employees violated the spirit of office gift exchange, sales team won’t tell us their schedules, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. Confronting employees who violated the spirit of our office gift exchange

Every year, I coordinate either a white elephant or Secret Santa gift exchange for our small company. This year, we set a price range of “around $30” for those who wanted to participate.

A few of the gifts that were given this year were clearly not worth the provided price range. One of the gifts was a used item from the employee’s home (the recipient discovered this after the event ended). Do I (and if so, how) confront the employees who didn’t play in good spirit?

Don’t. These could be employees who wanted to participate but couldn’t afford to buy something for the set price range. If that’s the case, they’re likely to be humiliated and hurt if you talk to them about it. It’s of course possible that that’s not what happened and that these were just people greedily trying to get a gift without playing by the rules, but that’s not so imperative to address that it would be worth risking the first scenario.

This kind of thing just comes with the territory with office gift exchanges. Assume the most charitable explanation and let it go.

2. Sales team won’t tell us their schedules

I work for a company with close to 5000 employees, in a smaller branch that is not at corporate headquarters. I work in a very busy customer support department handling a high volume of incoming calls.

Our sales team is supposed to take requests for new accounts and pricing questions. My frustration is that the sales team does not have to provide their schedule to customer support, except for when they go on vacation. So, we do not know what time they are going to arrive, what time they are going to lunch, when they are going to come back. We have been asked not to set a time line for customers on when they will receive a call back from members of the sales team, and so many of us end up helping customers with the sales questions when we can, if time sensitive.

Is this a normal set-up between customer support and sales? It feels very dysfunctional to me and a bad experience for our customers.

I don’t think they necessarily need to provide that level of scheduling detail to you (that would be a real pain for many people, especially if they don’t have rigid schedules like that) in order to solve the problem. Instead of pushing that as the solution, why not talk to the sales team about the problem you’re experiencing — you have no way of knowing when customers will hear back, so you end up answering sales questions yourselves — and ask for them to help you figure out a better solution to it. You might end up hearing that they want you to tell everyone they’ll hear back by the end of the day, or the next day, or that they have some other solution that will work fine. Start by raising the issue and ask for their help in solving it, and see where that gets you.

3. Leaving work off my resume that I don’t want to do again

Is it okay to leave tasks off a resume that you don’t want to do anymore in the future? I work as an administrative assistant, but I’m thinking of changing fields/jobs in the next year or so. I’m doing quite a bit of accounting tasks now, but I never ever want to do that again. An das much as I keep saying that those things really aren’t something I’m good at or like to do, when managers see accounting experience they just assume I won’t really mind – I do.

I’m thinking of just leaving those off when I apply somewhere else, but I’m not sure that’s smart. It does say something about my attention to detail and thoroughness, but I intend to stay as far away from numbers and figures as possible if and when I change jobs. In short: should I include it and mention when asked that I don’t really like those tasks or should I just skip it all together?

If that work is only a small portion of what you do in your current job, then sure, leave it off. A resume is a marketing document, after all, and there’s no point in marketing yourself for work you don’t want to be doing.

But if it’s a major part of your job, it would be pretty strange to leave it off entirely. In that case, you’re better off getting really clear in the interview about whether the job contains accounting work — and raising it again when you get an offer, to make sure the hiring manager is fully on board with keeping accounting work off of your plate.

4. Employee keeps getting loans from coworkers and won’t pay them back

I am the HR manager at a trucking company. We have over 100 drivers on the road. I have one dispatcher who has borrowed money from several drivers and never pays them back. Recently it has gotten so bad that one of the drivers refused to continue hauling the load because the dispatcher had texted him that she was unable to pay him back. At that point, to keep business flowing, the company had to repay her loan!

Now that it is affecting business and continues to happen, can we fire this employee? It is really giving our company a bad name and making my life hell, as these drivers keep calling me wanting me to do something. I have seen the text messages she sends them.

You can absolutely tell her that she’s not allowed to continue asking coworkers for money, and fire her if she doesn’t comply. Hell, you could fire her right now without that warning if you want to (no law requires warning people before firing them), but you might want to do her the courtesy of letting her know that she’s jeopardizing her job first, since she may not have understood that this was something she could ever lose her job over. You’re not obligated to do that, certainly, and it might be that her relations with colleagues are now so bad that there’s no way to justify keeping her on, but it’s an option to consider. (It also might increase the chances that she’ll actually pay people back, since it will be much harder to do that without a job.)

But in answer to your direct question of whether you can fire her: Yes, you legally can.

5. Will working for my dad cause an issue in a background check?

After I graduated from university, I took a gap year off and went to travel and take classes that I wasn’t able to commit to when I was an undergrad. I also spent a hefty amount of time doing administrative work for my dad, who is in the process of retiring and selling his business. Now that the transition for his business is settling down, I’ve been actively seeking for job opportunities.

I listed my role at my dad’s business on my resume, and I also mentioned that the role was under my dad’s supervision during the interview. I made it clear that it wasn’t an official job, as my dad paid me back by sponsoring my travel expenses and also on my class tuition. I’m just a little worried that they may not find any supporting documents or proof of my employment if they were to do a background check on me, as my dad just paid for my travel expenses as compensation for the work I did and I obviously have no pay stubs.

While I’ve made it clear how things were while working for my dad, I’m still a little paranoid that they might not hire me if they can not find enough evidence about my employment. Is this something I should worry about? Should I remind my manager about my unofficial employment at my dad’s place when she asks me to sign an agreement for background checks?

I wouldn’t worry too much about this; you’ve already made it clear what the deal was. The only thing that could be an issue if if the background checker will be calling anyone other than your dad to verify that job. Does he have a staff and an assistant or an HR department that might take those calls? If so, it’ll be crucial to make sure that they’re in the loop so they don’t just say you didn’t work there. But if your dad is the only one who might get the call, that’s likely all the verification they’ll care about. That said, it wouldn’t hurt to remind the hiring manager about the arrangement when they kick off the background check process, just to make sure it hasn’t slipped her mind.

{ 222 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. Juli G.

    OP1, that range seems a little high. My family exchanges are $10-15 and $15-20 respectively and we usually have a nice array of items (caveat- this is a midsize Midwestern city so maybe it’s not possible in NYC or other high COL locales).

    Reply
    1. Uyulala

      I agree that it seems high. Also, make sure you give the price point before asking people if they want to participate.

      “We are giving new items valued at about $x. Would you like to take part in this exchange?” NOT “Would you like to take part in a gift exchange?”….wait for answer, then…. “we are exchanging gifts of $x value”. The second way makes it awkward to back out if someone can’t afford that range.

      Reply
    2. New Bee

      I agree, and I live in a very high COL area. $10-20 lets you get a decent wine, gift card, fruit basket, etc., and it would be hard for me personally to justify spending more than that on a coworker. In general, I’d prefer company exchanges to be on the low end because I’m generally expecting to get some fun/camaraderie out of it, not something I actually want.

      Reply
    3. Mallory Janis Ian

      Thirty dollars seems high to me, too. I wouldn’t be able to justify that for a coworker gift unless I could find something of that value on sale for $10 – $15.

      Reply
    4. BRR

      I also think 30 seems high. Anything over 20 is pushing it for me. I liked my last employer’s way of doing it. It was opt in, you selected a name, then on a public spreadsheet you listed your top three choices. Many people put “surprise me” as one of their choices.

      Reply
    5. INTP

      When I did office exchanges in San Diego, the range was around $15, so I agree that it sounds high no matter where you are for an officewide exchange. It would be different if it were only executives involved or something, but that doesn’t sound like the case.

      Reply
    6. ThursdaysGeek

      I had a job once where the gift exchange was about $30. The difference was the company gave us the money, told us to buy a gift for the exchange, and then we used those gifts. It not only meant that everyone could afford the gifts (which were essentially from the company), but that we got things we were likely to like. I though it worked very well.

      Reply
    7. MissDisplaced

      My work sets it at $20 and there are some nice things usually, even if it’s a gift card.

      But I agree it is annoying when some put in really crappy items. I remember last year some lame video from the $5 bin or something.

      Reply
      1. Oryx

        I still have the DVD copy of “We Are Marshall” I got a couple years ago. It was such a random film, I mean this was about 5 years after it came out I’m pretty sure they found it in the $5 bin or were regifting

        Reply
  2. Persephone Mulberry

    #1: is it possible there may have been a miscommunication problem? Where I’m from, a “white elephant” gift exchange is usually intended to be a regifting of something from around your house, the wackier, uglier or more useless, the better. If gifts should always be new, I’d either specify that more clearly or drop the phrase “white elephant.”

    Reply
      1. Allison

        . . . I did. I’ve only been to one and I was just told the items were supposed to be goofy and useless, no one specified they had to be stuff you own.

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          White elephant exchanges I have participated in usually contained both — not everyone is a semi-hoarder with goofy worthless but amusing stuff in their attic — so buying silly candy or a goofy book or whatever was fine — and a fairly common new thing was a silly toy — dollar store type thing. Lots of people liked to ‘steal’ those to take home to their kids. I ended up with the coveted bathtub submarine toy one year. Others had sea monkeys or giant inflatable boxing gloves or similar silly toys. The key was fun and low stress on $ —

          Reply
          1. Honeybee

            Yeah, I bought something new for our office gift exchange this year, but that’s because I don’t have any wacky knick knacks hanging around my condo. I bought some cheap walkie-talkies and one of my coworkers took it home to his kids, who loved them.

            Reply
    1. Sara M

      Secret Santa is not the same thing as white elephant.

      Secret Santa sounds like what you intended: everyone spends $x to buy a present for people. If you said it was a “white elephant,” gift, the point is to re-gift something that’s already in your home.

