With the Christmas season in the air, one popular office tradition, the “Secret Santa”, is in full swing.  It can be a fun way to engage your team and boost morale, while also helping certain coworkers connect with each other.  Yet if not done right, it can create a lot more anxiety.  I recently came across an article, based off an interview with etiquette coach Maggie Oldham, about the do’s and dont’s of office Secret Santa that will keep your office happy.

Do participate: Even if you don’t want to, not participating can make you stand out as not being a team player.  The point of Secret Santa is to foster teamwork and boost morale.

Don’t force participation: Secret Santa should be voluntary.  If somebody feels like they’re being strong-armed into it, their morale will be damaged because of it.  Some people may not have extra gifts in their holiday budget, or not want to participate for religious reasons.


The site Elfster is a great website for facilitating the gift-giving process.

Do set a price limit: People often have holiday budgets that might not include office gifts; a price limit of $25 should be good.

Don’t go above and beyond: Nobody likes a show-off.  While you might think that the price limit is too low, buying something clearly over the limit will just make everybody else feel bad.  That said, don’t cheap out; buying a $5 gift with a $25 price limit will make you look like a jerk.

Do attempt to find out about your recipient: In a larger office where people don’t know each other as well, organizers could put together a small questionnaire to help gift givers know what to get.

Don’t get personal gifts: Stay away from personal items, such as perfume, which can be considered a romantic gesture.  Although it’s Christmas, stay away from religious items.

Stick to generic gifts: Gifts will most likely be opened in an office setting, so you don’t want to make the person feel uncomfortable.  Avoid clothing, as even if you guess the right size, people could be sensitive about other people in the office knowing their size.  Yet one-size-fits-all clothing, such as mittens and scarf, can make for great gifts, as well as a candle or picture frame.

Do thank your giver: Even if you don’t like your gift, show your appreciation for the gesture.  The exchange is between colleagues who may not know your taste, so don’t expect the gift to be exactly what you wanted.

Don’t let anybody know if you don’t like your gift: Office gossip spreads like wildfire, and nothing is more malicious than talking about how much you hate your gift.  Secret Santa is supposed to be a fun, light-hearted activity, so it really is the thought that counts.