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The Office "Chip-In's" - Do You Have To? Advice & Tips for the Workplace Social Network

Updated on January 8, 2012

The Truth About Those Starbucks Runs

Gossip. Peer pressure. Cold shoulder. Advancement.

You’d think I’m talking about a high school. But I’m not. I’m talking about the office.

The social setting of many business offices can be like it was in your high school hallways. Only this time, it makes a difference.

Is it true you can just go in to work every day and do your job and keep to yourself? Can you pretty much ignore the office from a social aspect? Is it really OK not to keep a good social standing at work? No, it’s not.

Management sees how you interact with other people. Promotions are often based in part on how well you can lead a team and work with others. When it’s obvious to the higher ups that your officemates don’t respect you, no matter how good your work is, that will definitely affect your career path.

It’s expensive to work in an office. There’s the obvious ones – the dry cleaning, the gas or commuting costs. There’s wardrobe updating. But there’s also the social expectations that can add up on you. There’s the latte runs, the group lunches, the happy hours, the chipping in for gifts and birthday cakes.

If you work in an office, you know what it’s like when someone comes around collecting for Harriet’s retirement gift, or Bob’s birthday cake. You don’t want to be that person that doesn’t contribute. Offices can be as bad as high schools with the whispering and the clicks and the peer pressure.

Consider "Kayla"

Kayla was a woman at a former office workplace of mine. We worked in the finance department together. She was with the company 15 years when I got there. She was always quick to refuse to contribute to most of those little funds. She was always making statements about how broke she was. And then once in a while, she would contribute to one of those funds when it was another older long time employee. When we met to discuss a department Chris Cringle, she refused participation. When anyone was selling their kid’s Girlscout cookies or other fundraisers, she always said, “I’m broke, no way,” in a tone that sounded angry you’d even ask. When the department invited her to go out for drinks to celebrate a good quarter, she would either refuse or just completely ignore the invitation. If pressed she would site money or time as the reasons she wasn’t going, and always with an attitude. But when the warehouse had their First Friday Happy Hour, she went, suddenly finding the time and the money, and her ability to RSVP.

Kayla had been passed up for every promotion that could have come her way for the 15 years she had been there. Her immediate supervisor had only been with the company 3 years when she was promoted over Kayla. The department manager, 5 years.

While I was there, I heard the gossip about her. Her office mates speculated about a lot of things. She drives a great car, but couldn’t afford to participate in Chris Cringle? She can afford cigarettes, she takes 10 smoke breaks a day, but couldn’t chip in a buck for Debbie’s birthday cake? She’ll chip in for this one but not for that one. She’ll go to their happy hour, but not our celebration.

She was called everything from a liar, to stuck-up, to full of herself, to cheap. She even overheard these things herself on sad occasion.

I personally don’t think she was any of those. I just think she had no clue how these things reflect.

Passed Over for Promotions

Years after I had left that company, I remained friends with a Human Resource Manager. We talked about Kayla a few times. Management always considered her comments on how she was broke as a serious reflection on her ability to manage money. Other people on her level who made the same money seemed to be doing just fine. She drove the nicest car in the department but said she couldn’t afford to put $2 into the afternoon coffee run. Regarding her ability to supervise, they noted she played favorites. She only contributed to long time employee’s celebratory cakes or lunches. How would she be able to handle new employees? She brought in her kid’s fundraisers but didn’t support others.

Kayla was passed over for promotion after promotion. This of course made her feel slighted, tired, and angry. Her attitude at work became bitter. This fed the gossip. It was a bad cycle that she perpetuated every day.

Look, I’m the first to say, no one knows what goes on in people’s private lives. Maybe the reason she can afford a nice car is because she doesn’t contribute to every stupid cake fund. But even I can clearly see that she created and perpetuated a perception that cost her any upward mobility in her work place. She doomed herself. This could have been easily avoided.

If It Happens At Work, It's WORK.

Even the aspects that seem social like cakes and Happy Hours, are WORK. Think of them that way, and you can’t go wrong. From 9 to 5 when you’re in that office, you’re working. Be even, and level, and professional in all your interactions. Anytime you speak to any one in the office, use the same manner and tone as you would addressing the president of the company.

As far as the “chip in’s” go, be even. It’s better to chip in one or two dollars each time, then to play favorites, or to excommunicate yourself. You need to add this into your work budget just like dry cleaning and commuting costs. These things are remembered. They are a reflection on your ability to participate in team functions.

