Leaving Presents and the Pseudo Smile

Everything’s sorted. You’ve cleared your desk, Payroll have finally sent through your P45 and you’ve switched on your ‘Out of Office’ for the last time. All that’s left are the leaving presents and the obligatory farewell drinks at the pub next door.

It’s at this point, just as you’re getting stuck into your second Fosters, that your manager steps forward to make the dreaded speech. Your toes slowly start to curl as she reels off the list of fantastic qualities you’ve brought to the role. Qualities, it seems, that have moved the department onwards and upwards. And qualities that, she says with an almost believable regret in her voice, won’t easily be replaced. “Funny”, you think to yourself, given their refusal to award said efforts financially.

And then, just when you think she’s finally winding it down, she throws in the grossly embellished story involving you, the Christmas party and an immaculately carved ice sculpture. People laugh. Not real laughs, mind, but the sort of polite laugh born out of a fear of future streamlining.

And yet still you sit there, smiling in an effort to feign appreciation. Not that it matters – there’s light at the end of the tunnel. All that’s left are the leaving presents. First the card, signed by the team and including copious best wishes. “Thanks everyone” you say, “I’ll read it properly later.” Now onto the business end of things – the leaving gifts. Here’s your chance to recoup, in some small way, time lost sending last-minute, deadline-day Blackberry messages from your holiday sunbed. You’re nearly excited. Odd then, that what you’re being given isn’t even wrapped. Then you realise, this is what it’s come to – a golden handshake in the form of a £20 voucher for HMV.

What’s most annoying about it all though, is just how easy it would’ve been to get you something vaguely meaningful. Surely they could’ve spent five minutes brainstorming a few ideas for leaving presents?! They could’ve done it all from the comfort of their own desks – all it needed was for someone to go online and find a gift site.

Had they bothered, they’d have seen they could even have organised a personalised leaving present for you. An engraved hip flask perhaps. Maybe some sort of spoof calendar. Anything really. And that’s what gets you – it wasn’t a money thing. It was an effort thing. They didn’t bother because they simply didn’t care.

And now all you can think of is how much collection cash you’ve handed over – birthdays, babies, weddings and, most gallingly of all, leaving presents. You could’ve kept that money and bought yourself a boxset with everything you’d have saved. At least that’ll be something to put the voucher towards.

But then, just as you’re midway through making a mental note of who’s going to be ‘defriended’ on Facebook, it dawns on you – it’s you who no longer cares. You never have to go back. And okay, the leaving gifts you’d hoped for never materialised. But you’ve already had the best leaving present possible – freedom. It’s not freedom and a personalised bottle of wine, granted, but it’s freedom nonetheless.