The older I get, the more I seem to notice how the consumerism of Christmas is rapidly taking over the true meaning of why we actually have Christmas. In the workplace, Christmas time brings many things, one being the familiar dilemma of whether exchanging gifts with colleagues is worth the time, effort and the expense. Some will be of the opinion that the exchanging of gifts further contributes to a positive work environment, an enhanced sense of camaraderie and shows appreciation while others may question both the practicality of it and whether it is actually necessary.
There is nothing wrong with spreading joy and gratitude towards colleagues especially as a gesture of goodwill. However, do you buy for one particular colleague, a few close colleagues or all of them? It all comes down to office culture and the different relationships you have with colleagues but often the main question is can you actually afford it?
In a workplace that promotes festive traditions and encourages bonding, then there is often a secret santa gift exchange where you can get away with usually a small gift for one person of minimum value and as everyone will be spending around the same, there is no financial pressure. Another added bonus is that it is anonymous so there is no reflection on you if your recipient is trying to hide their obvious disappointment with their gift! The secret santa experiences are often quite fun and on several occasions, I have been involved where the cut off point is ‘up to and including £5’ so it is an extremely affordable and actually quite rewarding challenge.
On the other hand, obligatory gift giving in the workplace can be a source of much stress, especially so for those on a tight budget or do not have a close rapport with colleagues and the pressure to find suitable gifts can be rather daunting and detracts from what should be an enjoyable experience. An added pressure is when you receive a gift from someone, you invariably feel obliged to return the favour by buying one in return which is counterproductive because you are now pressured into spending money that you perhaps do not have or did not want to spend.
One way to strike a balance is to suggest that instead of buying each other gifts, that a voluntary donation could be made to a charity. This can promote an inclusive environment by collaborating to give to a charitable cause that everyone agrees with.
By promoting an environment where participation is optional and the emphasis is on the thought behind the gesture rather than the price tag, workplaces can strike a balance that allows everyone to enjoy the festivities without the pressure of buying extra presents.