The Secret Santa gift exchange is a holiday tradition in many offices. It definitely takes the pressure off of having to come up with an individual card or gift for everyone but it can still be pretty stressful. Especially if you wind up with your boss or that guy in the next cubicle you have a crush on! Here’s a little tidbit to keep it all in perspective. Bill Gates enjoys participating in reddit’s world record-breaking Secret Santa — no pressure for whoever gets his name, right? Bill had this to say about last year’s gifts, “I got three cool things — a great quilt that a group of people did with a Snoo on it. A great jug of maple syrup and the book The Promise of a Pencil. All very thoughtful.” See, it really is the thought that counts!

When it comes to Secret Santa gifts, the absolute, biggest no-no is going over the agreed upon spending limit. It’s always tempting to get caught up in trying to impress but if you’re the only one who overspent, you’ll make everyone else feel bad and no one’s going to rave about how much more amazing one person’s gift is. If you really want to wow everyone, come up with something unexpectedly cool and creative.

Read Related: The Office Elf: 15 Corporate Gift Ideas Perfect for the Workplace


If you get matched with a coworker who you don’t know very well, it pays to do a little research. Check out their office decor and take note of whether they drink coffee or tea. Try to get an idea of what their hobbies and interests are. And if you get stuck being the boss’s Secret Santa, don’t panic — just remember Bill Gates.

Now it’s a fine line between thoughtful and too personal for the office. Always keep it professional. Some work environments are more casual and familiar than others so be mindful of your office’s tone. In general it’s best to avoid things like cosmetics, jewelry and personal grooming items. Humor is another minefield. You’ve got to be extremely careful not to offend anyone or make the recipient uncomfortable so unless you’re very confident the joke will go over well, skip it.


Food and beverages are almost always a hit. You can find specialty, small-batch versions of everything from beer to salt to crackers to maple syrup. Succulents or other small indoor plants are perfect for brightening up an office. When in doubt, a charitable donation makes everyone feel great.