What Not to Gift – Part 1, the Kris Kringle

Christmas is coming, and your co-workers want their pressies. Much like your credit limit and your waistline, office relationships can be stretched to breaking point by Christmas’s excesses. Gifting books in the anonymous Kris Kringle may seem like a great way to solve who-to-buy-a-present issues, but you can still get it wrong.

Not a great idea, even if their name is Bruce Banner.Make sure, first off, that your gift doesn’t identify you, in addition to being selfish. Don’t gift your co-workers a voucher for your side-business or an obviously pre-read book midway through a series you have been raving about. Don’t gift them books that you ask to borrow before the wrapping has come off. Try not to draw attention to their short-comings; resist to urge buy them books like “Anger Management for Dummies” or books on job-hunting.

And well-meant presents can go wrong too. Don’t gift your co-workers – no matter how much they might appreciate them – with semi-pornographic fiction, non-fiction or How To Make Love Like a Porn Star, which might bring a little joy but also a lot of attention from HR and Legal.

It might seem tempting to buy a business book, given that it’s professional. But this can not only be disappointing for the receiver, it can lead to MORE work in the New Year if they are the easily impressed type.

I still haven’t forgiven someone for introducing a former manager of mine to Jim Collins’s business development classic book, Good To Great. When we re-opened in the New Year we discovered we were stuck with endless meetings on the Hedgehog Concept (which isn’t a reference to partying like Mad Monday at the NRL, for those worried) which required discussing what our company could do better than anyone else in the world in order to clarify our business plan.

Business books are meant to be inspiring, but for those of us who are occasionally visited by the Reality Fairy thinking like this can be little difficult. I mean, best in the world? Seems a little unrealistic to set the bar that high, kind of like aiming to get eleven out of ten  – impossible unless you are a Fortune 500 CEO or on Junior Masterchef. But the book is firm on the matter. So, in order to satisfy the frothingly insane enthusiasm of the Jim Collins fan, you end up doing ever more specialised “best” parameters. “We believe are the best in the world at being a SME accounting firm who all wear purple.”


“How about who all wear purple and speak in a Monty Pythonesque Frenchman accent?”

(Good to Great also required that we talk about our BHAG, or Big Hairy Audacious Goal, which reminded me more as a phrase of parts of the anatomy usually covered by pants than work-related. Come on, if a stranger on a train asked if you wanted to see their Big Hairy Audacious Goal, you’d be switching carriages pretty fast, right?)

So, what should you get co-workers? Good ideas include books that suggest you know they have a life outside the office, such as a book on their hobbies, interests or destinations. Most foodies will enjoy a cookbook (and most cookbooks, such as Pho’s Kitchen, are also pretty as coffee table books) and many gardening books can be far more fun to peruse than actually getting out there and working on your yard. Or, if you’re not sure of any of their interests – or even what they look like – you could go for something interesting but unlikely to offend, such as the hilarious Is That Thing Diesel, or the Gruen Transfer‘s offering.

And if you don’t think you can get them a gift without insulting, offending, or ignoring their interests? Well, there’s always gift vouchers.

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Sadhbh Warren

Sadhbh Warren is a freelance writer and proud booklover. Her name is pronounced Sive - like five – an Irish name, easier to say than spell! She lives in Sydney, writing travel and humour articles, and is always on the lookout for a great new book.

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