Image: Santa Claus © Corbis

6. Secret Santa gift exchanges

You have to wonder who came up with this particular nightmare of an office tradition. Clearly, it was someone with too much time and disposable income on his or her hands. The rest of us are challenged enough by the task of selecting appropriate gifts for the people we know and love. Who (other than Secret Santa organizers) wants to add to the list a person we barely know and certainly don't love?

One of my Facebook fans painted a picture of how bad the Secret Santa situation can get:

"It's an insane competition in my department. We've had hurt feelings, nasty comments, and backstabbing over Secret Santa gifts," she reported. "And NO ONE sticks to the budget. Not to mention they do this for 5 weeks! One gift each week. I'm not spending $150+ on a co-worker that will most likely be nasty about it."

A few readers confessed they liked the exchanges, but the majority registered opinions from "dislike" to "hate." "There is just too much office BS to have to think about spending my hard-earned cash on people that are only my disgruntled co-workers," one grumped.

You may be able to thwart this holiday hooey by seizing the higher ground. Suggest the office organize a food drive, adopt a local needy family or collect clothes and toiletries for a shelter. If the Secret Santa instigator protests, put on your most sincere face, bring up the fact that you're all so richly blessed (you do, after all, have jobs in a terrible economy) and suggest that "we think about people less fortunate than ourselves."

That should fix it. If not, suggest a "white elephant" gift exchange, for which people bring their misfires (like meat grinders, reindeer sweaters and Candy Land games) to foist on each other. The best version of this tradition allows participants to either pick from the pile of wrapped gifts during their turns or steal something that someone else has already chosen.