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'Tis the season: Part 2

Posted by Peter Post  December 2, 2010 07:00 AM

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Last week's column focused on gift giving within the office. However, that's not the only type of gift giving that occurs at this time of the year. Clients give gifts to a business they work with and vice versa. These gift exchanges happen both on an individual level and between companies.

If on an individual basis you are considering giving a gift to a client or someone you do business with, the first step is to make sure you abide by that company's gift rules. Some companies simply don't allow employees to receive gifts while others put a limit on the value of the gift. Giving a gift that's outside the parameters means that the employee will be put in the awkward position of having to return the gift. If you receive a gift that exceeds the limit, let the giver know why you are returning it and be sure to thank him for his thoughtfulness.

Once you know that giving a gift is permissible, keep it professional in nature, nothing personal that could be misinterpreted. Even if you think that a blouse would be a great gift because itís the perfect color, your client may perceive the gift as having romantic overtones.

If you receive a gift, open it then and there if the giver is with you. A heartfelt thank you on the spot is great and a follow-up thank-you note is a perfect way to express your appreciation and also reach out to the giver one more time. If the giver is not present when you open the gift, it is imperative that you write the thank-you note not only to express your appreciation but also to let the giver know that you received the gift. Donít worry if you don't have a gift to give in return. Keep the focus on the giver and the gift. A few days later you can always reciprocate, if you wish.

People angst too much over the thank-you note and then end up not writing it. Keep it to three or four sentences


Thanks so much for coming by the office yesterday. The book on Tuscany is beautiful and you know how much I love vacationing there. Thank you for such a kind present and Iím really looking forward to working with you in the new year.


Gifts given and received on behalf of the company, department, or office are really appreciated and are a great way to honor the team. Chocolates, a basket of fruit, a gift box of cheeses and crackers, a tin with a variety of popcorn flavors are all great gifts that everybody can enjoy. Be sure to put the gift out where all can share in it. As with gifts between individuals, a thank-you note is imperative not only to express appreciation for the gift but also to let the giver know it has been received.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.

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Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.

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