SURVEY SAYS: "Are you exchanging gifts with co-workers this year?"

December 19, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Here we are smack dab in the heart of the holiday season - so this week we asked readers: "Are you exchanging gifts with co-workers this year?"

A bit more than half (54%) of this week’s respondents WERE exchanging gifts on some scale or other – one reader noted, “Yes we do exchange gifts in the office.   I actually fair better at work than home!”  

Of course, there were nearly as many situations where the gift exchange simply did not take place, such as with this reader, who noted, “A memo went out a couple of weeks ago asking us not to exchange gifts within our company, as well as the normal do not accept gifts from vendors.   HO HO HO.”   Not all were disappointed at being “spared” the annual gift exchange – such as the reader who shared, “We did at one time, but this just adds to the stress.”

But we’re happy to report that even among the remaining 46%, something like half had foregone exchanges with co-workers in favor of gifts or helping others less fortunate, as did a number of those who exchanged gifts.

Good Wills

One reader noted, “We usually have a gift exchange, but this year one of our co-workers had a tragedy.   About two weeks ago, the wires from her dishwasher started a fire within in the walls of her home and within minutes she lost everything. Fortunately, her boys were away and she managed to leave the house, but the cat did not.   We’ve all supported her in what we can and since she lost all her Christmas decorations as well as clothing, food, memorabilia, etc we are giving a special ornament for her to restart her collection.   I hope it brings some light into her rather down heartening Christmas.”

Another reader shared the following:  “We, as a department, have chosen to participate in our company’s Operation Santa program.   Families who are in need self identify to a confidential committee.   Those families are then assigned to departments who have said they want to contribute.   This year we helped 41 families.   Gifts are dropped off at a central location, already wrapped where appropriate, and then the families come to pick up their gifts.   This is done with the utmost care to providing a confidential, tasteful way for the families to receive their presents without feeling uncomfortable.   In one case this year, the family had so many items (bikes, crib and mattress and so on) that our maintenance department actually dropped the presents off at the home of the employee since she never could have managed this in one trip.   It really is a wonderful program.”

Santa Clauses

As for most popular “methods” of exchanging gifts, the so-called “Secret Santa” was far and away the most commonly cited…though there were a number of interesting variations.   For example, “…we draw the names right before Thanksgiving, and then hang stockings outside of each person’s cube or office, and during the next several weeks, slyly slip little goodies into the stocking of the person you are Santa for – without being seen!   Things like candy, Christmas ornaments, candles, etc.   This makes it more interesting at our luncheon when each person guesses not only who they think was their Secret Santa, but also we all come with our lists of guesses at Santas and recipients.”   

As for most creative, we’ve shamelessly decided to award a “tie” to these two readers .  “…the best gift was given to our HR Manager.   It was a ceramic urn   with a plaque indicating the contents: “Ashes of Trouble Employees.”   It still sitsnext to the visitor’s chair in her office!   Makes for shorter complaining sessions!  There was also what can only be described as a “situation” as follows :   “Two years ago, (our Secret Santa) form had a category titled “accessories.”   One gentleman found this humorous and wrote on his form that he liked “fishnet stockings and high-heeled shoes.”    Imagine his surprise (and his wife’s surprise when he took them home) when he received as his final gift… iridescent maroon Bandolino pumps with a 3″ heel!    We could only imagine how he looked in them as he refused to model.”

But this week’s Editor’s Choice seems to represent a matter of bad timing: “At my place of employment, supervisors are expected to buy gifts for the folks who report to them. Before I was a supervisor, underlings were expected to buy for their bosses. Maybe next time around I can time it better.”

Thanks to EVERYONE who participated in our survey.  

At my place of employment, supervisors are expected to buy gifts for the folks who report to them. Before I was a supervisor, underlings were expected to buy for their bosses. Maybe next time around I can time it better.


I'm exchanging a gift with one co-worker (only 'cause I know she got something for me) but our dept did away otherwise with the gift exchange and are all going to lunch together instead.   This is much to the relief of   everyone who were scrambling for what to buy their dept buddies.


No gift exchange here.   We do have a carry-in lunch though.


