It’s an annual Christmas tradition — you agree to join in a Secret Santa with friends or co-workers. There are lots of things to consider when choosing a gift for your Secret Santa recipient. So what are the best ways to avoid the usual Secret Santa pitfalls? Here are some great tips to help you select the best Secret Santa gift for your friend or co-worker this year…
Secret Santa Do’s:
- Do personalize the gift. Think about what the person likes. Are they a sports fan? Do they love bird feeders? Personalized gifts will be well received, since it shows you put some thought into it.
- Do decorate the gift. Presentation goes a long way. If the spending limit is only $ 15, adding a fancy bow and a hand written card can make a small gift even more special.
- Do get crafty. It’s okay to make a gift with your own two hands, if it’s obvious that it took time, care, and creativity like something baked. Yum.
- Do your research. If you don’t know the person that well, it’s okay to talk to other friends to find out what they want or like.
- Do buy something they wouldn’t buy themselves. A small gift is an indulgence; it doesn’t always have to be practical. Indulge the senses with a beautiful ornament, soft teddy bear, gourmet chocolate, or scented candle.
- Do set a price limit and stick to it. Pick a dollar amount that is reasonable for hourly-paid workers and salaried employees. As a rule of thumb, your limit should be 0.1% of the annual gross income of your lowest-paid employee. For a worker earning $20,000 per year, the amount works out to $20. Don’t go overboard on the gifts, especially for the boss.
- Do buy something practical. Even though Christmas is supposed to be about giving not receiving, no one wants to get a Chia Pet. Buy something that people can use or re-give like a pair of slippers or a basket of food.
- Do look surprised. When receiving a gift that you hate, you should say cheerfully, “Thank you. I’ve always wanted one of these.”
- Do consider edibles when the coworker offers snacks to others regularly, you know they have no food allergies, or if they have a family who might enjoy them together.
- Do consider clean humor for the office prankster or relaxation gifts for the subdued.
- Do learn about any disappointed coworker so that if you are unlucky enough to draw their name again, you are prepared for a less than stellar reception or a better strategy next time.
- Do first understand the company policy on gift-giving. The larger the company, the more likely a specific policy.
- Do examine the company’s corporate culture for the types of gifts that might be acceptable. A gift for a co-worker at Google may not be the same thing you get for a co-worker at IBM. Rule of thumb: the more relaxed the corporate culture, the wider latitude you have in gift choices. Do use your common sense and good judgment when making gift choices.
- Do consider gifts that can be shared (with co-workers or family members), such as gourmet food items — especially those in festive tins or boxes. Unusual plants or flowers are another possible do.
- Do include a gift receipt so the recipient can easily exchange the item if necessary.
- Do consider giving donations to charities as gifts, but do remember that some people prefer gifts, and don’t ever use donations to controversial charities as a gift.
- Do wrap your gift and do consider adding something extra to make the gift even more special, such as a gift of book with a really distinctive book mark.
- Do remember all these rules to have the most success (and joy) when considering office gifts, and don’t use these rules as an excuse to be a Scrooge or the office Grinch.
Secret Santa Don’ts:
- Don’t assume that you can give alcohol unless you know the person really well.
- Don’t give anything you’re not 100 percent certain about.
- Don’t buy clothing, if you don’t know the exact size to get. Buying something too big or too small can be an insult and clothing is very taste specific. The only exception could be something that’s meant for all sizes, like a scarf or shawl.
- Don’t get very religious. The movement to bring holiness back to the holidays doesn’t always apply to the workplace. Generic Christmas items (trees, elves, Santa) are okay, if you know the person celebrates and recognizes Christmas.
- Don’t go X rated. Sounds obvious, right? But you’d be surprised! Keep inappropriate gifts for your best friends, but keep them out of the workplace. Not all people appreciate bachelor/bachelorette type of party gifts. They may feel embarrassed or insulted, and it could be considered sexual harassment.
- Don’t go over or under-spend, stick to the suggested spending limit. Going over that limit could be seen as insensitive, since the receiver is unlikely to match the price.
- Don’t get political. If you make a donation to a charity in a person’s name, make sure it’s not a controversial charity. And no one appreciates it if you’re just donating to your own pet cause.
- Don’t reveal your pick. They don’t call it a Secret Santa exchange for nothing.
- Don’t settle for a boring or typical gifts like a mug full of sweets or a pre-packaged gift set.
- Don’t choose food for a secret Santa gift if the co-worker is allergic, on a diet, or a picky eater.
- Don’t choose a generic department store last-minute gift card.
- Don’t regift, especially items you may have received from your secret Santa last year.
- Don’t lose any sleep if your gift isn’t well received.
- Don’t assume the people in your office share your tastes.
- Don’t pass up a chance to partake in a “Secret Santa” if the whole office is doing so, but do remember to stick with all the rules
- Don’t wait until the last minute to shop for your co-workers. Whenever possible, do plan in advance for the most thoughtful presents.
Have any other great Secret Santa tips? Share them in the comments below!