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The Meetings Show

Gifting fails: What to avoid for an inclusive corporate Christmas

As all EAs and PAs know, treating clients and colleagues to Christmas gifts isn’t just a rite of passage. Giving thoughtful gifts during the festive season makes recipients feel more connected to your company, and helps to build positive working relationships. According to a study into the cognitive effects of gifting by the University of Milan, gift-giving has a profound impact on our brains, and is shown to increase engagement, cooperation and performance. But giving gifts that feel excluding, impersonal or inappropriate can have the opposite effect – no matter how well-intended they are. So what can lead to gifting fails and what to avoid?

Yes, clients and colleagues can always regift the item to someone who’d actually enjoy it, but this won’t make your recipient feel seen and appreciated as an individual. 

So what does inclusive gifting look like?

Inclusive gifting is all about treating everyone equally to something they’ll truly love

This doesn’t mean you have to get matching items for all your recipients. Nor does it mean you need to select different gifts for different people based on the (often limited) knowledge you may have of them. 

Making assumptions about people’s preferences can lead you to give gifts based on inappropriate or insulting stereotypes – which brings us to the first of three gifting fails.

Corporate gifting fails #1

One of the PAs we spoke to shared a particularly unfortunate fail. 

My company had just started working with a subscription-based beauty-box supplier, and I thought they’d be great employee gifts to hand out at the Christmas party.

Sounds like a gorge plan in theory. Not so much in practice.

As is common with many beauty boxes, each bundle was tailored to the recipient’s skin type, hair type and grooming regime, so our PA quickly set about completing consultation questionnaires for each of their 50+ employees.

“I tried to be as accurate as possible and placed the order. But as soon as employees started opening their boxes, it was clear I’d made a big mistake.”

As our PA had to guess many people’s preferences, employees with the same physical attributes – skin type, hair type or hair colour – received the same items in their beauty box. 

My assumptions paired with the product limitations made the selections stereotypical. The gift was totally misguided and quite offensive not only hampering morale at the Christmas do, but damaging employee relationships for a long time.

Corporate gifting fails #2

Another PA wanted to treat their clients to really personal Christmas gifts. 

But what started out as light research into their general interests quickly got out of control. I spent hours stalking on social media: where they like to eat; where they walk the dog; where they last went on holiday.”

Our PA gathered information like this for every client, and successfully sourced hyper-personalised gifts in time for Christmas. However, they weren’t always well received. 

“One client in particular was quite creeped out. I’d bought them a ‘Doggie and me’ crockery set personalised with their partner’s and pooch’s names. I thought it was amazing at the time how wrong I was.”

As their working relationship was quite new, the client hadn’t shared any details about their family members, and the gift ended up feeling intrusive and inappropriate.

“The level of personalisation was far too much. I just had to own up and say that I’d been digging into their accounts. It was pretty embarrassing.”

Inclusive corporate gifts for Christmas 2023

If these fails have taught us anything, it’s that finding corporate gifts that are inclusive of everyone can be challenging. 

Gifts need to be festive, thoughtful, and respectful of people’s ethical and cultural beliefs, ensuring everyone feels equally included. 

Treating clients and colleagues to an M&S Gift Card is an inclusive way to celebrate the season. They’ll have the freedom to choose what they really want for Christmas – ensuring they feel special, considered and connected to your company. 

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M&S is renowned for being a reliably responsible gifting supplier. M&S Gift Cards themselves are sustainably sourced, completely paper-based, yet stylishly sleek – so they’ll be well-received by even the most eco-conscious recipients.

And as M&S is very reasonably priced across the board, an M&S Gift Card goes a lot further than you might think, unlocking high-end products at high-street prices. 

To see exactly what your recipients can spend their M&S Gift Card on, explore our Christmas gifting guide: 

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