10 Secret Santa Gifts You Should Never Give in an Office Exchange

“Oh Brian, you shouldn’t have.”

No really, you shouldn’t have.

It’s become pretty common practice for offices to organise a secret Santa around this time of year for the team. And while it can be a great way to get to know your co-workers, it can also be a recipe for disaster if you get the wrong gift.

Leaving it up to the last minute is unlikely to make for a stunning purchase. But if you get a member of the team you’ve barely said five words to, you could have all the time in the world and still make a regrettable choice.

Whether it’s a gift that’s NSFW, or one that’s simply unadvisable if you ever hope to have a healthy working relationship with your colleagues again, here are some secret Santa’s you would do well to steer clear of.


1. A Sex Toy
You’re going to have to have a very intimate (and forgiving relationship) with a co-worker to get away with this one. Chances are, even if it’s a joke that’s understood and appreciated by both parties, your boss is still going to be in the room when the gifts are exchanged. Dildos, lube, or other NSFW gits will lead to many red faces in the best case scenario…and in the worst case lead to some disciplinary action in the New Year.

2. Gift Card
Yes, we understand why you did it. And in theory it’s not a bad idea because presumably you’ve purchased it from a place you know your colleague frequents, like the LCBO or Indigo. But gift cards just scream lazy and although cash in an envelope would be the next worst option on the list, at least we’d have a choice of which store to hit up.

3. Clothing
You might see your colleague from your cubicle every single day, but that doesn’t mean you’re qualified to choose their wardrobe. Nor does it mean that you should hazard a guess at their dress size (particularly if you’re buying for a female employee). If you insist upon accessorising your colleagues, a hat or scarf is the only safe option to go with.

4. Groceries
This one screams “I just remembered my secret Santa and the only thing in spitting distance to the office is a convenience store”. You won’t get any points for picking out our favourite cookies or chocolates either – food in a workplace is like a moth to a flame and we will undoubtedly end up sharing them around the department until all we’re left with is one measly Lindt truffle.

5. Calendars with Motivational Quotes
Just because you spend 8 hours a day in an office with this person, does not mean you have to get them something related to the world of work. Paraphernalia for their desk will a) clutter up their space and b) assume that they have no life outside of their job. The same goes for bobble heads, pencil holder, or little reception bells for you colleagues to ding when they want you to do their bidding.

6. Office Supplies
We really hope this one doesn’t need explaining. Secret Santa actually requires you to part with money, in exchange for a thoughtful (or alcohol related) gift for a fellow worker. It is not creative or resourceful to find a present for them in the stationary cupboard, or from the pre-existing stash of miscellaneous articles in your desk drawer.

7. Awkward Joke Gifts
These are fine if the recipient is fully complicit in the joke. What’s much less fine, is buying Axe for the co-worker who forgets to shower post-lunch time workout, or an alarm clock for the team member who is consistently running fifteen minutes behind schedule. Equally, the accounts manager, who wasn’t aware that everyone has noticed him going bald on top, will not be thrilled with his festive can of Rogaine.

8. Homemade Gifts
The Etsy enthusiast has been telling you for months about her homemade soaps and lotions. But you weren’t expecting to see one of them pop up for secret Santa this year. And if you’re the recipient, you better hope they’re talented. Because they’re going to get pretty suspicious if you told them you loved it, but you never end up smelling of Patchouli when you arrive at the office.

9. Donations to Charity in Our Names
Naming a star after us and adopting an animal on our behalf also come under the same umbrella of unwanted secret Santa. This is a catch 22. On one hand, we look a total a**hole if we bitch about you donating our gift money to a charitable organisation. But on the flip side, we’re going to feel pretty hard done by if everyone else has something tangible and all we’ve got to show for ours is a measly piece of paper.

10. Obvious Re-Gifts
If your gift has absolutely nothing to do with you, your interests, or your hobbies, and references no previous conversations you’ve ever had with a work colleague, chances are you’ve been re-gifted. Smiling awkwardly whilst saying “Oh, a DVD of the best NHL goals, 2011-2012 season…how did you know?” are tell-tale signs someone’s been given a recycled secret Santa, and it’s a sure fire way to never be offered a cup of coffee ever again.