Greetings Evil HR Lady,
I’m having an issue at my job, and I need your advice. I’m a new and just out of school, so I don’t make as much money as the other administrators in the building. Since I started my job August 2014 I’ve been asked to donate $10 to the for my direct boss’s birthday, $20 for the department head’s birthday, $20 for the director’s surprise party for being voted “employee of the year,” and lastly $10 for a co-worker who received an award. I just met these people in August so they aren’t friends/loved ones, they’re just associates. Not to mention I graduated from grad school May 2013 and I’m just landing a job. I’m digging myself out debt, and every penny I make I’m using it to gain financial freedom. I have voiced this to the other administrators, but their response is, “well can you give $10” or “that’s not a lot of money.” I’m tried of this crap, please advise!!!!!
I wish I could fix this problem once and for all. I have no problem with office collections for various things–many people are happy to give and many people enjoy them. What I have a problem with is other people assuming they have a right to your money.
See, for some people, $20 is not a really big deal, and since it’s not, they should happily donate $20 to the gift fund if they want to give someone a gift. But, these people sometimes forget that $20 is a big deal for other people. And here’s the real kicker–just because you know somebody’s paycheck doesn’t give you insight into their actual financial situation. Someone making $20,000 a year may have a spouse that makes $100,000, while someone else making $40,000 a year may be the sole income for a family, have a mortgage, car payment and student loans. So, even with twice the salary, a $20 gift is a big deal.
I’d like to solve your problem by passive aggressive ways, such as you sending me an email with all their Twitter handles, and then I could tweet this article at them. ” Thought you might need this! Thx, bye!” Hmmm, maybe that’s a service I can start offering. “Hey, this article applies to you!” I’ll be rich!
Ahem, anyway. I’d prefer it if companies would institute policies where for group gifts, they pass around a card for EVERYONE to sign and anyone who wants to throw in $10 can. At the end, the gift is purchased based on the money received and every0ne in the department gets equal credit, regardless of whether or not they donated. “But!” I hear the self-appointed gift coordinators (and sometimes the boss appointed gift coordinators) complaining, “But, then we’d get $2.95 and a stick of old gum for birthday presents!” That’s right and that should be a clue that maybe we shouldn’t be doing presents in the office. “And what,” they say in collective horror, “do we do if we gather $100 for John’s employee of the year party, and only $30 for Susan’s?” Again, a hint. People don’t want to do this and are only doing it because they are forced to do.
Here’s another thing wrong with the scenario you described above: You keep getting asked to buy presents for your bosses. This is not appropriate and the bosses should be putting a stop to it. Now, I can kind of see that the director being named employee of the year is a big deal if it’s a big company and it’s a real, honest, award. But, again, if the company thinks he’s so awesome, they should spring for a cake. (Chocolate, maybe with raspberry filling, although, really brownies are always a better choice for any part I’m invited to you.)
But, none of this helps you because you aren’t the decision maker and you are new here. So, you need to play some politics. Ask yourself, “What will happen if I don’t contribute?” This is a serious question, because in some cases, you don’t contribute no one will really care, but, in other cases, you run the risk of offending the party coordinator, who happens to have an inexplicable amount of power. She will make your life a living hell.
Most likely things will lie somewhere in the middle and it might work to have a private conversation with the party coordinator. Try this, “Jane, I’m really glad that Heather won this award. However, I am on a strict budget–student loans, you know, and I just don’t have the spare cash for a present. I’d be happy to help decorate or something, but I’m out of cash.” If she tries to pressure you to “pay her later,” the response should be, “I’m sorry, I just can’t.”
The reality is, people like this might push you for a reason, and even though you have great ones (new to the workforce, student loans, don’t know these people well) you shouldn’t be required to give one. You can channel Miss Manners, “I’m sorry, it won’t be possible.” “Because it won’t be possible.” Lather, rinse, repeat.
If there’s another newby on staff, you might be able to pull her into this protest with you.
And a note to all bosses and party coordinators: stop this. And if you’re the boss, stop accepting, encouraging or hinting for presents. You GIVE presents as the boss. You should not receive them.