Over the Line: Why Pressuring Employees to Donate Is a Bad Idea

From the HR blog at TLNT.
From the HR blog at TLNT. Photo illustration by istockphoto.com

I used to work for a woman named Linda, who reported to a woman named Lisa.

I didn’t care for Linda too much, and I cared even less for Lisa.

I thought Lisa was disingenuous, kind of sneaky, and overall not to be trusted.

Perhaps I was wrong. Perhaps she was simply beleaguered and overwhelmed in the way that young managers can be, and being young myself, I couldn’t see it.

An endless cycle of “giving”

In any case, when Lisa got married, the last thing I wanted to do was contribute a portion of my pay to her dowry, and while I tried to pretend I didn’t see that envelope being passed around with everyone’s name on it, eventually peer pressure (actually it wasn’t quite peer pressure but pressure from my boss) got the better of me, and I caved.

However, I resented it big time.

A few months later, Lisa announced her pregnancy, and here comes the envelope again.

Seriously?? My fondness for Lisa had not increased with the passage of time. Once again, however, I caved.

Then came the blood drive, and I put my foot down.

Giving blood is a good thing, I’ll grant you. But I didn’t want to do it. Moreover, I was miffed that my employer felt entitled to shame/bully me into giving.

First my cash, then my blood? No. I’m done.

Pressuring employees to give is a bad idea

Between miscellaneous fundraising campaigns, cookie drives, birthdays, and baskets for broken legs,  I don’t have a lot of love for a company that pays its employees but then finds all kinds of ways to make them give it back.

I donate generously to charity (honest), and I believe in community and camaraderie.

But along with all that, I believe that how an employee chooses to spend her hard-earned money (provided no laws are being broken), is none of her employer’s business.

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So, when managers start applying subtle and not-so-subtle pressure to “encourage” employees to contribute to this cause or place money in the kitty for that employee, I have a problem with it. In fact, I consider it a bona fide boundary issue.

You say, “well Crystal, don’t you want a little something when you break your toe or have a baby?

Employers should avoid this stuff

And I say:

First, my baby-making days are loooooong over.

Second, if I break my toe and not even one employee sends me a card or calls to see how I’m doing — well, shame on me. I must be one helluva lousy co-worker.

So no, I don’t think employers should get too tangled up in this stuff.

I believe it’s fine and good for employers to provide opportunities for giving (like during the annual United Way drive), and I believe more employers should consider the benefits of offering financial literacy courses that teach workers how to keep a larger portion of what they earn.

But sending multiple email messages to remind certain people that they haven’t yet ponied up for Frank’s baby shower? Oh heck no.

Crystal Spraggins, SPHR, is an HR consultant and freelance writer who lives in Philadelphia. She also writes at her blog, HR BlogVOCATE. For the past 15 years, Crystal has focused on building HR departments in small- to mid-sized companies under the philosophy that "HR is not for wimps." She is also the CEO and Founder of Work It Out! and partners with HRCVision, a full-service HR consultant practice specializing in leadership and diversity training. Contact her at crs036@aim.com.

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2 Comments on “Over the Line: Why Pressuring Employees to Donate Is a Bad Idea

  1. And how do you all feel about the employer pressuring the ranks and especially the leadership teams to contribute to Company sponsored PACs? Well that’s the way it is at my company (to remain unnamed). We are told that there is a list that is seen by the leadership teams and that you DON’T want to be on the list -the one of people who don’t contribute. And if you’re in Director or higher leadership role, you had better be a member of the “President’s Club” (1 to 2% of Gross Pay depending upon whether there is a VP behind your name) and be seen at the special invitation-only President’s Club events that are peppered throughout the year. And for your generosity they give you a cheesy gift at the Holiday which of course you can opt out of so that the PAC can get an even bigger benefit from your donation. The program comes complete with calls to your company cell phone during dinner hours (or during your vacation) to make sure that you and your teams are contributing the expected amounts. And then there are the meetings in the cafeteria to listen to the schpiel and the reprimands if you or your teams don’t show up to listen.

    In my mind, this is not only harassment, but it is illegal and is a clear violation of the Federal Election laws on PAC funding. But heck, should some government bureaucrat call the company on the violation, a call to Government Affairs will ensure some political pressure on that bureaucrat and make the problem disappear. Welcome to the United States of America, where money buys anything, even exception from the law!

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