Prize Possession: Gifts/items won at business events

by epi on April 30, 2013

Q: My company was invited to a corporate presentation recently. I sent an employee to represent my company and the presenting company offered various raffle prizes. While I was out of town, my employee was notified by the company that our/her entry had won, which another person told me prior to my return to the office. On my return, she immediately announced to me this morning that ‘I won a plasma TV at the event last week’; I did not want to offend her so I politely avoided any detailed discussion of the issue. My view is that she was there to represent the company and therefore the company should get the TV, not her as the employee. Your thoughts on this are greatly appreciated.

A: Unless you have specific policies that define amounts and types of gifts that individuals can receive, or that state clearly that any gifts won by an individual attending an event as a representative of the company revert to the company, then an employee who wins an item or is given a gift keeps the item or gift. Even if you had paid for the meal or costs for the employee, she was there as an invited guest.

However, it is not clear when you write “our/her entry had won” whether you had entered a raffle separately as a corporate entity and she was simply the employee present, or whether her business card or ticket or completed coupon or whatever was drawn in her name because she was the one who filled it out or was the registered guest. If the former, then technically you company won and she never should have been notified that she won. If the latter, then she won and whether the item is a plasma television or a geranium plant, how nice for her! In this case, there is no expectation that she had over the gift to you just because it’s your company.

You did the right thing in not mentioning it, something that could cause a lot of confusion and hurt feelings and create ill will in the office. If this is troublesome to you, then you need to think about putting policies in place that give you the right to any item given to or won by those who work for you. This would seem a bit “Scrooge-ish,” but it is your right if that’s the way you would like it to be.

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