Tips for secret Santa and holiday event survival

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It's that time of year at the office: The Holidays.

And that probably means you need to plan an office celebration of some kind that includes a gift exchange. While this sounds fun and simple, it can be a stressor for both the organizer and the participants.

We all know the holidays can get stressful at home. The last thing you want is your well-intended activity to cause more anxiousness.

Here's a quick list of "Do's" and "Don'ts" for organizers and gift-givers when it comes to surviving Secret Santa and other holiday office tradition madness.

Do join in even if this is not your "thing." Whether it's the proverbial Secret Santa game, or simply a straight up gift exchange with a colleague, participating fosters team building and can strengthen relationships. Sitting it out might provide short-term stress relief but might lead to negative perceptions that stick. This is not the time to have a "case of the Mondays." 

Don't force people to participate. This is not the time to be a dictator. Forcing participation will cause sour feelings and will likely undermine your efforts to have some fun while sharing good cheer.

Do set some ground rules. Every fun and enjoyable holiday gift-giving game should have a set of guidelines. You don't want to become the "fun police", but participants should know what's appropriate. One of the most important guidelines is setting gift cost limits.

Don't be a rebel. Stick to the rules. If the gift cost limit is $20 bucks, don't give a $50 bottle of wine. This make your colleagues feel bad even if their gifts hit the top $25 max limit. 

Do think your gift through. If you work in an office with a large number of employees, and you don't know everyone personally, try to get to know your gift-getter. Some gentle investigation will work, including talking to folks that know them better (avoid this if you are a die-hard Secret Santa Ninja as this will likely give you away). Find out enough to pick a gift that relates to one of their interests or hobbies. Even if they don't really like the gift they will appreciate the effort.

Don't get too personal. Stay away from anything that could be perceived of as romantic. Even if you think your gift-getter shares your religious views, avoid giving gifts of this nature. The goal here is to give a somewhat thoughtful, useful gift, not to make your gift-getter uncomfortable. Or cause an HR-related issue. Use common sense and you'll be just fine.

Do tie your holiday activity in with a culminating event or your holiday party. If your holiday activity is done across a few weeks, build the final gift exchange into your holiday party so everyone can share in the fun and enjoy a few laughs. You created the event to strengthen your team. End the event in a group setting to reinforce team camaraderie.

Don't regift. This goes without saying, right? No one wants that toaster you got as a wedding gift.

Do have fun with your co-workers. So many days are busy and stressful. Take the time to enjoy one another.

It's the home stretch. Get that shopping done! Send out those holiday cards! Start preparing your house for the arrival of friends and family! 

What was that about not stressing out?

By the way, I've got this toaster...

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