November 29, 2019

"I think there’s the potential for the whole range of human emotions, right from humiliation when you give someone a gift. It’s important to us how others feel about our behavior and how it comes across."

Said a psychologist, quoted in "Millennials Want To Ban Secret Santa Because It Gives Them Anxiety" (The Daily Wire).

I'm tired of the reflexive attacks on "snowflake" millennials. Save it for when they really deserve it. Feeling bad about "Secret Santa" events at work is not some special new problem. It's always made people feel bad! I've only been stuck inside one of these things once in my life, and it was way back in the 1970s. It was bad then and it's still bad. I'll bet there are episodes of "The Office" about Secret Santa parties that made everyone — Boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials — feel bad. I don't know, and the reason I don't know is that office stuff like that makes me feel so bad that I cannot enjoy watching a sitcom about it. And this is leftover bad feeling from the 1970s. Millennials want to ban Secret Santa because it gives them anxiety?! Everyone wants to ban Secret Santa because it gives them anxiety. Now, that's hyperbole, so don't tell me you like Secret Santa. Obviously, some people like it. I'm sure on "The Office" there are episodes that reveal what kind of people like Secret Santa and take the lead in making sure the horrible festivity is perpetuated.

Okay, I looked it up. There is a "Secret Santa" episode of "The Office," Season 6, Episode 13. I'm not going to watch it.

68 comments:

Francisco D said...

Feeling bad about "Secret Santa" events at work is not some special new problem. It's always made people feel bad!

I was working in a psych hospital, 40 years ago when we held a Secret Santa among the staff. It was not bad, given a $10 maximum per gift. However, one of the clinical specialists (a friend of mine and my ex) gave the Clinical Director a chocolate penis because he was "the big dick" on the unit. To make it worse, he wrote a poem about the gift.

That was our last Secret Santa. No anxiety, just a sense of creepiness.

whitney said...

It was a whole episode of The Office and they did not invent it, they were just playing on past stereotypes.

And after I wrote that I realized the reason we use tropes now instead of stereotype is to avoid the follow-up of stereotypes exist for a reason. Bam!

Lash LaRue said...

I wouldn’t watch it either. Might cause anxiety.

tim maguire said...

Millennials aren't snowflakes because they feel bad about this or that, they're snowflakes because they expect the rest of the world to cater to their bad feelings.

I don't like Secret Santa because it's just another annoyance. Forced frivolity in an involuntary environment. I feel the same way about my company's annual United Way drive--we all have a favorite charity and limited philanthropic dollars. It's not appropriate to pressure employees the support the employer's favorite charity.

Is discomfort with Secret Santa widespread? I can believe dislike of it is widespread, but discomfort? I want to see the data.

Sydney said...

I like Secret Santas as long as the Santas are kept secret. It takes the pressure off of whether or not someone will like your gift. And there is usually a price limit. It would be even better if everyone just bought a gift and put it in a grab bag and then people could just randomly choose without looking at the package.

madAsHell said...

This is woman think!

rhhardin said...

I never heard of Secret Santa.

Waffen Secret Santa

Limited Perspective said...

I've been in the same office for over 20 years. We have exchanged every year. I learned quick that most people want a good bottle of booze. That's what I buy every year. If they don't drink, they have a lot people, delivery drivers, salesmen, office staff, who are gratefully when the nondrinker gives the bottle away. They both are happy for the exchange.

If my assistant (secretary) doesn't get booze, I go to the store and buy her a bottle and trade whatever she received for a good bottle of bourbon. We both enjoy the exchange. For me, it's not that hard.

A good quality flashlight also works well.

Paco Wové said...

One of the advantages of the nearly-all-male office: no one ever suggests that we should do "Secret Santa".

rhhardin said...

I couldn't watch The Office at all, bailing out right away in season 1 episode 1.

Office Space (1999) was good.

alanc709 said...

Proto-Socialists complaining about having to give and receive gifts....the gift that keeps on giving.

RNB said...

So many Millenials of the year 2019 could be inserted without a change into a late-1960's Woody Allen movie and be hailed as brilliant comic neurotics.

tcrosse said...

My first and last Secret Santa took place when I had just been on the job less than a week, hadn't been paid yet, and was dead broke. My contribution was a sixpack of beer wrapped in the Sunday funnies, and the ungrateful bastard that got it complained about it. Can't remember what I received, but this was 1975.

WizeOwl said...