      Separate from whether you’re doing SS or WE is the question of whether you’re doing a serious or silly exchange. Serious means giving a gift that people actually want; silly means giving the most ridiculous thing you can find for laughs, and usually has a low price level.

      So there’s a Punnett square of holiday office exchanges. You need to be clear about whether you’re doing a) Secret Santa or white elephant, and b) serious or silly.

      If you weren’t clear on these things–first of all, I don’t blame you, because it’s not always clear! And different parts of the country do these things differently. But please don’t blame someone else who may have been unclear on the type of exchange.

      In the future, I agree that $30 is too much unless every single participant is quite well paid. Most office exchanges are $10. I do one with good friends and our limit is $20.

      Also, make absolutely sure that it’s opt-in (the default is to assume people aren’t participating unless they respond “yes” to your invite).

      Being clear, and making sure it’s voluntary, will make the experience go much more smoothly in the future.

      Reply
      1. Dr. Johnny Fever

        “So there’s a Punnett square of holiday office exchanges.”

        I need this. Depicted in embroidery on a pillow.

        I’m not the best at this stuff, but I’m glad I’m not the only one confused. I only know traditions as an adult in my area, but as they were explained to me, Secret Santa is new gifts, White Elephant is a chance to regift older gifts or items. One purchases gifts for Secret Santa, but one does not purchase for a White Elephant.

        I have been at parties where the traditions were mixed (lots of cultures and mixture of those who hold onto things and who don’t based on those differences). In those cases, it was advised to bring something old within a certain value, but if someone didn’t have something to bring they could buy a $10-15 gift in a silly vein (think USB toaster or child’s toy).

        It is awful to see White Elephant gone wrong. One coworker bought $50 bluetooth earbuds a couple years ago (he didn’t understand the custom and it was his first time). He got the HTML/CGI book I brought published in 1996. He swore about the piece of crap he got from someone’s garage for about an hour, often while I was near. I later gently explained the gift was from me and how the custom worked before he got really worked up and helped him understand it wasn’t intentional. He was pissed and embarassed, but once he understood was fairly mortified. We got past it in short order, but that is absolutely the kind of thing that will fester if not understood clearly.

        I agree with the advice moving forward – lower the amount and clarify the event next year to avoid any mixup.

        Reply
      2. Doriana Gray

        If you weren’t clear on these things–first of all, I don’t blame you, because it’s not always clear! And different parts of the country do these things differently.

        This right here. My soon-to-be new division did a White Elephant gift exchange recently that had me scratching my head because people went out and bought nice gifts (the price ceiling was $20). When I’ve participated in White Elephants at previous jobs, it was always re-gifting stuff you already owned and stuff that was meant to be funny. Now I didn’t participate in my new division’s exchange because I was only invited to their Christmas party the morning of and didn’t know they were doing it, but someone bought and gifted scented toilet cleaner, and a newer guy in their office had the misfortune of getting it. I felt bad for him when everyone else was getting bottles of wines, gift cards to cool places, foot massagers, Star Wars memorabilia, etc. So clearly there was confusion as to how the game was played even within this close group.

        Reply
        1. Sparky

          My old job did the white elephant every year, and the same VHS copy of information about gum surgery and the same jar of fake snow from the set of some soap opera went around every year. But we were all ok with that, because it was all cheap, weird junk. No one spent money, and none of the gifts were great.

          Reply
          1. Dr. Johnny Fever

            Friend of mine once brought an old sealed VHS set, thinking it was worthless. Person who received it discovered the set was worth $250 on eBay and Amazon. Oops!

            Reply
            1. A Bug!

              I’d say that meets the definition of White Elephant more than most! It’s an item that’s bulky, inconvenient, and useless to most people, but quite valuable to a few, and finding a person who both recognizes its value and is in the market for one is probably not always a simple task!

              So good job your friend!

              Reply
        2. Kyrielle

          Yeah, “white elephant” to me connotes weird, arguably useless items. They may be things you already have and regift, or they may be things you get for the occasion, but they won’t have significant value and no one seriously expects them to be gifts the receiver will use.

          ‘Secret Santa’ can be funny or serious, but absent specification it’s usually serious, and of course you don’t know who gave to whom. (Sometimes there’s a reveal after gifting, but often not.)

          I wonder whether some people were confused about the dollar amount also. In some exchanges – especially white elephant IMX – it is more customary to set an absolute maximum *upper* limit so no one spends too much and makes the whole thing unbalanced and awkward. Is it possible someone thought $30 was the absolute maximum upper limit, not the ballpark or minimum figure?

          Reply
    2. Former Computer Professional

      A small org I’m part of does an annual white elephant style gift exchange, where everyone goes in an order (determined by a hat-picked number) and chooses either a “new” unwrapped present or a still-unwrapped one someone else has chosen. All unwrapping is left to the end — intentionally.

      For many years now there’s a gift that goes back into the pool every year: The world’s ugliest clock. And the person who ran it the year before is responsible for wrapping it in such a way that it doesn’t LOOK like a clock. That person tends to sneak the gift in and put it on the table when nobody else is looking. Even better, some people wrap their present so it looks like it COULD be the clock.

      The whole “make it look like something else” thing has become a tradition, too. I’ve seen a gift card wrapped to look like a golf club (a long, thin pole with the card at one end), and books wrapped with extra pieces of cardboard to make them less rectangular, and more.

      Reply
      1. Dr. Johnny Fever

        I was in a group that had the same gift show up every year: two shiny stainless steel balls, about 1.25″ in diameter, each sitting in its own divot in a velvet-lined box. They’ve been showing up for 8 years now. Everyone claims they have no idea what those balls are supposed to be used for….but I’m pretty sure I know. :)

        Reply
        1. New Years Turtle

          Do they have bells inside? From your description they sound like meditation balls. I have a pair about 1.25” in diameter that sits in a velvet-lined box. Mine are decorated with dragons though. They are quite calming and good hand exercise.

          Really you should handle the balls and see how it feels!

          Reply
          1. Nutella Fitzgerald

            Well, now “you should handle the balls and see how it feels” will be my guiding principle for 2016.

            Reply
        2. Kylynara

          I have a set of meditation balls that matches this description perfectly. They come with patterns, but I got the plain shiny silver-color ones.

          Reply
          1. Dr. Johnny Fever

            I looked it up, and y’all are totally right! They are meditation balls. I don’t know about bells since I never wanted to touch them, but I’ll bet you’re both right about those, too.

            What does it say about me that I thought they were something….else. Entirely. Based on the looks of surprise each year from others seeing the meditation balls for the first time, I may not have been the only one thinking…different.

            Reply
          1. Dr. Johnny Fever

            Hahahaha! I don’t work with that group anymore, but now I want to go back for another shot at them!

            Reply
      2. Elsajeni

        Our office “white elephant” exchange is like this, too — gifts are new and, although they can be silly, generally include at least one thing you might actually want (if you get a tacky apron, check the pockets for Starbucks gift cards, etc.), but there’s one joke gift in the mix that comes back every year. So, just more supporting evidence that office gift exchanges are varied and confusing, I guess!

        Reply
      3. ThursdaysGeek

        For many years our church had a gift exchange, and whoever got ‘the snake book’ was supposed to sign it and make sure it showed up the next year. That book has 20-30 signatures of people, many now dead, and is full of memories. And yes, it needed to be wrapped so it didn’t look like a book.

        Reply
        1. Middle Name Jane

          Shudder. That’s horrifying. I have a severe phobia of snakes. I wouldn’t even be able to touch that book.

          Cool idea for any other book, though.

          Reply
    3. Al Lo

      About 8-years ago, my sister and I both participated in a gift exchange that was *very* competitive about finding the best, most highly sought after gift within the $10 limit. People pulled in favors, used employee discounts… basically anything to bring the best gift without technically spending more.

      Well, my sister thought it was a wacky/terrible exchange and brought a gag gift of a really ugly Santa candle. I happened to open it on my first turn, and it never left me all night. I didn’t have an opportunity to trade it away and steal another gift, and absolutely no one was going to steal it from me. My sister felt really bad, but a little relieved that I wss the one who got it. After the exchange, she bought me a better gift (which was unnecessary but funny in its own right), and the ugly Santa candle still ends up in our stockings every year. I have custody of it this year, and forgot to put it in her stocking, so it may make an appearance in her March birthday gift instead.

      Reply
    4. Snowglobe

      There is a type of gift exchange where you buy a generic gift, not for any specific person, and take turns picking and trading the gifts. I’ve heard this called White Elephant, Yankee Swap or Bad Santa. Agree that White Elephant seems misleading, but I’ve heard that name from multiple people.

      Reply
      1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

        I think the problem is so many people define white elephant differently. I went to three “white elephant” exchanges this season and all were different:

        (1) the invite clearly laid out that it should be an item that cost no more than $5, but free or recycled was better. No gift cards were allowed and there were lists of items from previous years that the organizer thought were great. All were gag gifts.

        (2) this one was a $15 exchange were the hostess specified that these should be nice gifts that you would want to take home. No gag or joke gifts.

        (3) was a hot mess. No rules, a mixed group of people who weren’t all friends and some who were new to the group. The person who bought a really nice soap set and left with used materials from a leadership program was not happy.

        Reply
    5. INTP

      Yeah, I came here to post that this is all reason to improve communication about next year’s exchange rather than to confront employees.

      1) The price point given is usually phrased as the maximum, it’s not a minimum, and $30 is high for an all-employees sort of thing, especially for White Elephant because most people leave that with an item they don’t want. If you want a minimum, communicate it as a range, make sure that range is well-understood prior to asking people to join, and make the range lower. $10-20 is common for office exchanges.

