Navigating the maze of office present politics
Yiannis Faf, Co-founder of WhatWeWant
Office politics can usually be easily avoided — especially if your team are supportive of each other. However, gift-giving amongst colleagues can add emotional stress to even the most harmonious of workplaces.
Whilst most professional interactions are smoothed by clear social rules — being well-dressed in an interview or polite and patient over emails, for example — giving a gift to someone you work with is less clear.
That’s because there are lots of grey areas that can be difficult to navigate. For example, if you’re a new starter, should you pitch in for a present for someone you don’t know? When doing Secret Santa, should you get something personal (the t-shirt of their favourite band) or a something a little more mundane (a box of chocolates)?
Thankfully, there are some easy methods to make buying for those you work with more straightforward. Through my own experiences buying gifts for colleagues, my tips will help you to not only survive, but thrive in the game of office present politics.
Keep it quiet
If there’s a few of you giving a gift, make sure to keep it on the down low. We spend most of our waking lives with our colleagues and you’ll likely want to give something really meaningful — especially if it’s from a few of you or for a big occasion. But those who aren’t included in the giving or receiving might feel left out — and that certainly wouldn’t be good in the working environment. So, if you’ve got something big planned, exercise a bit of discretion, and arrange for the gift-giving ‘ceremony’ to take place outside of the office; perhaps in a local café or pub? That way, you get to enjoy the moment with you close friends, without causing someone to feel excluded.
Establish a spending criteria
We’ve all heard of Secret Santa being limited to £5 or £10, and for good reason. By placing a cap on how much can be spent, a lot of awkward moments can be avoided, including panic overspending and embarrassment for those with less means. It might be advisable to establish that kind of spending criteria throughout the year — birthdays being limited to £20, for example. That way, everyone can be involved in the gift-giving process, without worrying about overspending.
Think about more than their office personality
Whilst some people play an office role, you also don’t need to stick to that when buying them a gift. For example, the office joker. It might be easy to assume they’d enjoy something silly, like a something novel from a joke shop or some crude socks. However, don’t fall for that trap — everyone has more layers, and this might be a good moment to show they understand that with something that reflects their interests. Discussing with your teammates will certainly help, as they might know little tidbits about the person to help decide on a present that is just the right level of ‘thoughtful’.
Always remember, regardless of how friendly you are in the office, people are likely quite different when they’re at home or with friends. So, look beyond the ‘office personality’ and consider buying them a gift that appeals to their entire personality and they’ll likely feel understood and appreciated.
It almost goes without saying, but if your colleagues are organising present giving, it’s best to join in the fun with enthusiasm. For some people, giving a gift might be a stressful exercise riddled with potential pitfalls, whilst others might love the excitement and good feeling of getting someone a gift they love.
However, one sure-fire method to eliminate the stress and hassle of gift-giving is collaborating as a group. Not only does this tactic enable you to pool your money together to purchase one larger, more meaningful gift, but it prompts the group to share various present ideas. So, there isn’t pressure on just one person to buy the perfect present, you’re working as part of a team. Without the unnecessary stress or hassle, you’re bound to attract more collaborators looking to join in the group effort.
Use an app
Remember, you could always turn to tech. Your life is likely full to the brim already and the thought of organising a gift for a colleague may seem like an unnecessary hassle. Thankfully, there are apps that can help. WhatWeWant provides a great example. It helps take the difficulty out of the process by allowing each gift-giver to create a profile, invite people to donate to the gift, and keep aligned with who has paid their share.
There are other benefits — by collaborating as a group via the app, you can collectively buy something that the receiver will love, rather than something small that is more likely to miss the mark.
Organising a gift in the workplace can be an emotionally and organisationally laborious process. Thankfully, with some careful consideration, planning, and using technology, it can be easily smoothed, helping you give something your colleague will genuinely appreciate.
Yiannis Faf is co-founder of the crowdfunding app, WhatWeWant. The app, which Yiannis created alongside his family, allows users to upload what they want for an upcoming event for themselves, or someone else. Users can contribute to what their friends and family want as well as notifying them to contribute to whatever you have uploaded. Once enough has been raised, users simply use the money to buy their dream gift, cutting out a lot of stress, wasted money and unwanted gifts.