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Management: Obligatory Monetary Giving - Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Obligatory Monetary Giving

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Obligatory Monetary Giving

Last week, it was a baby shower for Myrna in accounting. This week, it’s a retirement gift for the Frank in the mailroom. Next week, there’s a catered lunch to celebrate the end of the busy season. It never seems to end: while nobody contests the validity of the celebration, the consistent, regular requests for monetary contributions can be a point of stress for many of us, wherever we are on the pay scale. Whether we’re pinching pennies toward that new house or just trying to keep up with inflation without too many lifestyle sacrifices, five dollars here and twenty dollars there just take a bigger slice out of some people’s disposable income than they do others’. This is where the stress comes in: it seems we’re spending on coworkers for extravagances we don’t allow ourselves, or the envelope comes around at exactly the wrong part of the pay cycle. So how can we preserve the collegial vibe of an office that likes to celebrate, without causing some of our employees unnecessary stress?

First, a lot of stress can be removed if the perception of peer pressure is taken out of the equation. If these office chip-ins are initiated by the same group of unofficial social-committee ringleaders, have a friendly conversation with them about continuing their outreach without alienating those who simply cannot give. Suggest (or solicit) ideas that will enable them to collect contributions in a no-pressure way. Perhaps there is a safe place in a high-traffic area (such as someone’s cubicle) where people can simply drop money into a jar if they feel led to throw in. This way, nobody is paying attention to those who can’t add a few bucks, and the pressure of face-to-face solicitation is eliminated. Or make sure whoever is taking the collection always has a smile on his face and insists that there is no pressure to participate.

Next, give people lots of time between announcing a collection and the actual collection. This might be hard to do in those offices that seem to celebrate something every week, but most workplaces don’t experience that kind of frequency. Allow people to figure out a good time to contribute (it’s not necessarily right after payday) on their own, and they won’t be caught off-guard on a day they’ve got every last penny earmarked for something. Don’t make people choose between Jimmy’s birthday gift and their kids’ friends’ birthday parties.

Consider offering other ways people may contribute. This lets people assuage any guilty feelings they may have by offering something meaningful instead, such as the task of cleaning up after the party, or picking up the catered food before. Ask for decorations or home-made dessert as an alternative to a monetary gift, and rather than stressed-out coworkers resenting a practically forced monetary expression of affection, you get happy contributors who may still participate without tension or bitterness.

Nobody wants to be the fire extinguisher on the flame of collegial jollity, but sometimes that’s a manager’s job. Keeping a pleasant, positive vibe among the ranks might mean putting restriction on the number and kinds of office parties. Some offices combine a whole calendar month’s events into one joint celebration, while others strongly suggest limiting things to birthdays and retirements, leaving baby showers and bridal showers for after-work, off-site, voluntary gatherings. However you want to take the reins on what can be a terrible source of stress for some of your valued employees, don’t expect them to approach you for a solution. It’s practically unheard of for someone to rebel, openly or covertly, against colleagues’ good intentions, especially when it comes to gift-giving. Assume there are people in your office who have difficulty with supposedly optional contributions, and troubleshoot your workplace’s unique vibe from there.


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Management: Obligatory Monetary Giving - Executive Leadership Articles

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