Here’s a couple of sneaky tips for this topic. If you’re the one taking around the collection, no one else knows how much you’ve contributed if anything. They see that you’ve at least donated your time and effort by running around the office with the smile, the team spirit and the envelope. Another is to smile and show your team spirit by saying something nice about the event, then volunteer to order or go get the cake. Your gas, your time, your effort – it all counts.

The Office is Your Team –

And management sees it that way. When you slight your team, it’s a reflection on your ability to supervise, manage, or grow in the company.

Watch What You Say - Especially About Yourself

Telling everyone that you work in finance and you’re broke is just a dumb move. Look, everyone is cash tight right now. And every one at one time or another has a bad week or a tight patch.

The work place is not where you want to make any blatantly self deprecating statements like that you’re "broke." You have to be able to realize that the next time you have a new purse, or you chip in for something else, you’re likely to make your way into the office gossip as a liar or a drama queen. It’s unprofessional and it will come back to bite you.

Always remember you’re working. Not socializing. And always remember to view your office as a team, the way management does.

Put it in your budget to always have a few bucks tucked in your wallet for those collections. Really having a tight week and can’t do it? Don’t tell the world you’re broke. Behave like a team player. Put a dollar in and say “Oh I wish it could be more, I really like Jan and I’m so glad she’s being promoted!” Or, turn to the officemate next to you and say, “Hey I’m a little embarrassed, I don’t have any cash on me. Can you please put in a few dollars for me, and I’ll get us Starbucks coffees on the way back from lunch to pay you back?” Charging $10 on your American Express card at Starbucks in the long run won’t cost you your office reputation and promotablility. Think of it like any other investment in your career path. Brown bag it the next couple of days, you'll make up the cost in no time.

If you liked this HUB, please click the Thumbs-Up below, just before the comments.

All text is original content by Veronica

All photos are used with persmission.

All videos are courtesy of Youtube.


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  • ellahall2011 profile image

    ellahall2011 6 years ago

    Wonderful article.

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY


    Were these last two events for people that were employed at the company longer than a month like you had been?

    Being that you're there a year now you should have chipped in.

    But if you're saying people aren't treated equally as in, they are only 1 month employees too, then that is an oddity and you might want to just casually address it with HR to make sure there wasn't some other kind of slight going on a year ago when you were new and getting married.

  • profile image

    Droplet 7 years ago

    This is helpful, but I want to reiterate the even treatment of people. Last year there were two weddings in our organization, one male member of the staff, and myself (a woman in my late 30s). I had only been employed there for just over a month. Nobody did anything to recognize the events, nor did I expect them to. Fast forward to this year, and two more people have weddings. They are both young-ish women. Last night there was a big happy hour to celebrate, complete with wine, beer and cake. They asked people to chip in for presents and ended up buying gifts valued at $200 for each couple ($400 total). What should I have done?

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 7 years ago from NY

    Poonam, Thanks for the comment!

  • profile image

    Poonam  7 years ago

    thanks Veronica for such a great advice. Even i was upset when I had to contribute to someone's wedding gift or farewell gift or gift to some colleage's new born baby. But after reading your article it made me think that such contributions also get noticed. Yes now i will not be having hard feeling about this. as mentioned i need to consider it as office expense.

  • profile image

    Nikki 8 years ago

    Thanks so much for the advice. I did what you said and it worked perfectly. I didn't point out that I make half and contribute to the same but hopefully my boss realizes this. I did tell him I had contributed to the fund and wanted to know how I could be included in the celebrations so I could build relationships with my colleagues. My boss agreed to let me adjust my schedule on days when there is something special going on. Although coming up with the cash for all these extras is tough and the constant requests for additional donations of money and party food items and gifts continue, my co-workers seem both surprised and appreciative of my effort to share in the staff bonding. The person who's occasion we were celebrating last even came by my office the next day to personally thank me for attending after I went out of my way to attend the afterhours social in her honor. Thanks again for your post on on this delicate but important office etiquette matter.

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 8 years ago from NY


    Your idea to ask your supervisor to adjust your schedule on days when the parties are going on is brilliant. Let her know you are supporting the parties, you are chipping in even though you haven't been attending, you make less than half of what the others make and are chipping in the same, and that you WANT to be included, you WANT to be part of the community feeling that the office has created with these festivities. You're not asking to get out of them, you are asking to be included as everyone else is, with the scheduling consideration.

    I'm not condoning the ritual - I think it's hard to come up with the money especially in today's economy. I'm glad you read the article - I'm not arguing on behalf of the chip-in, I am just trying to offer advice that will help you in your career. This is absolutely one of those things that could boost you to the very top of consideration when more hours or a new position becomes available.

    If as you said, you want to stay with this company and get a full time job, this is absolutely a great way to show your supervisor that you are a team player, you embrace the community they've created in the office, and you've even come up with the solution: the hours adjustment on festivity days.

