A tradition as old as the office holiday party itself is the office white elephant gift exchange. If you are not familiar with what a white elephant exchange entails, WhiteElephantRules.com explains it as a game where all players bring a gift that can wind up in the hands of any one of the other players. Over the course of the game, players can pick unwrapped gifts from the pool or choose to steal a gift already selected by another player. There are different variations of the game, making it a popular activity at annual office gatherings.
If you have never participated in a white elephant gift exchange before, or if you are simply looking to provide one of the best gifts available at the party, consider the following ideas.
Granted, getting someone a gift card may seem like a cop-out, but when it can wind up in the hands of any of your coworkers, it is about as safe a bet as it gets. If the object of the game is to determine a gift based on the shape, size or weight of its container, consider trying to trick people by placing the card in a box meant for a much larger object.
WhiteElephantRules.com recommends choosing a gift that matches the nature of the gift exchange itself. The general rule tends to be to keep gifts under $20 (though this may vary depending on the kind of people with whom you work), so there is no pressure to feel compelled to pick the right gift.
As such, going for a gift that provides a quick laugh is a real winner. Novelty coffee mugs that look like toilets, tape dispensers shaped like high heel shoes, humorous desk calendars and various other office-appropriate paraphernalia is almost certain to be a hit.
If you want to get out of having to spend any money, consider making up an I.O.U. that entitles the winning coworker your services for one particularly unpleasant task. If the coffee maker is a long way off from your office pool, pledge that you will retrieve a peer's coffee for one week. Looking forward to spring, write up a not-quite-legally-binding contract pledging to wash someone's car for them or pick up their winter coat from the drycleaner. With this method, you may wind up having the most hotly-contested gift of the entire exchange without having to spend a dime.
When in doubt, re-gift
If you have any gently-used books, movies or video games that you no longer make use of, bundle one or two of them together. This works particularly well if these are products that might be in-demand during the holidays, such as classic holiday films or a recently-released game that you have already completed.
The concept of the white elephant gift exchange is one that promises anonymity, but there is nothing wrong with going out of your way to bring a gift worth claiming. Use your imagination and your knowledge of what your coworkers like, and you will almost certainly have a hit on your hands.