When Secret Santa can be 'soul destroying'

by Nicola Middlemiss05 Nov 2015
‘Secret Santas’ have officially joined the list of seasonal risk factors in the Australian Public Service.

The anonymous gift-giving tradition has been officially recognised as an office danger, after a prank last year led to the ending of a public servant’s career.

Commonwealth bureaucrats have now been warned about the unintended consequences of the festivity, according to a report by Fairfax Media.

The warning comes as a part of departments’ work on officially mandated risk profiles for their Christmas celebrations, with the Public Service Commission cautioning managers and employees about potential negative aftermath.

Public Service Commissioner John Lloyd also drew attention to the pitfalls associated with photographs taken at festive events which could later cause embarrassment if they surfaced online.

In 2012, Finance Department worker Ngoc Luan Ho Trieu infamously received a “soul destroying” Secret Santa gift of faux-animal excrement, which came with a note that likened the ‘gift’ to Ngoc’s work.

The story was not publicly reported until the end of 2014, which led to some people calling for a ban on the practice of workplace Secret Santas.

Following the prank, Ngoc resigned from his role at the Finance Department.

Lloyd has now warned public servants to be mindful of “buying ‘Secret Santa’ gifts on the assumption that everyone shares the same sense of humour”.

The warning was published in the commissioner’s November newsletter, and also included the cautionary notes on “acting in a manner that will compromise their reputation, as well as that of their agency and the APS in general, engaging in inappropriate behaviour, such as party pranks, which can potentially lead to the injury of others”, and “taking photos or videos of colleagues that may cause embarrassment when circulated through social media”.


  • by Layla 5/11/2015 12:48:10 PM

    When done well, Secret santa is a wonderful way to start the holiday season. Ours is totally vountary, capped at a certain amount and everyone that is partaking writes their names on a piece of paper with three suggestions in that price range. We have strict guidelines that do not allow it to be offensive or distasteful. Perhaps becasue we are only a group of 30 it works. I like to think it is because we have a caring culture

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