    Please keep us posted. Good luck.

  • profile image

    Nikki 8 years ago

    I just started a new job where I only work part time. I make half of what my counterparts make and do not even get benefits. Most of the celebrations are held after I leave because I work the morning shift but the office B-day coordinator did not acknowledge that when she asked me to contribute to the party fund. The office does a certain amount out of each paycheck and everyone brings an additional gift for wedding or baby showers. I have been here less than a month and have been asked to bring a gift or give extra to 4 different things on top of the b-day fund. I thought of mentioning this to my supervisor but after reading your post I am hesitant. I am hoping to get a full time position here at some point. Do I still have to pay for parties I cannot even attend? Or should I ask my supervisor if I can adjust my schedule on days when the parties are going to be and just cough up the funds?

  • profile image

    Kimberly 8 years ago

    Great Tips!

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 9 years ago from NY

    November -

    Sorry to hear you had some craziness and lost your home. And to top that off, now you have to deal with this shit from your coworker running her mouth. It sounds like you have more than an accurate grasp of the importance of playing along with the office social network and trying to steer clear of needless gossip.  You took the high road not wanting to harass people into the chip-in. Hopefully some of those people will remember that and not believe this woman's unfair commentary. I wish it were enough to just be right. That social shit just sucks sometimes, I know.

    Not that you asked, but I have 3 separate advice ideas to offer you, or anyone in this kind of situation.

    1 - This too will pass. Eventually, this will be dropped. Hey if Woody Allen can marry his teenage step daughter and still manage to go on to make well-received movies, you can put this behind you and not see it affect your career.

    But sometimes you just can't do that. You can't let it go even though you know it is the best way to go. 

    2 - Go behind the scenes. If you have a good HR department, that's the best way to make sure your "record" is clean. It's part of their job. Hey, enough of these kinds of issues brought to their attention and they might actually create an office policy that prevents chip-ins. If you ask for an appointment, and just tell them what happened, and say you've come to them because you didn't know what else to do, you're turning the matter over to them - you will feel released.

    3 - The last idea I have would be the hardest for most people. Confront the bitch. And do it with a witness. Wait 'til you see her in the coffee break room while there are other people around and in your calmest voice say, "I really didn't appreciate the lie you told everyone about me. You know I offered to chip in a second time, you refused, and then you told everyone I didn't chip in." If you don't elevate, you keep it calm and rational, and you just keep repeating the truth, no matter what she says, you won. And you did it infront of witnesses. 

    One of the things management observes in the social network of the workplace is your ability to handle a situation and remain in control. If you're worried about confronting her because of the reprocussions it could have on you, think about the reprocussions of  management observing your being pushed around. How can you be considered for management if you don't take control of a situation?

     Thanks for your comment. Good luck.

  • profile image

    November 9 years ago

    I know I'm late to the party here, but I had an aggravating work party thing happen today. I was told by the person whose idea it was to give a group gift that she wanted to pitch in on my behalf w/ some money left over from the last group gift (I recently lost my home & all it's possesions due to some crazy - non-finance related - crazyness.) I offered to contribute twice, but she insisted. Then she told the others that she was contributing on my behalf & now they are all mad at me. I wanted to contribute to begin w/ - she insisted - I didn't want to have an argument w/ her where I'm trying to shove money into her hand, so I let it go. Now I'm being made out like some sort of mooch or a jerk, which is unfair. Especially, given my current circumstance, I don't think it would have been unreasonable for me to pass on this one anyway.

    Also - in the past I have given gifts from the group & asked noone to pay me back. I don't like to harrass people into giving when it may be burdensome for them. I think this office gifting has spiraled out of control. I'd probably earn (as in be able to actually use for myself) more money working fast food - argh!

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 9 years ago from NY

    Thanks lady luck. Agreed. It's never good to be part of the office gossip. Plus, those small things count towards our advancement.

    Thanks for visiting!

