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The Psychology of Giving Corporate Gifts: Understanding Their Emotional Influence


 Corporate Gifts for Employees – Social Imprints

Gift exchange has been a part of society since the dawn of time and is documented throughout human history. The transfer of objects between gorillas, chimpanzees, orangutans, and bonobos, has also been documented and studied. This leads to further evidence that the psychology of gifting is deeply ingrained into our human DNA. Interestly, there is an entire body of literature exploring the interaction of gift exchange. It is no surprise that corporate gifts for employees have become an integral part of the business world. This article will take a closer look at gift exchange and the powerful emotional effects of giving and receiving gifts in the workplace. 


Corporate gifts are a tool to build and maintain professional relationships


Gifts inherently build the basis of a continuous circle of reciprocity. That means that the social dynamic between two parties can be substantially influenced by gifts such as branded merchandise. A lot of information is conveyed from a gift exchange. For example, the receiver might learn what the giver thinks about them or what the recipient or giver might like. The receiver will make conclusions about how much they are appreciated or what the intentions are of the giver. Employee gifts send strong messaging about employee appreciation or positive workplace culture. And conversely, a lack of gifting can send strong negative messages to employees. 



Employee gifts are a language with tangible objects that send clear messages


Professional relationships abide by principles of any other familial, romantic, or platonic friendship. In Chapman’s book The five love languages: How to express heartfelt commitment to your mate, love language #3 is receiving gifts. Given the natural connection and similarity to professional relationships, this concept was then adapted for the workplace in a subsequent book. In The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace, appreciation language #4 is tangible gifts. These publications suggest that gift giving is actually mandatory for maintaining happy and healthy relationships. So when it comes to employee satisfaction, omitting gifts could have detrimental effects on workplace culture.



Gift sets with promotional products reflect positively on the giver or the corporate brand


Research has identified effective gift givers as having a higher level of Emotional understanding (EU). That means that gifting individuals (or collective company executives) have a better understanding of emotions and thoughts of others, compared to less giving types. This might seem obvious, but there is really a lot going on in the unconscious world of both the giver and receiver. The type and quality of gifts can demonstrate the strength and quality of a relationship. The more gifts that are given, the more the relationships are valued. Furthermore, increased spending on gifts demonstrates an increase of commitment and relationship closeness for individuals in the gift exchange. High quality and sustainable promotional products for corporate gifts will send a strong positive message. 



Gifting elicits happiness for the giver. It feels good to be generous and boost workplace culture!


A series of studies explored the effects of Emotional Understanding (EU) on gift giving. Results concluded that individuals higher on EU spent more on gifts for others. The degree of relationship closeness moderated gift spending. That is, the closer the relationship, the more money was devoted to the gift. The last, and arguably most interesting finding, was that givers with higher EU spent more on gifts and also perceived greater happiness. That means that the investment on gifts proved to benefit the gifter just as much as the receiver. That’s huge. That means that organizations utilizing corporate gifts for employees will feel positive effects at every level - top to bottom and around the table. 


When an organization gives stellar employee gifts, these are some of the outcomes:


  • The organization looks great - intelligent, compassionate, and generous

  • Executives and giftees will feel great about giving

  • A clear message of compassion is sent to the reciever

  • The employer demonstrates commitment to their team and employees

  • Employee appreciation

  • Relationship quality is enhanced 

  • The receiver feels valued

  • Employee satisfaction

  • Improved brand allegiance

  • Improved retention rates



Gifts can inspire positive reciprocity dynamics between top level management and employees


One emotional influence of gifts is generally positive feelings and the unconscious desire to give back to the giver. In the law of reciprocity, kind actions that are given are generally returned in one way or another. In professional relationships, this translates into high productivity and happy team mates. This fosters a positive feedback loop bolstering a positive work culture with high satisfaction and intention to give. 



It turns out that personalized gifts really are better for gift sets!


Research through data analysis and comparison has concluded that personalized gifts are appreciated and superior to generalized gifts. When a gift exchange is personalized, simultaneously, the identities of the giver and recipient are revealed. Qualities like uniqueness, aesthetic taste, and general functionality, reflect on both the giver and the receivers’ personality. This provides evidence that personalized gifts are an opportunity for corporations, or brands, to show off their unique personality through promotional products.



Furthermore, recipients value personalized gifts more. They appreciate the creativity of the giver and extra effort given with a personal touch. This procures an increase of fond memories or nostalgia. Personalized gifts also reveal what the giver thinks about the recipient. If the gift is flattering, that will be taken to heart and greatly appreciated. There is increased pride and ownership of personalized gifts, on both sides of the exchange. When it comes to corporate gifts for employees, adding a personal touch is worth the effort. Companies can show off personality and demonstrate that employee well-being is valued with gift sets of branded merchandise.


Utilize the emotional power of employee gifts for the good of your organization


In conclusion, the psychology of gifting is complex and can be utilized as a potent tool. Both givers and receivers experience strong emotions from corporate gifts. Some of the emotional influence of gifts includes building and sustaining strong relationships, eliciting positive emotions, improving well-being, and strengthening community bonds.  When a brand is associated with personalized gifts, both the giver and receiver will feel great about the exchange. 



For help with corporate gifts for employees, reach out to bizdev@socialimprints.com and one of our product specialists will be in touch!

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