Nancy MitchellNancy R. Mitchell is an established protocol and etiquette consultant and advisor with more than 30 years of experience in the field. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses to Event Management Certificate Program students in the School of Business and Public Management, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was Director of Special Events and Public Programs at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other foreign dignitaries, fundraising galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, she served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, foreign embassies, academia and corporations. Mitchell owns The Etiquette Advocate, Inc., a firm providing etiquette and protocol training to corporations, universities, embassies, government agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals. She is the etiquette consultant to Engaged! magazine, has been featured on Good Morning America, Fox 5 News, WTOP Radio and National Public Radio, and is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by the New York Times, Washington Business Journal, and the Washington Post. She is a co-owner of the firm, Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol, Inc., and is a member of the Protocol and Diplomacy International Protocol Officers Association and the Women Business Owners of Montgomery Country (MD).
Host: What should I do if I receive a business gift that I feel is inappropriate?
Nancy Mitchell: You need to react immediately, you need to return the gift as quickly as possible and you need to return it with a note which explains why you cannot accept the gift. Again, this maybe something that goes against the gift giving policy of your office or the spending limit or it may be that the gift was totally inappropriate, it was too personal. It could be misconstrued by not only you or by others who might find out that you have received and accepted this gift.
So document it, you need to write the note that returns the gift, you need to keep a copy of it and I encourage people to tell someone else on the staff, what has happened, show them the note you have written and let them know that you in fact have returned the gift.
This is important for a business and client relationship; you do not want something to look as if a client is trying to bribe you, if you will, to do business with them. A woman or a man may feel that a gift is too intimate, it has come from someone and it is not a business gift, it is too personal, you need to trust your instincts, you need to put pen to paper, write a note immediately and send the gift back.
Be as gracious as you can in the note, if this is a person with whom you need a continuing relationship, do not offend them, do not embarrass them, just say because of my company policy, unfortunately I cannot accept your generous gift or if it is more clear cut that there was a truly, truly inappropriate gift because it was too personal, you need to say that in your gift note.