When Secret Santa Goes Wrong….

Last updated: September 8th, 2016

With the silly season upon us, a lot of employers like to embrace the Christmas season within the workplace to boost morale. For a bit of fun, a lot of organisations will hold a secret Santa. Although this is all in the spirit of good fun, there have been occasions where secret Santa has gone wrong and someone has ended up feeling embarrassed or left out.

Although it is not suggested that these types of practices should be stopped in the workplace it is no harm to remind employees that they are still in the workplace and that gifts should, therefore, be appropriate for the workplace. Some reminders when sending out the initial email inviting people to partake can include setting ground rules such as small limits for the gifts for example €10.

Gifts should not run the risk of undermining someone’s dignity and respect at work and therefore should not include obscene language, be sexually explicit or include anything that could be inferred to be racist or make a mockery of any individual’s religious or political beliefs. It can also be good for one person to have a complete list of who got who just in case there are any complaints following Santa’s arrival!

While an organisation may have the best intentions of promoting the Christmas spirit it could result in a complaint from an upset or aggrieved employee. Prevention is better than cure and reminding employees to be respectful can help everyone be happy with their Santa surprise!

If you have any questions in relation to promoting dignity and respect in the workplace you can talk to a consultant on
01 886 0350

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Nora Cashe


Nóra studied Law in Griffith College Dublin and qualified as a Barrister in 2008, practising in the area of Criminal law. She is also member of the Irish Employment Law Association.

Nora has extensive experience representing clients at Employment Tribunal hearings, Conciliation / Mediation meetings before both the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court. 

Nóra is a member of the Irish Employment Law Association and engages with the WRC Adjudication Service as part of their stakeholder engagement forum.

Deiric McCann

Genos International Europe

Deiric McCann leads Genos International Europe – The EU division of a world-leading provider of emotional intelligence solutions. 

With over two decades experience at the highest levels of management, Deiric supports clients to develop the resilience, emotional intelligence, psychological safety and engagements of their employees.

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David Begg

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David Begg was appointed Chairperson of the Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) in January 2021.

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