When Santa comes to the office

What you need to know:

  • Often, these Secret Santa sessions can become frustrating as many questions abound. However, the main goal is to be thoughtful. Always be reminded that there are gifts that will shock some people, either because they were below expectation or over thought out.

Gifting is one of the ways people celebrate the festive season and it extends to the workplace as much as it does to close family and friends.

Often, these Secret Santa sessions can become frustrating as many questions abound. However, the main goal is to be thoughtful. Always be reminded that there are gifts that will shock some people, either because they were below expectation or over thought out.

While thinking about gift ideas, here are some things that should not make it to the list in any of your seasonal gifting to workmates.


Do not give items that are too personal, let alone sexual or racial. Stella Natukunda, a gift expert, says these items are actually unmentionables for a reason.

“Lingerie is a good buy for your spouse, not a work colleague. Opening such a racy item around your fellow colleagues or friends is just plain awkward,” she shares.

The gift expert tips workmates to avoid buying anything that will misguide their colleagues.

“Such items are suggestive and can only be gifted discretely to a colleague you trust,” she notes.


According to Joel Lubandi, the proprietor of Jirani-hood, a marketing agency, it is tricky to choose a cloth for your workmate as everyone has unique style.

“There is always a risk of choosing the wrong sizes or textures, which can turn out to be offensive to the recipient,” he explains.

The employer cautions against assuming other individuals share the same taste as yours. Some of your colleagues might show up to work in closed shoes or suited up but that might not be their most comfortable choice of clothing.

“Make an effort to have better understanding of your workmate’s preferences in time. Do not pass up chance at secret Santa, as this gives you an opportunity to stick to the team gifting rules and avoid purchasing a wrong gift,” Lubandi says.

However, you can buy items such as fragrance given whether they wear mild or concentrated scents. You can always seek their preference too so you do not fail on the gifting hunt.

You should often be mindful while gifting. Despite the fact that clothing is a quick purchase, it is tempting to shop at the last minute but this is a clear indicator of a thoughtless gift-giver.


It is quite a long thought for some people to adopt pets given the time and maintenance they require, says Natukunda.

“Not everyone is ready for the responsibility of raising a pet. Gifting one to your workmate commits them to years of caring for an animal.”

Ask yourself whether their environment or long working hours allow for them to have this item in their possession.

“Put in mind that some colleagues are actually allergic to pet fur and it is quite embarrassing to have your recipient reject your act of kindness,” she suggests.

For some scenarios, you might be aware of a colleague who probably needs to tighten their home security while they are away on duty, if they are into pets, gifting them with a German shepherd would be a good pick.


According to Lubandi, money is volatile in nature, and has high chances of not being recognised or valued as much as a physical gift that is well thought out.

“Economic times keep changing and with the sky rocketing prices, money keeps losing value, which leaves the recipient in an unappreciative space and questions on how exactly to spend it and earn some value off it,” he explains.

He recommends monetary gifting as an exception for employers which is passed on through bonuses and even better offered in dollars, which is favourable for exchange rates when the rate shoots up.

“While bosses add a bonus incentive for their workers, they should be able to add sentimental value to it and offer it as a thank you note coming from their annual performance,” Lubandi adds.

This inspires hardwork and a spirit of recognition among the recipients, which in return encourages other staff members to do better.

He adds that when this reward comes from an employer, it shows appreciation unlike when it is gifted by a workmate and can instead insinuate the gift giver as trying to make a statement.


Just like cash, a souvenir from a trip can be misjudged and faces likeliness to be underestimated.

Lubandi says it is meaningless for one to receive a gift from a trip they did not attend, especially if it is a kitschy key chain or miniature license plate with their name on it.

“Such souvenirs are personal and can only be gifted to one who has a family attachment to the recipient as it makes more sense than coming from a workmate.”

Lubandi adds that this only evokes meaningless attachment to the recipient as they might not be interested in even taking a trip to that destination and nothing from there might make sense to them.

“Some of your colleagues will take you for a joke and would rather have you make them discretely visit an ideal place outside office such as a lunch or tea treat,” he tips.

However, while picking a discrete treat, ensure that you do not exaggerate it, leaving your recipient feeling obliged to gift you back.

In case you are the one on the receiving end of such a costly treat, it would be better to instead send a thank you note acknowledging the gift and expressing your gratitude.