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Celebrating Birthdays In The Office

2 Jul

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When we were younger birthday was a thing that was always celebrated. Your friends brought you gifts and balloons to school, your parents throw you a big party, and everyone recognized that you were one year older. But when we grow up and get jobs celebrating birthdays is not as simple – mostly because we are usually at work when our birthdays occur. On top of that, some people just don’t like to acknowledge that they are a another year old, so it can become a sensitive topic.

Today is my birthday so I thought I would discuss the topic of what is appropriate to do for your fellow co-workers and what you should be mindful of or try to avoid.

For starters, I think it is important to always acknowledge your colleague’s birthday, especially if you work closely with that person. Not only will your acknowledgement perk up their spirits, but it will make them feel closer to you. In my opinion, having a co-worker come up and say happy birthday makes me feel like my co-worker cares. Sure, that may sound juvenile or like I need attention, but that’s not the case at all. It’s simply about someone whom you see every day taking the time out of their day to put a smile on your face. That, to me, is important.

What do you do if you forget to say Happy Birthday? Right after I started working my assistant, who helps me and three other attorneys, had a birthday. I wasn’t aware of her birthday until I saw all of the other assistant’s bringing her a gift. I remember being super busy that day and not being able to leave the office to get her a gift. I felt awful about it and talked to some of my good friends who confirmed that I should have gotten her a gift — oops. Lesson learned. So, how did I make up for it? I got her an extra nice give for admin-day, but looking back I think I should have apologized for not knowing it was her birthday. If you, like me, forget someone’s birthday I think it is important to acknowledge that you made a mistake. It is better to say Happy Birthday late than to not say it at all – and trust me, I wish I would have followed my own advice.

What is an appropriate gift to get a co-worker? I think this depends on how close you are to them. If you know your co-worker really well then it’s ok to get them something a little more personal. If you are not that close to them a card or simply a warm “Happy Birthday” will do. Remember, it isn’t about the gift itself, just the thought. So some good, cheap, gift ideas include: flowers, birthday cards, a book, or simply taking them to lunch.

What is the rule on lunch? Generally, in my opinion, if I offer to take someone to lunch on their birthday I won’t let them pay. Now, for some of us, this may be too expensive, so what is appropriate? Ask some of your other co-workers to go with you and split the person’s bill between the co-workers. The birthday girl/boy may not let you pay for them, but I think it is important to at least offer. Now, if they want to go to some 5 star restaurant, maybe paying for their meal isn’t an option, and I think that’s ok. No one in their right mind would expect a co-worker to pay for their $30 steak lunch.

Is having a cake appropriate? I think this depends on your company culture. In my company we have a monthly birthday celebration where cake is served. I think this is a great idea because it doesn’t favor one co-worker over another. Remember, people’ s feelings may get hurt if you have a birthday cake for one person and not another.

What do you think about my advice? What do you usually do for a co-worker’s birthday?