When it comes to gift giving in the workplace, one of the most popular traditions is Secret Santa. Although participation is voluntary, you may find yourself caught in the middle of it when most of your co-workers draw a little paper from a hat. You may chose not to participate if your beliefs or your budget don’t allow it, but it may be worth your while to seriously consider the impact that your lack of participation may have on your reputation as a team player.
See, Secret Santa is not only about saving the money and the hassle it would entail to shop for all your colleagues. It’s also about building camaraderie and showing that you care about our co-workers. So your attitude towards the whole game impacts your image. Are you thoughtful? Did you bother to buy something appropriate for the person whose name you drew out of the hat? Or are you re-gifting something you got stuck with last year?
Here are 7 golden rules that will help you be the best Secret Santa you can be:
1. Stick to the price limit.This rule applies regardless of who you’re shopping for. It’s tempting to go over the limit established by your group (usually $10-$20) when you’re shopping for your boss, but that can be construed as brown nosing. If you’re buying for someone who is a close friend outside of the office, you may want to get that person two gifts. One as their Secret Santa and another one as their friend.
2. Be a good observer. It’s easier to shop for people you work with closely than for the people you never see except at the Christmas party. Nevertheless, if you walk by their work space, or spend a few minutes talking to them or their colleagues, you might discover that they are sports fans, that they love dogs or that they are coffee drinkers. That should give you good clues for an appropriate gift that will be appreciated.
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3. Avoid shopping at dollar stores. Items that look like they came from a dollar store spell “cheap and careless.” You don’t want those words to become your new brand. You may find some great gifts at discount stores such as Target or TJMaxx and make a much better impression.
4. Avoid items that can be perceived as sexual. Whether you’re trying to make a joke or not, stay away from off-color books, any intimate apparel, videos, or other gifts that the person can interpret as a come-on. Even when you happen to have that kind of relationship with the co-worker you’re gifting, it’s best to buy something less controversial.
5. Be aware of cultural differences. Not everyone in your office will appreciate a little porcelain collectible of a manger, a basket with meats and cheeses or one with perfumed soaps and bath salts. Keep these sensibilities in mind.
6. Wrap your gift nicely. A good presentation adds value to your gift and shows that you care about the person. Don’t skip this step.
7. Don’t fret over it. Once you have the name of the person, take a day or two to figure out what their interests are and write down a list of optional gifts. This is particularly important for people you don’t know or people you don’t like. The more you keep it in your head, the harder it seems to get the appropriate gift.
Above all, the holiday season is a time to show your caring side—both at home and at work. If Secret Santa is the way your office is going, try to make the best out of it instead of considering it a chore. You have the chance to make someone happy, so why not?