It’s deadlier than Halloween and more frightening than Friday the 13th.
I’m talking about that form of workplace torture which culminates in Secret Santa exchange day.
As if you haven’t got enough people to buy presents for, you’re suddenly saddled with the task of buying an extra one.
While the sentiment behind Secret Santa is very admirable, it ends up becoming stressful as it almost always goes wrong.
The problems nearly always start from the offset in the picking of names. Some people take one look at the name they’ve picked and decide they’d sooner buy for someone else so either try to sneakily pick again or trade with a colleague.
Those trying to ingratiate themselves with bosses try to use it as a way of sucking up by buying the perfect gift to score Brownie points.
Inevitably, things go awry and somehow the Secret Santa organiser ends up with an extra name who no one is buying for and has to start all over again.
Then there’s the possibility of drawing someone you hate. Thankfully, I work with quite a likeable bunch, but in many offices, this can be a real problem.
Or what if you get someone you don’t know much about?
What if you end up buying a bottle of wine for someone who’s teetotal or a recovering alcoholic? Or if you buy a box of luxury choccies for a diabetic?
Then there’s the issue of budget. Secret Santa budgets are normally kept to a nominal amount so no one has an excuse to wriggle out of it by pleading poverty.
But it’s pretty tricky trying to buy something good for a fiver so you either end up getting something rubbish or going over the budget limit.
Which brings me on to the next topic. What to buy.
In my opinion, if you know what the person is into, you buy them something you know they’ll love – and haven’t already got – or you buy something funny which will give them a giggle.
One year, I bought a male colleague a bar of soap which had “Face” printed on one side and a rude word for “Backside” on the other, along with some “Millionaire’s bog roll” which was sheets of fake £50 notes.
Another year, when THAT book was all everyone was talking about, I bought another male colleague “Fifty Sheds of Grey” – a funny alternative featuring graphic shed-based images.
To me, there’s nothing worse than buying a boring gift as it will make you look like a real dullard as you realise everyone else has been a lot more creative than you.
You can’t even use the excuse that “it’s the thought that counts” as the “thought” was forced upon you by the person running the office Secret Santa.
There’s always one who puts no thought into the concept at all and just sticks a fiver in an envelope.
Some people buy Lottery scratchcards which is quite a good idea, but the thrill only lasts for seconds if the recipient scratches off their panels to reveal they’ve won nowt.
Many people fail to grasp a major notion about Secret Santa – it’s supposed to be a secret!
“So who have you got?” they ask. Then when it’s gift opening time, some workers cry: “Who got me this?” Er, you’re not supposed to know. It’s “Secret” Santa.
Some presents highlight how little you know about a co-worker and vice versa. Surely people know you don’t like Star Wars or aren’t into birdwatching?
One year, it almost led to fisticuffs when one colleague opened her present and said: “Well, this has obviously been bought by someone who doesn’t know me very well” only for the buyer to overhear and huffily retort: “How ungrateful, I put a lot of thought into that.” Whoops.
Let’s not forget the ultimate Secret Santa no-no… the office Scrooge. This person either tries to use Secret Santa to offload something they’ve got lying around at home or be a real cheapskate by undercutting the budget.
Then there’s always someone who’s “left their Secret Santa present at home.”, which usually means they’re planning to buy something in the sales or are secretly hoping that after Christmas everyone will have forgotten.
Secret Santa is supposed to unite the office in festive spirit but I think we’re all better off spending our money on spirits instead!