NROP: No Birthday Party For Me.

Imagine walking in to work on your Birthday and… nothing extraordinary happens. People chitchat in between pretending to work and on an off chance – they actually do what they were hired to do. Your head is on a swivel. “Is anyone looking my way?” “Is Bob coming towards me to wish me Happy Birthday or is he just walking to the water cooler. For the fifth time this hour?” You have a secret (it is your Birthday) and you are split between not wanting anyone to know (fly under the radar) and wanting to announce it through the overhead speaker (be celebrated like the king that you are). It would be nice to take a break and eat some cake (and have a drink, but you cannot drink at work), but it would be the worst if that required you to talk to multiple people for a prolonged period of time. “Did you do anything special this weekend?” “Do you have any special plans for tonight?” “Yes, I scrubbed the shower tiles on Saturday and today I am going to order a pizza and get drunk,” you want to say but for some reason, you feel that is embarrassing and inappropriate.

Whenever I start work in a new place, I wonder what their policy is on Birthdays and gifts in general. One year, at my last job, I received nothing for my Birthday but was surprised with an abundance of Christmas gifts. Somehow, people who hated each other’s guts got each other presents for Christmas. As I was new there, I had no idea about their tradition. So, I received gifts but gave none in return. It did not feel the best. What was even worse was when – at another workplace – everyone told me how they did not want to exchange gifts that year because of financial and mental health stressors and then showed up with gifts anyway. That is NOT OK.

Because of experiences like that, I like to prepare myself and always have something small for everyone during Christmas time. But does this inevitably put pressure on others to reciprocate? That definitely is not something I would like. Ah, the beauty of the vicious cycle of workplace dynamics… I wish everyone was just open about what they do and do not want/like.

During my earliest years of employment, my mom decided to throw me an office Birthday party. I know – it sounds a bit cringy and I was worried, but it was a success and is a memory I hold very dear to my heart. While some of my co-workers brought cake and some appetizers of their own volition, she cooked and baked ALL sorts of things. It was a feast! While the party was initially planned for the group I worked with the closest, it quickly turned into people I knew from the entire organization coming in for a bite. We just had so much delicious food. (Yes, I practically spent half of that day eating and socializing. My boss was cool.) My mom – being the social butterfly that she was – did not feel like my mom at that moment. She was just one of us and everyone loved her (and her food). It was a party many remembered for years to come.

When I first read about a man (Kevin) who won a lawsuit and received hundreds of thousands of dollars because his employer threw him a birthday party he did not want, I wanted to know more. “Can I cash in on that, too?” I wondered. It turns out that maybe one day but not yet. (Office parties do not seem to be a thing at my current workplace, which I am very much OK with. Maybe they will resume as we come back to the office more…) Birthday parties must have been the norm at that particular workplace because Kevin had to ask his office manager NOT to have a party. He spoke about his social anxiety and a panic attack that could be triggered by such a party. One day, as Kevin was leaving for lunch, his co-workers surprised him with a birthday party. (The manager claims to have forgotten about Kevin’s request.) The poor guy had a panic attack and spent his lunch break calming down in his car. Some party that was…

Why my social anxiety is definitely far from that level, I can empathize. While I probably would have plastered a smile onto my face and just ‘dealt with it,’ there is a slight chance that if someone did that to me privately, I would either walk out or be visibly irritated by the whole ordeal. If I explicitly tell you not to do something, you should not do it. (To people who like to play coy and say they do not want something but they really do – Please stop. You are making this more difficult for everyone.)

I even more so feel for the guy because the following day he did what was right and went to talk to his manager. (Another source states he was ‘called into a meeting.’ Either way…) If he is anything like me, he probably expected an apology and a promise that no such party would happen in the future. Instead, the supervisor told him that he was stealing people’s joy. That would have made me angry, but Kevin hugged himself and asked the manager to stop, which lead to his firing. They escorted him out and terminated him because they feared he might get violent and become a threat. (Violence is not the answer here but it boggles my mind how people push other people’s buttons and are then surprised that someone reacts.)

Kevin won $450,000 (for emotional distress and lost wages) because the court decided that he was fired unfairly (due to disability discrimination and retaliation). The employer plans to appeal the verdict.

This case made me ponder workplace Birthdays. Those really often feel like they are more for other employees than the person whose birthday is celebrated. It is just another excuse to take time off work and to indulge in cake. If that is the case – then just host office socials on a regular basis (once a month). That way everyone is happy.

Read more:

A woman leaves her surprise party after being ignored all day and is inundated with messages from upset family members and friends.

