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Dec 13, 2018

Secret Santa Do’s and Don’ts: How to Give the Perfect Office Gift

By Lindsay Goldwert

Don’t give the gift of awkwardness. Here are some great rules and guidelines.

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The good news: Your office has holiday spirit. The bad news? You’ve been tasked with buying a Secret Santa gift for a coworker who you may not know well (or may not like very much).

If you’re assigned a colleague that you know and love working with, you’re golden. You know what they’re hobbies and interests are and what would bring a smile to his or her face. But what does Phil in accounting want? Or Jill in accounts payable?

Don’t let it be a source of holiday stress. These guidelines can help you give a nice gift that will go over smoother than eggnog served in an office mug.

Secret Santa Do’s and Don’ts

Do find out more about your Secret Santa giftee. Consider going straight to his or her direct colleagues to get the skinny. Does he love his dog? Is she crazy about golf? Maybe she’s passionate about vegan cooking. A few minutes and a little investigating can steer you in the right direction.

Don’t spend more than the recommended amount. Many office party organizers will set a guideline, usually around $25. Even if you know that Cheryl in payroll loves cashmere sweaters, do not bust out your credit card to buy it for her. It will make everyone else feel like a cheapskate and Cheryl may be uncomfortable with you having spent so much money on her.

Do include a nice card. A few lines will do. Try something that says, “I see you each day and you bring cheer to the office.” Even if it’s not true, you’re just the Secret Santa, not Human Resources.

Don’t give booze. While everyone loves getting into the holiday cheer, not everyone drinks. You may have a Secret Santa who is sober or struggling. Unless you know that they love a good glass of wine or a certain brand of tequila, steer clear.

Do wrap the gift. It’s the least you can do, for goodness sake. If you’re clumsy, get someone to help you. Don’t just hand over the gift in a paper bag that it came in.

Don’t be lazy. Nothing says “I put zero thought into this” than an Amazon gift card purchased 10 minutes before the event at your local drug store.

Do give thoughtful gift cards. While a generic gift card is a thumbs down, a well-thought-out one can be a wonderful gift. If Jane in legal is a knitter, a gift card from a crafting site or store would show her that you care while letting her choose what she wants. If Bob in ad sales loves to go camping, a gift card to an outdoor supply company could work.

Don’t be a creep. Do not give personal items. Do not give things with sexual connotations. If you think you’re crossing a line and the person may not receive it happily, do not do it. The last thing anyone wants is you spending the holiday party explaining yourself to HR.

Do receive your gift gracefully. Sometimes we get a gift where we want to say, “No really, you shouldn’t have.” Inside we may be shaking our heads and wondering when we can donate the gift to the nearest Goodwill (or garbage can) but be kind to the giver, especially if they were excited to give it to you. Good taste is not a job requirement, but kindness is a skill that will take you beyond the holidays and serve you for the rest of your career.

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Written by

Lindsay Goldwert

Lindsay Goldwert is an author and freelance personal finance writer, as well as the host of Spent podcast


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