The Talk

Are you gifted at corporate giving?

- Last modified: December 18, 2013 at 11:58 AM

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Thank you, Klunk & Millan. We just received a box of chocolate-covered pretzels from you and they look tasty.

They're now sitting in our office kitchenette, filling the space left over after we devoured the box of cookies and kiffles from Pride Staff.

'Tis the season for corporate giving, and I'd be lying if I said it wasn't one of my favorite things about the holidays – even if it does put a big dent in my dieting plans.

Gift baskets are always a popular corporate gift. They're nice because they offer the proper sentiment to the intended recipient – usually the office general manager or company CEO – but it can be shared and enjoyed by everyone.

This is a fairly small office at 65 East Elizabeth, so things don't get too crazy, but I remember past jobs at larger companies where kitchen counters would be covered with smoked cheese and bologna blocks for as far as the eye could see. It was holiday paradise and a big sales generator for Pepto Bismol.

No matter what was delivered, it all was eaten, except for maybe those little strawberry hard candies. Those generally got left behind with the shrink wrap and paper straw.

I actually kind of like those candies, but by the time we'd have whittled our way down to the hard candy, there was no more room at the belly inn.

Another holiday tradition is the gifts that the company gives to employees. Most companies do something even if it's as simple as a year-end bonus or a small office party.

While giving an official gift seems like a slam dunk in the good will department, there are corporate giving hazards out there.

I remember when I was working in public affairs (in another lifetime), my office traditionally bought poinsettias for the other offices. We bought them through a local nonprofit so all of the money went to charity – and it was a nice gesture to add a little holiday cheer to the offices.

Sounds great, right?

Wrong.

I found, in my first year, that it was a disaster.

The "gifts" generated more complaint calls than any bad news I had ever given out.

Some people were disappointed that they got a red one when they wanted a white one, or had heard that some people got variegated poinsettias – "What, didn't you think our office was good enough for the fancy ones?"

Then there the calls from people complaining that they couldn't see the poinsettia from their desk because someone was "hogging it," or that their office was bigger, so they thought they should get two.

I asked my assistant and she laughed it off.

"It's like that every year," she said.

I made the executive decision the next year to end the tradition.

For the few people who asked, I passed it off as budget cuts.

There were no complaints.

I also have been the less-than-grateful recipient of corporate holiday gifts. One year when I was in my early 20s, I managed to be on the receiving end of not one but two turkeys, a frozen and a smoked one.

Living alone in a tiny apartment, I didn't have much use for a 20-pound turkey, smoked or otherwise. I don't even think I had a place to store it. I gave them to my mom with a request that she cook one of them and have me over for dinner sometime.

Some of my favorite corporate gifts have been gift cards to area restaurants – especially ones I couldn't have afforded otherwise.

I think gift certificates almost always are a good idea. You can take it to the next level even by giving gift cards to a business or restaurant your business has dealings with during the year – spreading the joy a little further.

It's also – usually – nice to personalize things.

Donna Hosfeld of Hosfeld Insurance said she likes to give a gift bag of snacks and teas, as well as Christmas tree ornaments reflecting each staffer's personality.

But if you're going to do something personal, make sure you know enough about the person.

One reader said she got a $15 gift card for iTunes, but she didn't have an iPod or smartphone.

Another said a boss got her an AM/FM radio because she, like me, used to work for a radio station.

Nice, but everyone else got a gift certificate for a two-night stay at a hotel.

Not to mention, personal is only practical for smaller companies. If you have a staff of 100 or so, that might be harder to do.

Stuck for ideas? Here are a couple of websites with practical and not-so practical corporate gifting suggestions:

http://www.corporatesnobs.com/unique-corporate-gifts.htm

http://kiwisoutback.squidoo.com/corporate-christmas-gifts

Stacy Wescoe

Stacy Wescoe

Writer and online editor Stacy Wescoe covers technology and trends plus keeps you up to date on what coworkers and competitors are talking about around the water cooler and on social media. Reach her at stacyw@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 104. Follow her on Twitter at @morestacy and on Facebook and circle her on Google+.

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