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Opinion and Insight

Secret Santa Gifting Guidelines for the Casual Office Acquaintance

firstborn, 2 years, 10 months ago

Firstborn’s Elizabeth Entenman on how not to flunk your agency’s festive gift-swap

Secret Santa Gifting Guidelines for the Casual Office Acquaintance

‘Tis the season to find a gift for your co-worker that isn’t lame and won’t break the bank: behold, the annual office Secret Santa. You draw a name, hoping to pick a friend or someone who will appreciate a beer holder shaped like an ugly sweater. But sometimes you draw someone that sits on the opposite side of the office, or a co-worker you’ve merely politely cheers'd with at the holiday party. You panic and buy them bacon-flavored jellybeans.

Secret Santa is an annual tradition at my agency, Firstborn, and many other offices. Depending on how well you know your pick, gifts can be hilarious (Tinder survival kit), useful (a six-pack), sentimental (alma mater-themed baby shoes for the expecting dad) or downright awkward (non-ironic Disney figurines). Don’t be that last guy. A gift with a little thought behind it can go a long way.

If your pick leaves you baffled, here are some Office Secret Santa gifting guidelines that will help guide your search.


Do your research.

Poking around on Facebook or Instagram isn’t stalking if it’s serving a higher purpose. What’s their favorite sports team? Did they recently get engaged? Is their most-used hashtag #foodporn? Social media has the answers to these questions and a trove of others, which can lead to more personal gift giving.


Think outside the drugstore.

Roughly 6/10 of Secret Santa gifts are the product of a last-minute dash to the corner store. Instead of going that route, give yourself some time and hit up a small business boutique or a museum gift shop instead.


Booze is always acceptable.

Whisky is the great equalizer, and Firstborn recommends Maker’s Mark. If it turns out your pick is a non-drinker, chances are they’ll still understand your line of thinking.


Don’t skew Christmas.

Or any other way for that matter, unless you’re sure of how they celebrate. Save the Santa wrapping paper for your great aunt.


Scope out their workspace.

You can tell a lot about a person by what’s on their desk. Your co-workers collect and display all kinds of things, from books to pictures of their kids to quirky toys and tchotchkes. Build on what you see and give a gift that complements what they have.


Get creative.

Homemade gifts are the best gifts, so show your pick what you’ve got! If you knit, make them a scarf. If you’re a watercolor artist, paint a portrait of their cat. You’ll win Secret Santa.


Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you still have no idea, enlist a friend to help. Confiding in someone who knows them well can give specific insights and answers to burning questions like, “Is he an IPA kind of guy?”


Happy shopping!


Elizabeth Entenman is a Copywriter at Firstborn