Office birthdays: To celebrate or not? - Business Management Daily
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Office birthdays: To celebrate or not?

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Question: "How many birthdays is too many to celebrate in the office? Looking at our list, we had 16 last year, which meant that more than once a month a card was circulated. That's it, just a card, and once in a great while someone would take it upon themselves to bring in cupcakes and set them out in the break room. It's tough to tell if people were really into it or not; to me, it began to feel meaningless. Any ideas on how to break out of this rut? If we're just doing this too often, is stopping birthday acknowledgement altogether really a good option?" - Michelle, State Transit Authority

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{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Kathy April 19, 2018 at 5:03 pm

We have around 50 Associates within two departments in our wing who celebrate with “Birthday Buddies.” Participation is optional. Three or more Associates are assigned a month to bring in treats for those celebrating a birthday that month. A healthy option is usually included. One of the Associates will send out an email in advance announcing when treats will be provided that month along with the list of those celebrating a birthday. On the day of the treats, another email will let Associates know where the treats are located along with those being recognized. In addition to this, once a month there is popcorn provided on the second Wednesday of each month for all Associates in the building recognizing birthdays and service anniversaries (projected on the large screen) for that month.

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Jill P. April 19, 2018 at 4:08 pm

We celebrate birthdays with a sign in the break room posted by the receptionist – wishing the individual a happy birthday – so that everyone else is aware of this special day. It has been our tradition that the person with the birthday brings in a treat for all to share. This works well for our office.

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Mark April 12, 2018 at 10:21 am

We do the birthday card thing, too, although many (like me) think it is unnecessary. We have everyone’s birthday posted on a bulletin board in the employee entrance hallway to encourage everyone to tell the person “happy birthday”. I personally don’t think the card is necessary since we already do the verbal acknowledgement.

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Bonesbabe April 11, 2018 at 12:01 pm

At my office, I route all cards at the end of the month prior to their birthday month. So on April 25ish I will route all of the cards through the office for all birthdays/work anniversaries in May. If there is one, done. If there is 10, done!

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Dale Neidigh April 11, 2018 at 7:31 am

What I have done for many years, as the EA for massive departments, is have a monthly celebration. I would gather each individual’s birth month and then, once a month have cakes, pies, brownies, fruit trays or whatever a majority of the birthday folks would want. It is a way to get everyone away from their desks to socialize and also meet new employees. It was nice to see everyone intermingle and meet each other. It gave everyone something to look forward too. Due to budget cuts at my new company, after a year and a half of celebrations, we had to cut them. Folks here are super disappointed and sad they are not intermingling anymore. No more getting to meet the new employees.

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Michelle Boyer April 10, 2018 at 2:44 pm

In our department, we ask the associates would like to have their birthday acknowledged and then place the name of each participating associate on a slip of paper and those who are participating select a name. That associate is responsible for bringing something in to celebrate the associate’s birthday. We typically will ask the person who is celebrating a birthday if they have a favorite dessert, etc. This helps to relieve the pressure on just one person and it seems to work well.

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Stephanie N April 9, 2018 at 5:03 pm

The other assistant likes baking breakfast quiches, bringing fruit & yogurt, sometimes pastries plus was buying a cake for each person’s in our senior leadership team (8 cakes). They would help out by donating to the cake. We finally discussed cutting back and just doing a cake plus card nothing more. It is less stressful to both of us as well as easier on our pocketbooks.

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Renee Morrison April 9, 2018 at 1:15 pm

Group the birthdays and celebrate them by the quarter. Purchase one big card put all the names for that quarter on the card. To keep it fair celebrates the birthdays in the middle, so for Jan. – March, celebrate in February.

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Emily Lacanilao April 9, 2018 at 12:58 pm

We have a birthday club at work of between 8-10 people. Any new staff members are invited to join and they are free to opt out any time. One member is assigned to a birthday celebrant. Every birthday, the person assigned circulates a greeting card with an envelope for contributions ($2-$5). The assigned person either bakes or purchases a cake. Any leftover is used to buy a birthday gift. It works! Anyone who finds it is becoming too expensive or meaningless simply opts out.

