Swamped With Solicitations: Handling office asks

by epi on July 26, 2012

Q: During a typical month at work, I’m approached by co-workers at least two or three times to give to some cause — their child’s fund-raiser, more often than not.  What bothers me is the idea of solicitation in the workplace.  I’m tired of being approached at my desk and asked to buy candy bars, flowers, raffle tickets, or my personal favorite, wrapping paper.  When I refuse politely, I’ve been told, “Really?  You don’t want to give?” or, “Come on, it’s for my kid.”  It’s an awkward moment for both of us, and the awkwardness generally lingers for a day or two after the rejection.  I’m trying to stand my ground, but I also want to maintain relationships with my co-workers and not appear cheap.  Is it unreasonable to ask my boss to prevent soliciting in the office, or to request that it be done in a common area so as not to disrupt me while I’m working?

A: This is one of the most asked-about issues in business etiquette.  The best solution is to have an office policy about soliciting co-workers.  If no policy exists, ask your boss to implement one.  A couple of suggestions to increase the likelihood of your boss buying in: First, develop what you think would be a reasonable policy — one that addresses your concerns without completely shutting out those who want to be able to ask for donations.  You might ask friends at other companies what their corporate policies are, and use these as a guideline.  Second, find some other people in your office who feel the same way you do, and ask them to accompany you when you meet with your boss.  There’s strength in numbers.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Trish July 26, 2012 at 10:37 am

This is such an annoying issue, because it’s hard to say no if everyone else is saying “Sure!”. I often don’t have cash on me (I usually have my debit card), so sometimes I use that as an excuse. But a lot of people in our office just leave the product and the “collection envelope” in the main café so there’s no awkward asking or obligation. That seems more appropriate to me.

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Alicia July 26, 2012 at 11:59 am

I’ve always had a “Nothing but thin mints” policy and I just say that. I will buy at least one box of thin mints anytime I am asked ( ok I am a thin mint junkie) but other then that I tell folks that I give to charity and support local events and that magazines or candy bar or whatever is not how I make the choice to support oranization.

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Joanna July 27, 2012 at 10:04 am

My workplace also has employees put their various fundraisers on a table in the breakroom – can you speak to a supervisor and see if that’s possible at your place, too? Overall, it cuts down on awkwardness, since obviously anyone who’s interested will see it and be able to buy something, while others can simply keep clear.

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Jody July 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm

My firm has a “classifieds” section in our intranet. Those whose kids are selling things post a notice on the classifieds. It solves the problem described in the question — nobody is “shamed” into buying anything, and those who really wish to purchase something can do so.

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Amy H July 27, 2012 at 2:02 pm

I have two kids in school, and when I am soliciting for their fundraisers, I usually send out one general email to the office and put the envelope or order form in a public spot like the break room or next to the printer. I never ask anyone directly because I feel that puts them in an awkward position. Other parents do something similar, and it works well for us.

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