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Dos and don’ts of corporate gift giving

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Who knew giving someone a present could come with so many difficulties?

Particularly in this part of the world, which is filled with different cultures, religions and traditions, the etiquette surrounding corporate gift giving can be tricky to decipher.

So, before you start buying Christmas gifts, let us help you with some of the more difficult decisions you’ll have to make.

DO make sure the gift is practical

To show how well you know your client, business partner or customer, make sure you gift something they can use. Giving a present someone can’t use generally shows you put no thought into the gift and could offend.

DO personalise your card, at the very least

A handwritten greeting on the accompanying card almost always wins over a typed message. It shows extra thought and care and respect for whom you are giving the present to.

DO think about how your gift will be perceived

Some people might consider an extravagant gift a bribe, while other customers or clients might actually be forbidden by company policy from accepting gifts altogether. Do your homework and work out what is appropriate for each person before you make a fool out of yourself and the company.

DON’T gift promotional things

In some cultures this isn’t seen as a negative thing, but in others giving away something with your corporate logo on it that you might give away at an event or trade show could be somewhat insulting.

DON’T go overboard with expensive gifts

Don’t spend bucket loads on expensive gifts. In some cultures, such as in Japan, the cost of the gift doesn’t matter as much as the process of gift giving, but in many countries an extravagant gift can signify certain expectations. Be careful.

DON’T forget cultural and religious gift giving etiquette

Speaking of cultures, be extremely aware of what is deemed culturally acceptable when giving gifts. The art of gidft giving differs heavily within the Asian region, so ask yourself these questions when buying gifts:

–         Does the culture pertain to a particular ritual when giving gifts?

–         What type of gifts might be considered unlucky in some cultures?

–         When do you give the gift? Before your meeting or after? Prior to establishing a business relationship, or after you are already acquainted?

–         What’s the protocol of receiving a gift? Is it polite to decline when offered a gift?

–         Are there cultural boundaries for women giving gifts to men, or vice versa?

Similarly, be wary of people with different religions at Christmastime. To be on the safe side, perhaps consider writing “Happy Holidays” on your card instead of “Merry Christmas”.

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Rebecca Lewis
Human Resources Magazine Singapore

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