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AAinDMV April 9, 2018 at 12:58 pm

At my current workplace, birthdays are acknowledged on a staff bulletin board that has a picture of each person who has a birthday in the current month. In addition to this, our Front Desk AA used to secretly circulate a birthday card for others to sign, which to my knowledge, had been going on for years. Unfortunately, the AA left, so the cards stopped, and I’m not sure if anyone has noticed or commented on it. My b’day falls on a holiday when the office is closed, so for years, I wouldn’t receive a card. It didn’t really matter to me, but it is something that I noticed and thought if you’re doing cards, you should send to everyone and not leave anyone out. At my previous employer, we had one person who loved baking cakes, so each month, we would have b’day celebrations with cake. That soon became more of a distraction as people would spend too much time socializing over cake and work wasn’t getting done. That, too, eventually stopped when the person who baked the cakes left. I think that overall that people do appreciate the gesture but don’t really need the recognition or miss it when it’s gone.

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Cynthia S. Philbrook April 9, 2018 at 9:53 am

We celebrate any birthdays for the month during our monthly staff meeting. Usually cake and ice-cream with a card signed by everyone. It makes for a fun way to start our meeting.

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Dana April 9, 2018 at 9:36 am

When I stepped in to my position the company had a luncheon once a month to celebrate birthdays, they would cater in the meal. The cost per month was around $800. I made changes the following year, to each Birthday celebrant we gifted a $50 gift card to a local restaurant, Saving the company $7,500 a year.

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Becky April 9, 2018 at 9:09 am

We have 35 employees across 3 different locations. Whatever location you’re at, you get a card (signed by employees only at that location) and whatever food item you want up to $25. It’s exhausting for the manager that has to take care of 21 employees at her location. But its a nice gesture and everyone likes that they’re acknowledged.

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Cheryl April 6, 2018 at 5:57 pm

We celebrate office birthday once a month by purchasing a cake with the names of the employees for that month. I personally do not eat the cake, but others in the office look forward to having the 15 minutes to say Happy Birthday and talk to the other employees.

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Barbara April 6, 2018 at 8:55 am

I purchase a high-quality card, that is signed by our boss. Inside is a modest gift certificate that can be used at several local restaurants. At my office no one wants the cakes or cookies (everyone is on a diet) and no one has time to celebrate birthdays at work. Closer employees go out afterwards to celebrate on their own time.

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Noreen Luptowski April 6, 2018 at 8:49 am

Our company posts birthdays for the month on our home office website. Our specific department celebrates birthdays quarterly and the associate who choose to participate will bring in something to eat (pot luck). There is no card distributed as most associates will email their birthday wish or they choose to personally give their own card.

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Carla C April 6, 2018 at 8:26 am

We used to celebrate birthdays monthly, which seemed to work out fine. However, when our office starting growing in leaps and bounds, it became too cumbersome for one person to handle. Now, we just post special occasions in a general area where anyone can send warm wishes to an individual.

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Carol April 5, 2018 at 6:10 pm

We celebrate once a month – so everyone who has a birthday that month is celebrated together

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Val April 5, 2018 at 5:18 pm

At my work, it is the person having the birthday that makes it happen. At first it seemed a little weird, but it works well. If I want birthday cake, I bring it in and who ever is around will share it at lunch. Some of my co-workers don’t care about or celebrate birthdays, so they just don’t do anything. Most people bring in ice cream treats and send an email saying it’s their birthday and treats are in the freezer. Everyone helps themselves and the birthday wishes flow naturally.
The beauty of this is that I only have to worry about it or contribute once a year … and I’m unlikely to forget my own birthday!

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Lynne April 5, 2018 at 5:00 pm

Anytime a birthday is coming up, I can always count on my coworkers to let me know…they usually ask, “What are we having for “so and so’s birthday?”, because they all expect me to bake a pie or cake of the birthday person’s choice!! I guess I’ve brought it on myself, since they love all my baking/cooking…I do love making people happy with food. I have to admit though, my husband gets pretty tired of me being up late in the kitchen and then taking all the goodies with me to work in the morning:). I really should keep track of the money I spend doing this, it isn’t cheap!

