Got that sinking feeling that you forgot someone in the office for your annual gift giving?!

We all do it at least once per holiday season… intending to get a gift for someone in the office (maybe the receptionist we pass every day, maybe our new counterpart in Marketing) but then it slips our mind and we’re trying to figure out if we can squeeze in one last run for a gift certificate at lunch.

It’s an Arden tradition that we offer a list of our favorite safe-for-office-gifting books each year – just in time to rescue you for the holidays. So here we are!

Grab a couple of these on your lunch break, wrap them up beautifully, put them in your desk with a post-it to remind you what you wrapped (don’t forget the blank cards to fill in at the last minute!) – and when the Regional Director arrives for the first time in three months – you’ll be prepared!

As to etiquette, we suggest:

  • Give from the heart, not from obligation.
  • Give a GIFT, not a lesson: DON’T give a gift as a hint, as in “I think you need to be a better listener, so here’s a book on listening.” Instead, give something they may be curious about based on your conversations with them.
  • Give (overly) appropriate gifts — rather than risk offending someone. This includes not giving alcohol and probably not food…. Certainly nothing political or religious.
  • DON’T give a gift to curry favor. (see first bullet)
  • The thoughtfulness of the item is more important that the item itself. Better to give a thoughtfully chosen token than an extravagant-but-generic item.

For these reasons, and just because they’re generally fabulous, we love giving BOOKS! Sure, they may not be the most original of items, but they can express a lot of thought and care, be incredibly valuable to the recipient far beyond the investment from the giver, form the basis of interesting conversations to come, and are easy to purchase (and to stash in your desk for that last minute gift for the colleague you accidentally left off your list!)

Here are some of our favorite workplace books this year:

Mastering Leadership by Robert Anderson and William Adams. Written by the man who created the 360 Assessment tool we love, The Leadership Circle, this book is an elegant integration of theory, research and practice. A rich and inspiring read; not a beach book.

Executive Presence by Sylvia Ann Hewlett. Ever wonder what the heck Executive Presence  actually is and how to break it into components you can do something about? You’re in luck!

Death By Meeting by Patrick Lencioni. Wonderful tool to kill those boring meetings! Give to everyone on your team!

Immunity to Change by Kegan and Leahy: This one makes it to our list every year for a reason. A dense and valuable read for anyone leading a substantial change within their organization (or themselves.) We use this work as the basis for many Leadership Offsites. Not a particularly breezy read – but worth it! Great examples and case studies.

The First 90 Days by Michael Watkins: A classic. Need a gift for that new person in your department. Perfect!  Or, for that colleague leaving for a new role next year…. (give in private if that part’s a secret!) Practical advice on making those first months count.

Getting Things Done by David Allen. Got someone on the list always struggling with their inbox, or with how to organize their desk or projects? This is the guide to getting your deck clear and your communications in order!

It’s Your Ship by Michael Abrashoff. The former Commander of a Navy ship tells the tales of turning around his vessel: from a crew with a hostile relationship with its leader and every man for himself – to a team working in a supportive culture and taking ownership of their results. Easily relatable to a business environment and easy to read as well.

Nice Girls Don’t Get the Corner Office by Lois Frankel. It’s been around for over ten years, and unfortunately still applicable to many. Complete with quiz at the beginning to determine which sections to focus on, this is for the woman who wants to advance but isn’t coming across as executive material. Especially good for the younger ones on your list.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. This is truly a classic, originally published in 1987, but fear hasn’t gone away as a reason we don’t so things, so it’s still relevant. Great for the person you’d like to give a loving nudge to. Courage in book form!

Remember: with any of these, the thoughtful personal note you provide along with the book will be the true gift and go toward establishing the connection between you, the recipient, and the book. If you’ve read a book you’re gifting and enjoyed it, say why. If you’ve not read it but heard it was good, tell them why you think they might enjoy it.

Give from the heart… and you can’t go wrong.

Please send us your recommendations!  We’d love to add your recommendations to our bookshelf! Maybe we’ll feature your suggestion next year!