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Etiquette at Work

What to bring to a going-away party?

Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Peter Post
March 16, 2008

Q. I was invited to a going-away party at the home of an executive. Is it appropriate to bring a gift, e.g. flowers or wine? I didn't want to seem like a brownnose but felt uncomfortable showing up at his house for dinner without anything.

I. H., Melrose

A. It's unclear if you are talking about a hostess gift, which would be perfectly acceptable, or a going-away gift for the executive. Typically, at a going-away party for a co-worker, there's no expectation that each attendee bring a gift. Joint gifts or a company gift are the norm. Instead, it would be appropriate to bring a card.

Q. The new president of our company, to whom I report directly, won't pay the check when we go out for business lunches or dinners. The nature of our business requires that we go on these dinners. Even when we go for drinks, which the company won't reimburse, I'm left paying the check. Eventually, I'm left expensing these bills. It takes the company a long time to reimburse. Shouldn't the boss pay? How can I get out of paying for these each time we go out? (One friend suggested going to the restroom when the check arrives.) He's new in this position. What is the best way to approach this?

G.G., Gloucester

A. While going to the restroom when the check arrives may seem like a good solution, the problem remains. Nothing says he'll deal with the check while you're away from the table. You indicate he is new, so I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he isn't aware you are paying personally rather than with a company credit card. Meet with him, explain the situation, and request a company credit card.

Here's a great suggestion from a reader:

I very much appreciated your response to R.K. in St. Louis who received a diamond necklace as a gift. I thought you'd be interested that one innovative company that I previously worked for had an interesting policy. All gifts received over a certain threshold had to be returned with a note, such as the one you recommended. Any gifts under that threshold were to be collected by management. Before the holidays, the company held a raffle where ALL employees, except management, were eligible to win these small token gifts. It allowed the company to maintain its ethical standards while not putting employees in an awkward position of having to return nominal gifts and gave employees who were not in positions to receive gifts in the normal course of their job the opportunity to share the bounty.

H.S., Mansfield

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