• Thu, May 10 2012

Managing Men: For Mother’s Day, The Women In The Office Become Personal Shoppers

The cooking enthusiast, the stressed-out elementary school teacher, and the marathon runner… These aren’t the makings of a joke or characters in the newest sitcom of ladyfriends, these are brief descriptions of the wives of my co-workers. Why do I know these little tidbits about the spouses of my former peers? Well, if I had to help pick out birthday, anniversary and Mother’s Day gifts for these women, I should probably know a little bit about them.

It’s an intelligent system these men have figured out. They depend on female co-workers to be their personal shoppers, coming to them whenever a present becomes necessary. I’ve helped pick out “I’m Sorry” flowers. I’ve browsed jewelry. I’ve committed the anniversary buying traditions to memory. (Did you know that year six is iron? What on earth do you buy your spouse that’s made out of iron? A wrought iron baker’s rack, that’s what.)

Most business people end up spending more waking hours with their co-workers than their own spouses. It makes sense that these close relationships form. For women, part of that friendship can often be helping your co-worker with their personal life. Picking out gifts is really just the tip of the iceberg.

It’s a running joke in movies everywhere that a busy man never picks out gifts. His assistant does. Always. The assistant knows the family’s sizes for clothes and remembers what interests them. Well, this little cliche is actually played out in offices around the country. It’s not just assistants. Men depend on any female who can look over your shoulder while you search Amazon.

There are times when I enjoy this little bit of camaraderie. Who doesn’t love picking out presents, even if they aren’t for you? I look at wine racks and hope that some thoughtful woman is helping my husband figure out the perfect gift at the moment.

But there are also times when I feel a little guilty for my role is this whole situation. I mean, shouldn’t these men be picking out a gift for themselves? Shouldn’t it be about what your husband wants to give you, not what his co-worker recommends? Is the best present in the world really so great if your significant other didn’t really choose it?

Those movie characters that never remember birthdays or buy presents, it’s always a symbol of just how little they know their own family. It signifies a bigger problem with their work life balance and their relationship. By steering our sales manager away from the edible arrangements, am I just contributing to one person’s disconnect?

I have to admit that I feel a little torn here. I’ve picked out at least a dozen gifts for my co-workers for any number of occasions, but maybe it’s time to close up shop on my personal shopping. Perhaps I just need to look at my male peers and assure them that whatever they pick up will be wonderful.

What do you think? Do you help your male co-workers pick out the perfect Mother’s day gift?

(Photo: GQ)

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  • Lastango

    My secret is to buy gifts for birthdays, Christmas, etc. all year long, whenever I see something I like. In the closet it goes, until the time comes. Charitable soul that I am, I was able to pass one of the gifts to someone so she could give it to her husband. She was over here when she suddenly remembered it was his birthday that day. I just happened to have some paper to wrap it, and when he came by shortly after she gave it to him. He never knew a thing, and the sweater looked great on him.

    But give or get help buying? Never. Ain’t gonna happen. Life’s too short.