Canadian Underwriter

Tips to walk the gift-giving line

December 18, 2019   by Adam Malik

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It’s the annual challenge – what gift do you buy your clients and colleagues? Between taste, price, relationship, it’s tough to figure out. And there are many gift-giving opportunities when it comes to the insurance industry, between colleagues, industry partners, vendors and clients.

“We know that this is the time of the year that people want to show their appreciation for one another, and sometimes people show it through business gifts or entertainment,” says an Intact Insurance spokesperson.

The key to appropriate gift exchanges is to ensure they’re tasteful and appropriate for the receiver. Intact also told Canadian Underwriter about some of the rules its employees are expected to follow.

“As a general rule, Intact employees may accept a gift or entertainment provided it is directly related to a legitimate business purpose, the value is reasonable and nominal, it is a one-time gift and there is no intent by the donor to improperly influence,” the company says.

Robert Half, a global staffing firm, offers some advice on the annual tradition and helps answer some difficult questions. For example, keep the old saying “If you have to ask the question you already know the answer,” in your mind when it comes to tasteful and safe gifts. “If you question whether or not something is appropriate, it probably isn’t,” Robert Half states.

“Business gifts or entertainment should not be offered or accepted if it could be perceived as or is a bribe, illegal, dishonest or misleading,” notes Intact’s spokesperson. “As a guide, we ask employees to consider whether they would feel comfortable if the giving or receiving of the gift were made public or brought to the attention of their relatives.”

When it comes to getting something the client will like, consider what you know about them. If you’ve been in their office, see if they have photos or items of hobbies they enjoy. “If you’re still at a loss for ideas, consider a donation to a well-respected charitable organization in the recipient’s name,” Robert Half recommends.

Perhaps the trickiest question: How much should you spend? It shouldn’t be extravagant nor lavish, says Robert Half, adding that such gifts can leave the recipient uneasy as they may feel the need to reciprocate with a gift of equal value that they may not be able to afford. “Something small but thoughtful, like a book or handmade scarf, can be very much appreciated,” recommends Robert Half.

Keeping it small especially comes into play when giving a gift to a superior. In fact, giving a gift to a boss is not necessary, Robert Half points out. “However, if it’s common for employees to exchange gifts with their supervisors and you’d like to give something to your boss, keep it small.”

And if someone gives you a gift unexpectedly, remember that the practice is optional. However, Robert Half advises that a simple and sincere thank-you note is acceptable.

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