8 Secret Santa Gifts You Will Want To Avoid

by . November 26th, 2014

Having a Secret Santa at the office can be a fun way to build camaraderie and boost morale.

Worst Secret Santa
But it can be a pretty stressful experience. I once had a coworker who was in tears, agonizing over what to get our boss (don’t worry, she’s fine now).

Unless you’re some sort of sociopath, feeling some anxiety over gift-giving is pretty normal. After all, your choice of gift and the manner with which you give it says a lot about you.

Why shouldn’t you be anxious?

Thankfully, gift-giving is normally only a big problem if you lack empathy, or really don’t know the other person very well.

And if you do end up giving a dud, you probably shouldn’t worry. Luckily, only a real jerk would seriously complain about a gift given with good intentions.

But there are a few “gifts” that are totally off-limits.

This season we’ll tell you which ones you should never give – unless you’re sure the recipient will get a kick out of it. Then again, you probably still shouldn’t.

8.) Something you got from the supply closet.

X-Wing Fighter from Office Supplies
Nothing says you don’t care than giving something you know the giftee could have gotten for free. Show some effort at least.

7.) Anything sexually suggestive.

Condoms, “toys”, thongs, ball-gags… these things would all probably be appreciated by certain people, but in an office setting, they’re totally inappropriate. Even if the recipients did appreciate them, or found them funny, they can communicate unprofessionalism to everyone else.

6.) Underwear

While a fresh pack of good underwear is always nice, getting undies as a gift might be a bit too familiar for some people. As with the previous entry, underwear might demonstrate unprofessionalism-or at least cluelessness. Try socks instead. I for one, could always use a nice pair of socks. Feel free to send some over.

5.) Anything that refers to personal body issues.

If your officemate thinks they need diet pills or a girdle, they can get those themselves. Calling attention to their insecurities, especially if you don’t know them particularly well, is no way to earn friends. You might not expect your future interactions to go over so well.

4.) Deodorant or mouthwash.

These are classic examples of “bad gifts” that are all about making a point, instead of actually being about the spirit of giving. These gifts might be taken the wrong way. Hurt feelings and awkwardness always make it less pleasant to come in the office the next day.

3.) Toiletries.

These are just a step above stuff you can get from the supply closet. While not totally off bounds, you can always do better. PLEASE do better.

2.) Ill-considered “re-gifts”.

Re-gifting is fine, so long as you follow a few certain guidelines. It’s completely inappropriate to give a non-smoker a gift card for a pack of cigarettes, or an overweight coworker that petite blouse you got from your sister-in-law.

If you do plan to re-gift, be considerate- and NEVER mention it’s a re-gift. Saying it out loud (unless asked) is just tacky.

1.) Raw Meat and/or Seafood


I actually know someone who gave her coworker about a pound of ground beef- as a joke. Unfortunately, their office didn’t have a refrigerator and the beef just sort of sat there, on the threshold of decomposition. Gifts that are inconvenient to take home or keep in the office should generally be avoided. There are less messy gag gifts out there.


The key is to basically exercise proper judgment. Hard, I know. If you feel like being a jerk, try not to be one just this once.

There are dozens of other inappropriate situation-specific gifts, and we’d like to hear your experiences and ideas! Happy Holidays!


Image credits: Phoenix Dark-Knight via photopin cc cgc76 via photopin ccwithvengeance86 via photopin ccStéfan via photopin ccGenista via photopin ccclotho98 via photopin cc, MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Imagesvia


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Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.