Well first off, congratulations! You are gainfully employed. Having a job brings with it a plethora of social situations that may be completely foreign to you, especially if you’re fresh out of school. There’s an unspoken culture within every workplace. You’ll meet your share of characters.
Working with other people brings with it certain expectations; you need to be a professional, you need to be part of the team, you need to keep your nose clean and you need to be engaged on some level with your co-workers. People distrust loners that never interact on a personal level. It’s just part of the game.
It’s intimidating when you first start working and someone brings you a card and asks you to sign and put some money in the for the donation. How much? Do you ask? Is that tacky? You want to be friendly, but what are you supposed to do when you 1: don’t know the person and 2: you don’t have the disposable cash to keep dropping in the proverbial bucket. Depending on the size of the company you work for, you could have five or six cards rotating at any given time.
When you sign the card, you’re expected to chip in for the collection. If you feel comfortable you can ask what they will do with the money. You can say something like, “What is a ball park amount everyone is doing because I was planning on doing something myself.” This sentence lets you put your feelers out and you also have an out if it’s more than you can do. The only thing worse than being the person who doesn’t donate is being the jerk who puts in two dollars when everyone else put in twenty. (They always sign their name the biggest too…) Let me repeat this. Don’t be that jerk. Why? Well, the old lady that handed you the card already knows how much money is in there. Don’t think for a minute she isn’t going to count how much you added. Just sayin’. I’ve got your interests here. I know those nosy card collectors. (Sometimes, I’m one of them.) Jk.
Trust me, I know how awkward it is. It seems like everyone else around you has money for this stuff and you don’t. This is why you should buy your own cards. You can buy a box of cards for next to nothing. Keep a set of all occasion greeting cards in your desk. When you’re approached to give for a donation you can truthfully say to them, “Oh I did my own card.” No one will balk. No one will care. The next step is that you have to actually do your own card. I can help you there as well.
Depending on how well you know the person a card may honestly be enough. If you give a head nod in the morning and you don’t eat lunch together, a card with a sincere note is enough. If you are friendly with someone, write out the card and buy a small token that you can afford…a coffee gift card, a small plant, a little toy for a new baby, whatever. You aren’t ignoring them and you’re doing what you can legitimately can do while not destroying your own budget.
Office politics will never go away. As humans, we are wired to create communities within communities. Make it easier on yourself and always be part of the group.