It's a well known Christmas time custom played in offices across the world, but while "Secret Santa" can be a fun way to engage your team and boost morale around the holidays, it can create more anxiety if not done right. Of course, by "Secret Santa" we mostly mean your co-workers, armed with an array of gifts they bought for $10 or less, but the sentiment’s the same.
You know the drill. Pick a co-worker’s name at random, buy them a gift, and keep the giver’s identity an untold secret. Seems simple.
But how can you make sure your gift gets a positive reaction? Here are some dos and don’ts to help you win your workplace Secret Santa:
This "Secret Santa" might actually not be everyone’s thing, but even if you’re not a fan of work-based festivities, opting out will probably only add to your reputation as the office penny pincher. Unless you have any specific objections (which should be brought to your managers attention), try and put any negative feelings aside, and take part. Even if you end up having to buy for that guy/lady/her you’ve only spoken to once and it involved getting his
name wrong, maybe this is the perfect opportunity to make amends.
Don't: Force participation.
Secret Santa should be voluntary. Be mindful that some people may not have extra gifts in their holiday budget or may not want to participate for religious reasons. It doesnt make you a bad collegue, everyone prepares for christmas in different ways.
Do: Set a price limit.
Keep in mind people have holiday budgets and might not have counted in office gifts. I recommend a price limit of $25. It's not too small where you're just getting someone a junk gift and it's not too large where it might put someone out of their budget.
Don't: Go above and beyond.
No one likes a show-off, especially when it comes to Secret Santa. While you may think the price limit is too low, buying something that's clearly over the limit will just serve to make everyone else feel bad. If your recipient is a close friend of yours and you want to buy them something more extravagant, you can always get them something else, but stick to the price limit for the purpose of the Secret Santa. That said, you shouldn't cheap out either. Buying a $5 gift when the price limit is $25 will just have you looking like the office penny pincher.
Do: Attempt to find out about your recipient.
For large offices where gift givers and receivers may not know each other, I would recommend putting together a small questionnaire that fits on an index card to help gift givers get to know their receivers. Questions such as your favorite hobbies, favorite cuisine or favorite holiday treat can help gift givers get something they know their receiver will enjoy.
Don’t: Be lazy
Whether you're a fan of Secret Santa or not, try your best to embrace it. People can spot a half-hearted attempt from a mile off so don't be that guy/ lady. Remember the thoughts really counts, leaving it until the last minute will give you very limited options, there is only so much you can buy at a nearby supermarket and it probably wont be gift worthy. So put some effort into your gifting, it will make you feel good.
Do: Stick to generic gifts.
These gifts are probably going to be opened in an office setting and you don't want to raise eyebrows or make the person feel uncomfortable. Avoid gifting clothing as people may be sensitive about others in the office knowing their size, if the gift giver guesses the inaccurate size, one-size-fits-all clothing on the other hand, such as mittens or a scarf are great gift ideas. Other generic gifts such as a candle or picture frame are also appropriate office Secret Santa gifts .
Don't: Get gifts that are personal.
Avoid personal items such as perfume that can be considered romantic, especially if given from a male to female colleague. "Anything you would buy for your significant other should be avoided," . Although it's Christmas, you should stay away from religious items, unless you're working for a Christian non-profit, you wouldn't give someone a Nativity set or a cross.
Do: Thank your gift-giver.
Even if you don't like your Secret Santa gift, you should still show your appreciation for the gesture and thank your Santa. That person went out of their way to purchase something for you that they thought you would like. Remember, the Secret Santa exchange is between colleagues who may not know your taste, so there shouldn't be an expectation that the gift will be exactly what you wanted.
Don't: Whisper to your co-workers if you don't like your gift
Remember office gossip can spread like wildfire. You'd hate for word to get back to your gift giver that you dislike your gift. Remember, the Secret Santa is supposed to be a light-hearted, fun activity. It's not about the gift and whether you like it, it's about the activity itself.