ACT News

Kris Kringle calamities 'nothing short of bullying'

Luan Ho Trieu with his offensive Kris Kringle reindeer.
Luan Ho Trieu with his offensive Kris Kringle reindeer. Photo: Melissa Adams

While some have responded to a former Canberra public servant's revelation that he never got over a cruel "Kris Kringle" gift by suggesting he harden up, other office workers have come forward to reveal their own secret Santa horrors.

Former Finance Department economist Ngoc Luan Ho Trieu told The Canberra Times this week that he was traumatised by a gift of a plastic reindeer that implied his economic modelling work was animal poo.

He said the gift had left behind psychological scars, and slammed the anonymous nature of the exercise as it did not allow employees to sort out misunderstandings afterwards.

The revelation has left some recalling their own experiences and calling for a blanket secret Santa ban, saying the activity can easily turn "brutal and cruel".

"I have been aware of the problem with anonymous Christmas gifts provided under the guise of Kris Kringle for a long time now," one insurance company worker said. 

The worker said she felt personally insulted by a secret Santa gift from a fellow employee. "I consider this kind of activity to be nothing short of bullying," she said.

"I have subsequently worked out who did this to me but of course it is too late.  Some people in the workplace hide behind these types of activities to put people down who they feel threatened by."

The same employee said she still harboured mental bruising from another Christmas function where employees were given gifts from a sex shop from management, including "wind up penises and plastic turds".

She called for a ban on all Kris Kringle Christmas gifts to stem the pain.

A different employee, who works at an education peak body, said she had taken part in a Kris Kringle where a staff member was given a dog chew toy and was so traumatised she subsequently took stress leave.

One other female public sector worker said the exercise also carried the danger of further marginalising those who already felt excluded at work.

"I am the only Asian person in my area," she said, "I faced similar upset [to Mr Ngoc's]- a present from Secret Santa - telling me [that my] English is terrible."

And it's not just the kind of gift that can hurt.  The re-gifting of a three-pack of incense bottles, one of which was half used and another missing entirely, upset one public servant who described it as their "sad story".

"I was speechless when unwrapping the present...I could hardly imagine a colleague of mine was so heartless. I felt hurt and have stopped joining in the Kris Kringle fun since that year," they wrote.