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Guest Post: Birthdays in the Workplace

A few weeks ago, I got an email from a woman named Erin Palmer at Villanova University who asked if I would be open to her providing a guest post for my site.  Since Erin is in the HR education business and was bold enough to reach out and ask to collaborate, she had my ear.  When she said that she wanted to write a post about how birthday’s are treated in the workplace, she had my interest.  I am pleased to share Erin’s post with you here.  If you like the post, please ping her on twitter at @Erin_E_Palmer to let her know. Enjoy. 

Birthdays in the Workplace

On my birthday this year, one of my coworkers was kind enough to bring in cupcakes. It was a lovely gesture that was appreciated by me and my sweet-toothed colleagues. As a result, I got many birthday well-wishes during the day. Another coworker later emailed me to explain that he didn’t send me birthday greetings due to religious beliefs. I thought that was very considerate of him, but entirely unnecessary.

The entire experience got me to thinking about birthdays in the workplace. I’m an adult, so I would never be offended if someone ignored my birthday. However, I’ve noticed that many people don’t feel the same way. I’m in my twenties, and my peers are particularly birthday-crazy. My generation has taken birthdays to the extreme. Many of my friends celebrate their birthday week or even birthday month. Moreover, they expect others to celebrate along with them.

Don’t get me wrong, I love birthdays. If my husband forgot my birthday, he’d be in trouble. Remembering my birthday is his job. However, I don’t expect celebrations at my actual job. I appreciate the acknowledgment, but certainly don’t require it.

Birthdays in the workplace bring out a lot of questions for human resources professionals. Some companies ignore birthdays entirely while others actively reach out to birthday girls and boys for celebration purposes. Some offices have monthly celebrations that combine all of the month’s birthdays. How much or little birthdays are celebrated depend upon the company’s culture.

In any workplace there will be employees that would love to be serenaded with the birthday song and others that would rather hide than be sung to. There isn’t one right way to approach an employee’s birthday. It all comes down to what makes sense for the company. It is important for HR to be consistent with how the company handles such celebrations. Employees can decide to plan a lunch for a specific colleague, but HR needs to make sure that the company treats the employees equally.

Regardless of how HR handles workplace birthdays, employees should also remember that everyone is different. Don’t guilt your coworkers if they choose not to attend your birthday lunch. You never know what their reasons are. Celebrate in whatever way will make you happy… even if that means not celebrating at all.

Erin Palmer wrote this article on behalf of the online human resources programs at Villanova University. For those generous companies, consider treating your employees to an education for their birthday! Villanova offers an HR Masters online or courses to help with SHRM’s PHR certification. Erin can be reached on Twitter @Erin_E_Palmer. 
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  1. Chris aka new_resource

    I happen to feel exactly like you on this one Mrs. Palmer. My friends and family should remember but employees don't have to. Celebrate diversity at work not birthdays.

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