Columns by Eric J. Adams
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Beyond the Fruitcake:
Okay, the holiday season is approaching and you'd like to send little gifts of thanks to the corporate cubies who pay your mortgage, even though it's you who deserves gifts from them.
A box of chocolates? Perhaps. But maybe not. Gift giving is a subtle art, and if you pick the wrong gift, or the wrong recipient, you may do more harm than good.
So who gets gifts? Let's start with the don't list. Don't send gifts to someone with whom you're negotiating a contract. It may appear as a bribe -- or worse, a poor attempt at a bribe. Unless you're ready to pay big bucks for a really dynamite bribe, don't bother.
It's also advisable not to send gifts to clients you've recently met or those with whom you have only a passing relationship. This may make them feel startled, uneasy, and guilty for not thinking of you, not exactly the reaction you hope to inspire.
Finally, don't send gifts to past clients who've booted you. That looks like groveling, and what's worse than that?
And now, the do list. Be sure to give to people with whom you have established business relationships, the people who really help you get your work done. For example, the following folks each deserve a nice holiday present:
Next it's on to the type of gift to give, always the trickiest aspect of the gift giving business. You don't want your gift to be too expensive -- that may appear extravagant. But that's better than spending too little and, consequently, looking cheap. After all, wouldn't you rather receive an inappropriately expensive gift than an inappropriately cheap one?
The best gift, if your mother hasn't already told you, is a thoughtful one. If you have no practice in thoughtfulness here are ways to at least create the illusion of thoughtfulness. Give:
If you're giving gifts to more than one person at the same client company, try to make each gift unique. That way, when the office or email chatter finally gets around to you, people will conclude that you're a remarkable person in addition to being a gifted professional.
If nothing comes to mind from the above list, then it's time for a canned gift (just make sure it doesn't come in a can).
A note on necessities: gifts like gloves or mouse pads make it seem like the recipient actually needs something, and you are the goon insensitive enough to point this out. Don't do it.
That leaves two final possibilities. The first is the gag gift.
Gag gifts are very hard to pull off. Unless there's a tie-in with a running joke, as mentioned above, forget the gag gift. Even if it's funny, the initial moment of laughter isn't worth the lingering resentment the recipient will harbor over having received a gift that's useless.
The final gift category is best described as a reward gift -- something recipients wouldn't necessarily buy for themselves, but would be happy to own. In this category you'll find gifts like quality pens, a bottle of fine wine, a stylish desk clock, letter opener, paper weight, anything that's leather (well, not anything: stay away from leather brassieres or codpieces). Something of enduring worth is better, because it will serve as an enduring reminder of you. Think of all the things you want for yourself but never buy.
You should include a handwritten note with a personal sentiment, not too mushy. And, if possible, hand deliver the entire package for maximum effect. Do it early enough and, who knows, you just may receive a gift in return. Just don't count on it.
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