      2) White elephant is typically intended to be gag gifts or regifted household items, not “good” gifts. If you don’t want that, you absolutely must explicitly say “No gag gifts or used items.” BUT I also think it’s unwise to go into White Elephant expecting most people to go home with a gift they enjoy. There’s always someone with a gag gift when it’s supposed to be real gifts or vice versa, and people who think other people’s “good” gifts are super crappy, and people who just get stuck with things they don’t want. You’ll never have a white elephant where someone doesn’t feel ripped off but the way to minimize it is to keep the price point very low.

      But no matter how well you communicate, office gift exchanges rarely end with no one feeling ripped off because these are people with very different lifestyles and budgets who may barely know each other in a personal sense. It’s not appropriate to go confronting employees about things that go wrong (they are probably already embarrassed). Communicate your expectations clearly, keep the price point a lot lower so people don’t feel ripped off when someone does mess up, and accept that it will never go perfectly.

      Reply
      1. INFJ

        Couldn’t agree more. You have to go in prepared to come out with something “bad,” even if you brought something “good.” At LastJob, one of my coworkers didn’t talk to me for weeks after I “stole” her Yankee swap gift and she never participated again. People really shouldn’t participate expecting too much from it.

        Reply
    6. A

      This! But maybe it’s just the casual office exchange I’m used to — but now I’m confused. The organizers where I work explicitly state that it’s a white elephant exchange, and seem to assume everyone knows what that means, then say that includes regifting but that if you buy a gift they put the range at $10.

      Reply
    7. Pat

      People need to stop calling gift exchanges “white elephants”…they clearly have no idea what it means (I’m including my in-laws in this statement)

      Reply
      1. Buu

        I’ve never heard white elephant before, I think if OP runs it again they should have a firm set of rules. e.g ” please don’t regift items” etc and lower the price point.

        Reply
      2. mander

        Maybe it’s regional, but I agree. To me a white elephant is something that is potentially a “good” gift, depending on your taste, but is usually a decorative item or similar that you don’t like and is taking up space in your house. So even with a white elephant exchange I’d be a bit miffed to get, say, the used leadership course materials mentioned above, but I’d be fine with the ugly Santa candle or ugly clock. Explicit rules are very important.

        I also think the price point was way too high. I generally don’t even spend $30 on each of my family members, let alone co-workers. We like to keep things pretty low key.

        And can I just say, from my still-disappointed third grade self: make sure that only people who put a gift in get a gift out. I was so excited to see what I would get the one year I was in a class that did this, but not everyone brought something. I spent my pocket money and put a lot of thought into my gift but I didn’t get anything at all because the teacher didn’t keep track of who actually brought gifts.

        Reply
        1. De Minimis

          We had the same situation…it’s called a “white elephant” exchange and one of the organizers even told the story behind the expression “white elephant,” but ours is not really a white elephant exchange. The expectation is to buy something new. Our limit is $20, and there was really only one gift that would have been a traditional “white elephant.”

          Ours also had a weird thing at the end that made the entire activity pointless, so you ended up with a random gift at the end anyway that was different that the one you had picked. Basically after everything was done they ended up passing all the gifts around while a song was playing and you ended up with whatever was in your hand when it stopped.

          Reply
  3. Former Computer Professional

    Some years ago, when a friend turned one of those magic round numbers, I coordinated a mass gift-giving project for them. It was based on something other friends and I used to do in our teenage years.

    I got about a dozen of the birthday person’s friends together and gave them the rules: Anywhere from 2-5 gifts total, don’t spend more than $20 for everything, individually wrap each item, and each thing should be at least moderately useful (ie. if you’re giving a trinket, at least let it be something they’d be interested in). Then we gathered everything into boxes and gift bags and presented it to the birthday person over dinner.

    As we were putting the boxes and bags together, one of the friends showed up and realized with horror that they’d forgotten to buy things to take part in the gift giving. They went to a nearby vending machine, purchased a can of Coke, wrapped it in some newspaper, and jammed it in one of the boxes.

    It turned out to be THE memorable gift of the evening. Everyone remembers the look on the birthday person’s face as they reached into the box, grabbed the can, and yelped, “IT’S COLD!!!”

    The moral of the story is: even the cheapest gift can be awesome.

    Reply
    1. New Years Turtle

      One time abroad I got a tea from a vending machine in a language I could not read. I was shocked that it was hot and promptly dropped it, causing it to spew over passer-bys who glared at the grown clumsy idiot.

      It became my favorite drink abroad. Priceless.

      Reply
    2. JessaB

      The best gift I ever got at one of those gag gift things was a keychain that had a kitchen sink on it (the old porcelain kind, in plastic) when you pushed the button it made sounds like running water. The reason it was perfect is I was always the one in the office who had the purse of holding. Whatever you needed in a pinch (sewing kit, extra pen, stapler, first aid stuff,) seriously they used to try and stump me and it was either in my purse or my drawer. I loved it and the next jerk from the department over who joked about “you don’t have a kitchen sink,” got to look at my new keychain. It was freaking awesome and if it cost 5 bucks I’d be surprised, and 30 years later I still have the thing.

      I love the stories here about the gag gifts that keep on being shared as a tradition.

      Reply
  4. Jerry Vandesic

    #4: I’d seriously consider firing the dispatcher, not because they are borrowing money, but because he refuses to pay the loans back. He’s a thief. Not the kind of person I would want to work with.

    Reply
    1. Workplace Jedi

      Absolutely fire this person, but only after the company pays back the people who loaned this most despicable and dishonest dispatcher money! be sure to, in this dispatcher’s personnel file, DOCUMENT the names of ALL individuals harmed by this person’s actions, and the amount of money the company paid to these people. This should be done, because firing her alone will not solve the whole issue. Those harmed by her actions could possibly have a cause of action against the company due to her actions having created a financial hardship to these individuals. Also with the complete documentation, you are covered in case the dispatcher ever brings any action against your company for wrongful discharge.

      Reply
      1. Apollo Warbucks

        I dont see how the company would be liable for any of the money borrowed, there’s nothing in the letter to suggest the dispatcher was acting as an agent of the company in taking out these loans.

        Reply
        1. F.

          I’m not a lawyer, but the only scenario I can think of that might cause liability for the employer would be quid pro quo, if the dispatcher was assigning choicer runs to drivers who provided these loans, for example. I would love to have one of our attorney commenters weigh in on this.

          Reply
          1. AdAgencyChick

            +1. I have to wonder whether the reason this person was able to borrow from so many people is that they were afraid of her assigning them the worst jobs if they didn’t pay up. She clearly didn’t mind using the company to cover for her, since she wouldn’t even pay back the driver who refused to do his work until she did!

            Reply
              1. Artemesia

                I didn’t really get this in the OP but it makes perfect sense. My first thought is ‘what fools to be lending lots of money to a co-worker’ — but it sounds like extortion may be involved. Fire him or her like yesterday and pay back the workers and then institute a very clear rule going forward.

                Reply
        2. BRR

          I think the company might have put itself in the position of needing to payback everyone since they paid back one driver. I’d be really pissed if the company paid back a coworker and not me.

          Reply
        3. INTP

          The strongest argument against firing her immediately to me is that she will never pay back the employees once fired as she loses absolutely all incentive. Of course, she probably won’t pay them back anyways, so that might be irrelevant. (Maybe paying everyone back could be part of a PIP/probationary status thing to keep her job, and she’d manage to pay some of them, but you can’t require that and then fire her anyways, and I would never trust this employee again because users will always find someone to use and they’ll just get better at not getting caught over time.)

          Reply
          1. Doriana Gray

            Yeah, if they fire her immediately, she’s not paying anyone back. She’s already borrowing money from people she works with so obviously she’s broke – firing her will only make sure she’s really broke. I do think she should be fired after the trucking company pays their drivers back, then makes her pay them back.

            Reply
            1. Observer

              It doesn’t mean she’s broke. There are a lot of reasons people do this stuff, and it’s not necessarily about true need.

              Reply
              1. Doriana Gray

                True, she could just be greedy. But I’m on a give-people-the-benefit-of-the-doubt kick due to the New Year, so I’ll try not to assume the worst.

                Reply
              2. Mallory Janis Ian

                Yeah, there are people who would never, ever ask for help even if they very much needed the money, and there are people who are just mooches and don’t see anything wrong with sponging off anyone they can, whether they need it or not.

                Reply
          2. eplawyer

            I like this idea. Firing her now keeps the drivers from getting paid back. Which is really unfair to them. Yes, the company needs to protect itself from the dispatcher, but the drivers need to be paid back. It would help the company’s rep that has been damaged if they intervene to pay back the drivers. Then they can fire her.

            Reply
          3. TootsNYC

            I agree with this–I’d insist on trying to get all that money back for other people. And for the company.

            And then I’d fire her.

            Reply
        4. Observer

          I’m not a lawyer, but I could easily see a cause of action if the dispatcher has any say whatsoever in who gets what jobs and when. In that case, employees could easily say that they were forced to “lend” money (ie give a kickback) to the dispatcher, and the compan did nothing to stop it.

          Reply
          1. Dr. Johnny Fever

            I agree, esp. if the other drivers, who are independent contractors, had the impression that if they did not lend money, they might get shifts that pose them other financial losses as a result.

            The fact that the company paid one driver is problematic; drivers are contracted and paying one may show treatment beyond what is shown to the others. I know this causes problems when employees and contractors are mixed, but I’m not sure if the same ramifications apply across multiple independent contractors. I think it’s a “what-one-does-for-one, one-does-for-all” scenario.

            Reply
            1. Observer

              I would think so, which is why I can see a cause of action. The only out wold be if the company had a very rigid system of assigning trips with no room for discretion on the part of the dispatcher. But, I would think that this would be rather uncommon.

              Reply
          2. Artemesia

            I can’t get my head around the fact they didn’t fire the dispatcher when the incident with the un-repaid trucker came up. I cannot imagine a top manager learning that his dispatcher is holding up his truckers (and I am assuming now that the idea that these are contract independent workers is the case) not firing her. The company had to pay a loan back to get the freight moving because the dispatcher was extorting money or pressuring truckers to make loans? This is bad in every possible dimension. S/he should have been gone the moment they could get temporary coverage on that job.

