Now now, cheap doesn’t need to mean bad.
And come on.
Let’s be honest.
If you had to buy something for every colleague that leaves, you would soon be broke.
In my previous office, because of the poor culture, there were quite a few who left in rapid succession.
The challenge of budgeting, and yet not looking cheap
At that time, I didn’t want to go broke buying something fancy for all of them.
Yet I didn’t want to look cheap, and have colleagues complaining behind my back about how I didn’t give anything nice. Or that I was inconsiderate.
Is it possible to buy something good, and yet help your colleague to feel adequately appreciated for the work she has put in?
Here’s some principles that might better help.
Not every colleague needs to be given something when they leave
Here’s a rule that I often give myself whenever I think of whether it’s worth giving something.
If that colleague is in your current team
You’ve probably remembered the late nights spent working together with your colleague on the same team, trying to keep sane whilst going through an incredibly difficult project.
Whilst you might not necessarily call that colleague your friend, giving a small token of appreciation can be nice way to keep the relationship alive.
If you’re in a small company of less than 15, I would personally advise that you buy something if someone leaves.
Often, in such small companies, you work so closely together that it’d be hard for that person not to have crossed your paths, and for you to have done significant amounts of work together.
Think not about what you give, but what the other person likes receiving
One simple question is to ask your colleague who’s leaving,
What’s your love language?
This concept, from Gary Chapman, talks about how people like giving, and receiving love in (sometimes) different ways.
You might find that the case for you too. Whilst you’d like your partner to spend great time with you, you might prefer to give someone a chocolate as a gift.
What matters is how the other party prefers receiving gifts.
Check what the person has on their desk
A person’s desk speaks volumes about the type of things they enjoy.
Take a stroll by, and talk to them at their desk. Point out something you find interesting, and ask them why they have that. You might find that surprising.
Make the gift a surprise
In life, we live for the moments such as these. The times when you receive something absolutely delightful in the post, and you think,
Wow. I never expected this.
Think back to the last time you had a surprise.
You didn’t expect it.
This can help you to make the gift less expensive, but also a better memory. Honestly, people don’t care that it was a $49 bag of coffee beans flown in from the plains of Ethiopia. They care that you made effort.
Personalise the gift
You can very easily write the person’s name onto the gift, with today’s swarth of technologies.
But what might be an even better hack would be for you to recount a moment on the gift.
- For example, have you gone on an intense work sprint before? What was the product at the end of it?
- You could write #Product Name
- Or have you had a boss say something memorable? “Stop slacking!”
Think about what they will use
There’s no point buying something that someone will end up chucking away in a corner, never to use it again.
Find something they will use. If they are athletic, maybe those shorts would work.
If they like coffee, an espresso cup might just do the trick.
Each time they use it, give them an opportunity to remember you.
Here are some gifts to consider
One Day at a Time, a series of 20 postcards ($9)
You might want to leave an inspirational message with your colleague when he leaves. You don’t want him to stop remembering you too!
A perfect way is to write a handwritten note reminiscing your times together. Whilst you might think that a handwritten note is ancient, and irrelevant in today’s digital world, it still has its place.
For 2 years, I listened to the stories of clients when I used to work at a charity. And when COVID hit, with the drastic ways people’s mental health were affected, we created this series of cards with inspirational messages.
It’s a perfect way to close off your colleague’s time.
Sojao’s face towels ($18) or shirt ($28)
Sojao really knows their cotton. They would talk to you (seriously!) about their cotton thread counts, the type of cotton they use, how tightly it’s stitched together, and how that affects whether you have that sticky feeling when lying under their bedsheets.
Whilst their bedsheets can be a pricey $89, their towels start at less.
High-use items which people cycle through quickly, like towels, can be a perfect gift.
You can visit the store in Joo Chiat, or get them here.
Vault!, a book on adulting ($24)
In October 2021, after quitting my job, I was lost. 102 job applications had turned up nothing.
The outlook wasn’t great. In the past, when I had been in such situations, I ended up binging on food and growing 8kg in 1 month.
But it was also then that I realised that young adults were facing this enormously difficult journey too.
They were suddenly expected to know what to do once they had a degree. And it just wasn’t possible!
We had parents when we went to kindergarten. Teachers when we were at primary school. Orientation programmes at university. And suddenly, in your new job, you had little semblance of an onboarding programme.
I started interviewing people in Singapore, across different industries and built together a book that told their stories of what it took to thrive in such a new industry.
Your colleague might also be a young adult. And you’ve seen him struggle in your dull, staid, MNC and you hope he does grow, wherever he goes.
Colleagues may not be friends, but they are people still
All of us come to work with different hopes and aspirations, but we all turn up because we want to earn money.
There, I’ve said it.
We need some money to survive, and you would find it difficult to find a reason to work if you didn’t need any money.
But sometimes, making money, can bring us into conflict with each other.
Giving a gift can be a way to remind each other that you care, despite the conflicts that have happened.
Just pick one that fits your budget, and remember.
It’s not the most expensive gifts that make the best gifts. It’s the most well-thought ones.