In our Corp. Benefits dept., we have a Secret Santa gift exchange.   Today is our luncheon, in fact, where the exchange will take place.   The limit was $20 (max).   To make it more interesting, we draw the names right before Thanksgiving, and then hang stockings outside of each person's cube or office, and during the next several weeks, slyly slip little goodies into the stocking of the person you are Santa for - without being seen!   Things like candy, Christmas ornaments, candles, etc.   This makes it more interesting at our luncheon when each person guesses not only who they

think was their Secret Santa, but also we all come with our lists of guesses at Santas and recipients.   It makes the season more fun, as you have something to look forward to each day (in addition to work, of course!).

Separate from this, I do exchange gifts with two managers who report to me, as well as with my assistant, of course.


Instead of exchanging gifts with coworkers, our department opted to "adopt" a needy family.   The response was overwhelming and many more gifts were collected than we anticipated.    The sponsoring agency ended up with enough gifts for several families.


No exchange. But I am bringing in something small for everyone.


I always give a holiday gift to all of my co-workers (whether or not I get one in return).   I love the Holidays and celebrate them at work this way.


We decided to go the "Secret Santa" route which allowed people to give token gifts for 4 days and on Friday, we exchanged a gift with the Secret Santa. Our expected spend was $25.   The little gifts helped to put everyone in the Holiday Spirit and the sneaking around trying to leave the gift without being caught added some excitement to everyone's day.

As a leader, I still felt it appropriate to give some token of the season ($15) to those individuals who have worked with me and allowed the department to have a successful year.

May Santa sprinkle a little elf dust on all the business to make 2003 a profitable year and may he leave coal in the stocking of all the Healthcare companies who have exceeded 12% increases.   Happy Holidays!


My company has a Secret Santa program where we pick a name and give little gifts for the week leading up to the grand finale where participants try to guess who their Secret Santa is and open their "real" gift.


I give gifts to workers who report to me, not an exchange, just an end of the year "thank you".

Our department has an annual gift exchange, but I do not participate.   There are others who don't participate and I don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable should he/she be the only one not participating.   There is usually a dollar limit.   Last year, we had a calendar theme and it was interesting, but reserved since we are Human Resources.


We usually have a gift exchange, but this year one of our co-workers had a tragedy.   About two weeks ago, the wires from her dishwasher started a fire within in the walls of her home and within minutes she lost everything. Fortunately, her boys were away and she managed to leave the house, but the cat did not.   We've all supported her in what we can and since she lost all her Christmas decorations as well as clothing, food, memorabilia, etc we are giving a special ornament for her to restart her collection.   I hope it brings some light into her rather downheartening Christmas.


Are you exchanging gifts with co-workers this year?   No, we haven't done it in about 12 years.   However, I am giving our admin assistant a tea pot/cup combo with several kinds of tea.


A memo went out a couple of weeks ago asking us not to exchange gifts within our company, as well as the normal do not accept gifts from vendors.   HO HO HO


I baked cookies and cakes for more than 20 of my co-workers..........and give gift certificates to a couple who report directly to me.   Happy Holidays - Stay Prayerful!


No.   We did at one time, but this just adds to the stress.

15 or 20 years ago,a good friend bought me a gift from Spencer's. (I think it was my birthday).   It had a printed bow and ribbon on the box and this printed message, "I couldn't afford an expensive present....so I made one for you myself!"   I'm sure you have seen this.   We have exchanged this gift several times over the years, Christmases , birthdays, etc. and at his retirement party. It is now back on my shelve. I have never given him a valentine gift, this may be his year.


We are not 'exchanging' gifts but I did get something for each of my co-workers.   The creative gift I thought of was not one received at work, though.   My husband and I, however, received that gift this past weekend. A couple we are friends with breed cattle and farm.   She made a wreath from

old barbed-wire fencing, inter-locked two horseshoes and attached them to the bottom of the wreath and then wrapped ribbon around the wreath, tying a bow just below the horseshoes.   Very unusual, rustic and creative.


After the events of 9/11, my small firm decided to make individual gifts to charities during the holiday season rather than exchanging with each other.   We thought that all of us had much to be thankful for while many others less fortunate should be remembered.


Our small office is hosting an appetizer party with white elephant gifts this year; staff and spouses are invited.


