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Business Etiquette - Celebrating at Work

Business Etiquette - Celebrating at Work

Business Etiquette - Celebrating at Work

When Workplace Celebrations Get to Be Too Much

Advice Seeker :
Dear April Masini,

Last week was my 25th wedding anniversary. I mentioned this to a co-worker when I was looking for advice on a dinner reservation, and ended up being deluged with cards and even a little cake on the day of my anniversary. While I appreciate everyone's kindness, this is all getting a bit much. It seems every other day, we are asked to put in money for a gift or cake or having a party in the kitchen for someone's life event, many of which don't belong in the workplace.
While I am fine with celebrating a new baby or giving someone a card on his or her birthday, or celebrating a work-related accomplishment, my perspective is that most of these life events belong to the person's family and friends. Am I being overly sensitive, and if not, how can I create a policy that will reduce this to an appropriate level?
Party Pooper 


April Masini's Advice :

Dear Party Pooper,

Must you celebrate every birthday, anniversary, baby's birth or engagement?
No. It certainly does get to be too much, especially when it is interfering with work or productivity.
What is appropriate?  It is appropriate to celebrate all personal events like birthday's, anniversaries and engagements outside of the office. Furthermore, it's inappropriate to ask for donations at work or in the office -- of any kind. If donations are being solicited, the way to decline is politely and without explanation. The problem is only yours if you allow it to be. 

Etiquette Tips for Workplace Relationships and Celebrations

  • It's fine to wish a colleague a Happy Birthday. It's also fine to accept Happy Birthday wishes. 
  • If your office has a tradition of celebrating birthdays then it's fine to go along with that tradition or to decline from that tradition citing your birthday as a personal day that you prefer to celebrate at home or not at all.
  • Office birthday celebrations that are tradition should be set for a regular time of day. Lunch time or the last half hour before the office closes are good times. Presents should not be exchanged at work. A cake may be shared. The idea of an office birthday policy is to simply celebrate a colleague's birthday in the same way that all birthdays are celebrated so as not to show favoritism.
  • At the same time it is perfectly okay to have an out of office birthday party and invite certain colleagues but not others -- as long as the invitations are sent to the homes of the colleagues and are not distributed in the office. All chatter about the party should be kept out of the office so as not to offend others who are not invited.
  • Taking up collections or asking for donations for a baby present, a wedding present, etc., are only a problem if they offend someone or put someone who doesn't want to splurge or can't afford to splurge on a personal present for a colleague in an uncomfortable position. These gifts should really be planned and executed, if at all, outside of the office.