            Reply
      2. Megan

        Agreeing with Apollo – just because they all work for the same employer doesn’t make this the employer’s problem. I have no idea why the driver refused to work in response to being told by a co-worker that she wasn’t going to pay hi back, and even less understanding why the response was to cover her payment to him, rather than disciplining him for refusing to do his job.

        Reply
        1. Rebecca

          From my limited knowledge of such things, sometimes there are loads that go to out of the way places, and the driver has to dead head back, and it cuts into their pay and time. The dispatcher may have been trying to get someone to take the load, and since this driver was already upset that he wasn’t getting his money back, he wouldn’t take the load to make it harder on the dispatcher. That’s my take on it.

          Reply
          1. Dr. Johnny Fever

            I’d be willing to bet that those who didn’t lend money may have found themselves looking at these types of routes fairly often if they refused to lend.

            Given the dynamics here, I’ll easily believe that these drivers saw this as more bribery than borrowing – pony up, or lose time and money on your next few runs till you change your mind.

            Reply
        2. hbc

          They were stuck at the moment, so I get the impulse to just get the shipment moving. But he definitely should have been given a strong warning after the fact.

          Reply
          1. Artemesia

            Nah, it was the heads up that the dispatcher is running a corrupt extortion racket and needs to be fired. The company should be paying all the drivers back and dealing with the dispatcher separately, but she definitely should no longer be in the position of assigning work at that company.

            Reply
            1. hbc

              Either she’s in a huge position of power over them and she doesn’t need to be throwing up some fig leaf about “loans” (and they should have disciplined her the minute they heard a word about loans, repaid or not) or this was a tiff between coworkers/contractors that had nothing to do with work and he was wrong to make his bad decision the problem of the company. I don’t really see evidence for the former, especially since it seemed the driver had the power to force the company to repay him.

              Reply
              1. Observer

                Based on what the OP writes, you are incorrect. The OP specifically states that she has seen the texts that the dispatcher is sending and that this is not a one off issue.

                Reply
          1. Adam V

            Get her to sign an agreement saying “we’ll pay all the drivers back, then you’ll owe us the $____ that we reimbursed you, and you’ll pay us $___ per paycheck until it’s paid back, otherwise we’ll take you to court”. Odds are your lawyer can draft something that the court will agree is fair.

            (Or cut yourself out of it and have her sign something with each driver agreeing to pay them back, with small claims court looming if she doesn’t.)

            Reply
        1. Chalupa Batman

          I wonder if they can garnish her for the one they already paid back. It was essentially a payroll advance-they had a business need for her to settle her debt, so they fronted the money. It could also solve (or at least help with) the problem of other employees expecting the same. IANAL, so I don’t know if you can give someone a payroll advance and then collect on it without their consent, but it’s an idea.

          Reply
          1. Dr. Johnny Fever

            I thought wage garnishment comes from a legal judgment, meaning the company could pay her debt for her, but then would have to sue her to recoup the cost through garnishment. I don’t think payroll can simply elect to do it. Not an HR professional, but that would seem messy to engender one’s own corporate wage garnishment.

            Reply
              1. Dr. Johnny Fever

                The drivers aren’t getting anything back now :/ There’s no graceful way out of this, unfortunately.

                Reply
        2. HRish Dude

          Nope. Nope. Nope. They cannot garnish wages without a court order.

          It’s going to cost more taking her to court than it is to just eat the loan, fire her, and be done with it.

          Reply
    2. BRR

      Agreed. The damage might be done. If a lot of drivers don’t like the dispatcher the company really doesn’t have a choice. I’d imagine it’s easier to replace on dispatcher than multiple drivers.

      Reply
    3. A

      It’s not even clear precisely what the relationship is between the dispatcher and the truckers — I mean my first thought was NOT that they’re coworkers, exactly, but these are contract workers sort of. It’s all extremely inappropriate when truckers are complaining and refusing to haul(!). I mean it’s got to be bad.

      Reply
  5. Erik

    OP #3 – I have left off various tasks and even jobs that I don’t want to do any more. I work in IT and there are some areas I won’t touch as you tend to get pigeon-holed in them. Once I reframed that experience to something else that no one could really validate, then it was better.

    OP #4 – fire that person. If someone is really affecting your business that bad, get rid of them. Now.

    Reply
    1. ThursdaysGeek

      #3 – I’m a programmer, and it doesn’t seem to matter: somehow I still always end up with accounting type tasks. Right now, I’m supporting a lot of accounting reports. Sometimes I think maybe it would have helped if I’d ever taken an accounting class in school, but I guess it helps others to know that geeks aren’t of some superior race when I have to ask them to explain the difference between ‘credit’ and ‘debit’.

      I’ve never put anything on my resume that indicates I know anything about accounting, and it just keeps coming to me anyway.

      Reply
    2. BeenThere

      This so much for OP #3.

      There are lots of things I won’t do as a experienced programmer and many managers who believe those things are not a huge change to the role even after explicitly speaking about these things as reasons I’m leaving my current job to come work for them. For example, application support takes a software development role from an exciting one to one that I would never ever apply for. Most recently I just kept refusing to do the parts they decided to add to my job and became very well practised at having the no conversation with my manager and deflecting my pointing out other members of them team had better skills in that type of task. While doing this I searched aggressively and was very direct with recruiters about why I was leaving, I start my new job in two weeks and they are paying large sums to move me. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that attempt number three to stay away from UI work will be successful.

      Reply
    3. Vicki

      #3 – Be cautious! This: “raising it again when you get an offer, to make sure the hiring manager is fully on board with keeping accounting work off of your plate.” isn’t going to help when you get re-orged to a new manager. I have a fairly eclectic resume and I’ve had this problem come up a lot.

      I don’t have advice for how to make it stop; I wish I did. Just keep in mind that you will likely need to retrain every manager you ever have until this experience is far enough in the ast that it can slip off the resume completely.

      Reply
      1. NutellaNutterson

        The only way to get out of it is to never volunteer EVER for any type of task near that, while simultaneously playing up the very different things you love to do.

        No idea if op has this challenge, but part of my experience was wanting to be Really Useful and thus would end up with tasks no one wanted.

        Heck, until I learned to stop being “helpful” I was stuck fixing every dang printer in the office, every time.

        Reply
      2. V

        Just say no. Make it clear that you don’t want to do it, and if it’s necessary to cover for it temporarily, set a firm deadline.

        I’m willing to cover for the team lead for two weeks for a vacation or emergency, but after that I’m not going to spend my entire day in meetings and PowerPoint charts. So after 2 weeks, I’m not spending more than 10 hours a week in status meetings or on endless status chart updates. There’s enough other work for me to do that I’m not going to be fired for that approach.

        Reply
  6. Ruffingit

    One thing to consider for #4 is that these drivers are not actually co-workers. My father was a truck driver for many years and he was an owner operator, which meant he was basically a contractor to a company or more than one. He could easily refuse to continue working with a company if anything annoying or irritating was happening and just go elsewhere because his services were in demand. What this dispatcher is doing is causing massive problems for this company because these drivers can and will just go elsewhere for employment. This woman needs to either be told that if this continues she will be fired or just fired outright. This can actually cause this company to shut down completely if the drivers bail and they easily can.

    Reply
    1. Shell

      I was about to ask what the driver was thinking to refuse work from his employer because of a qualm he had with a fellow employee, but you cleared that up for me.

      In light of that, I agree with this.

      Reply
    2. Apollo Warbucks

      That’s interesting, thanks for sharing. Like Shell I was curious about the drivers attitude when they refused to carry on working but it makes sense if they’re contractors and have other options and yeah thats going to damage the business.

      Reply
      1. OfficePrincess

        Even drivers who are employees have lots of options. There’s a driver shortage nationwide. As long as they have a clean driving record and valid CDL, they could find someone else to drive for any time they want to.

        Reply
        1. Dr. Johnny Fever

          I read an article yesterday about a newly licensed CDL driver who destroyed a bridge. The old horse & buggy bridge was rated 6 tons, she had a combined weight of 30 tons, but since she couldn’t remember how many pounds were in a ton, she thought she could chance it. Ahem.

          At any rate, yes, there is a serious CDL shortage and the market has been depressed for some time (when did we hit $4 gas? That’s when the depression began for CDL drivers). Some independent drivers lost work, and even their trucks, at first, but then firms who hired their own drivers found they had to shift from employee to contracted drivers to make costs.

          In the last 4-5 years, the pendulum shifted to the drivers as having more control over the routes than the contracting companies. This dispatcher can create some deadly damage to this business over all if she hasn’t already. It’s a small world in regional driving and logistics, and drivers talk to each other a lot.

          Reply
    3. Ashley

      Exactly. Truck drivers have usually always been independent contractors or work for a fleet.

      There’s actually a huge shortage of truck drivers now, so much that it’s causing a lot of concern in the industry, so companies are doing everything the can to attract and retain drivers.

      Reply
    4. IT Kat

      Not completely accurate – one of my brother-in-laws is an over-the-road long haul truck driver and he’s worked for two companies as an employee, not an owner-operator. Not everyone can afford or wants to be an owner operator. That said, he’s said that dispatchers have a lot of power so that a situation like this is almost like a manager asking to borrow money…it puts then in an awkward place and I could easily see them fearing retribution if they didn’t loan money. The dispatcher should be fired immediately for ethical concerns, and he/she isn’t paying the drivers back anyway.

      Reply
      1. Dr. Johnny Fever

        There’s been a shift in some areas so there’s regional variance. From what I’ve seen, metro areas and large distributors use a mix of employee drivers and contracted drivers, based on operational needs. Medium firms tend to go exclusively contracted to reduce overhead, and smaller firms prefer employee drivers for specific routes and deliveries.

