Skip to main content

All Partied Out- Gift Giving in the Workplace

Q:  Dear Workplace Wonda, as an office we celebrate staff birthdays. It used to be that everyone chipped in for a card and cake. Then, it became a card, cake, and pizza. Then, it was taking the person out for lunch as a group. Now, it has grown to some staff members giving personal gifts during the birthday celebration. I feel that personal gifts should be saved for after work gatherings instead of during the office celebration. It becomes very awkward when some employees can’t afford, or don’t want to buy, a birthday gift for the individual. What do you do?
 
Signed, All Partied Out


A: Dear All Partied Out, I love birthdays! As a matter of fact, Workplace Wonda just recently celebrated a birthday of her own. Thank you for asking. I don’t want to brag, but I was spoiled rotten by my co-workers. You would have thought that Princess Diana had risen from the dead and was dropping by my office on her way across the pond. Happy Birthday signs were everywhere, including my computer monitor!  Do you know how difficult it is to work when you have a Happy Birthday sign covering your entire monitor? I didn’t care. I felt like Queen for a Day! Lunch, gifts, it was a never-ending day of celebration and it was all about ME!   But, what was wonderful and great in my small, close-knit office, might not be the same for others who work in larger offices that seem to be celebrating someone’s birthday every other day.

 
So, what is proper etiquette for gift-giving and birthday celebrations in the workplace? It can be tricky. We typically spend more time with our co-workers than our own family members, so why wouldn’t they deserve a inflatable jump house and a piñata? Well, for one thing, amount of time spent doesn’t always equate to deep, meaningful friendships that warrant gift-giving. Second, unless you are a member of the Duggar family from the reality show, "19 kids and Counting," you could potentially have more people celebrating birthdays at work than at home. Buying gifts for everyone could deplete your bank account faster than Father Time is stealing my youth.

To Gift Give or Not to Gift Give, That is the Question
 
The answer is... it's up to you. If you have a friendly relationship with your co-worker, a gift is a nice gesture that would probably be appreciated.. If you do not know the employee well, or let's be honest...don't like him or her, then NOT giving a gift is appropriate too. If you choose to bestow a lovely gift upon the celebrating birthday boy or girl, I agree with you, sharing it after work would alleviate a lot of awkwardness from employees who did not purchase gifts.

 
It is clear from reading your question that your office has fallen into the Pandora Box of gift-giving. Once you open that box and elevate the level of celebration, you are setting a precedent for the office on how to celebrate for years to come. Don't do it!!! Hey, I'm not trying to be a "party pooper", but riddle me this. What happens when Jane gets lunch, a card, cake, balloons, a group gift, a birthday sign on her monitor and Tom only gets a crappy 99 cent card on sale from Dollar World? Hmmm, think feelings might get hurt? Say, yes. Say, yes. Of course his feelings will be hurt! And, how do you think Bob will feel during lunch when Gail announces to everyone that staff "all chipped in for a special gift for the birthday girl.... I mean, everyone, but Bob!" Think Bob is going to feel like a Shmuck? You betcha! 
 
 
My Sensei and Spiritual Leader, Costa, once told me, "Lower your expectations, and you will not be disappointed!" Ah, Sensei, I cherish your words of wisdom. In other words, don't open Pandora's Box! Keep it simple and manageable so that everyone can enjoy and be a part of the office celebration, and no one will end up disappointed or embarrassed.

 
I suggest coming together as an office and/or department and agreeing on how to celebrate office birthdays and stick with the plan. Gift-giving or additional activities outside of what you agreed upon should be offered to everyone, but not expected of anyone.

 
For those of you that forgot Workplace Wonda had a birthday this month, it's not too late. Technically, I allow celebrating to occur through October 31. I love anything with the Denver Broncos on it and I rarely get insulted when given a gift that includes chocolate!

 
Signed, Workplace Wonda (Birthday Girl!)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Dress Code Policy: Searching for Answers

Q: Dear Workplace Wonda, I am a new employee and reviewed our handbook very closely to make sure I am following all the rules and policies. I have noticed that even though the dress code policy is very clear, a lot of people in other departments and divisions do not follow the guidelines. For example, last week on Friday, I noticed several employees wearing tank tops and thong type sandals. I asked my supervisor if I could wear these comfy options and was told “No” because they violate the dress code policy. Is there really a dress code? Or does it come down to who you know? Signed, Searching for Answers Dear Searching for Answers, A: It’s obvious if employees are wearing tank tops and flip flops (or thong sandals) to work, even on casual Friday, the dress code policy has failed! That is, unless you work for Wild Water Adventure Park. This is a dilemma that many employers face each year around this time. As soon as there is an inkling of temperatures hitting the 80’s, clothes sta

Monday Morning Moment #ChooseHappy

  Coming up with a Motivation Monday this week was difficult as it was on Monday that my Father was laid to rest. Goodbyes are never easy. It seems like I’ve had to do a few of those the past few years. Saying goodbye is a part of life. As you get older, those goodbyes seem to happen more often—at least in the physical sense. I came across this quote by Rumi that says, “Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for those who love with heart and soul, there is no separation.” Think about that quote for a moment. Separation is only physical. No one or nothing, including death, can take away what you hold dear in your heart and soul. We have a treasure chest of experiences and memories to cherish long after something ends. Unfortunately, sometimes in life bad things happen. And when bad things happen we want to know, why. “Why me?” Well, why not you? If you are spiritual, you may believe these things happen for a reason and that it is a part of a bigger plan. Scientist

Holding My Breath Until I Get Answers- Addressing Employee Hygiene

Q : Dear Workplace Wonda, there is an employee who visits my office a couple of times a week. Each time he comes in, he has this unpleasant smell that stinks up the entire office. The odor is so bad that employees spray Febreze or turn on their scented candles to cover the smell. Some employees even complain of headaches! How do I address such an uncomfortable subject?    Signed, Holding My Breath Until I Get Answers   A: Dear Holding My Breath Until I Get Answers, Wow, you really are in a stinky, I mean, sticky situation! On one hand, you have employees screaming, " foul." On the other hand, you have an employee who is seemingly senseless when it comes to his own Pepé Le Pee-ew! It kind of reminds me of one of my favorite SpongeBob SquarePants episodes titled, "Something Smells." In the episode, SpongeBob decides to make a sundae, but doesn't have any ice cream. Instead, he uses onions, ketchup, and peanuts. When he goes out t