The office gift pool idea is typically started with good intentions. The challenge comes when there are people who do not want to participate, be it because of money, religion or they don’t feel inclined to give to the recipient. A lot of angst can be avoided if employees come to an agreement that it is an anonymous donation in a covered box/jar and a gift is purchased with the amount donated.
Choosing to opt out can be an easy decision but a difficult message to deliver (for some of us). One way I have found to do this is to say “Thank you for including me in this, but I am doing my own thing for John/Jane”. Or, “Thank you for including me, but I am opting out this year”.
Alternatively, bring something homemade (most everyone likes homemade food). Opting out of any gift-giving situation should be considered okay—I can always write you a policy to say that it is!
For the holidays, an office I used to work in did a gift exchange for the office Christmas party. A price limit was set at $10—it was fun trying to find outrageous gifts for that amount. At the party, you picked a number and opened that gift or you could steal someone else’s that has already been opened. Inexpensive and fun!