        It varies, of course, from size to size and region to region. I’m in a larger region that connects to national and international routes; it’s much more common for those routes to have contracted drivers and for the local and strictly regional routes have employee drivers.

        (Disclosure: Not a trucker, came from a trucking family, still know quite a few in it across the country.)

        Reply
      2. Ruffingit

        It’s not just owner/operators though, even employees can usually bail if they so desire. There is a huge demand right now for drivers everywhere. Regardless though, this dispatcher is just trouble and needs to be swiftly dealt with.

        Reply
    5. JessaB

      Yes there’s an incredible shortage of drivers right now, particularly long haul. There are jobs waiting to be filled if these drivers get tired of the dispatcher’s garbage.

      Reply
  7. Elkay

    OP#3 if you look at interviews as being two way you can be very clear that you are not interested in accounting that way you are saving yourself from a job where you may find you are given a lot of accounting tasks. As you’ve previously done the task you’ll be able to discuss why you don’t want to do the task any more. For example “Working on accounting tasks has really helped me develop my attention to detail however I found that it means I do not get a lot of variety in my work so I’d prefer use my skills to work on multiple different projects”

    I did something similar with my current job, it was a new role and I was very clear that I was not interested in doing a certain task when I was interviewed (and explained why it didn’t interest me). Literally the day I started someone else handed their notice in and they had been doing this task as a main component of their job, it didn’t stop my manager asking if I’d be interested in doing it but I felt confident in being honest as I’d been so clear in my interview that this task did not interest me and wasn’t part of my career plan. Actually having done the task in the past allowed me to talk about why I did not want to do it.

    Reply
  8. Leeza

    $30 sounds like a LOT of money for an office gift exchange. I don’t spend that much on most of my relatives! $10 at the most sounds more reasonable for an office.

    Reply
    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      I did $30 when I was on a small team that all really got along well and everyone felt comfortable participating.

      It was a secret Santa exchange where you gave two small $5 gifts and the reveal was a $20 gift.

      Again, we were the kind of team that probably all would have bought gifts for each other, so this actually saved us money in the long run.

      If my current office had a $30 exchange I likely wouldn’t participate.

      Reply
  9. Chocolate Teapot

    2. From experience, it can be difficult when you don’t know when/if a person will be next in the office. The worse part is getting your head bitten off by an irate customer who seems to think it is your fault that they have not been called back.

    Reply
    1. ginger ale for all

      Why not have the sales team have a schedule of people on call? You would just need to have each hour that you are open covered by one person instead of having to know the entire teams hours.

      Reply
  10. Rebecca

    #4 – I think the dispatcher needs to be fired. Just the fact that she borrows money from coworkers, with no intention of paying it back, and is harming your business, is reason enough. If you want to give her another chance, make sure the company does not pay back the money she borrowed! I think that set a bad precedent. She needs to pay it back, in full.

    As an aside, you have an untrustworthy person who has intimate knowledge of your pickups and deliveries, and possibly what’s on those loads. Do you want someone like this working in that position?

    Reply
    1. LadyB

      This. We had a member of staff borrowing from and not repaying colleagues. When we dug deeper we found that he had a massive gambling problem and was stealing from the company as well. While I have every sympathy for people in financial difficulties, if their financial problems pose a risk to the company I think that they have to go. That said, if you suspect any kind of financial irregularity it’s often easier to gather evidence before the person realises they’ve been rumbled.

      Reply
  11. F.

    OP1, be sure employees understand that participation in the gift exchange is optional. Although I agree with Alison to assume the best, there could also be a bit of passive aggressive behavior going on if a lot of pressure is put on people to participate when they don’t want to. I have been told that I was not a “team player” for not participating in the gift exchange at a former employer.

    Reply
    1. Michael

      I think this reason, combined with everyone else’s comments about how White Elephant has a million versions and interpretations, is enough to end the gift exchange tradition in the office. The workplace shouldn’t come with social obligations to spend money, even if it’s “optional.” Host a potluck or cookie table and move on.

      Reply
      1. Colette

        Well, a potluck also involves spending money. In a lot of offices, stopping social events that require people to spend money means stopping social events altogether. I don’t see a reason to stop the gift exchange if the group is enjoying it, as long as it’s truly optional and the rules are clear.

        Reply
          1. Dr. Johnny Fever

            What’s the FB meme, why buy it for $7 when I can make it myself with $92 of supplies?

            I don’t mind the money sink (when reasonable) but I cannot absorb the potluck timesink – finding a recipe to meet everyone’s cultural and allergic needs shopping, prep, cooking, storage, heating at work, bringing everything back, cleanup – it takes hours! I’m already working 40+ a week, plus commute time, and now I have to find all this extra time beyond the typical weekly crap? HELL to the NO. Gah! Makes me tense just thinking about it.

            For potlucks, I bring the cutlery/plates/napkins that everyone forgets. Still a PITA but better than cooking. I’d much rather we all kick in $20 and treat ourselves for lunch at a restaurant. I’ll even make the reservation :)

            Reply
            1. I'm a Little Teapot

              Yeah, same here – also, I have a tiny kitchen, no car, and a long awkward bus commute, so I have no idea how I could even get food into the office in the first place. I always skip potlucks.

              Reply
          2. ThursdaysGeek

            If you’re making a dish that can serve 20, you’re part of the reason there is always so much leftover food at a potluck. Make it serve 8-10 max, knowing that most people will take a half or third serving, and make sure it’s something you like as a leftover. It’s best if people rave about it and there is nothing left at the end (or even before the end).

            Reply
            1. Jerry Vandesic

              If everyone makes a dish, the number of servings per dish should equal the number of courses (or the number of items each person puts on their plate).

              Reply
          3. TootsNYC

            W/ potlucks, you’re not really supposed to make a dish that huge–you end up with WAY too much food. You should make a dish that serves 4 or 8 people. If everybody is bringing enough food for 4 people, you’ll have 4 times as much food as you really need, which gives people a little taste of almost everything.

            But yes, depending, it can be expensive.

            Reply
      2. Bleu

        Well, or (1) make is a Secret Santa exchange with newly bought non-gag-gift items (which is what the OP seemed to mean for the event to actually be and/or (2) be explicit about what a White Elephant exchange means. Because even the term White Elephant originated from a gift of white elephants the ruler wanted to re-gift.

        Reply
    2. EvilQueenRegina

      When I worked at The Real Office, this one guy didn’t bother replying to the email about Secret Santa and thought that was his way of opting out. The person organising it took it the other way and put his name in the hat. He moaned and groaned, agreed to do it but then got the guy he disliked and just gave a pair of his old socks. They went in the bin.

      Reply
  12. RunnerGirl

    OP#1 – Where I’m from, a white elephant gift is SUPPOSED to be a used item from your house. And the tackier, the better. It’s VERY frowned upon to actually go out and buy a gift. People who do that are accused of not getting in the spirit of the exchange. So I bet you anything that your employee did what he thought he was supposed to do, and was probably really embarrassed. This actually happened to me just last week – I went to a Dirty Santa party, brought a used, tacky white elephant item, and everyone else brought expensive and beautiful gifts. I was mortified.

    Reply
    1. Amy Farrah Fowler

      This is so interesting, because I’ve always understood a White Elephant to be how the gifts are given, not so much about the price or whether it’s a regift. In my circle, a Secret Santa is where you have a particular person you’re buying a small gift(s) for and later revealing that you were the one buying for them, so you may leave a $5 starbucks card or a 12-pack of their favorite soda on the recipient’s desk for them to find.

      For a White Elephant, everyone brings a gift and people draw numbers. Number one, picks a gift and unwraps it, then number 2 either steals or picks a new gift to unwrap. People set up their own number of rules for how many steals, etc. But usually White Elephants in my circle have a $ amount or range attached to them. I have seen white elephants that were meant to be tacky, but they’re far from the only kind that exist here.

      Reply
      1. Oryx

        Where I’m from, what you’re describing is called a Yankee Swap and a White Elephant is definitely the type of gift given.

        Reply
      2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

        Ha! Who knew we all had different ideas of what these exchanges are called?

        For me:

        Secret Santa = You draw someone’s name and buy a gift for them.

        White Elephant = You bring something you already own and don’t want. It may or may not be tacky/a gag gift – I’ve seen these done as both. (So, I’ve brought an old Candyland game to one, but a nice-ish piece of jewelry that just wasn’t my style to another).

        Yankee Gift Swap = Everyone brings a gift, you draw numbers and pick gifts either by unwrapping something new or “stealing” from someone else.

        Reply
        1. Amy Farrah Fowler

          I’ve never heard of a Yankee Gift Swap, so I guess where I am they just combined the yankee swap and the white elephant into one and people tend to specify if it’s a gag gift or if there’s a $ limit associated with it. I think that’s all the more reason to let it go with the person that brought the wrong thing though. There’s so many interpretations and expectations.

          What I would do going forward is send out an email about how you want your gift exchange to work (all the particulars including date, $ range, what popular gifts have been in the past, etc.) That way when you have newcomers to your team, it will be very easy to fit in with the expectations instead of relying on how you’ve done it with other groups.

          Reply
          1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

            I’d always heard it the way Victoria described, but when I moved to my current city they saw YS and WE as the same.

            I agree, the *organizer* needs to clearly outlay the expectation for all participants early on. I heard a coworker explaining our WE to a newbie and a few of us had to jump in because they weren’t really conveying our office culture of tacky, free gifts.

