Is Workplace Selling Tacky? Here’s What Experts Think

People just want to make an extra buck. When I used to work at a call center a million years ago, my coworkers did it all the time, and I certainly didn’t mind. If I was craving something sweet, I could simply drop by George’s work station, since he brings in food to sell in the office. If I ran out of perfume, there’s Gina selling PX goods over at another corner. The lazy person in me though would just internal chat them up and they would deliver my orders to my cubicle.

I think workplace selling is worth discussing because modern workplaces don’t have clear-cut rules about this. Obviously, we each have our own biases regarding workplace selling, that’s why Get Over Your Job consulted some experts on the issue to ask them what they think.

Wanda Kisser, a career consultant and the owner of Elite Resume Writing, says employees selling items at work to support a charitable cause is typically a non-issue, but she frowns upon selling items for purposes other than that.

“Personally, I see no issue with employees selling items at work to support charitable organizations, but not for personal gain. I also feel it is important to respect individuals who prefer not to contribute, as they should not feel pressured or obligated,” she tells Get Over Your Job.

The same is true of soliciting donations in the workplace, for Kiser. As long as it is allowed by management, and formally announced, asking for donations, whether for an organization or colleague, is generally fine. “If this is permitted, it should be posted on a company bulletin board, newsletter, company intranet, or employee email, informing interested parties of ways to contribute,” she explains.

Kiser, however, emphasizes that, like with workplace selling, parties should still respect the choice of those who would or wouldn’t buy or donate something, especially their anonymity. “I do feel that individuals should be approached or singled out to see if they want to contribute or questioned as to why they didn’t contribute. I also feel that lists should not be published and distributed naming supporters and non-supporters. That would be unfair to all employees,” she tells Get Over Your Job.

When it comes to setting the ground rules, labor law attorney, Greg Yates, who runs a job-matching consulting firm for legal professionals, agrees that it is a must for employers. “At least in the United States, it is imperative that employers have a policy on selling or soliciting at work and enforce it uniformly.  If not, a discrimination action could be brought against the employer,” says Yates in an interview with Get Over Your Job.    

“An employer with a more casual and collegial culture may fully approve of such actions (with some reasonable limits) while a more traditional button-down employer may wish to prohibit such activity entirely. Again, the most important consideration is to have a policy, preferably in writing, and enforce it fairly,” he explains.

The next time you want to sell an item to a coworker or solicit donations for your community sports team, don’t forget to refer to your handbook to see your policies. Better yet, it is wise to consult a manager whether they approve of what you plan to do. Better be on the safe side.

(Featured Image Credit: Pexels)

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Sandy Miguel is an independent website publisher, journalist and photographer from the Philippines. She used to be the managing director of an advertising technology provider where she managed around 50 online contractors at one time. Sandy writes about managing work-related stress, exploring one's options outside the four corners of an office, and work-life balance for Get Over Your Job.