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Management: Office Birthday Parties - Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Office Birthday Parties

Executive Leadership Articles

Management: Office Birthday Parties

Nothing beats the holiday season for good feelings in the office, but a birthday celebration is special because it focuses on one person, allowing the office as a group to edify people individually. A few moments out of the workday to bring people together and honor a coworker on his or her special day goes a long way in fostering goodwill. But as we all know, especially in larger offices where birthdays are more frequent, the seemingly endless cake and ice cream become kind of a drag sometimes. If there’s a collection for the cost of cake or some kind of gift, that drag becomes an actual burden. Still, the honorees probably still feel pretty special on their day, and that might be worth it all by itself, but is there some way to make that special feeling less of a weight on everyone else? Here are a few ideas we explored when we asked some friends how birthdays are handled in their workplaces.

Celebrations Once per Month
This seems like a popular solution in larger offices. Once per month (or once per quarter), there’s cake and ice cream for everyone who’s got a birthday in that time period. As long as each person is singled out (that is, named in the group email) so that everyone else know who the honorees are, there will be plenty of “happy birthday” greetings for each celebrant, and this still feels special even if the day is shared with a few others. A schedule like this can also be enhanced with something special offered each time, so that in January there’s cake and ice cream but Fred in accounting also brings sundae fixings, and in February there’s cake and ice cream but Mary in HR brings fresh fruit or chocolate pudding.

Voluntary Lunches Offsite
Let the birthday boy or girl choose an appropriate spot offsite for a regular lunch hour, and get sign-ups for people who want to go along, plus the opportunity to chip in for those not attending. This could get sticky if for some reason (and it doesn’t have to be popularity; it could be busy-ness) signups are very few for some people. The thoughtful manager might want to make sure that a decent number of people agree to go along no matter whose birthday it is. The opportunity to go offsite with coworkers is often enticing enough for enough members of your team that it won’t even matter who’s celebrating, but that’s clearly going to vary from one office to the next.

Have a Committee to Plan Different Celebrations
You probably already have a core group of party planners. Formalize it with a name and some funding, and charge the committee with taking care of important celebrations, with a loose directive to keep it interesting to avoid sliding into ruts. Be careful that the members of this group do not get burned out, and make sure people from all corners of the company thank them profusely each time. The gratitude and appreciation are really what these organizers get out of it. If the expressions are sincere and frequent, the group will almost always be good for something nice.

Popcorn and Movies in the Conference Room
One person, realizing the strain on her office mates caused by too many (and too involved) celebrations, asked simply for popcorn and a movie in the conference room. It was a casual, show-up-if-you-want event, and it was only for an hour (so only half a movie was shown), but the birthday girl got to enjoy a favorite movie with coworkers, and the coworkers had minimal planning and commitment. Someone brought sparkling cider, and someone else brought extra snacks to go with the popcorn, but the informal nature of the activity made none of that feel like a big deal. It was popular enough with the team that others said they hoped to celebrate their days the same way.

Don’t Forget a Card
Remember that the whole reason for a birthday celebration is to let each person know he or she is appreciated. Circulate a birthday card for each person in the office routing envelopes, giving each teammate a chance to add a personal thought and perhaps a few bucks toward a gift card. Since nobody knows who is or isn’t contributing to the card, there’s no pressure on anyone to do it. Most coworkers will put a generic “happy birthday” message, but a few will add something personal. And sometimes all it takes is a few kind words to boost someone for the coming year.


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