The snowflake comments come because of the language used in these types of articles. Millennials want to "ban" secret santas because it causes "anxiety". True anxiety is a serious mental illness and people who suffer from it deserve compassion. It isn't possible for an entire population to have that actual illness. Instead of anxiety what the author means is mild discomfort or annoyance. The proper response is to not participate or do so quickly and quietly without caring much about the whole silly event. Not to call for it to be banned because you literally are unable to deal with it.

I get annoyed by people standing in front of the grocery store and asking for, well, I can only say things as I don't engage with them. I'm sure some of the causes they are working for are fine. I just don't want to be bothered as I am shopping and don't like feeling guilty that I'm not stopping to talk with people asking for support for a charity. However what I do is say "I'm sorry not today", smile, and keep walking. I don't complain to a psychologist that we need to BAN ALL THE THINGS.

reader said...

I prefer white elephant gift exchanges myself.

Churchy LaFemme: said...

I didn't like Secret Santa the one time I encountered it. I was fairly new, and have bad facial recognition skills anyway, so I couldn't even identify the worman I was supposed to buy for as we had never interacted other than a "this is the new guy" walkthrough. I suspect on a secret ballot, everybody would elect not to do it, but anxiety/ban is dumb -- work is full of things you don't like. That's why they have to pay you to do it.

Causes in front of stores are one thing. Causes at the cash register are the really annoying one. I'm breaking out the "No, thanks, I have my own charaties" more and more often these days. Why should I have to do that as part of an interaction to give my money to a store?

Ann Althouse said...

The one time I was subjected to this awful practice, it was obvious that whoever bought my gift had me confused with another woman who worked in the same room with me. That woman was on the telephone talking to her friends all the time, something I didn't do at all. The gift was one of those attachments for a phone handset that helped you keep it propped to your ear with your shoulder. I am still pissed off about that. What's the use of doing a good job if the people can't tell the difference between you and that other person who is continually goofing off?

samanthasmom said...

Secret Santa was invented to relieve the anxiety people had about exchanging gifts at work. What if everybody else got gifts from their co-workers, and you didn't get any? What if someone at work gave you a gift, but you had bought nothing for him or her? Secret Santa was the way for everyone to buy and receive one gift. Everyone contributes equally, and everyone receives equally. Isn't that what Millennials want? Secret Santa is the ultimate socialist holiday gift giving experience. It's an equal spreading of wealth.

Ann Althouse said...

Now, maybe I should say I'm glad Secret Santa helped me understand what a no-win situation it was.

Roughcoat said...

Cranky today, are we.

Paco Wové said...

I'm mystified as to why anyone would feel "anxiety" about a meaningless social burden like this being imposed on them. I'm pretty sure the emotion I'd feel is "annoyance".

Wince said...

I was one of a few kids in my first grade class who didn't get a gift from the student who drew my name in the Christmas gift exchange.

Admittedly, I was whimpering at my desk when the nun called-out the anonymous students who did not bring their gifts. A few raised their hands. The nun told the first to give gift he received to me. Thereafter, nobody else raised their hand to confess.

The reparation gift I got was a puppy dog bank. The body was made of styrofoam, painted with glue and sprayed with a rust-colored short fibrous material. A screw held a metal dog tag under his neck that said "RUSTY".

It didn't have a weird smell as much as a strange sensation when you sniffed it. I'm now sure it was the little rust-colored fibers entering my sinuses and respiratory system. I probably have a latent case of mesothelioma as a result.

Good times.

Rory said...

"...bailing out right away in season 1 episode 1."

It gets better.

Fernandinande said...

I'm tired of the reflexive attacks on "snowflake" millennials.

The criticism might be part of a digital strategy: "Emily Zanotti is a writer, comedian, blogger, and digital strategist, living in Chicago."

Cheryl said...

We did a gift exchange of books in the fifth grade. I remember carefully picking out a copy of a book I had enjoyed a lot, one of the Great Brain series, to wrap. In the swap, I ended up with an ugly, battered Better Homes and Gardens crafting book. My "best friend" laughed when she saw that I had gotten her "dumb book." I felt like such a sucker for caring, and for ending up with the lousiest book in the class.

I'm no Millennial but I've hated these exchanges ever since.

Howard said...

The old jealous of the youths of today

Fernandinande said...

One time I got a "Care Bears" item, IIRC some sort of car, and, having never heard of "Care Bears" I misread it as "Car Bears", which is what I call them to this very day.

