Gifts: A Means to an End?

Some Gifts are Intangible and some are Character Gifts. Refrain from using them as a means to an end.

“No, you did not give me a gift, you gave me an obligation,” quipped Sheldon, in the TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory, to his neighbor, Penny, when she gave him a Christmas gift.

Just like Sheldon, if you were perfectly honest with yourself, you would admit that when you receive a gift, in the back of your mind you analyze what you need to do in return. You might say to yourself, “If I spend $50 on a gift for him, will that be equal to the gift he gave me?”

It can be emotionally draining and even offensive to continually try to match the value of a gift a friend has given you. You have experienced this if you have been caught in the gift giving rituals with relatives at Christmas, mentally remembering what they gave you last year and consciously working to give a gift of equal or greater value this year.

If you have been caught in this cycle, you understand how freeing it is when you choose to give a gift without the expectation of having a gift of equal or greater value returned.

The best gifts are not a means to an end.

Intangible Gifts

Some gifts are intangible, making it difficult to attach a money value to the gift. For instance, time is intangible, so unfortunately gifts of time can easily be overlooked. A young person I coached was asked to complete a task that was not part of his job description. He willingly jumped in and spent several tedious hours outside of work completing the assignment. When he presented the completed task in a folder to the manager, the manager didn’t take his eyes off of his computer screen. He just reached out and took the folder, never making eye contact or muttering a thank you.

When you go above and beyond your required duties, you give your company a gift of discretionary effort. If the gift is taken as if it were routine labor as this young man experienced, you would probably ask yourself as he did, “Why did I do this?”

The human psychic needs to have the gift received with accordant gratitude. Humans believe that extra effort will result in a returning gesture of good will, an acknowledgement or at least a smile and a thank you.

This young man was stunned by the lack acknowledgement by the manager. It took him several minutes to rearrange his mental attitude from expecting something in return for his gift to shaking it off, and getting back to his normal tasks.

Gifts of Character

This picture of gifts represents the employees in your office and their unique character gifts. Notice no two are the same and it is a good thing because into day’s world that travels at laser speed, you need many different character gifts. As you will notice, these gifts come in all different sizes and shapes and are wrapped in a variety of paper and ribbon. You and other employees unwrap your character gifts at different times during the day as needed.

These gifts include tenacity, perseverance, courage, common sense, adaptability, planning skills, to name just a few. You freely “unwrap” your gifts, not expecting anything in return. For instance, you are in a meeting and tempers are rising. You mediate with an idea that brings the sides together. You have just given the team a character gift, expecting only cooperation and collaboration in return.

You unwrap your gift of courage when team members are discussing options for a project and you, seeing a potential design flaw, speak up in opposition to prevailing opinions. All you expect in return is respect for your opinion, then contemplation of possible consequences if the design flaw proves to be real.

The gift of planning is manifest when the team is flailing around without clear direction on how to complete a project. With insight and deft ability, you take the task and break it down into chunks that are easily assigned to team members. With your gift of planning and the ability to separate a large task into its components, the work goes forward.

Gifts – Not a Barter Tool

Many gifts are given hoping to be a means to an end. Translated into the business world, a means to an end could indicate the gift was given with the expectation of being placed on a specific committee, being assigned a high profile project, getting face time with a certain executive, or getting a promotion.

A true gift is not to be used as a bargaining chip, a way to make a deal, or a bartering tool. A freely given gift makes you feel calm, happy and satisfied inside. It makes you feel complete because your emotional state is not dependent on another person to recognize you. Your emotional state is not dependent on how they react to your gift.  Selflessly giving is the best way to boost your emotional state and feelings of well-being.

Despite a natural desire to be rewarded for what you give to others, you can discover personal satisfaction when you give a gift, either of time or of your unique skills, without expecting a fair trade off or a gift in return.  Resolve to give every gift without analyzing what the other person will do for you.

Ironically, if you give without expecting an external reward, you will receive far greater internal rewards!

Tips for Managers

When your employees offer you an intangible gift of time or unwrap a character gift, accept it and give them quality attention. Even the hint of a smile or the smallest comment of approval (which we all seek) works wonder on morale. Respect their gift and their human dignity.

Just as gifts should not be the means to an end, neither should people.

 Karla’s Keynotes

This content is part of keynotes and workshops on the professional development program, The Leadership of One. Call today 770-923-0883 to check Karla’s availability for your next meeting or conference.


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