Secret Santa Etiquette

secret santa etiquette

Secret Santa is an annual tradition in offices across the globe. Unfortunately, it can also be a minefield – inadvertent offence can have serious repercussions in the workplace. Try not to allow Secret Santa to descend into anarchy and cause an all-out civil war.

As the moderator of a Secret Santa event, share some guidelines on essential etiquette for the occasion. That is likely to ensure that everybody enjoys themselves and hurt feelings can be avoided.

How Secret is Your Santa?

First and foremost, remember the golden rule – Secret Santa is supposed to be secret! Don’t loudly announce to all and sundry who you drew or sign your name on the gift. Not everybody will want to want to reveal their identity. Keep things on the down-low to ensure everybody is comfortable.

Swapping Names is OK … to an Extent

It’s common to hear a pained groan when somebody draws their name from the Secret Santa hat. That will be the unfortunate soul that has picked out the boss. It’s an unenviable recipient, but somebody has to carry the burden.

Switching names is part of the tradition of Secret Santa, but try to discourage it where possible. For a start, if the half the participants are trading, the secretive nature of the gift giving goes out of the window. Equally, you don’t just want people purchasing gifts for their friends.

Allow somebody to draw a different name on the spot if they’re really struggling for inspiration. Eventually, though, they’ll need to step up. Half the fun of Secret Santa is the opportunity to get to know a recipient a little better.

When Risqué Becomes Rude

Cheeky or joke Secret Santa gifts are a festive tradition. It’s all part of the fun to push the boundaries a little, looking to raise a wry chuckle from recipient and others alike. Do not take advantage of your anonymity to settle old grudges or insult a recipient, though.

If you cause offence with a gift, whether by accident or design, front up and apologise. Explain that you misjudged the mood or did not understand the reason for the affront. Do whatever it takes to avoid a HR hearing. Nobody wants a workplace disciplinary summons in their Christmas stocking.

Personal Gifts Can Cross a Line

Equally, don’t get too personal with a gift – even if you do know the recipient. It’s easy for Secret Santa gifts to be misconstrued.

For example, gifting team members of the opposite sex perfume or cologne could be mistaken for a romantic gesture. Gifting clothing may upset somebody if you choose the wrong size. A gift based upon the recipient’s personal life may reveal information they told you in confidence.

Don’t blow the budget, either. It’s great if you draw a friend in the Secret Santa draw, but if you want to get them something special, do so outside the event. One person being presented with something vastly superior to everybody else will raise eyebrows and potentially hurt feelings.

Don’t Take it Too Seriously

Finally, don’t lose sight of the fact that Secret Santa is just supposed to be a bit of fun. Do not tell anybody that listens how mortified you are that you received something you don’t like.

It’s unrealistic to expect to unwrap something from Cartier or Rolex, and whoever drew your name may not know you on a personal level. Loose lips sink ships, as the saying goes, and the alcohol imbibed at Christmas makes lips looser than ever. Don’t become the source of a festival scandal or start an office feud that rumbles onto until Easter.

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