  • lady luck profile image

    lady luck 9 years ago from Boston

    This is good advice. You have reminded me that I need to be more proactive and involved in crap. This also goes for not mandatory meetings, even if they aren't mandatory, people notice when you arent there, my boss sure does, and she has said something to me about it too! I think all of these small things ARE a hassle but we should kinda suck it up and deal with them because it's easier than being the brunt of office gossip/rumors/judgements

  • profile image

    Paul Felix 9 years ago

    Hi veronica pure pressure is real i have never had it happen in the office because i never worked in the office but it does happen in your kids schools wanting donations or wanting you to participate in something with the other parents and if you didn't watch out! they would be talkin about you until next year.Same in your church they pass the money basket around as soon as you just pass the basket on with no money they just go to whisperin I use to do it just to laugh at them go on and on veronica but there wasn't the kinda hipe there like at work,GREAT NATURAL TOPIC veronica~cool~cya

  • marisuewrites profile image

    marisuewrites 9 years ago from USA

    veronica you are following an age old but tried and true writing rule,

    Tell em what you're gonna tell 'em

    tell em

    tell em what you told em

    hahaha you did a great job and I can tell it comes naturally. Congratulations on a good hub. I'm serious about spreading this around new hires...and some golden oldies. thanks again

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 9 years ago from NY

    Goodwitch I think the once a month thing is a great idea. Great suggestion! Thanks!

  • Goodwitch profile image

    Goodwitch 9 years ago

    So true Veronica! One thing I'd like to add is that while it's really nice to do for your co-worker, ALL workers should be treated equally. I can't tell you how bad it makes people feel when someone goes around collecting for someone's birthday, but when their birthday comes around they get nothing. One suggestion is to have a monthly "pool" or night out where there is 1 cake / 1 night of cocktails, etc. to celebrate all birthdays / promotions / going away's etc. that take place during that month. It ensures that everyone receives recognition and only hits the pocketbooks once a month!

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 9 years ago from NY

    Thanks so much for the indepth comment, Marisue! To be honest I wasn't thinking about the google bots, I'm glad that worked out. I repeat for effect, when I think it does well within the writing. You know, to punch a point, and help people come away with keys in the text.

    It's great you had a sensitive counselor who created a smooth process in that one office.

    When I spoke with my HR friend once about this, she had pointed out that one of the reasons the company never put the kabosh on the collections is that they liked to use it as a means to see how certain employees cooperate, communicate, and get along with others.

    You're right. New hires especially should get that heads-up about this.

    Thanks Marisue!

  • marisuewrites profile image

    marisuewrites 9 years ago from USA

    veronica this hub ought to be put in every new hire packet as Office Etiquette.  Very good info!!   I'm going to use some of these tips for the management training I teach.  Managers could help create a pleasant office atmosphere if they would teach it.  You reap what you teach.

    I have also been on the receiving end of having been asked to contribute to too many office happenings and believe every company should keep that to a minimum. 

    At one office where I counseled foster/adoptive parents...we had a kitty that was voluntary.  In that kitty, money was taken out weekly for a Friday coffee run that people had paid in advance for, putting their name on the list. The coffee/snacks was delivered to the break room and those who contributed went there to retrieve their snack.   

    It was a really simple procedure and no one was embarassed.  Course that's cuz we had a sensitive counselor who created the process. 

    I often gave to the office goings on in different companies,  my last dollar.  Now, I'm older and wiser and can easily say "Not this time,  Thanks."  However,  I was also quick to bring treats and do volunteer work everytime I could.

    You are so right about the gab-line that occurs if co-workers think you're not contributing at least most of the time.  As I was reading your hub, I was thinking:  "You know, people should budget a few bucks a month for an office expense."  and there you had that tip in there and I think you are brilliant because we were thinking alike!!   HAHAHA   teasing.

    Absolutely great, well written hub and I like how you repeated some phrases and I'm sure the google bot noticed.  Fellow hubbers,  we are writing for an audience, certainly...but remember, use your keywords in the body of your writing and use them more than once.  You did this well, Veronica and I hardly noticed any repetition.  Bravo! =)

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 9 years ago from NY

    Steph - Thanks! I do think that is the key to remember. It's WORK. Just like any other work function.

    Eric - Thanks for checking me out.

    You're right on the money - it's all part of the fabric of the office. Right or wrong, it's the way it is. Especially when you are starting out and working your way up, you want to be perceived as a team player, as pleasant and appreciative, as someone who plays well with others. It will halp your advancement as much as any other skill.

  • Eric Graudins profile image

    Eric Graudins 9 years ago from Australia

    Nice Hub Veronica.

    I haven't worked in an office situation for many years now, but remember the endless fund raising, lunches, and contributions for football tipping, etc.

    It's all part of the fabric of an office, and you are correct - those who don't take part have all kinds of things said about them, and various assumptions are made. This is the first hub of yours I've seen - I'll check out some more.

  • stephhicks68 profile image

    Stephanie Hicks 9 years ago from Bend, Oregon

    You have some excellent advice here. Personally, I do not bring in my kids fundraisers to the office (I think its tacky). I do try to attend all the "birthday parties." But, as you state, the primary purpose of being at work is WORK! Thumbs up.

