Send to a friend

Leading psychologist suggests secret Santa spending limits could stop unnecessary anxiety. 

As Christmas approaches, many organisations are likely to be organising their own version of secret Santa, in which staff are encouraged to exchange presents anonymously between themselves. However, organisers have been encouraged to consider whether this practice is actually doing more harm than good.

Dr Ashley Weinberg, a psychology lecturer as the University of Salford, has explained that secret Santa has become an increasing source of anxiety for workers. She suggested that staff often fear that they will be judged negatively and considered ‘stingy’ by their colleagues for not spending an acceptable amount on these gifts.

These comments follow a recent survey from Jobsite, which found that 35 percent of employees would like to see secret Santa banned in their workplace. It was also revealed that 26 per cent typically give more than they can afford on presents for co-workers, whilst 17 per cent feel that they are judged based on how much they spend on gifts.

With this in mind, it may be wise for organisations to review their own approach to secret Santa and, as with any business practice, consider the impact this could have on staff.  Given the financial ramifications involved, participating in secret Santa could have a disproportionate impact on minimum wage employees, or those working in junior positions, who are typically paid less than their senior counterparts. To this end, it may also have a disproportionate impact on women given the well-documented gender pay gap.

Therefore, as suggested, it may be wise to set a clear monetary limit on gifts for secret Santa to ensure staff are not excluded from taking part. Many organisations typically agree to a limit of £5 or £10 in order to remove any excessive financial burden and make it more accessible for staff. This measure may also help to reduce any feelings of anxiety around the gift giving process.

Having said this, individuals should still not feel pressured into taking part; after all the idea behind secret Santa is to have fun and promote a festive spirit in the workplace. Also, given that Christmas is traditionally a Christian holiday, organisations should bear in mind that staff with certain religious beliefs may not feel comfortable taking part and it is vital to avoid creating an intimidating or hostile environment for them.

There is also always a danger with gift giving at work that certain individuals may use this as a vehicle to bully or harass colleagues. Therefore, it will be important to have rules in place that forbid any potentially offensive or discriminatory gifts and anyone found to have ignored these requirements should face relevant disciplinary action.

 Further information: