Like many offices, a holiday tradition at W5 is the Secret Santa gift exchange. A few weeks before the company holiday party, our Senior Partner Tom Daly circulates the office with each of our names in a hat to choose our gifting partner. We each then do our best to figure out the perfect present, while sticking to the $25 limit.
Since this is my first year, I did some primary research to better understand what makes for a great office Secret Santa gift. I interviewed W5ers from our qualitative, quantitative, and strategy teams about what gifts they most appreciate and I heard about some of the best Secret Santa gifts they have received.
For some background, I recalled what sociologists tell us about gift giving. This universal cultural practice is a way to solidify social bonds as each gift given and received communicates belonging within the group. This understanding of gift-giving supplanted older theories that saw the practice as purely utilitarian: you need something, I give it to you. Though some people undoubtedly prefer a much less emotionally loaded (some would say fraught) exchange, whether we like it or not, gift giving is overlaid with expectations and symbolic meaning.
I guess that means that I can’t just roll up twenty-five dollar bills and wrap them in a nice gift bag. W5ers gave me some useful advice on what makes a good Secret Santa gift. According to Senior Partner Tom Daly, “the best gift comes from both the head and the heart,” meaning it should be both useful and sentimental to the person who receives the gift. Practice Consultant Ryan DeLaune echoed this idea saying he wants his Secret Santa to show they listen to him by giving a gift related to something he’s said in conversation.
However, not all W5ers want gifts loaded with meaning; Practice Consultant Brynne Sekerak said simply, “I want something small, because I’m a millennial and I don’t want to carry a lot of baggage when I move.” Finally, Practice Consultant Adam Buccafusco gave the practical advice, “If you want to go the humorous route, pair it up with a real gift.”
Now that I know my Secret Santa gift needs to speak to both the emotional and practical sides of my colleagues, I’m feeling the pressure. For a final bit of inspiration, I compiled this list of the best Secret Santa gifts my W5 colleagues have received:
- A plug-in heated seat cover for the coworker who is always cold
- Contigo reusable to-go cups that keep drinks hot or cold – perfect in all seasons!
- Angry Bird Star Wars Han Solo and Chewbacca toys for the guy who’s into that kind of thing
- Targets, an instruction book, and some badass throwing knives