Management Matters Management MattersManagement Matters
Practical advice for federal leaders on managing people, processes and projects.

Holiday Hazards

ARCHIVES
Federal managers and employees seem to have more than usual to worry about this holiday season, from a new snow policy to the possibility of extended pay freezes. But even during less anxiety-ridden times, navigating the gifts and parties that come with the holidays can be tricky for federal managers. The Defense Department's Standards of Conduct Office releases an annual Holiday Guidance memo for Pentagon personnel, but it's a very good starting point for all government managers and employees as well. A few highlights:
  • Supervisors generally cannot accept gifts from subordinates or co-workers who receive less pay than they do. During the holidays, however, supervisors can accept noncash gifts of $10 or less from a subordinate. They also are permitted to accept food and refreshments shared in the office and can contribute to an office party.
  • Office parties are unofficial events -- managers cannot use appropriated funds to pay for them. Nor can they use appropriated funds to purchase and send greeting cards. They also are barred from soliciting outside sources for contributions -- including funds, food or other items -- for an office party.
  • If federal managers invite subordinates to a social event at their home, those employees are allowed to give them a hospitality gift "of the type and value customarily given on such an occasion."
  • Be careful when considering door prizes or drawings for office parties. They cannot involve gambling, which requires compliance with state statutes and federal regulations. Defense regulations prohibit gambling in the Pentagon and on federal property or while in a duty status. General Services Administration regulations ban gambling in GSA-owned or controlled buildings.
  • Under most circumstances, Defense employees and officials are barred from accepting gifts -- including attendance at parties, open houses and receptions -- from contractors or other "prohibited sources." There are a number of exceptions, however, including events that are widely attended or open to the public.
While the litany of restrictions governing holiday behavior for federal employees can be a hassle, it's usually more stressful to see something vague and generic like: "Please note, there are no legal restrictions on gifts given to peers or subordinates, however, common sense (and good taste) should apply."

Gifts for employees should be kept small and relatively uniform. It also is a good idea to present them all at once, perhaps during the office holiday event. This will help avoid making any employee feel -- even temporarily -- like he or she is receiving special treatment or being left out. If there is no time to catch everybody at once, then leave gifts on workers' desks one morning before they arrive.

Of course, steer far clear of anything that could seem excessively personal or inappropriate. Business-related gifts like business cardholders, pens or USB drives are the safest bets followed by gift certificates or cards, perhaps to a local coffee shop or movie theater.

By boning up on the relevant laws and regulations and staying well within the bounds of appropriate professional gift-giving, federal managers and employees can ensure that they will have a fun and productive holiday season.

Elizabeth Newell covered management, human resources and contracting at Government Executive for three years.

 
FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

    Download
  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.