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Kate April 5, 2018 at 4:52 pm

I used to work in the office of a vice president and we would have quarterly “celebrations” for anyone who had a birthday in that time period. This usually would mean cake or ice cream or cupcakes for refreshments and a sign made for each month recognizing the birthday celebrants. It was a nice break and opportunity for people around our division to see folks they didn’t see regularly. Worked for us.

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Yvette Mayfield April 5, 2018 at 4:45 pm

In our office, we celebrate birthdays on the first Monday of each month with an ice cream cake (including sherbets and sorbets). The flavors are chosen by those who are celebrating birthdays for that particular month. A card bearing all the names of the birthdays is displayed on the table near the cake along with a card describing the flavors. We have two full sheet cakes. One half of each cake is a differerent flavor on top; the bottom half might be cake — so 4 halfs. It works and everyone loves the variety of flavors and textures. We have more than 100 people in our office.

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Robin April 5, 2018 at 4:44 pm

We had that issue in our office as well (six birthdays in October!). So we made the decision to have one birthday lunch per month. The birthday celebrants would collaborate on where they wanted to have their luncheon.

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Stewart April 5, 2018 at 4:43 pm

Quarterly works great. 30 count cup cakes…even if 75 people…not everyone eats. The cost $15 from Sam’s Club. Done!

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Eileen April 5, 2018 at 4:37 pm

I work for a very large organization (300+) in a technology company, and most of us are virtual. We think it’s very important to recognize individuals as people, not just employees so we do recognize birthdays. We have to use technology to do so since we’re all virtual to each other so I send birthday emails. We also have collaboration tools where we can post birthday announcements as well so as not to clog inboxes. If you’re all in an office, then I would definitely continuie the practice, but maybe do it quarterly, recognizing them individually but part of a group.

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Sandy Powell April 5, 2018 at 4:32 pm

I too am an admin for a department of 16 people. When I began working here, birthdays were not celebrated in our department and morale was alarmingly low. In an effort to boost morale and departmental camaraderie, I suggested that we celebrate birthdays with cake/cookies/donuts, etc. Whoever had the last birthday brings a treat for the next birthday and so-on. (I think I offered to bring something for the first birthday to start things off.) This is of course optional; however, I’ve not had anyone opt out. Other departments within the company have a once a month pot-luck to celebrate every birthday for that particular month, but for our size department, what we are doing works well. I don’t suggest letting birthdays go by without acknowledging them at least in some fashion though, as that could work negatively with morale.

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Rhonda April 5, 2018 at 4:30 pm

In our office, we send a group email saying happy birthday. That way everyone knows and can wish that person happy birthday. We do not send a card around for everyone to sign as it is difficult to get everyone to sign in a timely manner.

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Betti Miller, CAP, OM April 5, 2018 at 4:29 pm

It may become meaningless to you after awhile, but I sure am excited when my co-workers think of me on my birthday, or any other occasion. It lets me know that someone is thinking about me, even if it’s just a card.

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Melissa April 5, 2018 at 4:26 pm

Our office does not circulate birthday cards or have a formally designated birthday party except for the Chief Financial Officer (our Division Commander). A birthday roster is listed on all bulletin boards with everyone’s birthdays listed for those interested in celebrating each others’ birthdays. However, it is not discouraged if a supervisor wants to pass around a card (not mandatory for all to sign) and bring in some celebratory food for their employees; most do this. They bring everything into the small break room after having their own mini celebration; to which an email is then sent to all employees informing them food available due to “employee’s” birthday. We do, however, have quarterly luncheons that we will announce any awards, longevity with employer, and any special occasions (like end of fiscal year when the audit has been concluded).

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Anita Williams April 5, 2018 at 4:24 pm

When my office had 12 or more staff members, we would have a monthly birthday celebration for everyone born in that month. The office would foot the bill for a birthday cake or cupcakes. No birthdays in a particular month, no party.

