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Secret Santa is a really fun activity for families, friend groups, and it's especially well-suited to professional work environments around the holidays.
But in the office, there's always the potential that you might not really know your gift recipient that well, and that can cause some anxiety, stress, and undue pressure.
So, if you're the Secret Santa to someone in the office that you just don't know that well, I want to help.
Let's start by addressing the 3 most common difficulties you're probably facing, and I'll offer you some actionable solutions.
The first difficulty is just the simple fact that you might not know the coworker to whom you've been assigned to give a gift.
If a gift giver doesn't know their recipient, they're going to have to offer them a way for them to get their footing.
That's okay we'll talk more about finding out what they like without giving yourself away.
You might think that unfamiliarity isn't a problem in your office, but even if your workplace is a fun, close-knit group, you might still run across this problem in particular cases.
If you're organizing a Secret Santa party, this is for you.
While you can't make your coworkers be friends overnight, and you can't really force your way into a stranger's interests to find out what gift they will like, you can do some of the following:
Some of us might face the challenge of not actually having a physical office space shared by everyone in the company.
If your company is spread over wide distances, it'll be unlikely that you can just drop off your gift at your coworker's door. So, shipping is the likely option.
See if your company is willing to reimburse them for shipping costs.
If you're coworkers or employees are within a particular distance, drop-offs are a great way to exchange gifts. Leave the gift at the door of your recipient with a note explaining its presence there.
Disappointment about Secret Santa exchanges can really stifle the fun, and worrying about it can cause undue stress.
You might be worried that your gift is bound to be bad because you don't know your coworker that well.
Or you might be worried that someone's going to give you a bad gift because they don't know you.
If you're worried about that, here's a helpful, humorous video of Benedict Cumberbatch teaching you how to react to bad gifts.
Organizers can help avoid disappointment by setting clear expectations.
To do this:
Just follow the instructions the organizer gives you as best you can. Don't overdo it.
Your gift has a much better chance of being great than you think.
First off, I want to dissuade you from just getting a gift card. I know that might feel like I'm taking the ground from beneath your feet.
While some people love receiving gift cards so they can get whatever they want, and it takes the pressure off you to put in the effort and potential risk of disappointment, it's not really in the spirit of Secret Santa.
Go ahead and risk disappointment!
You'll want to get something concrete and either 1.) meaningful, 2.) practical, or 3.) at least humorous.
There's a ton of lists of Secret Santa gift ideas for everyone out there on the internet, and a lot of them give really great suggestions that your coworkers are sure to love.
Sources like Today, The Strategist, and Business Insider suggest things like hot sauce keychains, an insulated water bottle or two, a face mask, a pair of socks, and just generally convenient, neutral gifts.
You can find out what they like a number of ways:
Narrowing down the perfect gift is a tricky business. It depends on so many variables, one of them being what your recipient actually likes.
Here's what I say though: the best Secret Santa gifts for coworkers are ones that communicate your respect of their time, work, and interests.
And I tend to think that personalized gifts do this the best.
While hot sauce is cool and all, the best Secret Santa gifts are personalized. They go above and beyond in communicating respect and attention. And they're actually easy to find and order!
I've compiled a list of 101 personalized gifts that might make the best Secret Santa gifts.
Personalized gifts are usually super affordable, so they can usually fit the budget of an office Secret Santa party.
All that you really need to make the perfect personalized gift is the name of the recipient. Get their name engraved or imprinted on it, and voila! It's done.
I've written another article about why I think personalized pens make the best Secret Santa gifts.
personalized pens are obviously my favorite Secret Santa gift, and that's because they fit the professional atmosphere of a workplace while also communicating personal respect.
Don't forget to wrap your gift.
You might be like me: the sheer effort of finding the gift is enough to take away any energy you might have for wrapping, but even if you put it in a nice bag with some tissue paper to cover it, you've won.
To make your gift the most meaningful, add a handwritten note.
It might seem like I'm asking a lot, but really this is the key part of the gift.
Write an encouraging note to your coworker for the holiday season. Keep it professional, but don't just wish them well and be done with it.
Pick out things like their hard work and their aspirations, show them that you've noticed them and that you hope it all pays off.
It's that simple.
After that, your gift is ready to go, and you can make your way to the party!
This has been my guide to hacking Secret Santa parties. I hope it's been helpful to both organizers and participants.
Now we can all find the best Secret Santa gifts for our recipients.
Now it's your turn!