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Should You Give At The Office?

It seems like somebody at work is always coming around collecting for gifts for employee birthdays, retirements, going-away parties, weddings or new babies. Should you pitch in?

Two heirs to the etiquette throne answer this question and more in a new book. CBS News This Morning reports.


Peggy Post is the great granddaughter-in-law of Emily Post, who wrote the original book on etiquette back in 1922. Now Peggy Post and brother-in-law Peter have co-written, The Etiquette Advantage in Business: Personal Skills for Professional Success. The following are some of Post's suggestions on business money etiquette:
Collecting for gifts

The fact that someone is taking up a collection does not mean you ever have to contribute, Post says.

Collections at work can get really expensive. There is a point when you can say, "I really have a lot of expenses right now; catch me next month," Post explains.

"I say, try to contribute something. And a solution to me is simply having a kitty or a pool with everybody contributing. And of course it takes someone to take the lead and start the collection," she says.

And instead of contributing weekly, try once a year or every six months, she suggests. "It's not a 'you must,' but it's a good idea to give," she adds.

Giving presents for holidays or birthdays

Giving gifts to the boss. Generally employees should not give their bosses a gift. It can seem that one is trying to win favor, she says.

But there are some ways around that. For example, one can take up a collection among everyone reporting to that boss for a joint gift.

There is an exception to the rule, if the boss is someone an employee has been working with a long time, like five years or more, and they have a close working relationship.

"If an employee really wants to do something little, like cookies or home-baked goods, sometimes it's OK. But in general, no," she says.

Giving gifts to fellow employees. It can be fine to give gifts to other workers but it can require some discretion and judgement calls to not hurt feelings, she says.

And if you were to receive a gift from a co-worker but don't have one for him or her, all you need to do is give thanks. You don't have to run out and get a gift.

Some people even have emergency gifts for unexpected situations, she notes.

Paying for business-related meals

When it comes to business meals, if you've done the asking and issued the nvitation, then you do the paying, Post says.

If it's an awkward situation, some people like to take care of the bill ahead of time, with the maitre d', she says.

If it's unclear, you may pull out your wallet. And if it's a group of co-workers, you can go Dutch, she says.

How to ask for a raise

Post has some ideas about for employees evaluating their compensation and rewards, and considering asking for a raise.

"The proper etiquette is be prepared," Post says. Do your sales job; plan ahead of time; mention what you've done for your position and for the company and include increased responsibilities, she suggests.

"You might want to make an appointment to go see your boss and say, 'I'd like to chat with you.' Quantify and say, 'Increased sales were 82 percent.' Be prepared to take on a little more work, then you have a case," she adds.

Discussing salary at the office

Salary is an appropriate discussion topic between an employee and the boss or supervisor, says Post, but not for co-workers. It's personal, she adds.

"If someone asks you, you don't have to answer....Say, 'Oh, I'm being well taken care of,' or 'I'm really happy here with my salary.' You may treat it with humor and say 'never enough.' Something on that order," she says.

So much depends on when someone starts, salary ranges and compensation changes over the years, she adds.

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The Etiquette Advantage in Business
The most important thing about etiquette is consideration, making people feel comfortable; it's not about a rigid set of rules, says Post.

"Etiquette helps people feel confident in different situations, creating self-respect," she adds. Her book also covers questions such as: What is the proper wine to serve at an office party? What should you wear to an interview? Is it OK to date co-workers?

For other advice on money and etiquette, read "Money, Friends And Etiquette."

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