Now that we have only six employees in our department, we go out to lunch once a quarter or season. For instance, we have two birthdays in January and one in March. So, our manager took us all out to lunch to celebrate our “Team Winter Birthdays” or “First Quarter Birthdays.”

These types of events are great for team building and maintaining good morale.

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Lisa April 5, 2018 at 4:21 pm

We ran into the same situation so I implemented a Team (one to two people) who volunteered to be my Hospitality Committee. Their responsiblities include keeping track of birthdays and work anniversaries by employee on a quarterly basis. Every quarter, we send out an email to the department outlining the upcoming celebratory individuals and what they are celebrating (birthday vs anniversary) and to gather as a department as this time – at this place for some refreshments and treats to honor those individuals. Since we are sending an email this is littered with fun pictures and fun fonts – we no longer need to send around card that is just going to be thrown away. We also keep on hand a supply of festive decorations to be reused for these events. This committe also puts together events for employees who are retiring, leaving the company, celebrating larger milestones (50th bdays or 30 yrs with the company) that should require a little extra something (TBD by the Team). Doing it this way prevents anyone from being forgotten and the uniformity of it prevents favoritism as everyone gets the same thing. Hope this helps tweak some ideas.

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Donna April 5, 2018 at 4:20 pm

We used to have a card for everyone to sign for each person’s birthday and once a month the company would purchase treats selected by the birthday people. Co-workers were just going through the motions though and to me it seemed insincere. A survey went out and apparently others felt the same way because this all stopped. Now a birthday email goes out close to each person’s birthday.

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Renee April 5, 2018 at 4:17 pm

When I worked for a large division, we usually picked a day and celebrated everyone’s birthday that fell within that month. Everyone who wanted to participate in the celebration signed up on a list of items as to what they would like to bring. Participation was not mandatory and cards weren’t included. Everyone had a good time and no one was out the cost of cards unless they wanted to quietly give one to their co-worker at a later time. I have also worked places where birthdays were only celebrated verbally. If you and your co-workers enjoy celebrating, you may want to suggest that it be cut down to once or twice a month or just limit it to a verbal acknowledgement. Perhaps you could ask fellow co-workers as to how they fell about the number of celebrations and decide your course of action based on the majority’s answers.

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Janet April 5, 2018 at 4:15 pm

We switched to a once a month office celebration as well, but if staff let us know they DID not want to be recognized, that is also respected. Individuals within their workgroups may choose to do cards, etc. but as an office it is a monthly cake and short get together.

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Nikki McCarthy April 5, 2018 at 4:14 pm

I am the OM at my office and at the beginning of the year, I get both anniversary and birthday cards for everyone at the office and have the President and CFO to sign them. I manage to get in the year in one swoop! The President does a monthly or bi-monthly luncheon for everyone who had a birthday during those months. We used to get someone (whoever was up for the job) to bring in a cake once a month to celebrate all the birthdays. Now because we all alternate bringing in breakfast on Fridays we stopped with the cake (I may start that back up again). Everyone seems to appreciate the cards and definitely the lunches.

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Corliss April 5, 2018 at 4:14 pm

We have Pizza Party’s! We all contribute $2.00 to a Sunshine fund monthly. That money is used to by the pizza, salad, and a cake. We all have lunch together in our conference room on the arranged day. If two or three share the same month we celebrate them together. It’s a nice way for the staff to spend time together to just chat and visit.

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Jeannie April 5, 2018 at 4:14 pm

Our facility is much larger than yours, 120 folks, but we do celebrate Birthday’s on the middle Wednesday of each month. Each month we hang a poster in the breakroom with the list of that month’s BD’s and then on the middle Wed we supply a treat – cake, cup cakes, cookies, donuts, bagels, etc.

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Fran April 5, 2018 at 4:13 pm

I completely understand the dilemma. We started celebrating birthdays once a month at our staff meetings. Each staff person takes turns bringing in refreshments. Myself, just someone stopping by to say happy birthday is fine with me. I don’t want all the attention.

