How Much Should I Contribute To A Coworker Gift?

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What is the Correct Amount to Contribute To A Coworker Gift?

You’ve inevitably been asked to contribute to a coworker’s gift over the course of your career. Whether it’s a birthday, a wedding, a baby shower, or an anniversary, when an exact amount isn’t suggested, you’re often left to wonder: “How much should I contribute to a coworker gift?

Celebrations for your coworkers are often joyous occasions you’re happy to contribute to in some way. Yet, nerves around unspoken office etiquette regarding a coworker’s gift may leave you anxious about the total amount you should contribute. This is especially true when you might be on a tight budget or an amount per person is not set.

If an exact amount has not been set, you may find it awkward to ask how much is appropriate to give. However, with good communication and these tips below, you should be able to tackle any coworker’s celebration with confidence.

Do You Have to Contribute?

The simple answer is no. You shouldn’t feel pressured to contribute to a gift or party. Gift-giving and party planning, however, make the office environment generally more friendly and a little more fun. It isn’t always just about the person being celebrated, but also about making the place you spend 40+ hours a week in a little more tolerable.

It’s also important to keep in mind there will eventually come a day you have something to be celebrated, whether it’s a birthday or retirement. It’s time to keep in mind the life-long mantra of the golden rule: do unto others what you would have them do unto you.

Even if you don’t contribute, show up for the party in some way. Studies have shown you may actually get promoted faster or get picked for special projects if you do.

Group gifting in the workplace also helps alleviate the anxiety some coworkers have about when to give individual gifts and how much to spend. It can also build a sense of camaraderie and offer the ability to get higher quality gifts for your coworkers or boss.

Ask the Organizer How Much to Contribute to a Coworkers Gift

Go directly to the organizer of the gift pool and ask what they deem to be appropriate. You can also ask what your other coworkers typically contribute. It doesn’t have to be taboo. Be straightforward and direct.

working around a conference tableHowever, if money is tight or you’re saving up for something, don’t feel obligated to give the suggested amount. Give what you are able. Also, you don’t have to contribute to every occasion. Everyone’s financial situations are different. Politely give what you can or offer to contribute to the next gift.

It’s also important to know your office’s gift-giving policies. Larger corporations especially have set parameters or limits on gift-giving etiquette and what can be given to coworkers. If you have questions about what those parameters might be, talk to someone in Human Resources. These limits may be in part due to tax law. Some gifts have to be limited to $25 or below due to employees’ ability to deduct up to $25 off of taxes for business gifts.

Ask Your Colleagues How Much to Contribute

If the organizer of the office pool for a coworker’s gift gives you a vague or non-direct answer about what is expected as a contribution after you’ve asked directly, “How much should I contribute to a coworker’s gift?” then it’s time to ask your colleagues.

Ask your office friends or a coworker that may have been at the company the longest what they typically contribute to a coworker’s gift. The general average for most office workplaces is anywhere from $5 to $15, depending on the role of the person in the office. Top executives, who make higher wages, may contribute more than entry-level employees.

As Barbara Pachter, author of “The Essentials of Business Etiquette: How to Greet, Eat, and Tweet Your Way to Success” told CNBC, to avoid a blunder know what the unwritten rules are. “Ask colleagues for ideas if you’re new to the company.”


Take the Reins

If tackling this uncomfortable scenario seems to occur on a regular basis, then take the reins. Suggest something that could be comfortable for everyone and that may cover all coworker celebrations for the entire year. You could suggest something minimal, like $20, or suggest a monthly potluck for all coworker celebrations for that month.

You can also suggest a set budget for each occasion for each employee. Set an expectation and limit for a gift that is in the same type and quality for each occasion.

Set your own personal budget for when you’re asked to contribute for a gift. Using the same answer for each time you’re asked shows that you are fair to everyone and coworkers will know what to expect.

If you’re the one organizing the office gift pool, make it easy for people to discreetly contribute or opt out. For example, send out an email explaining the plan for the gift and when funds are due. Make it clear that giving is not mandatory. It is also important to be mindful of employee rank when asking others to contribute. It might be one thing to ask a senior executive for money for an entry-level employee’s gift, but it’s something entirely different to ask the entry-level employee to contribute to a senior executive’s gift. Alison Green of Ask a Manager specifically addresses this and states that it’s best to avoid asking employees to buy gifts for managers.

Find Alternative Ways to Celebrate

Finding alternative ways to celebrate a coworker’s special day or occasion could alleviate the awkward expectations of contributing in monetary ways. On the other hand, it could also mean asking employees to contribute smaller amounts than pitching in for a larger gift.