  • trish1048 profile image

    trish1048 9 years ago

    Hi Veronica,

    I agree, anything would have been nice LOL,,but I didn't do it for the 'glory' :)

    A simple thank you would have been nice.


  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 9 years ago from NY

    Thanks Steve!

    Thanks, Trish. I like your coffee evolution! We had free coffee too, but in the afternoon its nice to get that exact cup of half caf mocha latte frippe froo froo or whatever specialty cup you drink.

    I think sometimes we all need acknowledgment for the extras we do. Like, when you were on coffee duty, if the whole office "chipped in" and gave you a nice restaurant gift certif in a thank you card for always having coffee ready, you might have really appreciated the nod.

    thanks for commenting,


  • trish1048 profile image

    trish1048 9 years ago

    Hi Veronica,

    Great hub! 

    We have free coffee at work, and for two years I voluntarily took care of the ordering of supplies and putting the first pots of coffee on in the morning, as I was one of the few people who started the earliest.  Two to three times a day, I would make sure there was coffee made and there were enough supplies put out. The only request I put up was if you saw a pot that was empty, or you were taking the last cup yourself, please take two minutes to start a new pot.

    What I discovered was that there were a handful of 'coffeeholics' who would come in, help themselves to the coffee, and leave the pot or pots empty.  Even worse, was a fellow who, upon finding that his coffee choice was almost empty, he would drain that, then fill up the rest of his cup from the other pots, leaving those nearly empty as well.  NEVER ONCE did I see him make a pot of coffee for the next person.  I very nicely said to him one day what I had observed, and would he please be considerate of the next person.  He assured me he would.  Did he? HELL, no.

    I finally decided to turn the 'team player' status over to someone else.  Luckily I found a guy who gladly took over.  He did it for another two years, when he finally had enough and we got lucky and had one more volunteer.  He only lasted a year because he saw how a lot of people simply took advantage of a good thing.  It was then decided that each department, on a rotating basis, was assigned a week of 'coffee duty'.  This has been going on now for quite a while, and it turns out it was the best solution.

    I do also contribute to the 'chip-ins'.  It's simply good practice, just as it is to offer a coworker help when you can.  Kinda like the 'you wash my back, I'll wash yours'.

    Thanks for sharing,


  • stevemark122000 profile image

    stevemark122000 9 years ago from Southern California

    Interesting hub, thanks.

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 9 years ago from NY

    Thanks robie2. It isn't easy, but it's a pitfall that needs to be hurdled.

  • robie2 profile image

    Roberta Kyle 9 years ago from Central New Jersey

    Nice work, Veronica. I agree-- like or hate your co-worker, always put in something for the party and the good-bye gift. It gets to be a real pain if a lot of people are leaving at the same time though:-) Good advice on avoiding the pitfalls here--especially like the part about volunteering to take up the collection.

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 9 years ago from NY

    BTW Stacie, I love it when you comment. You always say something that relates to you personally, that adds to the forum. Thank you, I appreciate it.

  • Veronica profile image

    Veronica 9 years ago from NY


    I don't think it's rambling at all! It's very valid. It's exactly what I was aiming for with this hub.

    Many people find themselves in that boat, especially right now. But as you pointed out, you found a way. Many people dread it. But it is a part of "work" and really has to be looked at that way. It matters.

    I didn't write the hub because I'm all rah-rah for the chip in. I wrote this so people would not put themselves in a regrettable situation over this, without realizing it.

    I think you slipped us a tip in your comment. If they ask for $5, and you can only put in $1 or $2, do it, but do it with that smile and positive attitude that says you support the cause, and you're sorry this week it can't be more. Do NOT say something that will come back to haunt you. And if you're in charge of the collection, try to be as understanding as you can be that many people aren't as able to cough up $5 as you'd like to think.

  • Stacie Naczelnik profile image

    Stacie Naczelnik 9 years ago from Seattle

    Veronica, you offer some great advice here, and make valid points. However, I also want to point out that the "chipping in" can go too far. At my first job out of college, I did not make a lot of money. My husband was still in college (so we were paying for part of his tuition) AND I was starting to pay my college loans back. We had a very modest car that we shared (still do actually), no cell phones, no luxuries (like cable tv), and rented a tiny apartment. I took my own lunch to work with me every day and never bought coffees because our budget was super tight. I dreaded the days when someone came around for a collection. I always found a way to contribute, but it was not easy. I think the hardest part was that the people collecting always told us how much they expected everyone to contribute. Sure, $5 might be pocket change to the director of the office, but it certainly isn't to the brand new assistant fresh out of college. I think proper office etiquette goes both ways. Sorry for the rambler here!