Do I have to participate in the office “Secret Santa” exchange?

Secret Santa gift exchanges can bring out the best of collegiality and the worst of office politics. Some people love any excuse for gift-giving; others can’t stand the thought of unwrapping one more tchotchke for their cubicles. While office gift exchanges can contribute to employee morale and build company culture, there are also plenty of legitimate reasons for not participating, such as financial constraints and differing religious customs surrounding holidays. A wise human resources manager will make participating optional and find other appropriate ways to help the staff celebrate. Can you suggest an alternate activity, such as contributing to a charity you all agree to support or bringing something to a potluck? Or can you join in and secretly laugh your head off when your fashion-challenged colleague unwraps the ugly Christmas sweater you bought for him? While you are not morally bound to participate, you may find it best to play along for the sake of workplace harmony.