            Reply
  13. The Cosmic Avenger

    OP#2, it sounds like the customer support manager and the sales manager should get together and figure out a plan for answering sales questions. The CS team could be trained by the sales staff to answer more sales questions, or maybe the sales department wants to have one of their staff “on call” (in the office or via cell) to answer quick or time-sensitive sales questions even if it’s not their client. Either of those would be a good long-term solution; having the sales staff’s schedule available to the CS staff might not solve anything, because their schedule could change, or they might be available to answer questions while out of the office.

    Reply
    1. DeLurkee

      I like this suggestion, especially having one designated on-call sales person, which presumably would be filled on a rotating basis by different sales staff.

      Reply
    2. Feline Fine

      Often, when you work in outside sales, it’s hard to give a schedule. If a client calls, you go. This is something that the sales manager needs to solve. Either they need an inside sales person who is the one who fields these calls, or the sales team needs to have scheduled office time (on a rotation).

      Reply
  14. Lynn Ann

    re OP 1, Agree with others that workplace secret santa/gift exchanges are rife with opportunities for misunderstandings. I’d further suggest they come in second only to employee-of-the-month programs for promoting ill will and fueling simmering resentment all around. Are you REALLY sure everyone is enjoying them and participating willingly?

    Reply
  15. Biff

    I sort-of disagree with Allison on #1.

    I think it would be best to talk to the employee who brought the used item. However, I do agree that there should be no confrontation. I think it should be handled with empathy and understanding towards the employee as they may have been mistaken/broke/etc, but a firm resolve that if they play next year, they need to play according to the rules and expectations.

    Something like “Fergus, if you decide to participate in the Stinky Santa exchange next year, please keep in mind that the intention is that we exchange new items that have been purchased with our group in mind. Popular items have been insulated travel coffee mugs, pints of better-quality liquor, and gift cards to Target and Walgreens. It’s perfectly fine to not participate and several people don’t. However, if you do participate, we try to make sure that exchanges are even in value.”

    Reply
    1. fposte

      Why is that important, though? I mean, I’m a rule person and I get the frustration at the possibility that somebody is skating by the rules. But the rules are for something that really doesn’t matter here, and it’s pretty likely it’s not somebody who’s trying to game the system anyway. Why take the chance over something so insignificant?

      Reply
      1. Doriana Gray

        I agree. And if the person is broke like suggested, can you imagine the awkwardness of that conversation? “I’m sorry, but the only way you can participate in this exchange that’s meant to be a fun bonding time for coworkers is if you have money” is kind of a gross thing for an employer to say to an employee (and obviously no one with any sense would use that exact script, but that’s what it would boil down to). I’d leave it alone.

        Reply
          1. Doriana Gray

            And that’s true, but there’s no reason to cause that kind of divide in the workplace during the holidays. It’s needlessly cruel.

            Reply
            1. Dr. Johnny Fever

              I wouldn’t want to be the one to initiate that conversation. I know what I make. I know what my team makes. I’m keenly aware of the divide between us and other support personnel. I am not going to have a conversation with someone who makes 1/3 my salary and tell them they have to pony up a certain amount for a gift. Nor would I want them to assume that I am giving a gift of a certain amount based on my salary.

              Frankly, I find the idea disgusting. We aren’t paid equally. Telling people to contribute equally is gross. What happened to the idea that it’s the thought that counts, or the camaraderie that makes the difference?

              I grew up on Section 8. I have a nice life now, but I don’t forget for a minute how things have been for me nor how many more people still face that struggle. Yeah, it’s a reality of life, but it’s not one I’m willing to communicate over a holiday office party.

              Reply
              1. Doriana Gray

                Well said. I like the comment that was posted that people shouldn’t go into these things expecting fabulous gifts – presumably your friends and family will get you nice things that you actually like. Expecting coworkers to get you gifts that are of the caliber of the ones you’d get from people who are close to you is a little…off.

                Reply
              2. Katniss

                Yup. I am paycheck to paycheck right now. The fact that the office gift exchange was basically mandatory (I’m new and not participating would have made me the only person on the team not doing it and would have been noticed) meant that I was living on $20 for several days while I waited for my next paycheck. I really could have used the $25 I spent on a gift.

                Reply
      2. Biff

        So, story time.

        This year was the first year I got to participate in the gift exchange at my company. Money has been tight, but I did my very best to stretch my 20 dollars and put a nice gift on the table, because at my company people tend to bring in items above the suggested cost. This year’s offerings included a stunning wine sampler, high-end tequila and also a very generous Amazon gift card.

        The person sitting next to me got a used wine glass. As in, still filmy from the dishwasher. I happen to know that they brought in the high-end tequila, and were, like me, very proud to have gotten their money to stretch so far. I ended up with some (very) cheap holiday candy.

        To say feelings were hurt is an understatement. While it’s possible that whomever brought in the USED wineglass was confused as to the nature of the exchange or broke and hoping it would be funny, it came across as tone-deaf and disrespectful. When people don’t put some effort into the game, as it were, but they get something out of it, people feel less and less inclined to put their own effort into it and it falls towards the lowest common denominator. When that happens, the event loses participation and ultimately fades away and provides no enjoyment for anyone.

        TL;DR — It’s only fun if it’s fair. If it’s not fair, it’s not fun. And it’s supposed to be fun.

        Reply
        1. Colette

          To me, that’s a sign that the exchange should lower the limit. If the limit were $5, there’d be less scope for hard feelings but the fun of the game would still be there.

          Reply
          1. Biff

            I say this below but I’ll rephrase here. The rules of our (optional) gift exchange mimic demands put on employees who would be moving up the chain. If they cannot participate appropriately in the exchange, it’s a strong sign that they aren’t ready to make necessary sacrifices to move up the ladder. It is much better to not participate than bring a tone-deaf gift.

            Reply
        2. INTP

          I understand the frustration but that’s also the nature of White Elephant. There are always a few people on the wrong page whether they bring fabulous gifts to a gag exchange or vice versa. Then there are loads more who simply don’t like what they wind up with, feel hurt that no one wanted their thoughtful gift because they were all going after the generic gift cards, etc. The way to reduce disappointment is to lower the buy-in price so no one feels like they’ve invested much in it (though some people will still not get it) or have a more structured exchange like secret Santa with wish lists, not have embarrassing conversations with the people that mess up every single year. A flawless White Elephant is a losing battle.

          Reply
        3. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

          To me, this sounds like the rules of the exchange were not clearly articulated to all employees ahead of time.

          No one likes being the person who brought the truly gag gift to the nice exchange. And the person who brought the nice gift to the joke exchange ends up with hurt feelings.

          Reply
        4. Green

          If you’re worried about what you’re going to get, I’d suggest taking the $20 and buying something you want and bypassing the exchange. It’s not worth alienating or embarrassing an employee over who is probably already aware of their faux pas.

          Reply
      3. mander

        The thing about this case that I don’t really know is whether or not the rules were actually specified. From the responses in the comments people have wildly different understandings of how these things work, so if the person who brought in the crappy present didn’t know that the current office expected nice gifts rather than gag gifts I don’t see why they should be singled out and given a talking-to. They probably understood as soon as the other gifts were opened.

        But next year I’d be sure to make all the rules explicit (and have a clear procedure for opting out). And a much lower price limit.

        Reply
    2. IT Kat

      What’s to be gained by confrontation, when the person can’t have missed the difference in their gift? Why not just, when sending out the invite next year, include actual rules (exchange is optional, and if you participate, it must be a brand new, nice gift in the $range)?

      If the mistake wasn’t deliberate, they know they were off base. If it was deliberate and they knew the conventions (which I honestly don’t see happening here), talking to them isn’t going to make a difference.

      Reply
      1. Biff

        I’ve worked with a lot of clods that don’t change until they know that someone is one, onto them, and two, willing to call them to the carpet.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Sure, but you’ve also worked with people who didn’t have money for a gift exchange. Which is more important, shaming the clods or not shaming the indigent?

          Reply
          1. Biff

            It might not be the same in your office, but in my office, tone-deaf participation in the gift exchange is probably indicative of a fit issue that should be addressed. Since non-participation is acceptable, tone-deaf participation is an obvious faux paus that has career impact. Promotions in my line of work are contingent on the employee making some sacrifices. If someone can’t make a minor sacrifice for a gift exchange, it shows them to be unable to handle the demands a promotion would bring. If that seems harsh, perhaps it is, but it is how it works around here.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              Yikes; that is something I would have trouble with. Well, I certainly agree that if somebody is going to get held back for insufficient gift exchange participation, they should be informed about that. But what you’ve been saying previously hasn’t acknowledged that that’s the real problem, and if that’s the reason it needs to be explicit in any communication: “We expect a certain level of participation and your career here will be affected by a perceived deficit.” It’s not that they’re clods or that the rules are so ruly; it’s that this is a way you show the flag here at Sterling Cooper so here’s a head’s up that you’ll hurt yourself by undergifting.

              Reply
            2. Dr. Johnny Fever

              That is a ridiculous metric. I’m not saying you’re ridiculous, Biff, but that your office culture is incredibly so if HR makes hiring decisions based on White Elephant exchanges.

              If a promotion can be made on something as flimsy as whether I participated in Secret Santa, then the company can shove its promotion up its narrow ass. I refuse to work for any organization where my career development hinges on that specific measure of bullshit of holiday cheer rather than on my talent, skills, and previous success.

              Of all the asinine, insane….I have to walk away before my head explodes, and I’m not joking. This is a mindblowingly ludicrous example of “career sacrifice”.

              Oh, gods, now that the religious discriminatory elements appear in my brain since these events are Christmas-related….flames, FLAMES! On the side of my face.

              Reply
              1. Biff

                I realize how this might seem ridiculous online. I can assure you that it’s not so ridiculous from where I’m sitting. The Christmas party is one of two yearly events in which all the offices get together and it’s the best event in which to show yourself as magnanimous and generous. It’s certainly not the only metric on which someone is judged, but I can tell you that poor behavior at the Christmas party year after year gets people noticed in a negative way.

