Note: this question came into the “ask a coach” section.
How do I get my coworkers to stop celebrating birthdays—or at least mine?
I don’t like calling attention to my age; I don’t like cake, and it feels awkward to have feel my coworkers have been forced to kick in money for a present.
Our office manager thinks they’re essential. She loves cake, and often takes home the leftovers because I’m not the only one who’s dieting. I suspect she skims some of the money, as the “presents” are chintzy, and she suggests each of us kick in five dollars.
Worse, we’re all guilt-tripped into showing up. Most of us stand around looking awkward and I’m not the only one who leaves these celebrations as soon as I can.
Connect with the manager above your office manager. Chances are, this manager doesn’t like these celebrations either, given the time wasted while everyone stands around awkwardly.
Birthday celebrations became habits in many workplaces because someone convinced managers they created camaraderie. If they don’t, but simply make employees cringe, they need to be revamped.
Present this manager with an alternative, such as a monthly or quarterly celebration for everyone who has a birthday or work anniversary, along with everyone who reached a goal or milestone during the month or quarter. This takes the focus off age and onto goals and achievements which heightens the interest and value.
(c) 2023 Lynne Curry
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6 thoughts on “The Dreaded Workplace Birthday “Celebration””
Yes! I used to work in an office where we were required to attend these events as well as pot lucks, cake walks, holiday parties, and cook offs.. required. It was a tense work environment to start out with- the requirement to attend all of these things was unbearable.
The comments (although many have asked for privacy) are running five to one against these celebrations–so you’re in the majority.
I disagree with the recognition for coworkers. This is only because I work with people who are favorites in the workplace of the supervisor. They always receive attention, including better birthday parties. They also receive the best assignments, the easiest assignments, and the most recognition. There’s a total difference in the expectations of the favored employees. If you don’t kiss up, you don’t get recognized as a favorite employee true work product does not stand as an achievement.
That sounds like a workplace you might want to leave for one that feels more fair in terms of the how assignments are distributed.
I love office birthdays – if they’re done right. The best ones were given by a staffing firm I worked for. Everyone who had a birthday that month was “honored” at one party and, yes, sung to, too. The cake was from a gourment bakery and always fantastic. And I seem to remember champagne to wash it down with. The treat was paid for by the company who regarded the ocassion as a way to thank the employees, give them an hour to bond together and to appreciate what a generous employers they worked for.
By the way, the 20 people who worked for this company routinely came in early, stayed late and helped each other. When the company exceeded its monthly goals we all got a percentage of our salary as a bonus (the same percentage, if not the same amount) for everyone from the receptionist to the CEO). The result was the receptionist took the success of the company as seriously as the CEO did and helping a teammate was seen as helping yourself. I would work Saturdays on my own without any extra pay because I wanted so hard to do well. I told my boss I felt like I should be paying him because I enjoyed being there so much and I’m still in touch with some colleagues from those days – 20 years later.
Unfortunately, the original owners sold a controlling amount of the company stock to others to raise money to expand. They were eventurally kicked out and the caring culture they created was turned on its head. Bonuses became a competition and birthday celebrations were done away with. I went on to another job but always remembered the 3 years i spent there as some of the happiest of my working life.
Great comment, Wendy, it’s great to hear from the other side–how it’s done right. And I like the making a special treat of it:)