“Secret Santa Anxiety”: why 35% of millennials want office gifting cancelled this year

Posted by
Jessica Rapana
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A new study has found that 35% of millennials want office gifting cancelled this year because they are worried they will be seen as “stingy” by colleagues.

When you think about it, there’s something weirdly intimate about buying a Christmas gift for a colleague. Whether you’re on first-name basis or not, navigating the arbitrary budgets, awkward office politics and lack of familiarity can make the office Secret Santa feel more like a festive minefield – no matter how many amazing Christmas gift guides you peruse.

So perhaps it’s not surprising that the tradition is whipping millennials into a frenzy with more than a third (35%) wanting to see it banned for good, according to a new survey.

The study by Jobsite showed that more than a quarter of young office workers (26%) were spending more than they could afford on gifts for coworkers, and 17% felt judged on their expenditure. In fact, the financial strain could be so severe that more than a quarter (26%) admitted to having used their savings or gone into overdraft to contribute.

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Now, Dr Ashley Weiberg, a psychology lecturer at the University of Salford, is calling for employers to implement strict spending limits, warning that it could create “stigma” in the workplace. 

“The spirit of giving – especially at a seasonal time of exchanging gifts via Secret Santa – is something we’d hope can be expressed in many ways and it’s worth remembering that where this involves financial contributions, not all colleagues have the same disposable income,” she said.

“This can mean that an individual’s contribution or lack of one is labelled ‘stingy’ where actually they may not be in a position to contribute. Clearly this is unfair and creates stigma.”

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Millennials were also more like to react sensitively to criticism of their gift, and social media was partly to blame, she said. “That very public nature of things, which again you get on social media, taps into that very basic feeling we have of how we are seen by our fellow humans,” Weinberg told the Telegraph.

“I think there’s the potential for the whole range of human emotions, right from humiliation when you give someone a gift. I think there can be a bit of that and naturally it does lead to anxiety for a lot of people.”

On the other hand, giving “guidelines” could help “take the pressure off”, she said. “It would make sense for people to have some guidelines, some kind of boundaries, and actually make those psychological expectations a bit lower.

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Secret Santa Anxiety: social media might be partly to blame.

“I think organisations can play a role in just saying look, here are some healthy parameters, don’t feel you have to be giving X amount – maybe you don’t have to give at all.

“I think that signal from high up in the organisation could be really quite powerful to just take the pressure off.”

Despite the apparent social and financial pressures, the majority (61%) of office workers in the UK still wanted to participate in the Christmas tradition, believing it can help build a healthy rapport among colleagues and a further 64% asserting that gifting between colleagues suggests respect and appreciation.

That’s the spirit.

Main Image: Getty

Images: Unsplash


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Jessica Rapana

Jessica Rapana is a journalist based in London, and enjoys writing across all areas of women’s lifestyle content. She is especially fond of news, health, entertainment and travel content, and drinks coffee like a Gilmore Girl.

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