The Minnow Wrangler said...

At this point I don't even want to exchange gifts with my children & their spouses. Occasionally my daughter in law gets intoxicated and attacks me for stupid reasons, including my gift choices for the holidays. I don't know what they want or need, they don't know what I want or need. I like to buy gifts for the youngsters and the "young at heart" (i.e. cognitively disabled) but everyone else should just get what they want & need & forget about buying gifts for the other adults in the family.

The Minnow Wrangler said...

I guess what I am saying is, if you actually know what the other members of your family want and/or need, go ahead & get them something. I always asked my son and daughter in law what they wanted & they never suggested anything, so I was just guessing. They gave us "carefully thought out gifts" that we never used (think a DVD series we weren't interested in and a gift certificate that is still unused). We gave them stupid stuff too. My toddler grandchild and my son (cognitively disabled) are always enthusiastic about whatever they receive. So I will buy a couple of things for my husband, my son, and my grandchild, but probably nothing for anyone else, unless I just give them some cash. Bah Humbug LOL!

Fernandinande said...

You can get a good idea that an article is fake news serving a digital strategy [IOW, click bait] when they don't provide links to their sources.

"new study by the British job-hunting website Jobsite" actually says they're concerned about money; the digital strategist's fake news article doesn't mention "money", "cost" or "expense".

"Secret Santa and other office ‘whip-round’ [=pass the hat] occasions have come under the spotlight today, as new research from UK job board Jobsite found that younger workers are feeling so pressured to contribute that they are dipping into their savings or going into debt in order to chip in.

...millennials spend 34% more than the averge worker..."

AZ Bob said...

One of the advantages of the nearly-all-male office: no one ever suggests that we should do "Secret Santa".

Interesting. I wonder what the appeal is for Secret Santa. If it is true that women tend to push the activity, then maybe it is the bonding that holds its appeal. On the other hand, there is an opportunity for shaming too.

Birches said...

Why does anyone care about what people think about their Secret Santa present?

I guess I have never given it much thought.

Curious George said...

"What's the use of doing a good job if the people can't tell the difference between you and that other person who is continually goofing off?"

Exactly! Get a state job and never be judged again!

Fernandinande said...

"Millennials Want To Ban Secret Santa Because It Gives Them Anxiety"
...according to a new study by the British job-hunting website, Jobsite, because the practice is “stressful” and anxiety-inducing.


Guess which text strings don't appear in the Jobsite study?

"Anxiety" and "stress".

Wince said...

Don't you just love the internet!

Vintage "Rusty" Flocked Styrofoam Cocker Spaniel Dog Coin Bank Robin Mfg.1960's

Made in Markesan, Wisconsin!

Fernandinande said...

Oh oh!

And "millenials" don't want to "ban" secret Santa: they actually like it more than non-"millenials":

"Interestingly, those aged between 22-38 were more likely to acknowledge these benefits (67% vs 62% on average)"

Man! That sure was some good fake news strategizing!

But the digital strategist should try harder - although I haven't found one, I have the feeling that she might have let some true statements slip into the article.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Really?? Who gets stressed out about a secret Santa gift exchange.

Pick and option and go with it.
1. Buy something generic if you don't know much about the person
2. Buy something thoughtful if you know the person's taste
3. Buy something hilariously ridiculous.
4. Don't give a shit or get offended if you get something stupid or insulting.

I usually opt for #3. Be ridiculous. The whole this is ridiculous anyway. Just go with it.

One year in our family exchange in Puerto Vallarta we all got a small secret gift at the local bazaars. There was one extra gift in the middle so that for 10 people there were 11 gifts. None labeled.

First person picks a gift and unwraps it. Second person can draw from the pile OR take the first person's gift, upon which, the person whose gift was taken picks from the pile and unwraps.

Third person can take from pile or take person 1 or 2's gift who then picks from the pile and so on. Until the last person has to take one of the two gifts left. Trade or keep and then keep the last gift.

My daughter ended up with TWO stuffed frogs playing in a mariachi band with little sombreros and serapes on them. Best gag gifts ever.

mockturtle said...

I've always hated gimmicks like that. Thankfully, I never had to work in an office. Seems like women are always coming up with such nonsense in the workplace. [Yes, I actually am a woman but have never been involved in these contrivances].

mockturtle said...

OTOH, the Christmas bonus...

SGT Ted said...

"Proto-Socialists complaining about having to give and receive gifts....the gift that keeps on giving." Perfect

If Secret Santa makes you anxious, that's on you.

