It’s Your Birthday

Image: It’s Your Birthday

Celebrating Birthdays at Work

As I write this today on my birthday, I am reminded of all the ways different employers and colleagues have celebrated my special day at work over the years.  Are birthdays something that managers, colleagues and the organizations should recognize and celebrate? Is that a form of recognition?  It can be.  Is it engaging for everyone? Not necessarily.

I think it’s just fun to get together and enjoy some cake…but maybe that’s just me, especially since I love all desserts and especially chocolate cake. The challenge can be in a large organization when almost every week there is someone’s birthday to celebrate. Many of our clients celebrate the birthday month for everyone on the team that is having a birthday during that time and turn it into a fun team event.

However, not everyone is excited about turning another year older, and hopefully wiser. There are a variety of possibilities regarding how employees might want their birthday to be celebrated, ranging from nothing at all, to a full out party. Some employee desires include:

  • Won’t want it celebrated at all
  • Will only want you to wish them happy birthday
  • Will only want you to get them a card
  • Would like you to take them to lunch
  • Would like to go to lunch with you and some other employees
  • Would like a small party with a few people
  • Would like a big party with lots of people
  • Would like to work a half-day
  • Would like the day off with pay

It is important for managers to ask employees if they want their birthday to be acknowledged, and if they do, what would be their desired celebration be. Obviously it is key to provide all employees with the same choice of celebratory options.

When determining how to approach birthday celebrations at your organization, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) advises the following:

  • Don’t assume that employees automatically want to have their birthday announced. Ask new hires if they would like to be included in the announcement and celebration of birthdays. If announcements and celebrations are handled on a department level only, require all managers to ask new hires for their preferences and to abide by it.
  • Be aware that some religions forbid recognition of birthdays. Again get the employee’s permission before automatically celebrating to avoid religious discrimination issues.
  • Realize that not all employees are comfortable in making contributions to buy cake or gifts.
  • Make sure you only use the date and month, never the year. Some people are happy with being 40 or 50 or 60 but not all employees are happy having that milestone revealed.

Birthday recognition is a good way to build your team culture. In virtual team environments, it can act as a way to engage remote employees. However, organizations and leaders do need to be conscious, at least initially, of how birthday celebrations may be received.

By making employees feel special for the day and demonstrating that you care, you can boast employee morale and motivation while increasing productivity. If you celebrate the birthdays of the employees that want them to be celebrated and you do it in a way that feels special to them, this can be a great way to show employees that you care about them as people and have some fun together as a team.

I’m off to eat to some cake! :)

Giselle Kovary

As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that help clients target, motivate and engage employees in order to increase performance and productivity. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies across North America. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. With close to 20 years of experience in learning and development, she has devoted more than 13 years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance.

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