Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Don’t feel obligated, but, gee, shouldn’t you WANT to contribute to the group gift for our Dear Managers…

Well, yesterday I posted about a dopey gift that a small company owner gave to his employees last year.

But while the gift may have been unfortunate, his heart was in the right place in wanting to give his team a little something to recognize their value to the organization.

Then there’s another end of the ‘tis the season equation, one that I frankly was unaware of: employees being shaken down to contribute to a gift for management.

In an e-mail that would not have been out of place among Tudor courtiers looking to honor Henry VIII with an ermine wiping cloth for his toilette – if Tudor courtiers had had access to e-mail – one Pink Slip reader who works at a Fortune 500 company was asked to make a minimum $10 donation to go towards a gift for his group’s leader.

The solicitation e-mail sent such a mixed message – “feel free but not obligated to chip in” followed by “suggested minimum contribution is $10”.  Then there was the handy-dandy contribution form that was attached.

It included a table containing the names of the half-dozen members of the group’s management team – director level managers – with the suggestion contribution of $10 filled in, a column to enter another amount (if you wanted to donate more or less), and a note that you should check off which of the group’s Dear Leaders you wanted your contribution to go towards.

Employees were asked to print off the form – nice waste of ink on corporate colored printers – and return it with the cash.

I am no stranger to the well-meaning chip in for the new baby, the wedding, the whatever.

While I pretty much always threw in a few bucks and signed the card anytime an “opportunity” came my way, the subtle coercion of someone going office to office asking for a donation always rankled me a bit. While I didn’t completely discourage the practice when I was a manager – it’s nice to have an occasional baby shower and sheet cake break – I let people know that the card should circulate, round robin, in an envelope. You could sign the card and pass it on to the colleague in the next cubicle without feeling you had to throw in any money. (I told people that the only rule should be that the envelope should never leave someone’s office containing less cash than it had on the way in.)

But collecting for a suck-up gift for managers? And having some no doubt nosey-parker underling know – and no doubt keep track of – everyone who was giving or not giving.

Some things are just plain WRONG.

And this is one of them.

What surprised me is that the leaders themselves allowed this, but my reader assured me that this practice had been going on for several years, and the managers were just as happy as pigs in slop with it.

And why not?

They got some walking around money – we’re talking about large teams under each of these individuals, so all those $10 could add up – or a nice gift. And they get to hear the Santa’s elf who did the soliciting letting them know who’s on the naughty list and who’s on the nice.

Personally, the only circumstance when I think it’s reasonable to ask people to pitch in for a gift for a senior manager is when they’re retiring. Or maybe a transfer or promotion. But beyond that...

It may have been patronizing when “the boss” gave everyone a turkey on Christmas Eve, but at least the gift was going in the right Scrooge-to-Cratchit direction.

But paying tribute to managers…

It’s one thing if someone wants to give their manager a small gift – I’m thinking homemade cookies – if they have a close relationship, or if the manager’s done something especially nice. But beyond some token gift, this giving up is just peril fraught.

And asking people to return a checked off form with their $10 minimum contribution…

If I were one of the leaders on the list, I’d put a stop to this a.s.a.p.

And if I had gotten that e-mail, I’d have been sorely tempted to dime the deal to HR.

Bah humbug to this idea.

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