It’s a popular Christmas tradition staged in workplaces across the country, but while “Secret Santa” can be a fun way to engage your team and boost morale around the holidays, it can also create stress, anxiety and office tension if not done right.
Not sure what 'right' is? Here are some do’s and don’ts to ensure your Secret Santa exchange brings your office holiday cheers rather than tears:
Even if you’re feeling more like the Grinch than Santa this holiday season, not participating can make you stand out as someone who isn’t a real team player, which is the last thing a manager needs to be known as. The point of Secret Santa is to help foster teamwork and boost employee morale, so play along, even if you think it's silly.
Don’t: Force participation.
Secret Santa should be voluntary. Some people may not have extra gifts in their holiday budget or may not want to participate for religious reasons.
Do: Set a price limit.
People have holiday budgets and might not have figured in office gifts. Therefore, setting a price limit is a must. What's about right? Secret Santa experts say $20-$25. That's an amount that is not so small all you can get 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 lousy.
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 Scrooge.
Do: Attempt to find out about your recipient.
For large offices where gift givers and receivers may not know each other, why not put together a small questionnaire that fits on an index card to help gift givers get to know their receivers.
Questions such as favorite hobbies, favorite cuisine or favorite holiday treat can help gift givers get something they know their receiver will enjoy.
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. In fact, anything you would buy for your significant other should be avoided. And, although it’s Christmas, try to stay away from religious items. They can just be too controversial.
Do: Stick to generic gifts.
Avoid gifting clothing as a Secret Santa present as people may be sensitive about others in the office knowing their size, or worse, if the gift giver guesses the inaccurate size it's just really awkward.
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.
And if all else fails, these days you can purchase gift cards for almost anything For example, if you know your Secret Santa recipient has a thing for Starbucks lattes, a $25 gift card for that establishment is going to make their day.
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. 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 how much you hate 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.