The Art of Giving Gifts
Like so many things in life, giving gifts is an art. We can all pick something from a gift list but that’s really just buying something you’ve been told to buy, it’s more like paying a tax than buying a gift. And we can all google a list for our intended recipient, ‘Best Gifts for Balding Men’. You’ll get something ok, you’ll have given a gift, but that’s about it. A great gift, an artfully chosen gift, is a gift which brings someone a moment of unexpected joy and generates a feeling of warmth and gratitude toward the giver. It really doesn’t have anything to do with the monetary value of the gift, it’s about showing someone that you have taken the trouble to find something that they will love, even if they didn’t even know of the object’s existence until they opened your gift. Sometimes you simply get lucky, you buy something for someone in the hope that they’ll like it and bingo, they like it way more than you could have imagined.’ Hey, my Uncle Jack had one of these and I’ve always wanted one. How did you know?’ You didn’t of course, you got lucky. Usually, though, the response to a ‘I think he might like it’ kind of gift, is ‘Oh that’s interesting.’ A sentence in which ‘interesting’ means ‘random’ or worse.
Every Office is a Unique Eco-System
The people who work together in an office have been brought together by a combination of skill sets and chance. Unlike other social groups which we might join, an office community is not one primarily founded on friendship or shared beliefs and enthusiasms. These may operate in an office environment and in most offices, they probably do, but they are not the imperatives which created the office community. You may well spend more time with your office colleagues than your family, but it is a working relationship and though it may be very intense, in terms of knowing the whole person, you are just seeing the tip of an iceberg. If the key to a great gift is knowledge of the recipient, then giving gifts to office colleagues is obviously particularly problematic.
What is the Purpose of Office Gifts?
If you are in charge of an office, then the giving of gifts is a way of showing the individuals in your team that their contribution is valued and appreciated. It’s a morale booster which plays its part in building a positive working relationship. At least that is what it does if it is well chosen present. An ill- considered gift will simply reinforce your colleague’s belief that the gift is just a perfunctory obligation and that it means nothing. A gift from management is a very different thing from the gifts given by co-workers to one another, either to mark birthdays or Christmas. Co-workers give gifts to one another as a social lubricant, to keep things running smoothly. There may well be genuine affection but there doesn’t need to be. Gifts between co-workers do not carry the same weight of meaning that a gift from management does. You are unlikely to feel that your career is going nowhere simply because Cindy gave you a particularly ugly tie.
So, What Does Make a Good Office Gift?
If you give someone something which they perceive as cheap and nasty, then they will read that object as a reflection of what you think of them. The particular problem with finding a successful office gift is, as we’ve already identified, that your knowledge of the person is limited to their office persona. This means that you shouldn’t be trying to find a deeply personal present but something which they will find useful and which suggests that you hold them in esteem. Novelty gifts are lazy, they are amusing for a couple of minutes, but they are destined for the back of a cupboard or a bin. They are a tick box gift which says, ‘I don’t really know you and I’m not going to waste time trying to find something you might like’. What you need then is a useful gift of quality which says that you value your colleague.
Office Gifts Which Will Be Appreciated
Small quality items are far more articulate gifts than big inappropriate ones. A good quality pen is a useful, stylish gift for a woman or a man. Unless you are confident that your recipient would use a fountain pen you are probably best sticking to a quality ball point. A notebook might seem like an inconsequential present, but a really high quality notebook, like a Smythson, is a lovely little object that most of us would judge to be far too expensive to buy for ourselves but which makes a fine quality gift. Unless your recipient has strongly held vegan beliefs, any gift made from leather suggests quality. A useful and stylish gift for a female of male colleague is a leather tablet or laptop case. Mahi Leather produce a range of tablet and laptop cases which can be customised with the recipient’s initials or with a message on the interior. A personalised glasses case is also a great practical gift, appropriate for optical glasses or sunglasses.
All of the gifts mentioned here are non-gender specific and work related, they are useful gifts but most importantly they are gifts of quality. It would be a very churlish colleague who was less than delighted to receive one of them. They demonstrate your good taste and they flatter the recipient by suggesting that they too share an appreciation for objects of quality. If you are aware of the particular enthusiasms of your colleagues then you can of course bring this knowledge to bear on your choice of gift but if not, the quality gifts which I have suggested will please the recipient and send a positive message about you and your estimation of them.