Learning to say no: co-workers ‘edition

When trying to get your expenses under control and down, you may have realized the workplace can be a mine field. Between birthday cakes, cards, gifts and other charitable donations, you can spend a ton of money without realizing it.

Here are a couple of tips to keep both your wallet and sanity in check:

  • Remember both gifts and donations are not obligations. That pushy co-worker should remember it too! Don’t feel bad or guilty about declining cash requests. It is your money
  • Don’t engage into the same behaviour yourself. Don’t go desk to desk asking for donations for your favorite charity. Don’t expect anything for your birthday.

Now we have the basics covered, let’s get into additional strategies.

#1.Donation trap: we have all had colleagues who keep asking everyone to pitch-in for their kids ‘school projects or their charity. These requests are legitimately annoying, not to mention the pressure it puts on people.  You feel like you “have to” donate or that it could impact your relationship.

Solution: If you don’t want to give and don’t want to offend the person, say something like “I have already exhausted my charity budget for the year” or “it is a great cause, but I can’t afford it”. Sometimes being up-front is the most effective.

#2.Gift trap:  This one can be a bit tricky. If you work in a small office and one of you co-workers is having a baby, you will probably have to pitch-in.

But if you work in a big company and don’t know -or barely-the recipient of the gift, just say something like “thanks, but I don’t know [insert name here].” Or “thanks, but I can’t afford to contribute”. Again, being up-front is sometimes the best line.

#3.Farewell party/lunch trap: This one can also be a bit tricky if you work in a small office. I personally believe employers should pay for the lunch or going-away party of their employees. If you don’t know the person well, you can excuse yourself from the occasion altogether. You can say you are on a “tight deadline” or “already have a commitment that evening”.

You may also want to approach your Manager and see what policy is in place, if any. If there is none, you may suggest one.

I have always been lucky to work in companies where cash requests are pretty much non-existent. My employers paid for birthday cakes or going-away parties. This is the way it should be. It is not my responsibility to financially pitch-in for causes I don’t care about or people I barely know.

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