A man instinctively pulls a gun out when he walks inside and is faced with a surprised party.

Some people like surprises. Some do not.

Some people like parties. Some do not.

Learn what THEY want on THEIR day.

If you are throwing a party for someone but really it is for you – stop and think. Maybe you should throw two parties – one for yourself and one for the other person.

  • What do you think about office parties?
  • Do your co-workers know when your Birthday is? (And do you know theirs?)
  • What is your go-to gift for your co-workers?
  • How do you find out what people’s Birthdays are?
  • What would you do if someone threw you a party even if you explicitly told them not to?

Stay golden,

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51 thoughts on “NROP: No Birthday Party For Me.

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    1. I remember working on a floor with different teams. One day, one of the people from the other team either had a Birthday or was retiring. I didn’t really know them at all but their teammates decided it would be a good idea for EVERYONE to sign the card. I wasn’t comfortable with that (I much prefer to personalize a card rather than just sign my name – it feels dejected) but did it anyway. Afterwards, I wondered if that person scratched their head looking at my name and wondered who that name was.

      The ‘1.75 people’ part made me chuckle. Yea, those are quite funny but I understand that if there are many people, you cannot be spending a lot of money on each or you’d go bankrupt. When the gift card if for a small amount, I sometimes wonder if the person gifting it made a pact with Starbucks (or other such place) because even if you don’t normally shop at that place, you will want to go in and redeem all your ‘money.’ And at one point (unless you calculate things really well), you will have to add your own money to the order.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I would limit the card to those on the more inner circle team than the floor, totally agree. It’s true about spending at least a few dollars more at Starbucks because of the gift card. I don’t go there usually, unless I am stuck in an airport and have no other options (something that hasn’t happened in a long time!).

        Liked by 1 person

        1. That’s pretty funny – I am pretty much the same with Starbucks at airports. However, I am over the moon when I actually find another place to get a drink from while waiting for the plane.

          Like

  1. If we were back in the 1700’s or earlier, you probably were celebrating your birthday on the wrong day of the year, year after year. Imagine all the folks obsessed with honoring days like easter or xmas and the fact that they never actually hit the right day: Julian vs Gregorian calendar errors.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hehehehhehe
      Well, I kinda celebrate my Birthday in different time zones due to people scattered around the globe, which makes me wonder which day is the real deal. Does it count only per the time zone of the place I was born in or…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I loved the story about your mom and the office party. Moms are the best. I rarely throw parties. Anxiety. depression, and so on make them less than enjoyable for me in my home: plus, people are here, and not always ready to leave when I want them to do. When I worked in offices, birthdays were celebrated. A card, a gift of some kind from the company, a cake. It was okay, though I lol’ed in recognition at the description of chores on the birthday.
    I like that you asked people to check on who they’re throwing a party for: I often think it’s for the host. But I always have cards handy just in case.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Yes, she was the best (whenever I didn’t get annoyed with her being a typical mom, of course. LOL).

      I feel the same way about hosting parties – hard to kick people out and I prefer to just slip away when attending other parties. But, if they aren’t ready to leave, that means that you are good at throwing parties 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  3. When I worked in an office we loved to have an office “party” but did not use birthdays. If someone was having a milestone birthday we might do a party. We did have a mandatory monthly staff meeting and after that meeting we would have a pot luck lunch.
    As for gifts my first choice is always something homemade so probably some type of baked goods, a jar of jam or maybe some homemade soaps.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It seems like your office did it the right way. Though pot luck these days seems to be random items from the store grabbed last minute. No one wants to have to impress their boss and co-workers with cooking, too.

      I like the idea of home-made gifts. They add a personal touch.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Goodness, I hadn’t realized this was such a big issue in workplace settings–but it does make sense. The hope would be to make sure everyone knows whether or not each employee would appreciate having a small celebration or might feel better if the whole office didn’t draw attention to it. Even just a small, simple gesture, like someone giving the person a birthday cupcake, etc. might take away some of the stress of having a full-scale party. It does say a lot when people who work together take the time to be sensitive to each other’s needs like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Isn’t it amazing how things we never would have thought of can be such an issue?

      Well said. It’s a personal thing (like SO many) and it needs to be approached as such. Unfortunately, employers often feel like they need to employ blanket policies for all so as not to seem as if they were favoring some over other. It’s quite annoying but no one wants to be sued…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Morning tea meetings. That’s pretty cool. I would enjoy it if it was no earlier than 10 o’clock and/or lasted less than 15 minutes. I need time to ‘boot up’ before I am able to be social. But it’s awesome that you are able to take it easy in the morning instead of jumping straight into work. It sets a nice tone.

