gifts and charity at work — 3 questions

Three letters with related themes — gifts and charity in the workplace.

1. I’m in charge of coordinating collections for gifts and charities in my department

I am an admin at my job. In the past, I have sent emails to the team for collections (voluntary only) for birthdays, new babies, and sending sympathy gifts. Our department has grown, and now people are asking me to send solicitations on charities and one to help a coworker’s family friend. How do I handle this? Part of me feels this should be all or nothing. How can I send out for one but not the other? But the asking for donations other than for a life event is making me uncomfortable. I am also very concerned with everyone and their mother asking me to send out these types of things and this just becoming a slew of spam donation emails.

My brief take: Stop flooding people’s email with these requests by email, and stop spending your own time coordinating all of this. Instead, set up a bulletin board or something where people who want to post requests for contributions can. And consider ending the birthday stuff entirely; we’re all adults.

2. I don’t want to bring cake for my office nemesis

In my office, we have had this birthday tradition whereby on a person’s birthday, something edible is brought in to celebrate. Traditionally, the last person to have had a birthday is responsible for this. There are various reasons why I would rather not participate, but the person before me has been too afraid to skip me. So being caught in the cycle, and due to a desire to reciprocate, I have sucked it up and always brought something for the next person.

However, this time I am faced with having to bring something in for someone who has been freezing me out for the last year, to the point where we don’t even greet each other– and we avoid each other when not in a business situation. I have never been close to this person, so our interactions never went beyond business related things and basic politeness, though this person has, a few times, tried to shift blame onto me for their own mistakes in the past. Given that history, I honestly do not care about their silence towards me as long as it doesn’t interfere with our ability to deliver.

This year, the next birthday after mine happens to be this person’s. I am not in the least inclined to even acknowledge this coworker’s birthday, but I feel an obligation to repay the birthday food by bringing something in for someone– just not this person. Just the thought of having to bring in something nice for someone who won’t even say good morning offends my sense of self-respect, but on the other hand, a little voice tells me that the rational thing is to forget self-respect, be totally fake, and play the office politics.

Another brief take: Just bring a cake. It’s a work obligation, not a social one, so your feelings about the coworker don’t matter.

3. Dealing with with overly aggressive workplace charity drives

I work for a large nonprofit company. Every October, my company has an organization-wide campaign for employees to give to other charities. Their goal is 100% participation and they are very pushy about it. I have no problem giving to charities; however, I do it all year long and give away about 10% of my household income to my church and other organizations which are not beneficiaries of the various fundraising activities at my company.

I do not want to sign up for any donations to come out of my paycheck and since our finances are limited, I do not participate in the fundraising activities in the company such as tickets for ice cream socials or purchasing overpriced chocolate covered apples, chili, etc. My manager says they track participation and even if I do not have money taken out of my paycheck, they will scan my ID if I purchase one of the items. She is even frustrated on how pushy the company is about fundraising this year.

This company always has some type of fundraising or donation campaign from donating school supplies to canned goods. Many people overall are feeling tapped out, especially since the company delayed our merit increase by 6 months because of financial issues. The officers and directors in the company are all gung ho about it, but they make twice as much as the average employee.

How do I handle this when confronted by pushy fundraisers stationed at the table outside the cafeteria or if the issue that I did not give would come up with someone in my chain of authority other than my manager who knows about my situation? Can they keep me from moving up in the company because I do not participate?

Tell the pushy fundraisers that your household charity budget is already stretched thin for the year, and consider telling your manager that pushing employees to donate while simultaneously freezing salary increases isn’t good for morale.

If she tells you it’ll affect you professionally, donate $5, file it under “my company is annoying,” and move on.

Readers, what do you think?

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