                Again, participation in the exchange isn’t required/implied to be required, so poor participation says more about the participant than it might at an office with required attendance.

                Reply
                1. fposte

                  It can be internally true and still ridiculous, which is where I’m falling. This is up there with judging somebody on their golf game or the hostess polish of their wife.

                2. fposte

                  And thinking about it more, I still think you’ve got two different things going on here that you’re trying to conflate. If this is tied to their trajectory and they’re hurting themselves by participating insufficiently, then they’re getting their deserved punishment right there and don’t need to be lectured. If it’s that you fear they’re clods and are annoyed that they’re not abiding by the rules, then the career trajectory thing is a red herring and people need to accept that a gift exchange is not a pot of gold.

                3. Observer

                  I’m glad I don’t work at your organization.

                  Also, even though you say that participation is voluntary, it doesn’t sound like this is REALLY true. Sure, no one is making a mark in someone’s file “do not promote, didn’t partake of the gift exchange”. But, given how you describe the function of participating (eg “sacrifice” and “showing oneself to be generous and magnanimous”), not participating may be better than being tone deaf, but still a problem.

                  So, yes, a heads up is a good idea simply because it’s unfair to penalize people like this. BUT it should include the WHOLE truth – that if you want to get ahead you need to participate in a certain way – and you DO need to participate, if you are REALLY serious. Also, “confrontation” is just not in the books here.

                  BTW, I’m not sure why your feelings were hurt by a “substandard” gift. After all, this is not about having a good time, but showing off how “magnanimous” everyone is or how ready for promotion.

                4. hbc

                  Biff, you know it’s much easier to be (superficially) magnanimous and generous when your parents made sure you never had a college loan payment and/or you never had to run up your credit card between jobs because your business-owning neighbor could afford to toss you a favor of a filler job and/or your spouse also pulls in a white collar salary, right?

                  Requiring a buy-in to get to higher levels is discriminatory and gross.

                5. I'm a Little Teapot

                  What the hell does showing yourself to be “magnanimous and generous” have to do with job performance?

                  The whole thing would smell like bribing your way into promotion to me. Icky.

                6. BananaPants

                  This whole situation is absurd. One’s promotion schedule can hinge on bringing an expensive gift to a supposedly-optional office Yankee swap? How can those who choose not to participate show their magnanimity (and apparently, disposable income)?

                7. Dr. Johnny Fever

                  @Beti – no Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, and Shintoists, either.

                  Can you even imagine the lawsuits connected to this for people who didn’t come and we’re passed for promotion? I’d print this thread as Exhibit A.

                8. Willis

                  How is bringing a nice gift “magnanimous and generous” if you’re expecting to get a gift of a similar value back in the exchange (and complaining about hurt feelings if you don’t)? Maybe if everyone was bringing in gifts for a charity and expecting nothing in return, it would be a better indication of generosity, although still a weird factor to include in promotion decisions.

            3. Artemesia

              Wow. Glad I never worked at a place where ponderous judgments would be made about something this incredibly trivial. Your fitness promotion depends on the choice of Christmas gift exchange gift? Seriously? Yikes.

              Reply
              1. Doriana Gray

                Exactly. And if I did work in a place like this, I’d be looking for a new job. My generosity is showed by coming to work every day, kicking ass at my job, being helpful to colleagues and customers with no expectation of reciprocity, and just generally being a pleasant person. If that’s not enough to advance, the company has a problem, not me.

                Reply
            4. Queen Anon

              That…is probably one of the oddest comments I’ve seen on Ask A Manager in the several years I’ve been reading. I might even say it’s tone deaf as to what’s really appropriate when judging someone ready for a promotion.

              Reply
              1. BananaPants

                How does bringing in a bottle of high end tequila or a wine sampler demonstrate magnanimity – acting with noble purpose or being great in mind and heart? Any Yankee swap-style gift exchange I’ve been involved in doesn’t have participants put their name on the gift – how do the powers-that-be know that Wakeen brought the $50 value wine sampler and Jane brought the used Mickey Mouse coffee mug? Does senior management review each gift and then discuss later if an item involved sufficient sacrifice to be worthy of promotion?

                If Biff is being serious here, I’d wonder if the people who brought crappy stuff are being passive-aggressive about this “optional” (but not really) gift exchange where exceeding the stated limit and showing off how much you can spend helps you climb the corporate ladder faster. If I was in that position, it’s not a company I’d want to be promoted in (or continue working for), and I’d be tempted to bring something so crap-tastic that others might see the absurdity of the situation.

                Reply
                1. A Bug!

                  How does bringing in a bottle of high end tequila or a wine sampler demonstrate magnanimity – acting with noble purpose or being great in mind and heart?

                  It doesn’t, and I’d consider it a bit vulgar, myself. There’s magnanimous and there’s ostentatious, and the former doesn’t get their knickers in a twist over someone else’s present being too cheap.

                  I would consider it a real problem for a workplace if people were bringing too-expensive gifts to a santa swap, far more than the other way around. I sure wouldn’t want a situation to develop where people felt obligated to spend more than the limit on gifts because their co-worker brought in an $80 bottle of scotch last year and they’re worried about looking cheap to management.

                  Also? Making someone feel bad because their present wasn’t good enough (either through explicitly saying so, or through comparison to someone else’s extravagance)? That’s not in the spirit of giving.

    3. Oryx

      It seems so unnecessary to do it at this stage, after the fact. Just wait until next year and when announcing the gift exchange and lay out the monetary amount, the expected level of gift, and the fact that it’s completely voluntary. Chances are, there will be people hired between now and then so it still might happen if a new person is hired who has a different understanding and nobody outlines the rules before the swap.

      Reply
          1. Biff

            I’ve consistently said that appropriate participation is a way of making yourself visible to management in a very, very positive way.

            And again, non-participation is FINE. You can do well here even if you don’t participate.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              Then you’ve said what needs to be said. There’s no point in lecturing anybody post-party. That’s more about you being annoyed; just let it go.

              Reply
          2. Dr. Johnny Fever

            “We post very clear rules every year and I’ve counseled ALL the new hires on appropriate gifts.”

            I would argue that a holiday party that requires annual rules, is explained during new hire orientation, and poses limits to one’s career growth, can in no way be called a party. NFW.

            Admiral Ackbar could pose a very likely hypothesis as to what this event truly is.

            Reply
    4. Artemesia

      This is IMHO a terrible idea. Scolding an employee in this situation has no upside at all. You can emphasize the $ limit next year and hope for the best, but scolding someone has nothing but negative outcomes — embarrassment or resentment or both. And 30 is a ridiculous limit.

      Reply
    5. Episkey

      I can see Biff’s reasoning here and I kind of agree IF the rules of OP #1 office’s swap were clearly outlined — as in, no gag/funny/used gifts, etc.

      If the participation was optional & the rules were outlined, I can see being annoyed as the recipient of the used item when that person presumably spent money and brought a nice gift.

      I wrote in as a comment awhile ago on one of Alison’s threads where she chooses the top 10 holiday horror stories and she selected mine in the list — and it was one of these types of situations. Several years ago I worked in an org where our holiday party had a gift swap — and it was NOT called a White Elephant swap — it was the kind of exchange were you draw numbers & can steal. We had a $15 limit and everyone brought nice things…except for this one guy who brought a wrapped box of random crap he found around his house — paperclips, nuts & bolts, etc. When the person who got his gift opened it, the entire room fell silent and then awkwardly moved on quickly. I felt so bad for the person that ended up with that box of crap.

      Reply
      1. Dr. Johnny Fever

        I still nope out. Holiday parties do not have any bearing on career opportunities.

        Period.

        This company is so far outside the norm it’s not even in a Venn diagram of common corporate practices. It’s a little bubble located 3 ft from the diagram (which fits on A4 paper)

        Reply
    6. Bleu

      Nope. This would only make things 100 times more awkward. The OP clearly is using “white elephant” and “secret santa” as though they are the same term — but they are not, and the gifts were perfectly in spirit with a white elephant exchange. I can assure you at least one and probably several of the coworkers are already mortified by the apparent chaos in communicating what kind of gift is really expected here.

      Reply
  16. Observer

    #2 Sales team. It’s really not realistic to have the sales team keep you updated on their schedule as you want. What I really don’t understand is why you cannot do what they have asked and tell people that someone will get back tot hem as soon as possible? What you COULD ask sales for is a GENERAL timeline, eg Is it reasonable to tell people that someone should get back to them by the end of the day, next morning, etc.

    Reply
    1. Lee Ann

      Haven’t you ever been frustrated to be told a vague “they’ll get back to you as soon as possible”, when you’ve got your own schedule to think about? If you’re lucky they call when you’re there, if not you end up playing phone tag for days. I dealt with a department once that didn’t make it clear they only returned calls between 8-11AM – and they were East Coast, I was West – no overlap at all unless I came in early.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        Sure I am. But I would MUCH rather that than a timeline that was made up out of a hat – at least I have an idea of what I’m in for. When they say “x time” I work around it, which stinks if it doesn’t happen. But that’s pretty much why I suggested a GENERAL time line. That does give people something to work with.

        Reply
    2. Seven If You Count Bad John

      They probably *have* done that and keep getting calls back from increasingly irate customers badgering them as to their unresponsive salesperson’s whereabouts. Which is a management issue on the sales side–the salespeople need to return their darned calls, not expect customer service to do their jobs for them. If they’re unresponsive for some reason, the unresponsive person should be counseled, and if they’re too busy, then they need to hire more sales people.

      Reply
      1. JessaB

        Thank you. This is exactly one of the issues with this, when support needs to give someone a callback time, there needs to be a firm understanding that those people who are doing the callbacks, actually will do them in that timeline. I mean 95% or more of the time, especially if the note is “irate customer.”

