How to respect boundaries while making your work wife happy.

Gift giving can be stressful as a whole, even without the pressures of a corporate environment. An office Secret Santa can be especially tricky, especially when your go-to ideas for friends and family peak at gift cards and booze.

Sometimes you’ll get lucky and draw the coworker who collects wacky coffee mugs all over her desk. Sometimes you draw your boss’s boss, with whom you’ve spoken to one time this calendar year. The whole process is always a bit of a gamble, after all.

However, the spirit of an office Secret Santa is supposed to be fun and lighthearted. If you’re unsure of where to start, follow these simple guidelines to get yourself on the right track.

Game of Thrones throne

DO: A little bit of background work

This is particularly important for those at newer jobs or working in larger offices. It doesn’t take much effort to consult a mutual acquaintance and get some quick info on someone you don’t know very well.

For example, is your colleague a huge Game of Thrones fan? A figurine or other replica for their desk is an easy answer. Or maybe your draw happens to be a vocal cook, in which case some new sauces or marinades could make for a unique gift (although, do be mindful of allergies).

BBQ sauce

DON’T: Get too personal… or too generic

On one hand, no one’s ever been excited to receive a box of pens. However, most would advise stopping short of anything handmade or overly customized, especially in an office Secret Santa. In other words, put some thought into it, but don’t keep yourself awake at night.


DO: Purchase a new gift

Re-gifting has an undeniable stigma, and that absolutely still applies in the workplace. You don’t like it when your little brother pawns off the gift you gave him two years ago, so why would you inflict that same fate on your desk neighbor?

Let’s say your coworker has asked about cutting the cord. A Chromecast or other streaming player is a great (and relatively inexpensive) idea for a gift – provided it’s not your own outdated Chromecast from two Christmases ago.

Water bottle

DON’T: Go above the price limit

In a society, we have certain rules. When everyone else adheres to the guidelines, it only takes one Michael Scott to ruin the entire office Secret Santa.

It’s not incredibly difficult to find a gift under $25, or even $50. A quick Google search can find you hundreds of lists in an instant, with ideas that range from water bottles to small sports memorabilia. You can sum the whole thing up with one last golden rule: “do” use some common sense.

With that in mind, we can also turn to each other for some inspiration. What was the best gift you’ve ever received in an office Secret Santa? What was the worst?

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