Opinion: The office isn't the place to give gifts at Christmas

Dec 13 2016, 9:58 pm

‘Tis the season for crappy office gift exchanges. You know what I’m talking about; we’ve all been subjected to them. You sit around with coworkers, surrounded by wrapping paper and idle chit chat while you try to keep track of the never-ending gift exchange game rules, all to end up with a present you don’t really want.

It’s exhausting and so unnecessary.

We don’t need to give gifts at the office. These are coworkers, not friends. Why are we buying presents for them?

If you work with a friend who you’d like to give a gift to, that’s totally different. I have no problem with that. Instead I’m talking about forced gift exchanges with people you barely know. No one wants to do them, but for some reason they happen year after year.

The merest mention of Secret Santa for example sends a shiver down my spine. After all, nothing is better than when you draw the name of someone who works in a different department, who you probably wouldn’t recognize outside the office.

I mean, what do you buy someone, who you barely know, for under $15? I don’t mean to sound like a total douchebag, but there aren’t a lot of things you can get me for $15 that I actually want. A bottle of wine? Sure. A $15 Starbucks gift card? Why not. Other than that… nope. So you end up spending $15 on a generic gift (powdered hot chocolate with a mug, anyone?) that you hope the person can use or at least re-gift.

One level worse than Secret Santa is the Gift Stealing Game. This is the worst. Nothing says Christmas like stealing a gift from your co-worker. Also known as the White Elephant Gift Exchange, this is the game where everyone brings in a wrapped gift (within the pre-determined budget limit). You draw a number and then you open the gifts in that order. Before you open a gift, you can decide if you want to steal from someone who has already opened a gift, or pick a new one from under the tree. The poor sap that opens the first gift has no chance to steal and gets left with whatever no one else wants. It’s a great way to turn gift giving into a competition.

What do you buy the boss?

And then there’s the million dollar question we all ask every year: should you buy a present for your boss?

If you do, you look like a brown-noser. If you don’t and everyone else does, you look inconsiderate.

And then if you do decide to get your boss a gift, you have to find something that is appropriate. Nothing too personal, but nothing too generic, nothing that says ‘I spent days looking for the perfect gift,’ but nothing that says ‘I found this in the grocery store line-up.’

Offices should come up with an alternative to the work gift exchange. How about something simple, like everyone goes out for lunch together? Or everyone donates $15 towards one of the very many deserving charities so desperately in need of donations over the holidays?

You could even go one step further and adopt a family as a workplace. You and your coworkers can go shopping and supply a needy family with everything they need to make their holidays memorable.

So let’s call a truce: no more gift giving in the office!

Let’s say no to discounted bath salts, the outdated chocolates, and the used decks of cards (I have received all three at various office parties) and say no to office gift exchanges once and for all.

I already have enough crap.