It’s that time again—there’s a glorious crisp in the air, you’ve replaced your pumpkin spice latte order with hot chocolate, and you’re counting down the days until an end-of-the-year respite from work. There’s only one thing between you and (hopefully) a relaxing Christmas break: the annual work tradition of jolly gift-giving.
Secret Santa has become the token gifting activity for a lot of workplaces. Employees pick names at random and clandestinely purchase a gift for their recipient below a set budget amount. The giver and recipient are only revealed when the presents are opened at a celebratory gathering.
There may be some teams that sincerely enjoy this exchange—maybe you’ve been together for years, or maybe you’re a small team with deep personal connections alongside the professional.
However, Secret Santa is also loaded with potential awkwardness. It can feel like a giant spotlight is on the fact that you don’t gel with a certain coworker when you have to feign joy about a new vanilla candle. What if you have to search for a gift for someone you hardly know, or on the flip side, you receive a generic present from a stranger? The mix of supervisors and employees can lead to a tricky environment to navigate, as can the dynamics between men and women, and what’s considered appropriate.
Secret Santa’s cousin, White Elephant, isn’t a much better option. In this game, everyone brings a universally popular gift (harder than it sounds) under the budgeted amount that is then traded among the group within a set of established rules. Having your coworkers battle over the “best” gifts, the other presents neglected in a corner, isn’t exactly the merriest group bonding exercise.
If you’ve ever wondered if there could be a more fun way to spend the cumulative dollars and minutes spent on Secret Santa or White Elephant, then check out these four swaps for the traditional group gifting activities. Keep in mind that what works for one team may not work for another. As you consider alternatives, think about what best suits your colleagues and the dynamics you have together.
01. Adopt a family
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