Hi All, Op here.
Thank you for the swift replies.
Couple of things for anyone who might be wondering... I work in the same industry, but a different company to Bridget which is why I know so many internal office politics of Bridget's company. Both have a lot to do with each other and the gossip can be rife!
Bridget has very high expectations of work ethic and workplace behaviour. Sometimes her standards might be too high I don't know.
Co-worker #1 who returned the gift, about 6 months earlier they and Bridget had an incident at work where he put his hands on her shoulders as she was sitting at her desk. She asked him not to touch her, he didn't stop, she asked again, he asked her if she was frigid. She never took it further and left it there but snapped at him that they were at work and she doesn't want to be touched.
Later on horrible incident happened to co-worker #1 and Bridget was responsible for telling colleagues about what happened. She didn't want to, but upper management insisted because she was acting manager. Bridget didnt think that information should be disclosed even if co-worker #1 wanted it to be. Bridget was upset by horrible incident and didn't access debriefing or counselling like I wish she had because horrible incident affected her badly, especially when co-worker #1 returned to work. Think isolating herself from colleagues, not wanting to participate in casual group lunches, being snappy, emotional rollercoaster, crying one minute, sullen the next. In my (non expert) opinion she was suffering severely from what happened and really needed some help at the time.
co-worker #2 was in the same role as Bridget and from what I can understand, they used to argue about work in terms of each having a different way of doing anything. From what I know, that's the extent of their disagreement.
I don't know specifically what each card said but from memory I think it was something along the lines of "it's been a tough year, I really appreciate working with you and value our team. I'm going to work hard on being a better X Company co-worker. Merry Christmas". That may not exactly be it, but I do remember asking her about it and it wasn't a "you're bad, but i'm nice, so have cookies" kind of card.
Bridget also told me that at her last team meeting as acting manager before the regular manager came back, she addressed the team apologising if she had offended/upset/annoyed any of her colleagues over the previous few months and acknowledged it had been a hard time for them all and apologised saying she knew looking back that she hadn't reacted the way her team deserved. So from what I gather, the cookies were a second act at making amends.
Obviously i don't work there 8 hours a day and I only heard this stuff from Bridget from her perspective so her colleagues may not have felt what she said/did was enough.
Sorry for the long winded reply but wanted to add more info for those interested.
I really appreciate everyone taking the time to reply on my first ever topic. I think i'm ok with someone refusing a gift from someone who they feel as wronged them. But i think in the same situation, at work, I would take it, say thank you and toss it on the way home. Or if i felt so strongly, I wouldn't open the gift/card at all and just return it. I think the thing I feel most uncomfortable about with this story is the opening the card/gift and THEN returning. As another poster suggested, there is almost an implication there that if the gift was better they might have kept it.