Estimated reading time: 3 minutes
A few weeks ago, I shared a reader note about employee birthdays and how difficult it can be to wish someone well. This reader was specifically looking for guidance about selecting birthday cards, but it made me wonder, how do people want to celebrate their birthday at work? Here’s what you said.
The top two choices were an office card and lunch with colleagues. Both have their advantages and disadvantages.
Office cards are a nice and inexpensive way to show someone you’re thinking of them. It could also be great for hybrid and remote workers. The downside is someone needs to be responsible for remembering birthdays, finding a card, and circulating it around the office. Maybe the office could buy some birthday cards in bulk and let employees use them. That makes the process easier and still allows employees to share their well wishes.
Lunch celebrations are good for building some camaraderie and celebrating someone’s special day. The downside is that lunch cost money. And organizations have to think about their remote workforce. Some employees might be watching their budget and not want to spend the money – even though they care about the person. Another dynamic that comes into the picture is what if someone doesn’t like the place chosen for lunch. One way to handle this is to order food instead of going to a restaurant. Then employees who bring their lunch can still join in the fun.
When we posted the original article with the poll, I heard from many people that some offices had a group vote to eliminate birthday celebrations, and everyone was thrilled. I also heard from people who said their offices gave responsibility for birthday celebrations to the recipient. If you wanted a celebration, then bring in cake or balloons or whatever. If you didn’t, then that’s fine too. It makes sense. Let the birthday person drive the celebration.
I know the reader note that prompted this conversation is just trying to be a nice co-worker and wish someone well on their birthday. And I’m sure some people are saying, this really isn’t that hard. But there are news articles about the employee backlash on “mandatory fun”. This kind of birthday recognition isn’t about the birthday person. It’s about the celebration and using an individual’s birthday as a way to build camaraderie – whether they want it or not! I wish there was an easy answer to celebrating birthdays. But throughout this entire conversation, I found myself thinking about one thing – a person’s birthday is about them and what they want. So maybe the answer is to just ask the person how they would like to celebrate.
Image captured by Sharlyn Lauby while exploring the streets of Gainesville, FL28