Santa Claus is coming to town…
Of course, by Santa Claus we mostly mean your co-workers, armed with an array of gifts they bought for £10 or less, but the sentiment’s the same. In other words, it’s officially Secret Santa time.
You know the drill. Pick a co-worker’s name at random, buy them a gift, and keep the giver’s identity an untold secret. Seems simple.
But how can you make sure your gift gets a positive reaction? Here are some dos and don’ts to help you win your workplace Secret Santa:
Do: Take part
Ok, so we understand that Secret Santa might not be everyone’s thing.
But even if you’re not a fan of work-based festivities, opting out will probably only add to your reputation as the office Scrooge.
Unless you have any specific objections (which should be brought to your managers attention), try and put any negative feelings aside, and take part. Even if you end up having to buy for that guy you’ve only spoken to once and it involved getting his name wrong, maybe this is the perfect opportunity to make amends.
Just remember to label the card with James, not Jack…
Don’t: Ignore the rules
The first rule of office Secret Santa? Always stick to the price limit.
As much as you may think that getting an expensive gift will win you friends (well, one friend), in reality it’s never that simple. No good ever came from an office where one person gets a £50 gift while everyone else’s only cost £10.
You’ll only end up alienating a room full of people, half of them glaring at your gift with thinly-veiled jealousy, and the other half in full-scale panic mode, suddenly realising that their £3 3-pack of seasonal socks doesn’t quite cut it.
The same goes for spending too far under the price limit. Even the biggest chocolate-lover in the world would be disappointed with a couple of Celebrations. Sorry cheapskate.
And always remember to also keep who you picked a secret. Because nobody likes a spoil sport.
Do: Know your audience
To avoid any awkward situations, always make sure your gift idea is ‘workplace appropriate’.
You might think a joke or prank gift is hilarious, but will the rest of your team? Remember: you want Christmas cards from your co-workers, not letters from HR.
Know your boundaries, and make sure your idea isn’t going to offend or upset anyone.
‘Tis the season to be jolly’ after all (‘tis also the season to quote cheesy Christmas lines).
Don’t: Turn your gift into an ulterior motive
Congratulations, you got your office crush in the draw. Now you can finally confess your undying love for them with a lovingly-made mixtape titled ‘All I want for Christmas is you’. Or, you know, not.
Don’t be tempted to use this light-hearted game as a way of expressing personal feelings – romantic or otherwise. Your life isn’t an episode of The Office.
Similarly, never use your gift as an attempt to get a promotion.
Buying your boss that £50 perfume she always wanted isn’t going to earn you extra points as a hard worker, or entitle you to a raise. Sucking-up is never a good look.
Don’t take the game too seriously. Simply use it as a way to spread generosity, fun, and festive cheer (singing loud for all to hear, and other Elf references).
You might get lucky this year, and end up getting to buy a gift for your desk buddy. Or, you could get someone you’ve only ever made small talk with in the lift. Once. Last August.
If the only thing you have in common is the fact that you walk around on the same bit of carpet for eight hours a day, you’ll need to find out as much as you can about them before being able to pick a suitable gift. Ask around the office, or covertly scan their desk for subtle hints.
You could try and blag it by getting the first thing you see, in the hope that they really happen to like Star Wars toast stamps, but we’d advise against it. You might be disappointed to find out that they actually have a genuine hatred for Star Wars. Also, toasters.
Still struggling? Here’s a tip: looking at public online profiles is fine, looking through their stuff is not.
Don’t: Be lazy
Finally, whether you’re a fan of Secret Santa or not, try your best to embrace it. People can spot a half-hearted attempt from a mile off, so don’t be that guy (or girl).
And it really is the thought that counts. Leaving it until the last minute will give you very few options; there’s only so much you can buy at that 24-hour Tesco next to your house – and it probably won’t be gift worthy.
So put some effort into your gift. It’ll show, and you’ll all have yourselves a merry little Christmas.*
*May also involve letting your heart be light, and making your troubles out of sight.
Article first appeared on the Reed website – http://www.reed.co.uk/career-advice/blog/2015/december/secret-santa-dos-and-donts