      Like

  5. I hate the B-word – partly because I have been 21 for many years now and refuse to grow older – and partly because it was on my B-day that I was the victim to a heinous crime that I do not want reminders of. Most years I am away on holiday, but I have had to explain very clearly that I do not want any mention of what for me is a day I have to survive without horrendous flashbacks crippling me.

    If my workmates deliberately chose to ignore and disrespect that I would absolutely remove myself from our office and go and find a different work station to work at.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think arranging for a vacation around that time is a genius idea. It’s something I’ve considered in the past (and done once or twice). It helps avoid those iterractions.

      Do you celebrate any other personal holiday instead?

      Like

      1. On a personal level, I try to think about how I can make sure I celebrate being alive every day. But the big event of the year for me is our family get together each summer. It is when all 200 of us descend on one of the farms, and we have a sort of sports day, with everyone bringing food – so it is like a gigantic buffet/picnic. A couple of years we had a treasure hunt, but there are some real scary drivers on the roads so we decided it was too risky to send everyone out in cars.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Wow, you have an amazing mom. Not many mothers could pull that off. I’m impressed!
    “To people who like to play coy and say they do not want something but they really do – Please stop. You are making this more difficult for everyone.” Amen! Most of us don’t have the time or mental energy to play those kinds of games. Life is complicated enough already.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Work + Social is an awful cocktail for me and that just increases exponentially if I’m the focus (it’s so much harder for me to sneak away). After 25+ years of corporate life I’ve learned to navigate them, but I’m loving the arrival of more flexible/work-at-home arrangements that prevent such issues.

    On the other hand I’m all for a small selection of close co-workers going out for a drink. That can be fun (and therapeutic — with a good rant).

    Great write. Your mom sounds awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. When I was a kid, I found buying gifts for others (whether it be for birthdays or chrimble) very stressful. Fortunately, my brothers and I made a mutual agreement never to buy each other gifts, which eased the pressure.

    More recently, I’ve come to believe that the celebration of birthdays is a kind of anachronism that must date from earlier times when folk were far less likely to actually survive a year, or a decade (let alone a century, as my next door neighbour achieved just a few days ago). “Thank [insert deity/ies of choice here], we made it through another year!”

    As for gift-giving, for any event, well, call me an ‘I’SeghIm if you like, but I object to it on the grounds that it’s symptomatic of a decadent consumerist society. Edibles are fine; baking a cake is great; composing a poem is cool; but buying garbage that few people actually want or ever use that ends up rotting in landfill is, in my book, simply sick.

    Bah, humbug! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Funny because I found my sibling to be the easiest to get a gift for. Everyone else – I am so over it.

      I agree with your sentiment about Birthdays being such a big deal back in the day. While I loved those days as a kid (parties, cake, gifts), I don’t really see the point of it anymore. I can get myself anything (well, within reason) I want on any day of the year. Same with cake or throwing myself a party or having a drink.

      Yea, I hear ya on the consumerism. That’s why a thoughtful gift means so much more than just a gift for the sake of being a gift.

      Like

  9. I once missed a surprise party at home…. It was my birthday and decided to spoil myself just a tiny bit then had a  a Lager drink, then a Cider drink
    Then sang the songs that remind me of the good and songs that remind him of the best times
    And returned home in the early hours to find sleepy guests half eatten cake and dinner 🥳 oopsie

    I had asked if people had plans and they said nope and I said OK then and left my 📱 cause was going via some dodgy establishments 🤣

    Anyway people should say what they mean and mean what they say don’t confuse us.

    ~B

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Whenever I read a post from you, I wonder if it’s fiction or not 😊 Whichever the answer, I’m happy to announce that in my introverted society (in Nordic Finland) birthday parties at work are not a thing. At all. (Phew!) But going away parties are, and I’m actually skipping one right now, and enjoying my glass of wine alone with WordPress!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely! I love receiving such discrete messages and I give them the same way. But some people just enjoy making things a big deal because they think louder/bigger is better and make a person feel more special. Eh.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Wow, very enlightening post. Working in education, we did birthdays of the month. Once a month we purchased a birthday cake, sometimes with names on it, and anyone who wanted to come to the staffroom came. We sang happy Birthday and ate cake. I think this company sounds pretty ignorant about mental health and perhaps as part of the legal case, they should have been forced to take some sensitivity training. My son would have reacted the same way. I love throwing parties or dinners for others, but am not big on being the center of attention myself.

    Liked by 1 person

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