Around this time of year, people all over the country find themselves struggling to think of gift ideas for colleagues and co-workers. Buying a gift out of obligation for someone you may not know well or even like can be a frustrating task. That’s almost certainly why some forward-thinking HR director invented the white elephant gift exchange.
If you are unfamiliar with the white elephant, everyone shows up with an inexpensive gift they may or may not actually like, puts it in a pile and then one by one the entire office takes a present. But, if they like what someone has already opened, they are free to steal it from them, forcing the first person to pick another gift from the pile. It’s like a Hobbesian state of nature for items from the Dollar Store. Before you decide to plan a white elephant party at your office this year, consider these drawbacks to this tradition:
1. It reinforces the commercialization of the holidays. We’re all for giving gifts to people you love and care for, but does buying a tape dispenser that looks like a guy on a toilet for an unknown recipient out of professional obligation really fit with the holiday spirit?