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I've been working in a multinational company for a few months now and I've noticed that, at least in the European branch, every time something "big" comes up (like a wedding or someone leaving), everyone is asked to contribute for a gift.

The way it usually goes is:

  1. a top manager asks all distribution lists via email if they'd want to contribute
  2. they select a person (the "gifter") that works together with the the person who's getting the gift
  3. people send money to the gifter
  4. the gifter chooses something that conforms to the amount sent and gives it on behalf of everyone who contributed

Now I don't like this system and I always choose not to participate, but I've found myself in a predicament.

  • My boss is leaving the company and moving to another country at the end of the week and the gifting process has gone as usual, but this time my colleague decided to split the money (it was a few hundred €), and buy several things. Almost all of them came and they gave them to him, but the last one (an Amazon Echo) is taking longer.
  • After that my boss went on vacation to start packing and moving things, and because my colleagues would all be going on vacation by the time he comes back to finish up some stuff, then my colleague told my boss that I'd be giving him the rest.
  • And then he told me that the package didn't arrive, and he went on vacation.

Just for clarification, the way it was supposed to happen is:

My colleague gets the package -> He gives it to me -> I give it to my boss when he comes back

But the first part never completed so I'm stuck.

  • So now I'm expected to give a gift I don't have, to which I didn't contribute to, to my direct boss who is leaving on friday, and he's been told I'd give it to him.

What can I do?

This is related to vacation schedule and it's a bit convoluted so I'm putting a rough calendar here:

4 weeks ago 3 weeks ago 2 weeks ago a week ago this week
Gifts come, boss goes on vacation, colleague tells him I'll be giving him the rest Colleague tells me the package is not coming Everyone else goes on vacation, it's only me in the office Boss comes back (It's me and him in the office) Boss will be definitely going on friday, and I still don't have the package
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  • 7
    So what's wrong with showing him/her the Amazon update on the scheduled arrival and delay? Perhaps you can forward the gift to his new address (when it arrives) Jul 28 at 9:47
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    And what is the update (expected arrival) from whoever is in charge of dealing with the package? They could either change (destination address) or if it's too late for that, wait and then send it to the boss's new address. I don't see how you could be blamed for an Amazon delivery that was delayed for whatever reason. Jul 28 at 9:51
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    "i don't like this system and I always choose not to participate" - why not? Participation is optional and someone receives a present. What's not to like?
    – Aaron F
    Jul 28 at 15:54
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    Not all questions that are set in the workplace are workplace questions.
    – Corey
    Jul 28 at 18:26
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    @DavidDPG you could start by telling us why you think this is a workplace question. You might as well be asking how to keep your pants up, but at work.
    – Corey
    Jul 30 at 19:03
73

Just explain it like you did here. You didn't do anything wrong.

There's no need to beat around the bush or anything. Just tell your boss "hey, I'm sorry Boss, I'm not able to give you the gift right now as it isn't here yet. We'll figure it out when it's here and make sure to send it to your new address". There's no need to mention whether or not you've contributed to the gift or not.

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    That's what i was thinking, but then again he's expecting me to give him the gift by the end of the week and, to be honest, I'm a bit worried my colleague is just going to keep it for himself. I guess I'll accept your answer and ask another question if that happens.
    – David DPG
    Jul 28 at 10:11
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    To head off that possibility, include your colleague in what you say. "Hey Boss, as you know X is getting your gifts but he's on holiday, so I can't give you the last bit. We'll figure it out when he's back and make sure to send it on." Jul 28 at 11:35
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    @DavidDPG: If your colleague keeps it for himself... so what. What do you care? You have no liability in any of this. If your boss doesn't end up getting some of the gifts... tough luck. If your boss is that bothered, then let him worry about chasing it up. Both him and your colleague can fight it out together, it's not your concern.
    – musefan
    Jul 28 at 14:07
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    Good answer, I would add that if it was going to be a surprise, then towards the ends, say Thursday, tell him what it is so he can 1. Get the good feeling that "They got me this." and 2. Let you know if you should bother shipping it. Honestly if this guy is a manager in a MNC, he's not going to get bent out of shape and send the mob after you for a $50 item.
    – Damila
    Jul 28 at 15:31
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    @musefan i was just worried about the possibility of being blamed for something i didn't even want to participate to begin with, but i guess you're right, i'm overthinking this too much.
    – David DPG
    Jul 29 at 7:29

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