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Sonya Hohmeister April 5, 2018 at 4:12 pm

Well at our facility, we used to have Birthday Cake (homemade by me- least expensive) for Only the Leadership Team, then we extended it to some others. Well, I got tired of doing it and no one else volunteered. So as the year ended, the following year I DID NOT volunteer or say anything…..left it for anyone else to organize. No one ever did, so it went way away on it’s own, took care of that!

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Christine April 5, 2018 at 4:12 pm

We usually just do a monthly birthday cake or cupcakes. In our department, some employees in our department are not in the office on a regular basis. So I started having the monthly cakes/cupcakes after a department meeting. Those monthly meetings turned into quarterly meetings. To me it seemed meaningless to most to have to stay longer after the meeting to have cake. So I slowly fizzled that idea out over a year ago. No one has mentioned it since. So I guess they didn’t care for it.

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Angela Kolak April 5, 2018 at 4:12 pm

Our office has celebrated birthdays for years. Initially we had monthly birthday celebrations to honor everyone with a birthday in that month, with specialized desserts of their preferences. That seemed a little too much so we went to bi-monthly celebrations (Jan/Feb, Mar/Apr, etc). That has seemed to work out well – no one gets burned out with them being too frequent. I applaud any workplace that tries to make everyone feel valued and recognized so stick with it, even if it evolves into something different.

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Pam Blaylock April 5, 2018 at 4:11 pm

Our office celebrates birthdays. The supervisor over all of us (18 people) takes care of it. We only celebrate once a month and only during a birthday month. For example, if no one has a birthday during the month of January, then no celebration in January. The people with birthdays during the month agree on a breakfast item like bagels, muffins, or doughnuts as well as a morning to celebrate. The supervisor purchases enough for the office and we all take a few minutes to share birthday wishes. No cards or gifts.

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Martine April 5, 2018 at 4:10 pm

We have 17 people in our department and have a monthly birthday celebration. I have a spreadsheet of all the birthdays and the day that we will be celebrating. The list is sent to everybody in January. We float a birthday card for signatures and once a month we all gather for 15 minutes to enjoy goodies and treats that have been brought in. It’s a good break during the day and everyone feels appreciated at least once a year.

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Sarah April 5, 2018 at 4:09 pm

We used to do the card circulation many years ago and the office grew and it got to be where it was taking too much time away from other work to get the card circulated and signed. We did away with it and I don’t think it’s something people truly miss. Yes it was a nice gesture but also not necessary. At our office some people take it upon themselves to bring in a treat for their own birthday. I like to bring a treat as I like to bake, but do not need to do all the eating of the sweets. So no, I don’t think doing away with the birthday card is a bad option. Some people don’t like to acknowledge their birthdays anyway.

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esther April 5, 2018 at 4:09 pm

One approach is to celebrate all birthdays in a given month on a single day. Establish one day each month to recognize all birthdays in that month. Another approach is to suggest that individuals send their own cards or e-cards to the birthday gal/guy.

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dtunison April 5, 2018 at 4:07 pm

Our office has always kept track of what someone’s favorite treat might be and we bring that for birthdays for everyone to share in. Very simple.

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debilyn April 5, 2018 at 4:05 pm

In the past, we have done donuts, cards, lunches. We also tried once-a-month birthday gatherings. Now, we simply send an email for everyone to wish “whoever” a happy birthday. Those closer to that person might bring them a little treat, but it gives everyone a chance to wish a happy birthday without additional things added to their list.

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Melissa April 5, 2018 at 4:05 pm

why not celebrate monthly or quarterly instead of individually? you could make it a bigger event, give the staff a chance to get together. Maybe there would be funds to have cake/cookies/muffins for the get together if it is less frequent. Some people love to have their day celebrated, others would just as soon forget it.

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Sherry Willis April 5, 2018 at 5:31 pm

At our office, we celebrate birthdays semi-monthly. We actually place the birthday cards in a central location for people to stop by and sign. We also have a small party with balloons, cakes (one chocolate/one vanilla) and other favorite treats.

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