NEXT!

Fernandinande said...

Really??

No, not really.

Who gets stressed out about a secret Santa gift exchange.

According to the Jobsite study, nobody, really, but some people think it's a waste of money.

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

I have a nagging feeling that the cause of this Secret Santa anxiety is the possibility of drawing the name of a co-worker who's not a Millennial.

rcocean said...

Our office did something different. Everyone bought a gift, wrapped up, and you drew a number out of a hat corresponding to the gift. You also had the choice, before you opened it, of exchanging it for a gift that had already been opened. IRC, one year a nice bottle of Jimmy Walker was "stolen" about six times.

We eventually did away with the gift exchange, because there was too much disparity in the gifts. Some people were giving nice bottles of wine, etc. Others were giving cans of peanuts. Peeps, what can do with them?

rcocean said...

Secret Santa sounds like a recipe for disaster. No wonder its banned in some offices.

Dust Bunny Queen said...

rcocean Our office did something different. Everyone bought a gift, wrapped up, and you drew a number out of a hat corresponding to the gift. You also had the choice, before you opened it, of exchanging it for a gift that had already been opened. IRC, one year a nice bottle of Jimmy Walker was "stolen" about six times.

Yes. Our bank staff did that one too. We weren't allowed to have alcohol so it was a 2 lb box of See's Candy that was stolen many time.

heyboom said...

Never did a workplace Secret Santa, but we do one with my wife's family every year. Kids do the kids and adults do the adults. We have a blast with it. One year the kids decided it had to be home made gifts. That one went over very well. And we always reveal the secret, too.

I guess being uncomfortable is in the eye of the beholder.

ALP said...

If Secret Santa is hard to take how will they endure all of the other crap companies dole out? News flash: you can OPT OUT of Secret Santa! I know because I've done it. Try standing up for yourself. What are they going to do - fire you over Secret Santa? Where are the contrarians?

NorthOfTheOneOhOne said...

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Yes. Our bank staff did that one too. We weren't allowed to have alcohol so it was a 2 lb box of See's Candy that was stolen many time.

For real fun spend the gift amount on as many lottery scratch-off's as you can and watch how many times they get stolen. We had that happen at work a couple of years ago and I thought two of the middle-aged ladies I worked with were going to come to blows in the parking lot afterwards.

mockturtle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mockturtle said...

ALP suggests: News flash: you can OPT OUT of Secret Santa! I know because I've done it. Try standing up for yourself. What are they going to do - fire you over Secret Santa? Where are the contrarians?

When our company scheduled 'mandatory' Sensitivity Training sessions for salaried employees neither my husband nor I, working in different departments, attended. Neither of us was fired nor even reprimanded. Just say NO to bullshit! Try it, you'll like it! :-)

stevew said...

I'm 62 and I hate Secret Santa activities. Not a big fan of the Yankee Swap either. Those roads are fraught with social pot holes and land mines.

Jim at said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Freeman Hunt said...

Secret Santa among close friends is fun. Secret Santa among co-workers is horrible.

Anonymous said...

Paco: I'm mystified as to why anyone would feel "anxiety" about a meaningless social burden like this being imposed on them. I'm pretty sure the emotion I'd feel is "annoyance".

I don't really care if they're over-reacting or reacting for the wrong reasons. "Secret Santa" is just another one of those inappropriate and annoying office shake-downs brought to you by well-meaning but thoughtless office ladies (it's *always* women) who don't understand the distinction between public and private life.

For God's sake, ladies, bake Christmas cookies for your co-workers if you feel like spreading some yule-tide cheer at the office, but don't presume on other people's time and wallets by organizing and imposing these gift-giving corvées. Most people dislike them. Some of your co-workers may hard-up and would rather spend that $10 on a toy for their kid, not on a meaningless present that the recipient probably doesn't even want. And nobody wants to waste time looking for "impersonal" presents. They don't have enough time to shop for the people they love and want to give gifts to.

If it takes psychotic millenials shaming them on some bullshit PC-pretext to get them to cease and bloody desist, so be it.

Anonymous said...

mock: When our company scheduled 'mandatory' Sensitivity Training sessions for salaried employees neither my husband nor I, working in different departments, attended. Neither of us was fired nor even reprimanded. Just say NO to bullshit! Try it, you'll like it! :-)

I got away with that, too, but a lot of people don't have that luxury.

