I’m having a hard time with ‘no’ regarding personal gifts

It's hard to say no to a coworker at work. But learning how to set boundaries and how to say no effectively is the key to healthier workplace relationships. The HR Digest's Jane Harper is here to help you learn how to put yourself first.

I have an interesting scenario that I need some advice on. The delivery boy at our restaurant is a sweetheart of a guy. He’s an Italian immigrant with a thick accent and he’s good a pretty good worker. He brings in Italian food all the time and is always willing and eager to help others.

He wanted to do something nice for my sons (who he never met) and got them a present for Christmas. He loves kids and says he has neighborhood kids and family over to the house he shares with his sister and brother-in-law in the spring. I pushed back saying he didn’t have to, but he says it comes from his heart. He got them something which needed to be picked up at Costco, but he couldn’t bring it to work for many weeks because it was too big for him to take on the bus. During those weeks, he mentioned the gift every day. While he never set out to manipulate me, I realized the looming gift made me go easy on him. I even picked up some of his slack which meant working a little extra.

My kids love the gift (a toy that cost a day pay for him), and now he says his brother-in-law wants to make toy cars for them. I pushed back saying we appreciate his generosity and he doesn’t need to do that. But now he already has the material.

Any form of me telling him no results into anything from a crabby attitude for the rest of the shift to calling off. How do I say no to my coworker without him getting all offended?

how to say no effectively

Answer

Your story should serve as a warning to every working professional. Favors should be given from top to bottom, never taken from bottom to top. And although some give it without expectation of return, most do not, whether consciously or not!

Bottom-up favors are like a neighbor haphazardly clearing up your yard, such that you’re forced to thank him for a rush job he did without hurting his feelings, or a family member knitting you an ugly jumper you can neither refuse nor wear.

Many companies code of conduct requires that its workers show commitment to treating all people and organizations, equally. By picking up some of his slack, you’ve demonstrated biased professionalism towards the worker. Another related question is, Do you have a company gift policy?

While an organization may or may not have a gift policy in place, it’s advisable that managers must always refuse the favors they cannot use nor repay for the sake of the ones they may need.

In your case, the nature of the offered gift raises concern to the good faith of the worker offering it. I think you need to make it clear that you cannot accept his personal gifts, however much you appreciate them. “Employee, it’s very thoughtful of you! Regretfully, I must decline your generosity because company policy prohibits managers from receiving gifts.

Be rest assured, I deeply appreciate your kind gesture.”

Good luck!

The brutal and straightforward answers to HR-related queries and concerns. Send in your queries with the subject line ‘Ask JANE HARPER’ at info@thehrdigest.com 

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