Managing Men: Are Women The Only Office Gift-Givers?

I’m a gift-giver by nature. I buy Starbucks for the office once a month or so. I bring in donuts to early meetings. I even spring for lunch sometimes. Now that I look at that list of examples, maybe I just really like to eat. But in general, I enjoy bringing in treats for my co-workers.

Every year during the holidays, I pick out an individual gift for all the members of my team, my bosses, and a couple key lunch buddies from work. I don’t spend a fortune, but I get them all a small, personal gift along with their favorite morning pick-me-up.

It’s a holiday tradition that’s reciprocated by every woman in my office. All five of us. As for the seven men I buy gifts for, there’s not so much as a Christmas card. In fact, I’m pretty sure that aside from our company owner and his amazing holiday party, not a single male co-worker I know has ever exchanged holiday gifts.

It doesn’t bother me to miss out on a couple extra gift cards and holiday goodie bags. I get plenty of presents throughout the holidays. But it makes me wonder what they think when my small gift shows up on their desk. Do these little presents seem unprofessional? Are they a “cutesy” girl thing that separates me even further from my male co-workers? Or do men simply not think about gifts at all in the office, whether they’re giving or receiving them? I feel like this last choice is the most likely answer.

Women everywhere seem to be stressing over what to buy every person they’ve ever met. Men seem to be hoping that the women in their lives give a detailed list, so that they have as little to do as possible. Women are debating the etiquette behind a gift for their assistant. They are struggling with which bourbon their boss will prefer. For men, presents simply don’t seem to be a concern.

In my experience, office gifts are female territory. Men simply accept this principle and think little of it. Since research on the topic is surprisingly scarce, I did an impromptu survey of a dozen men in my office. After making a few of them a little uncomfortable since I do buy them gifts, their collective response was, “That’s just not a guy thing.” They didn’t look down on their female co-worker’s gift-giving tendencies, they just didn’t really understand it.

One co-worker admitted that receiving gifts in the office is a little embarrassing, “I mean, I don’t buy anyone anything. I feel kind of bad, but I guess women are just more thoughtful. And they seem to enjoy that stuff.”

And in my case, he’s correct. I enjoy that stuff. I like giving presents to those who I work closely with. I’m not sure if gift-giving is one more attribute that separates me from a more typical male professional, but I’m not sure it’s one that I want to change. Is it a strictly female habit? Possibly. Do I think that it hurts their image of me as a leader? I hope that it doesn’t, because this year’s loot is already wrapped. After all, who doesn’t like a thoughtful present?

What do you think? Is office gift-giving only for the ladies? And does it make women look thoughtful or unprofessional?

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