Is a Secret Santa worth the risk?

secret-santaSecret Santa has become a much loved and accepted office tradition, but that doesn’t mean that everyone wants to participate or has the financial means to do so. Also, some employees’ values and/or beliefs may mean they are averse to the idea.

So, is a Secret Santa worth the risk? And if it is, how should it be organised to make sure that it is fun without being offensive, and potentially illegal?

Employers need to be aware that some of their employees may not want to do Secret Santa and it should be seen as optional. As a leader of a team or organisation, you need to make sure that those who opt out of the Secret Santa aren’t stigmatised by their colleagues.

Secret Santa is amusing because of its anonymity but this could encourage some employees to purchase inappropriate and/or offensive gifts. When purchasing presents for their colleagues, employees are still required to act within your company’s policies, especially in regards to discrimination, bullying and harassment.

Unfortunately, Secret Santa presents can fall into the grey area where some may find the present funny and others may not. As an employer, you need to ensure that there is clear guidance provided to employees regarding appropriate gifts, otherwise you could be putting your business at risk.

If your company or team is going to organise a Secret Santa, we suggest the best way to keep it trouble-free is to make sure everyone knows the rules in advance:

  • set a maximum price limit in consultation with those on the lowest salaries in the department so that everyone can afford to take part;
  • do not permit employees to swap names to make sure there is no favouritism and the system is fair; and,
  • remind employees that the presents should be appropriate to the workplace and in line with your policies regarding expected behaviour.

Enjoy your gift-giving this year, but make sure it doesn’t negatively impact your employees or your organisation.

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