Kingston Smith

Secret Santa’s beware! Be careful what you wish for

It’s that time of year when companies start sending round the usual emails asking who wants to get involved in this year’s Secret Santa. While some companies leave this as a voluntary option, some make it compulsory.

There are two ways of conducting a Secret Santa. One is for everyone to buy a gift of a certain value for either specifically a male or female and then everyone randomly picks a gift from the pile for their sex. The other is where everyone picks a name out of a hat and gives a gift anonymously to that person.

Now for many people, this seems like a relatively easy harmless process, but for some it can be a nightmare. And it can cause problems for managers and business owners if the gifts are offensive or inappropriate. While everyone is given a budget to stick to, there are often no other rules attached to the process.

I recently heard of a more extravagant process: the company gives each employee £100 to spend on a gift for someone selected at random. At the company Christmas party, each person stands up and explains their choice of gift. The person giving the best explanation receives a £100 gift voucher. However, not many companies can afford to be so generous.

Here are a few guidelines you may want to consider ahead of this season’s festivities:

  • Make it voluntary – there is nothing worse than receiving a present from someone who does not want to take part and has put no thought into it. It may also make people who are unable to afford to take part feel pressured into doing so.
  • Stay away from anything related to self improvement – while it may be given in goodwill, the person receiving it could take offense.
  • Keep it clean – if you’d be embarrassed giving it to your parents or manager, you shouldn’t give it to your colleagues, no matter how liberal they are. Even if the employee receiving the gift doesn’t take offense, another employee might.
  • Nothing homemade (unless you’re Kirsty Allsop) – while you may feel it has more meaning to give something with a personal touch, people’s tastes vary greatly. Try to keep it nice and neutral.
  • Don’t be creepy – don’t use this as an opportunity to tell someone that you secretly like them.

As you can see, this simple, goodwill activity can cause issues.  If you are thinking of having a Secret Santa this year, perhaps set a few ground rules that are easy to follow and unlikely to get anyone in trouble. The last thing you want before or straight after Christmas is to be dealing with grievances or disciplinaries resulting from a simple Secret Santa gift.

If you have any funny stories you want to share or want to tell us about the best Secret Santa gift you’ve received, please feel free to comment.