        Reply
  17. Observer

    #4 – Dispatcher not paying back “loans”.

    You should have put a stop to this a LONG time ago. In general, if you have someone who is abusing other staff, even if it’s not part of their duties, you need to stop it. Sure, you may not have a LEGAL requirement (assuming that it’s not motivated y membership in a protected class, retaliation etc.) But even though you apparently don’t consider the eyhical / moral component important here, as a practical matter, it is very bad for business. And, if you think that it’s only starting to affect the business now, you are mistaken. It’s just that you are now seeing it clearly. And repeatedly borrowing money and refusing to pay IS abuse.

    When there is a power imbalance in play, which seems to be the case here as dispatchers can make people’s lives difficult, then that is true many times over. If nothing else, you are probably facing a much higher level of legal liability, because you are essentially enabling the thefts by keeping her in a position of power and you are aware of the issue. I don’t know if you would lose a lawsuit, but just defending it would be costly.

    Aside from all of this, I agree with the posters who say that this person poses a risk to your organization. Either she is deeply dishonest, enmeshed in an expensive and probably problematic activity or both. Do you really think that she’s stick to only picking the drivers’ pockets? The odds of her either stealing directly from the company or otherwise misusing the information she has is extremely high, in my opinion.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      I was initially dubious that somebody who’s so open about getting money from people is bothering to secretly do it as well, but I think you’ve got a point–this is somebody who feels entitled to other people’s money for some reason, which does not bode well.

      Reply
  18. Menacia

    With regard to the dispatcher borrowing money and not paying it back to the extent the company paid back an employee for her…who is to say that they are not all in this together and are extorting money from the company? Have the drivers been told not to give this person any money? If they do give her money, and she does not pay it back, the employees should *not* be threatening the company, that in of itself is a huge issue. The company needs to make an example not only of the dispatcher, but of any employee who tries to manipulate the company to pay them back (where is the proof they even borrowed this money in the first place)? There are way too many red flags all over this situation, and many players at fault.

    Reply
    1. Doriana Gray

      I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that there’s some mass conspiracy to screw the company going on – the drivers going back to the company for repayment makes perfect sense to me. The dispatcher isn’t paying them back, she works for the company, ergo, they believe the company should step in since they hired the thief. That’s a logical thought process to have IMO.

      Reply
      1. BRR

        It’s kind of a stretch. I’d also expect my employer to step in. Maybe realize that the money is gone but the employee should also be gone. It’s an employee who has created a really toxic environment and it should be taken very seriously.

        Reply
  19. Allison

    #1 could’ve been a misunderstanding, some people might’ve thought $30 was the maximum, not a price point they were expected to stick to. it was supposed to be a fun holiday activity, not worth confronting people over.

    Next year, make the expectations crystal clear, even the ones you think are implied or are usually unspoken. If you want people to spend $30, say “we’d like everyone to spend around $30” (and maybe add “if you can’t afford that then try to buy something that’s usually $30 but on sale for less”). If it’s white elephant, understand that in most white elephant exchanges people bring stuff from home or pick things up at thrift shops, and if you don’t want people to do that then maybe you should switch to a more conventional yankee swap.

    Reply
    1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

      All gift exchanges, but *especially* work gift exchanges should have clear rules and expectations.

      I was mortified during my first holiday with my ex’s family when he told me that it was a $10 funny gift exchange. I asked him multiple times about it and even when I said I would be more comfortable just picking up one of those Starbucks Christmas bundles, he stated it was all joke/gag gifts.

      Turns out it wasn’t. Yes, people did funny things, like his grandfather who put a $10 gift card between two cans of tuna. But everyone spent money nicely, except us. In the years we were together his aunt was extremely cold to me because she ended up with my joke gift (which at least contained chocolates!).

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        It is immature to hold a grudge but it is a common side effect of this sort of game when people don’t conform. I am doing my best not to feel resentful about my book club exchange. One person brought a really nice balsam scented candle because she forgot and didn’t have time to get a book. I stole the candle from the person who got it and later in the game someone who got MY book which of course I had read, stole it back, sticking me with a book she knew I had read and that I had brought to the exchange. Yeah fair enough, thems the rules. But I had hosted and provided dinner and ended up with a book I had read and it just felt really rude of her. Others said ‘oh you can’t do that, that’s her book’ but she said ‘I don’t care, I want the candle.’ Another person took pity on me and exchanged books temporarily — I will give hers back when I have read it. And I feel less friendly towards the person who did this although this is the way the game works so I am trying to tamp that down and not be a jerk.

        Reply
        1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

          I totally, totally understood her initial annoyance. Everyone could see how mortified I was, but even after I profusely apologized, explained the situation, and offered to trade or replace her gift, she was still bitter years later.

          I would call the candle/book situation mean! I can’t imagine doing that to a friend who had opened their home to me!

          Reply
          1. bearing

            Ugh. It’s a game, with rules. It’s ridiculous to hold grudges against people who play a game to win. If there are secret rules to your game (like, “You aren’t *really* allowed to steal something from a person who likes what they have,” or “You can choose to steal a gift from anyone — except the hostess”) then maybe you should consider making those rules not-secret if you are going to be pissy about someone not following them.

            People aren’t mind-readers. Especially new employees and new in-laws.

            Reply
            1. Not the Droid You Are Looking For

              As the person who was the object of a longstanding grudge (original comment of the this thread) I’m with you on the idea that the rules should be clear to everyone.

              But, Artemesia’s situation was one where it was something I found mean and wouldn’t personally do. Not sure that deserves an “ugh.”

              Reply
      2. Umvue

        My first professional job had a white elephant exchange. The office party organizer made it very clear that the point was to bring in something junky from around the house, so that’s what I did. When the event happened it turned out that only about half of the gifts were like this, and the rest were classy (as if to say, “Look what nice things I can afford to cast off”); that the office party organizer, in fact, contributed a really nice, multi part gift for the exchange every year; and that the worst gift was always given by the director, for whom the staff always ponied up separately to buy some super nice liquor in addition to whatever he got from the exchange. So the guy making the big bucks would walk away with a couple months worth of after dinner drinks and one of his subordinates would be left with his single grass-stained running shoe.

        I’m actually snickering remembering this. Funny how enjoyable it can be to remember the ducked up culture of jobs that are safely in the past.

        Reply
    2. Kassy

      The only white elephant exchange I ever went to: I was in high school. I brought a toilet paper holder (or whatever they’re called, those little circular bars that make the TP able to roll), and left with a beaten-up dictionary identical to the one I had (because it was on our supply list).

      So if I heard “white elephant,” I would have assumed “funny/gag gift/not a real gift.”

      Reply
  20. Kat M

    The definition of a white elephant is a gift or object that is burdensome, annoying, difficult to maintain, or hard to get rid of. Elephants are useful creatures. Albino elephants not so much. If you actually want a white elephant, it isn’t one.

    Reply
      1. Agnes

        This may be a legend, but I thought it was that the king of Thailand used to give white elephants to people, which were an incredible mark of favor. But they were useless, very expensive to feed and take care of, and you could never get rid of them.

        Reply
    1. Dr. Johnny Fever

      Had a dear friend who adored elephants. I was tickled one year to find white elephant salt and pepper shakers for her one year. She loved them!

      Reply
  21. BananaPants

    Around here a Secret Santa is a gift bought for a specific person. A Yankee swap is a general gift where numbers are drawn from a hat and each person either selects a wrapped gift or can steal something someone has already opened. A white elephant is a type of gift often given in a Yankee swap, something silly or regifted. I’d suggest clarifying the nature of the exchange/swap for next year because a Secret Santa and a white elephant exchange are VERY different!

    Reply
  22. EvilQueenRegina

    Is White Elephant/Dirty Santa a US thing? I live in England and every gift exchange I’ve ever seen has been a Secret Santa where you buy something. The limit OP describes is higher than any I’ve known before, although the time at The Real Office where someone suggested a limit of £1 was difficult to do without getting tat. I’ve never seen it done the White Elephant way (well, unless you count the guy I mentioned above who gave the guy he didn’t like a pair of his old socks).

    Reply
    1. UK Nerd

      The whole White Elephant thing is something I’d never heard of until I started reading American blogs.

      My office Secret Santa has a £5 limit (about $7.40) which is enough to get a decent bottle of wine with. Outside of work I’ve also done second hand books (could be your own or from a charity shop) and £1 limit. £1 was probably the most fun. We got all kinds of weird gifts. I’m still using the clip sided plastic food storage boxes I got a couple of years ago.

      Reply
  23. Sy

    At my workplace this year we had a secret santa where the limit was $25 and I bought a $10 item that was on my person’s list. I didn’t feel bad about spending $10 since I’m one of the lower paid employees, and they asked for it. If I was told I didn’t spend enough I’d be pretty offended. The item that I received was probably worth $20. I don’t feel like I got $10 out of the deal, it’s just a dumb office secret santa exchange.

    Reply
  24. That Marketing Chick

    #1 I think to avoid confusion, it either needs to be “White Elephant” or “Secret Santa”. Otherwise, you’re going to get a mixed bag of gag gifts (white elephant) and real gifts (Secret Santa). The same thing happened at my office, and my guess is that the couple of people with lower quality gifts either went the white elephant route or perhaps just didn’t have the money…but I’m sure they were a bit embarrassed. Just make it clear next year!

    Reply
  25. Ashley the Paralegal

    #5 – My first thought reading this was why would someone tell other people that their dad was essentially paying them under the table? This potentially opens both of them up to trouble for not properly filing and paying the applicable taxes and there are usually stiff penalties for that if caught. I would leave how you were compensated completely out of the conversation.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

You can find the site's commenting guidelines here. You can report an ad, tech, or typo issue here.

Subscribe to all comments on this post by RSS