Birthdays & Goodwill Hunting

Yesterday was President Obama’s 48th birthday and it got me thinking about office etiquette: to gift your boss or not? To give your client a birthday gift or not? To give your favorite blogger a birthday gift or not? I’m losing money as I write this, just thinking about all the gifts I need to buy. What you choose to give your boss on his or her birthday says a lot about your relationship with your manager or how you perceive that relationship.  You can find a lot of tips online about gift giving, but few advice columns point to the fact that how a gift is emotionally received is based a great deal on the current relationship you have with that person.  If you’re a communicator it should sound familiar, as you know that the relationships you have with your stakeholders — from the media to employees to investors — is based on ongoing, open and honest communication. That goodwill is built over time, so it doesn’t matter if you give your boss a $4 birthday card or a $400 briefcase. If your relationship is sour, the gift might as well be a lead balloon.  Most likely, today is NOT your boss’s birthday or the birthday of that blogger you’re trying to influence. So start building that goodwill now and your $25 gift will feel like a million dollars.

How do you handle gifts for bosses, clients, employees, etc?

— Diane Schwartz