We did a gift exchange within our HR Department.   Everyone brought a wrapped gift worth about $10.   We then played a game where if you rolled a 6 on a die you got to select a gift from the group.   There was much laughter and shouting as people stole the "red" or "blue" gift from one another.   At the end we made sure everyone had a gift and had fun opening them and figuring out who brought what.   I also plan on giving a small gift to all my staff.


In our HR department, we will not have any formally structured gift exchange.   Gifts may be exchanged within the group, for example I will give gifts to my staff in appreciation for the relationships we have developed and the tremendous work they do, but not as a larger group.  

We, as a department, have chosen to participate in our company's Operation Santa program.   Families who are in need self identify to a confidential committee.   Those families are then assigned to departments who have said they want to contribute. The families make a list for Santa of the things they need, (sizes, ages and genders of family members, etc.) and the

departments do the shopping. This year we helped 41 families.   Gifts are dropped off at a central location, already wrapped where appropriate, and then the families come to pick up their gifts.   This is done with the utmost care to providing a confidential, tasteful way for the families to receive their presents without feeling uncomfortable.   In one case this year, the family had so many items (bikes, crib and mattress and so on) that our maintenance department actually dropped the presents off at the home of the employee since she never could have managed this in one trip.   It really is a wonderful program.


We hold a in-the-training-room holiday luncheon with a $10-limit gift game.   Otherwise, we're all crunching for year end.


This year our gift giving included:

  •  A $200 donation each to two charities with surplus funds from our "sunshine fund" (where ee's donate a buck every paycheck).
  • A Yankee swap. $10 limit. Each ee draws a number. #1 gets to pick from all the wrapped gifts on the table.   Subsequent #'s gets to either take a new gift from the pile or take one previously opened.   If (s)he takes one previously opened, then THAT person gets to re-chose.   At the very end, #1 gets to chose from all the opened gifts and that's it.

The most fought over gift?   About 2 years ago, a "gift card" to a gas station was "taken" by nearly everyone at the table.   Also popular - lottery tickets.   Least popular - floral scented candles.  


Another great survey question: Gift-giving in the office?

We are a very small Life/Health insurance broker (11 people).   We all agreed to purchase toys for the Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign (All told about $500 was spent on toys) and I delivered them to a local drop off site (They were so very grateful!).

Then, the 'girls' of the office have given little things to each other, which frankly upset me, as the whole idea of doing Toys for Tots was to eliminate the internal gift-giving.

I have chosen to make a donation to a local charity for which I do a lot of volunteer work: Pets on Wheels of the M* County Mental Health Association.   My German Shepherd, Lady, and I visit every week with about 50 residents of a nearby nursing home.  

I have made a sizable donation in the name of the company and will have letters sent to each of the 3 principals of the company letting the know a donation was made in their name.   Each of these fellows makes PLENTY of money and want for nothing materially, so rather than try to 'get by' with spending a little bit, I chose to send my money where I feel it can do the most good.

Personally, I wish we (the collective 'we') would stop all the materialistic one-upsmanship of the holidays, and put our dollars where they are truly needed and appreciated.   Most of the readers of Plan Sponsor Magazine and your News Dash are not in desperate need of the 'things' that this time of year seems to mandate we must have.

It's trite, but just a few more acts of love and human kindness would do so much to improve the world around us!


Just an ornament exchange, not required, but on a sign up basis.


Most of our employees, including yours truly, participate in a "Secret Santa" gift exchange which is voluntary and always seems to be enjoyed.   We just draw a name and then exchange the gifts on Christmas eve before we close.


In our HR office, we promised we'd forgo the gift giving among each other and instead purchase gifts for a homeless family.   Nonetheless, little trinkets keep finding their way to my desk.   I stick to the theory I was I taught early when working for a HR consulting firm - never buy up (i.e., your work superiors) but always be mindful of the staff who supports you all yearlong.   Happy Holidays to all.


We do a "Secret Santa" where you make a list of goodies...favorite candy, drinks, etc. and then put the list in a box.   Then we draw names and you have to play Santa for a week to the employee whose name you drew (give them the goodies they listed), culminating on Friday with a small gift and the revealing of "Santa".


