How to Celebrate Birthdays in the Office

by Evil HR Lady on August 30, 2019

Everyone loves birthday cake.

No, wait.

  • Jane will only eat chocolate sheet cake from Costco.
  • Harry is gluten intolerant.
  • Stephanie is a vegan.
  • The entire accounts receivable team has gone paleo. 
  • Bonnie is a Jehovah’s Witness and doesn’t celebrate her birthday or other people’s birthdays, but she doesn’t mind if you celebrate your birthday, but please don’t invite her.
  • Steve has had two facelifts and likes to pretend that he’s 15 years younger than he is, and so denies having a birthday at all.
  • Helen loves a party and sees it as her business to collect money from everyone every month for a birthday party.
  • Albert is on a strict budget and doesn’t want to contribute to the birthday fund. And besides, he hates chocolate cake from Costco and Jane always buys that.
  • Chris’s birthday is in December and every year his birthday is ignored because of the company Christmas party. He’s just mildly bitter.

Ahh, company birthday celebrations. I’ve gotten multiple questions this week about birthdays.

To keep reading, click here: How to Celebrate Birthdays in the Office

If you have good office birthday stories to tell, share them in the comments or come over to the Evil HR Lady Facebook group and join in the conversation.

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Tim C. August 30, 2019 at 12:16 pm

Add: Have the celebration in an area where it will not disrupt normal operations. Your Department may stop working to sing an blow out candles, but others do not.

I have been on phone calls where I can not hear the other party due to the noise. Love the open office plan!

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BethRA August 30, 2019 at 3:50 pm

Better solution – stop with the open office plans, already.

Yeah, I know, but the number of “ask____” issues that would be solved by walls and doors is rather astounding.

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jdgalt August 30, 2019 at 6:57 pm

There ought to be a law against installing speakerphones in a cubicle farm. Those who need to use one should go to a conference room or a private office.

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grannybunny August 30, 2019 at 3:02 pm

I think our office already follows these suggestions. There are 150+ employees in our building, but some travel a lot, or telework part-time, etc., so there’s never a time when everyone is there. We have monthly birthday celebrations, in which our 3 Engagement Ambassadors — yes, there is such a thing! — send out email announcements and reminders, furnish cake and ice cream and lead the singing of “Happy Birthday” to any self-identified “birthday babies.” No one asks for any money. There are never any gifts. The cakes vary — from vanilla to half-vanilla/half-chocolate — but the ice cream is always Blue Bell Homestyle Vanilla (a local favorite). No one is “outed” as to whether or not it’s their, particular, birthday, although people usually do self-identify that it’s their birthday month. The celebration is scheduled during lunch hour, and people are free to come and go when they like. The Engagement Ambassadors have worked up an awesome, three-part harmony, rendition of “Happy Birthday,” unlike the normal, raggedy, group deliveries. It’s great. We just had the August one a couple of days ago, and my birthday is next month, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m — by far — the oldest person working at this facility, and everyone always oohs and aahs over my birthday (and the fact that I’m still working, despite being substantially mobility-impaired). 🙂

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Anon August 31, 2019 at 10:01 am

This sounds awesome and so do you 🙂 Happy Happy Birthday!!

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grannybunny September 4, 2019 at 3:37 pm

How kind of you; thank you so much! My birthday was the 1st of the month — but I celebrate all month — and, thus far, it’s shaping up to be a great one! 🙂

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foofoo August 30, 2019 at 4:35 pm

Best Birthday Set-Up-> Company would serve a birthday cake after every staff meeting. There were probably months where there wasn’t an employee with a birthday, but who cares!
Worst Birthday Set-up-> Manager would manhandle people out of their seats to follow her the the birthday boy/girl’s desk to sing. The Manager was the only one actually singing (and dancing!) to the birthday victim. This happened every two weeks. People started scattering when the manager walked into the department.
Frankly, I’m a grown up and don’t need a birthday celebration everywhere I go. I can manage my own festivities in my own time.

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Laurie Manning August 30, 2019 at 5:12 pm

Our Executive assistants came up with a plan that works for everyone.
Once a monthe they order treats (Cookies, mini Cakes, ice cream, and the like) and place them in the break rooms (2) at a specific time and day for people to enjoy if they care to. No singing, no dancing…just a nice little treat.

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Amy August 30, 2019 at 6:42 pm

At my old employer, if you wanted to celebrate your birthday, you brought treats (enough to share with everyone- about 20 of us). Some people brought veggie platters, some cupcakes, some brought bagel and lox or fast food breakfast sandwiches. Those that didn’t celebrate or want to contribute, didn’t.

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MariaRose August 31, 2019 at 12:40 am

Of course, a cake lover would want to celebrate birthdays, but some of us, prefer to not celebrate it at work. I am one of those who felt that anything that requires my monetary contribution should be a voluntary contribution. I also don’t like certain store brought cakes unless I have had a taste of their product previously, especially from a retailer that doesn’t “bake “ fresh cake but defrosts it prior to decorating it. I also feel that a birthday is a personal thing and there is a big difference between coworkers and close friends.
I did like the suggestion that if the employer ( not the employees) likes to treat their employees to food treats, then they can supply and pay for the cost and all food should be consumed away from the desk work area. And please no singing of the birthday song at work, it’s embarrassing, save that for off work hours.

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jccbeach September 1, 2019 at 3:56 am

I’m not a fan of celebrating birthdays in office settings. I don’t like my birthday acknowledged at work. It’s personal to me and my co-workers are not my personal friends. Yes, we are friendly but I still don’t want to celebrate with them.

I’m a supervisor and my boss has indicated participating in celebrations is considered a job performance piece (PS – he doesn’t do anything for my birthday).

I acknowledge my staff’s efforts at every department meeting (2x/month) and I almost always bring in treats I pay for or make myself.

I don’t think any organization should ding a supervisor over their party arranging skills unless it’s an actual job function.

In one scenario, I spoke with staff and asked how they wanted to celebrate birthdays. We agreed on a plan. Next day was a staff birthday and staff from another department decided they were going to provide treats regardless if that was not what my team had agreed on the previous day.

The count down began before that day but that’s one in a string of inappropriate and undercutting behavior that transpires in this place.

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PJH September 1, 2019 at 7:50 pm

For some obscure reason, the tradition in both my current and last jobs was that the birthday person brings in cake/treats (NE and SW England respectively.)

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JaneC September 9, 2019 at 10:58 am

Very common in the UK for this to happen, it’s been the case everywhere I have worked in the UK!

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LaraW September 3, 2019 at 5:39 pm

The office I currently work in is the first one that has celebrated birthdays regularly. An old company, we were about 4 or 5 people, and we all had our birthdays within a week or two of each other. Total coincidence. Our “celebration” was that once a year during the month of our birthdays, we went out for lunch together. I don’t even remember who paid for it, but it was a fun tradition.

Current office does a quarterly birthday celebration. We used to do cake, but we received feedback that people wanted to do it in the morning, so now we do bagels and donuts. Not that we could not have cake, just what people wanted

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