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I feel like I am asked to contribute to some sort of group gift every other week and it’s getting to be a lot. Last week I was asked to contribute 50 dollars towards a farewell party for someone I barely worked with. The request was from my boss, so it obviously needs to be managed sensitively.
I ended up declining the party by saying that I was busy that night, but I’m wondering if anyone has a better idea on how to manage? I’d like to contribute but not feel pressured to do so every time or in large amounts. How do others navigate this? What’s the normal amount to gift? I make a good salary but am trying to budget now for personal goals like buying a place. — Working It Out
Fifty bucks is a lot to ask one individual to contribute to an office party or gift. In my experience five or ten bucks is more the norm for that kind of thing, but my experience, of course, is narrowly-based, and I’m sure that in some offices, and certainly in some industries, $50 IS “normal.” But you aren’t comfortable contributing that much and, regardless of your reasoning, in a work environment where gift contributions are voluntary, you should not feel obligated to contribute or guilty if you don’t, especially if you hardly know the person whom the gift or party is even for.
If there’s not a party committee or department or office fund designated for gifts and parties, I would recommend suggesting to your boss or to the HR department that something like that be created. If you are still asked to voluntarily contribute money that you aren’t comfortable contributing, you need to come up with a blanket response that you can give each time you’re asked — one that doesn’t pass you off as stingy or not being a team player or whatever other negative thing your colleagues might think of you simply because you refuse to fork over your hard-earned cash every other week for someone’s shower or birthday or going-away party. If you give the same response each time, people won’t take your “no” personally (and they will hopefully stop asking). You could say something like, “Thank you so much for including me, but I’m celebrating so-and-so’s [birthday/shower/promotion/retirement] a different way.” What’s that different way? Doesn’t matter, no one’s business. It’s better to leave it vague and let people use their imaginations.
I’m curious how other people handle this kind of thing at their places of work. Do you contribute individually for colleagues’ gifts and parties or do you have a department fund or committee that handles that stuff? Are contributions withdrawn from your paycheck? Are you usually asked to contribute the same amount? Have you ever said no? If so, how did you word it, and did you feel like you were “punished” for saying no? Do/did you worry about how your response will affect your work relationships? HAS your response affected your work relationships?
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