Office Politics 101: A gift that warns

A salesperson who calls on our company has recently begun sending small gifts to my home.

Q: A salesperson who calls on our company has recently begun sending small gifts to my home. He has never mentioned the gifts when visiting my office, but I feel I should say something. Do you have any suggestions?

A: You need to ask yourself, “Why is he giving me these gifts?”

The answer may be more complex than you realize. Gifts given to people in a business relationship generally have a different intention than those given to friends.

If you recall the last time you received a gift from a relative or close friend, you valued it is a symbol of love or affection. The motive was obvious and nothing was expected in return.

On the other hand, the salesperson is giving you these gifts with a more practical purpose in mind. You have rewarded him with business — which has probably enhanced his commissions — and so now he is tangibly demonstrating his appreciation.

In addition, the gifts are implicitly communicating that continued business will mean more gifts. The connection between the two should not be overlooked.

More troubling, however, is the fact the gifts have been sent furtively to your home. They are, in effect, being given to you secretly in order than no one in your office should know.

You say he has not mentioned the gifts when visiting you; this is not surprising because the gifts have been given to you personally.

You may not like the word, but I would suggest you are accepting “bribes.”

And, while the gifts are not particularly valuable — at least in contrast to the money offered to some disgraced politicians — it is really the principle you should consider.

It is entirely possible the gifts will incrementally increase in value, so you may suddenly realize they total something quite significant.

Your only option I believe is to return all the gifts and request he immediately desist sending you any further gifts.

You don’t have to embarrass him or make him feel uncomfortable.

The idea of sending you gifts make even have originated with his supervisor, so it is not necessary for you to reprimand him.

Once the slate is clean, you may continue to have a productive professional relationship, which should not affect the continued opportunities for you to purchase needed products and services from him and his company.

Submit your confidential questions relating to work and office life to simon@officepolitics101.com