The premise of a “Secret Santa” gift exchange is that the names of everyone at work are put into a bowl or bag, whereupon each person draws one of these names at random, and buys a gift for the co-worker whose name they’ve chosen. If you’ve ever taken part in one of these exchanges, you know how cringe-worthy they can be at times: the gifts are given anonymously (which can lead to presents that are utterly inappropriate), and in general, it’s a horribly uncomfortable exchange that many businesses are loath to give up because they think it builds team spirit. Surely, nothing can foster a strong work team than having all the employees stand around in some measure of holiday dress, opening presents that they’ll just try to swap with one another later, right?

Right.

Should you find yourself being swept into the maelstrom of awkwardness that is a Secret Santa party, you’ll undoubtedly see a variety of desk calendars, coffee gift sets, and gift cards being unwrapped around the snack table. Aim to be a little bit more unique this year, and consider one of these gift ideas instead of the usual, paltry offerings.

Addictaball

For the office teammate who’s continually procrastinating and not focusing on work, there’s the Addictaball from Firebox: a three-dimensional maze full of slides, spirals, platforms and holes through which the player has to guide a little metal ball, which will provide hours of gyrating fun for slackers of any age group. Granted, you have to be aware that giving this to someone means that you’re actually contributing to their behaviour and possible subsequent termination, but at least they’ll have fun with the thing while waiting for their unemployment cheques.

Adipose Stress Toy

Adipose Stress Toy from Think Geek: perfect for people in call centres or customer service environments, this smiley, squish-able little guy (inspired by a Doctor Who episode, no less) can be crushed in one’s fist every time some idiot slings abuse over the phone. It’s also great for board meetings and dinner parties with horrible relatives. Side note: watching its gooey innards spill through one’s fingers with every clench is a good reminder not to over-indulge during the holidays.

Office Index Finger

Office Index…Fingers from Urban Outfitters are sort of creepy, but also rather hilarious: they’re sticky-notes in the shape of index fingers that you can use to keep your place in a manual, or to literally point something out to someone. Nitpicky, micro-managing bosses could abuse these to great effect.

All Smiles lip balms

Maintaining a chipper, smiling facade all day is hard work, especially when the people you’re dealing with are rather loathsome. The retro, pin-up-doll-themed All Smiles lip balms from ModCloth keep lips from cracking with all of that vacant grinning and nodding, and they’re also great for soothing sore, chapped skin that’s been beaten up by blizzards. This set is exceptionally well-suited to receptionists, baristas, and retail workers.

I Love Spread Sheets

i love spread sheet mug

I love Spread Sheets mug via Urban Outfitters would be a cute gift for someone in accounting, but be wary about who receives it: depending on their personality and whether they actually like their job, they’ll either love it, or “accidentally” forget to submit your pay on time if they discover it was you who gave it to them. This could also work as an ironic gift for those who can’t turn on their own laptops without help, let alone put together any formulae in Excel.

Office Speaking Rotating Stamp

Knock Knock Office Speak Rotating Stamp

Office Speak Rotating Stamp via Amazon. Ideal for marketing coordinators and PR representatives, this office stamp has handy phrases such as “In the Loop” and “Outside the Box” so they can stamp papers with their catchphrase of choice anytime they like. Other phrases such as “I’m Always Right” and “?????” are perfect for expressing their opinions on submitted pieces, while “I Need Coffee” can be clandestinely stamped on an office-mate’s desk during to indicate the need for a beverage and gossip break.

Today’s the Day Pocket Planner

today-is-the-day-pocket-planner-lg

For a little spark of sunshine and inspiration, try the Today’s the Day Pocket Planner from Ruche: full of lists and spaces for notes and doodle-art, it’s a reminder that each and every day is a new opportunity for something amazing, and this encourages the recipient to plan awesome activities, both at the office, and for their own down-time. This gift is a great idea for interns and mail-room clerks who could use a bit of a pick-me-up.

Mana Potions

mana_energy_potion_sixpack

Mana Potions for the development team (another ThinkGeek gem). These cute little bottles of caffeinated goodness are ideal for sci-fi/fantasy fans, and the avid gamer  who’d happily talk your ear off about the epic loot found by their level 49 battle dwarf when you make the mistake of asking them what they got up to on the weekend. Each shot = four cups of office-strength coffee, so your coders can keep going long after their deodorant has given out.

Featured photo credit:  Nostalgic magical portrait of Santa Claus at the North Pole via Shutterstock

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