We did a gift exchange last week.   Everyone was asked to purchase something special in the $25 range, then we all drew numbers.   At the party, we selected gifts in order, unwrapping as we went along.   Each participant was allowed to "steal" a gift from someone else, who selected again.   The most stolen gift?   $25 in cash.


No, although there are some co-workers that I consider to be friends and I will bringing them presents.   Also, I will be brining a gift to the Assistant that helps keeps my book of business under control.

The most creative (and best) gift that I have ever received are my family and friends.                                           


Yes... though it's always the big dilemma of to whom you give gifts, and then if you give someone a gift, does that mean you have to give some other people you work with, but aren't as close with, gifts as well.   Big dilemma. I'll inevitably give someone a gift who then feels bad because they didn't get me one, and I'll get a gift from someone else and feel bad because I didn't get them a gift.   Happens every year....

It's never anything major though...   tokens.... just tokens.   As for creativity, I've never prided myself on being a very creative gift giver, clearly most of my friends fall in that category as well... (Not that I'm complaining, it's just never anything outrageously creative.)


My office will be exchanging gifts, but we don't know who we are buying for.   We are to spend $15 - $20 on a gift and wrap it. Everyone will get together for a "yankee" exchange.   The first person will start from selecting a gift from under the tree, keeping it wrapped.   The next will have the choice of selecting another from the tree, or "stealing" from the person(s) who already selected,   all the time not knowing what is in the packages.   The trick is to make the wrapped present look appealing and hopefully make everyone want the "pretty" gift.   Once every gift is taken from the tree, it is time to unwrap and reveal what is inside.    This is a lot of fun and makes it easy on everyone in the buying department.


Yes we do exchange gifts in the office.   I actually fair better at work than home!

But the best gift was given to our HR Manager.   It was a ceramic urn   with a plaque indicating the contents: "Ashes of Trouble Employees".   It   still sit next to the visitors chair in her office!   Makes for shorter   complaining sessions!


We have departmental "Secret Snowflake" (don't say Santa!!) gift exchanges where you purchase small items throughout the week and one larger gift at the end of the week.   You fill out a form detailing some items you like (such as pop, candy, candles, etc.) and then draw a name for the exchange.   Two years ago, the form also had a category titled "accessories".   One gentleman found this humorous and wrote on his form that he liked "fishnet stockings and high-heeled shoes".    Imagine his surprise (and his wife's surprise when he took them home) when he received as his final gift... iridescent maroon Bandolino pumps with a 3" heel!    We could only imagine how he looked in them as he refused to model.


Yes, I am exchanging gifts with co-workers and it is completely random. I've actually become friends with a couple of my new co-workers and so it just felt right.   On the other hand, I've been advised that my boss does not like to receive gifts so just to give him a card.


In our department we no longer exchange gifts between co-workers, but we all chip in and adopt a needy family for Christmas instead.   We then split the tasks of buying the gifts, wrapping the gifts and delivering them to a local shelter.

After all it is better to give than receive!


It's so tricky to be in HR, where you are technically neutral about everything, and exchange gifts with those outside of the HR department.   So I don't.   I bring in quite a bit of holiday baking and send appropriate holiday cards to co-workers I am close with.


Some of us within the department that share the same job responsibilities and are pretty tight, agreed to not exchange gifts among ourselves considering that most of us are procrastinators of the worst kind and haven't even started shopping for the family and spouses let alone co-workers.  

Of course gag gifts and practical joke types are always encouraged.   In fact, more planning and energy goes into jokes rather than shopping for the real things.   We would like to give to those that really made a difference this year and contributed to the overall cause but there are those few that spoil this idea and we just can't bring ourselves to give to these folks - yes, I know it's the holiday season and it's all about giving but we just can't do it.  

And giving coal would be too kind for these people!


For the team we are having a catered luncheon and grab bag gift exchange on Friday.   Gift limit is $15.


We will have a white elephant gift exchange game at our holiday lunch.   All employees are discouraged from giving additional gifts, or to give on your own time so as not to make others feel guilty for not doing the same.   Given the tight times and my procrastination with shopping, the new policy comes in very handy.


No, but I have decided to follow George Costanza and make a donation in everyone's name to the World Human Fund.   We are now off to celebrate "Festivas".

«