When Gifts Say More

What's a gift mean? If you're like me, you probably focus on the giving and the getting.

But, have you thought of gifts as a medium, a channel, for communication? In a book called The Gift, French anthropologist Marcel Mauss argues that gifts are universally used to create and manage relationships.

For those of us interested in business communication, the idea of managing work relationships with gifts brings several interesting issues to our attention.

The most obvious notion is that in sending gifts, we communicate our appreciation for what someone did. It signals awareness that the recipient did something exemplary. Usually, the communication is implicit, perhaps even subtle, even though the gift may be tangible.

In a workplace context, bonuses are often seen as gifts, a discretionary act on the part of a manager to show appreciation. It is in the manager's power to reward or not reward, and hence the gifting effect.

Stock options, on the other hand, represent something different; there is no managerial discretion in their value, but there may be discretion involved in giving them.

And don't we all consider the type and value of a gift as an indicator of the strength of the relationship? I think we've all been through those debates about how much we should spend when a staff member gets married, has a baby, retires, or quits.

In each of these examples, it's not hard to see gifts as a tool for strategically managing relationships. We can also see gifts as a medium (like a newsletter) for exchanging messages.

What we've discussed so far assumes that a gift is an object or service that one purchases or makes and gives to another. But, in an organizational context, a gift might be mentorship, an unexpected promotion, or acceptance of another person's opinion.

Consider meetings where opinions fall into two clear camps. And, out of the blue, someone who previously opposed your position or stayed neutral now moves to support you. That person smiles at you, and says, "I think you've put your finger on the real issue here." Seems like a gift, doesn't it?

Or consider this one, "Jane, you've worked a lot of hours lately to make this presentation a big success. We appreciate what you've done, and want you to take the rest of the week off. Don't worry about your to-do list; we'll take care of everything." Another type of gift.

In the mass media, reporters and editors normally cannot accept gifts, or gifts beyond a threshhold value. It's a way of avoiding relationship obligations that might influence their coverage of events, people, and organizations. In this case we see the rejection of gifts as a way of avoiding relationships.

In summary, look at exchanges of gifts as potentially more than just an exchange between individuals; think of them as a strategic tools for developing and managing business relationships. That makes giving a strategic form of communication.

Robert F. Abbott writes and publishes Abbott's Communication Letter. Learn how you can use communication to help achieve your goals, by reading articles or subscribing to this ad-supported newsletter. An excellent resource for leaders and managers, at: http://www.communication-newsletter.com

In The News:

Major networking event returns  Broadband TV News
Extreme Networks Explains Cloud-Driven Networking for Higher Ed  EdTech Magazine: Focus on Higher Education

How to Organize a Successful Bad Sweater Party

"Hey Scott, would you like to go to a Bad... Read More

Mother Said - Wash Your Hands

Think health articles are boring? This one isn't, so read... Read More

Effective Networking

The process of finding out about a job, getting interviewed,... Read More

How to Get More Visibility, Increase Your Influence, and Get More Referrals

Earlier today I was helping a client develop a better... Read More

Volunteering for a Networking Group

When is it appropriate to volunteer to take a position... Read More

How NOT to Waste Your Time Networking

Ever wonder if networking, referral groups, and conferences are a... Read More

Ten Simple Steps to More Customers with Better Networking

Networking is a great way to meet people in a... Read More

Mary Kay Ash Did It Best... (The Networking Factor)

"The Networking Factor, Everyone is important!" This slogan reminds me... Read More

Why Bother With Social Networking Sites Like LinkedIn?

Q: I think I understand the value of networking as... Read More

How to Turn Water into Lemonade by Giving a Flavored Answer to a Fruitless Question

I remember the first time I opened the fridge to... Read More

The Five Step Formula For Getting Prospects to Call You

Are you tired of prospecting for new business?Are you sick... Read More

Follow-Up with Your Contacts

What happens when you meet a potential client at an... Read More

The Festive Season: Your Networking Opportunity

The festive season is a great time to sharpen and... Read More

Come Home Rich - How to Get the Most out of Your Next Conference

Success in your career depends upon how well you manage... Read More

Lesson 61 - When Does Aggressiveness Turn Into Annoyance?

The StoryWhen attending conferences, conventions, or private events, it's guaranteed... Read More

Time to Hire a Professional Networker?

It used to be that people said that there was... Read More

Sell For Yourself Or Sell For Your Boss?

First of all I would like to start this article... Read More

A Vital Habit For Selling Big Ticket Items

I hope the title of this article aroused your curiosity!... Read More

Talk Isnt Cheap

The most successful organizations have good communication skills. Survey after... Read More

The 4 Actions of Awesome Hospitality

These Actions of Awesome Hospitality? will help you manifest the... Read More

Keys to Successful Networking While In Transition

Let's be real. With other pressures of life upon us,... Read More

Getting Leads

How many leads do you pass on?As a reminder, you... Read More

Networking: Strangers, Friendship, and Business Growth

You already know that uncomfortable feeling, that knot in your... Read More

Business Networking - Common Myths and Realities

Can we agree about the meaning of networking? I don't... Read More

Planting the Seeds of Greatness - Make it Great Newsletter #7

Thought of the WeekThis week, I'd like to challenge you... Read More