How little your work colleagues really know you and the resulting unsuitable leaving present is a long-standing joke within a group of our friends. One friend once received the most inappropriate leaving gift that left her forever puzzling about how her colleagues had perceived her. She is a hard-working, intelligent and stylish woman and yet leaving a project her colleagues presented her with a large soft toy rabbit, holding a large stuffed carrot. I can’t be sure if I am, after so many years, embellishing this story more than it needs but the rabbit might have played a tune if you squeezed its tummy. Of course, her friends [who perhaps know her a little better] found this gift very amusing but she moved on wondering what she had done to even suggest that this rabbit might be something she would enjoy receiving.
With over 25 different jobs you can imagine I have received numerous leaving presents over the years and looking down the list these gifts come to mind and make me smile, although none have been as unsuitable as the rabbit.
High on my list of leaving presents that stand out are the surprise gifts from a role I put up with for just three months before moving on. I was very unhappy with the job and never felt I settled in but when I left they showered me with so many different gifts including a plant, writing paper, chocolates and wine, as I staggered home with all these generous presents I wondered if I was making a mistake by leaving.
At another job, despite my colleagues watching me hang up my cycling gear every morning, they decided to buy me a large and extravagant bouquet of flowers. I puzzled for a while about how to fit the flowers in my pannier but failing and unable to bear just sneaking them in the bin [or walking home] I displayed them on reception and left them behind.
Other teams have got it right. I still have beautiful jewellery and other tasteful and cherished items from teams and individuals I have worked with. I still treasure a soft and cosy throw I received from one workplace, an Italian shawl from another and a beautiful scarf from yet another. These gifts will always remind me of the wonderful people who clubbed together and went shopping to find something they thought I would like and thinking about these lovely people taking such trouble over a gift for me always brings me close to tears.
All these leaving gifts mark the moment of moving on. Particularly in community work my relationships with colleagues have often been intense, we will have worked closely as a team, I will have relied on these colleagues in tough situations, laughed with them and toiled with them. I am pleased that these moments get marked in even a small way.
The things that really start the tears flowing when I leave are the cards with all the lovely comments from my co-workers; as I read them I will start to wonder if I am doing the right thing leaving these fantastic people and stepping into the unknown. One manager who knew me better than many wrote a leaving speech that was a real tear-jerker, describing me as, ‘a true mother-earth hippy with a hint of rock-chick’, giving me something to live up to!
As an administrator I now work in a support role within a team and as a home-worker the relationships have been less profound. Tomorrow is my last team meeting with my colleagues and so as I draft this post the comforting smell of homemade ginger cake is seeping around the flat. My gift to my colleagues is cake and I hope this will in a small way say thank you to them for their support and inspiration.