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A coworker of mine was just sent by the company to a Microsoft conference. At the conference, attendees were given Microsoft's new tablet and the Lumia 920. During our weekly meeting, my coworker was told by our boss that the giveaways were hers to keep for her own personal use. She mentioned that she didn't have any use for the phone, and my boss mentioned he wished he had one. She ended up giving it to him.

I don't really know how to handle the situation. It makes me very uncomfortable. The phone is a 700 dollar value. I feel like that kind of gift creates a strange dynamic, but our team only has three people besides our boss. I feel if I say something to HR, it won't be very hard for the boss to figure out who turned it in, and I don't want him to take that out on me.

What should I do?

Do companies typically have policies that cover this sort of thing? I checked our handbook, and I couldn't find anything that seemed relevant in this case.

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That really sucks, but I would do nothing because doing anything will only make it worse. –  MrFox Nov 7 '12 at 20:00
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People before handbooks. Your co-worker fell bass-ackwards into some cool toys. Your manager did the same. Let it go. –  kolossus Nov 7 '12 at 20:23
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and why do you even care to inform somebody about it? if your coworker is having an affair, do you inform their spouse? why do you feel a need to be a snitch? –  amphibient Nov 7 '12 at 21:32
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It would be different if the co-worker had paid something for the item, and then given it to your boss. But it didn't cost her anything, and she didn't want it anyway. So that seems to negate the value of the gift. –  tcrosley Nov 8 '12 at 0:14
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This sounds, to me, less like "giving the boss a big gift" and more like "sharing the swag with someone who wasn't at the conference." –  Carson63000 Nov 9 '12 at 3:42

3 Answers 3

At my company, it is only against policy when there could be a conflict of interest, such as a vendor directly giving such a gift to someone in the company who might retain their services, or influence that decision in some way.

It has not been my experience that gifts from subordinates to superiors are disallowed. To put it in more a prosaic way, “brown nosing” is not illegal or even against most companies' policies, so it’s unlikely that HR will reprimand anyone, and you will most likely end up looking like a trouble maker.

Also, I think that in this case you should let it go. The way you tell the story, it does not sound as if the boss was pressuring the employee to give the item to him. Chalk it up to either ‘brown nosing’ or a genuinely nice employee. Who knows, maybe next time you will be the beneficiary of such a giving person!

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I see your thinking. Do you think this will influence my boss when it comes time to allocate raises? –  Dana Nov 7 '12 at 20:20
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That really depends on whether your boss values this more than actual performance, etc. If this person continually comes off as a 'brown noser', and your boss is the type who dislikes that, it might backfire on your co-worker. My experience has been, however, that most people are a bit susceptible to ego stroking, and also the influence principle of 'reciprocity'. –  Keoma Nov 7 '12 at 20:24
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In my experience, typically 'brown noser's get rewarded more often than not. People like and prefer those who will stroke their egos, the trick is not making it too obvious. –  Mark Rogers Nov 7 '12 at 22:51

Giving gifts to supervisors and managers is always a grey area; however, in this case, the equipment was obtained free of cost to the employee, as part of the fees paid by the employer to send said employee to the conference.

Thus, in this case, giving the device away to another colleague, including a manager, is less suspect than it would be if that employee went out of her way to obtain a gift for the manager.

This sounds like a simple case of obtaining property through work, not having a need for it, and then giving it to the manager to do with it as he pleases.

I don't see this as gift giving so much as redistributing property that the company essentially paid for by proxy. Even in my place of employment, it wouldn't be uncommon for people to redistribute items that they obtained that they don't need, and it never seems awkward to us.

As far as what you should do, say nothing. Don't make a big deal out of it, and most likely, others won't make an issue out of it either. Who knows, next time the boss goes to a conference and gets free stuff he doesn't need, he may give it to you or another colleague who could use it. By making an issue out of this, you may force your place of work to come up with a policy that may not be in your best interests.

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In the long run organizations generally value contribution more than anything else. When it comes time for reviews, assigning big projects, promotions, etc., only poor managers make decisions on anything other than merit.

So my advice is, "take the high road". Don't worry about it and let it go. Keep your focus and turn out the best quality work that you can.

Most likely what will happen is that the organization will recognize your contribution and value it based on what you've done (and will similarly value your co-worker based on his or her contribution).

If the co-worker receives any benefit from their giving that phone away, then it's because you have a small-minded and immature manager. In the long run, those people will make other mistakes. They get found out.

But if you focus not on politics but on performance, you'll be rewarded for them in time -- if not with this boss at this company, then somewhere else.

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