank you gift for a huge business deal, the cost will lean to the higher side. If you want to send a gift that says, “thanks for taking the time to meet with me,” the gift will be smaller and less expensive. A luxury box of chocolates could be appropriate in this case.
Gifts that cross cultural lines or offend
When giving business gifts for the holidays, remember that not everyone celebrates Christmas. In this day and age, we can all just stay in our own lanes when it comes to who celebrates what and why. If you are giving gifts that coincide with the holidays, keep them neutral! Avoid any religious symbols or phrases and instead concentrate on this year’s job well done.
Along this same lines are gifts of alcohol. For reasons that are none of anyone’s business, not everyone drinks alcohol. While an expensive bottle of wine or scotch might be well received by some, it won’t be by all so unless you know with complete certainty how it will be received, it’s best to avoid altogether.
If you have any questions about whether or not your gift might be received and construed as offensive, it’s best to get a second opinion (from someone who is notably different than you). But if you have to ask the question, there’s already a chance that it is getting a little too close to that line.
We have entered a new era where people expect their boundaries to be considered and respected. Some people call this the PC era, but perhaps it is better looked at as an opportunity to understand more about someone’s culture and identity. It’s time to think about this kind of gift giving in a new way. With that in mind, consider whether the gift honours and celebrates a person, rather than one that reinforces a stereotype.
Gifts that leave people out
Perhaps you are buying gifts for your staff at the end of the year, but you decide to only buy for upper management, or you forget to buy gifts for some departments but not others. Especially if you are the boss buying business gifts for your employees, it is a good idea to remember that every single staff contributes to the success of the whole, and each person deserves to be recognized for their contributions.
So… what business gifts can you buy? Don’t worry – there are plenty of options out there! Here are some great ideas.
- Luxury chocolates. You can even personalize these with the company logo or an inspiring quote.
- Gift cards for somewhere useful and/or fun! Try and make sure that it is for somewhere they will use. Spas, high end restaurants, online retailers are good ideas.
- Gadgets. Something new and innovative or high quality. Avoid something cheap that will break or become obsolete soon.
- Tickets to an event or entry to a class (ie. a cooking class or painting class)
- Some time off work. If you are the boss, ask yourself: what do people want more than anything? The answer is always paid time off!
So there you have it, business gift giving is not always the easiest mark to hit, but with some thoughtful consideration, it’s not impossible. And once you have a few gifts dialed in, like personalized, luxury chocolates for example, you can easily re-order or order in bulk. We are not saying you have to break the bank or research every single person you need to buy a business gift for, just make sure you avoid some generally offensive or inappropriate gifts.