Ideas for celebrations that wouldn’t require financial donations (or would require minimal donations) include:

  • Monthly Potlucks: Everyone can bring their own entrée or appetizer. You could suggest the company pay for a cake to celebrate that month’s birthdays. If you have someone that has a favorite dessert or someone who loves to bake, ask someone to bring in that dessert or their specialty instead of the cake.
  • Game Day: Suggest coworkers bring in their favorite board games (such as Monopoly or Risk) and invite the team to play. Ask coworkers to also bring their favorite snack(s) to share and ask the company to contribute soda or other beverages. Either enjoy an extended lunch or an office-type happy hour later on during the week.
  • Team Lunch: Instead of a gift, suggest lunch at a nearby restaurant. It doesn’t have to be expensive either. Choose somewhere like a favorite local sandwich shop. Food chains like Panera or Jimmy Johns would also make a great option, with everyone having to only pitch in a dollar or two to cover the birthday guy or gal.
  • Organize a Field Trip. Take a team trip to a local museum, park or botanical garden. Many cities have free options to take advantage of. You could also sign up for a winery or brewery tour.
  • Volunteer Together. Let the birthday person chose a charity of their choice and let coworkers sign up to help them volunteer on their birthday or chosen day of the week. This can have a double-sided benefit in that it also gets your company name out in the community.
  • Other ideas include inviting a food truck to come for lunch, peer appreciating notes or speeches, and an outdoor activity day at a local park.

These activities will also help build a sense of comradery for your team and help you get to know your coworkers on a more personal level.

To gain leadership buy-in on these activities, remind them that studies have proven that injecting more playtime into the work day has proven to boost motivation and productivity while reducing absenteeism.

Choose to Opt-Out of Contributing

Do not feel obligated to contribute to a coworker’s gift. A simple, “I cannot contribute at this time, but would be happy to celebrate in another way, if possible” should suffice. If there is an office party planned, and you feel it may be uncomfortable to attend without a financial contribution, you could also add something like, “I may not be able to contribute money, but would be happy to set up the area beforehand or clean up afterward.”

Consistency is key here. Although there may be times when money is tight and you genuinely cannot contribute, if you try to set up consistency in your answers then your coworkers will know what to expect from you each time a request comes around.

FAQs About How Much Should I Contribute To A Coworker Gift?

How much should I contribute to a colleague who has chosen to leave our company or retire?

This varies from company to company, but a rough average is around $5. Some coworkers may give more, some may give less, and some may not contribute at all. The rule of thumb for this might be how well you knew the person, how long they worked at the company and your own personal budget. Also, will be there be a party that you are asked to contribute to or is it only a gift? A party might suffice, along with a well written card signed by your team.

What is the appropriate amount of money to give for a coworkers baby shower?

Generally, give only what you can afford and are comfortable with. Do not feel pressured to contribute outside of your means. The typical average is between $25-$30 for a baby shower gift. Think about what would be useful and appropriate. Pooling money for a coworker’s gift also means that the team may be able to purchase a more expensive and essential item from your coworkers gift registry that they could not afford on their own.

How much should should I donate towards a coworkers wedding gift?

Give something you feel is appropriate towards the celebration and your closeness to the coworker. An average for most wedding gifts for coworkers is between $50 to $75. If you are pooling your money, it might be appropriate to give something larger or contribute towards a gift card to a company the couple has registered with. Remember that pooling your money doesn’t always mean you have to contribute, but that the money should contribute to a larger gift on the couple’s registry, depending on the number of people contributing and signing the card.

Should You Buy a Gift for Your Boss?

Giving a gift to your boss when it is not required may be seen as your way of buying your way into their good graces. On the other hand, giving an inappropriate gift could make them feel uncomfortable. The general rule of thumb is to give a group gift for occasions such as birthdays and holidays or keep the gift simple or sincere and deliver it discreetly. There may be company culture rules based on who can give gifts to whom as well. Clearly stating who can give gifts to whom allows a business to limit what looks like favoritism or impropriety.

Define Your Own Rules

In the end, do not feel pressured to contribute to an office gift if you are not in a financial place to do so. Not everyone will understand the reasons nor do they need to. At the end of the day, you have to be comfortable with your own decision. Decline politely and move on. Also, if there’s a suggested donation that is a little out of your budget, feel free to contribute what you can.

When there’s a battle of conscience or anxious awkwardness surrounding what you should contribute to a coworker’s gift, consider the big picture. Giving money to celebrate a coworker is a way to make the place you spend the majority of your time a little brighter and helps you get back some good karma when it comes to your own celebrations. It is also a great way to get to know your coworkers on a more personal level, which can come in handy on teams or tackling difficult projects.