I flat-out refused to go, but this was a few decades ago, and I was probably such a nobody in the organizational scheme of things that I could slip by. I don't think the higher-ups in my chain of command could have gotten away with it. And the man who was the Big Kahuna of my department was an old guy who no doubt thought it was all bullshit himself, and he liked me.

He nagged me a few times about my not having done the Sensitivity Training (the deparmental Diana Moon Glampers was probably nagging him about non-compliants), and I finally said "What are you gonna do, sack me if I don't go?" He just chuckled and shook his head and gave me the conspiratorial "yeah, it is a load of shit, isn't it?" look, and that was the end of that.

Nowadays I doubt would even have been eligible for sacking, having not gotten past HR screening for hiring in the first place.

mockturtle said...

Angle, the ST sessions were a brainstorm of our Division Director who, apparently, had little else to do than to latch on to every nitwit corporate fad that came down the pike. I felt so strongly about not participating that I would have risked firing. Besides, I was a WOMAN, something in short supply in R&D at that time so I don't think they would have dared. My husband was management but always did things pretty much his own way. Both of us were mavericks. ;-)

Michael said...

Best story re: Secret Santa. Five guys in female owned consultancy. She loved Secret Santa, they hated it. One year she was out for several weeks on medical leave. That year, the dudes went to the bar and bought each other rounds of drinks.

Joe said...

My Secret Santa and white elephant exchange experiences have been mostly negative.

My first Secret Santa was in the fourth grade. Day comes and I get nothing; turns out the girl with my name had gone to Disney World with her family. OTOH, when she got back the first of the year, she gave me a giant lollipop bought at Disney World.

For white elephant, about nine years ago, we had one at my job at the time. I bought something decent, ended up with a cheap arguably obscene gift. Go back to my cubicle, vow to never do it again and toss the gift in a drawer. CFO shows up and asks to exchange the gift almost pleading me to not sue the company. Company decides to just have Christmas lunches from then on.

Skookum John said...

“Secret Santa” and similar bullshit games, decorating the office for holidays, potluck lunches, and catty gossip. The 4 worst things about working in an office full of women.

If ever I give up my professional career to go to work as a hod-carrier or tire shop technician, it will be so I never have to give one more second of thought to such things until the end of my days.

Bunkypotatohead said...

You won't hear a peep out of them once the Secret Mohammeds commence.

mockturtle said...

Skookum John complains: “Secret Santa” and similar bullshit games, decorating the office for holidays, potluck lunches, and catty gossip. The 4 worst things about working in an office full of women.

Add taking up collections for gifts. And these very same women--it's always women--will complain that they had to do it all by themselves. Did it ever occur to them, for even one moment, that most people don't want it done at all??!!

Freeman Hunt said...

A long time ago, when I had a job, I used to decorate a lobby Christmas tree every year with our products because I wanted to. We sold things used in construction. I also usually sent out a marketing campaign recommending things like spools of cable or Cat 5e jacks as presents for wives.

mockturtle said...

A long time ago, when I had a job, I used to decorate a lobby Christmas tree every year with our products because I wanted to. We sold things used in construction.

Interesteing, Freeman. Which construction products made the best ornaments?

Freeman Hunt said...

"Which construction products made the best ornaments?"

Jacks. Paperclip for hook.

mockturtle said...

Must have been a pretty sturdy tree! :-)

stlcdr said...

Here’s a different take on Secret Santa - or rather, a different technique. Everyone buys a 10/15 dollar gift (or whatever). Wraps it, puts it in a big pile with the others. Everyone has a number (random). Number 1 picks a gift and unwraps it. Number 2 can decide if they want the gift already opened, or picks another gift. If the pick already opened, then that person gets to open another gift. You get the idea.

Regardless, these things only work if you are close to your co-workers - more than just ‘people you work with’. You don’t have to like them, you just have to work with them.

As already noted, it isn’t anxiety, it’s annoyance.

stlcdr said...

Oh...I see it has a name of sorts ‘yankee swap’. Honestly, never heard of such a thing! But then, never heard of secret Santa before a few years ago.

JoyD said...

What in the world are you going on about? What kind of weak mind would feel anxiety over Secret Santa? And sure, we played that pleasantly innocuous game at the school where I taught for thirty years. Wow. Full time job making good things into bad? Spinning gold into straw? Spoiled foolish overly introspective people. Lightweight columns to be written.
Let me check, are my feelings disturbed in any way today?