You have a busy schedule this morning and feel a bit out of sorts when an email comes across your desk reminding you about a birthday celebration for a coworker. This is the third one scheduled in a month, and you think it is a waste of time. Do you have to go? How long do you have to stay? Why is this type of activity sanctioned by management? It must cost money in lost work time and productivity.
There are reasons why workplace celebrations are allowed, even encouraged. Mainly people think it gives the appearance of a friendly workplace that cares about their employees. But there are numerous ways they may have the opposite effects.
Downsides of Celebrations
•Many people see them as an invasion of their privacy. Maybe they don’t want everyone to know their age, or they are shy and don’t like being in the spotlight.
•Some employees are well-liked, but others not so much. It may be hurtful when one employee has 20 people at their celebration while another has only 4.
•Depending on who is in charge of preparations, there may be something as simple as coffee and cookies, or a whole breakfast spread. This discrepancy doesn’t go unnoticed.
•Celebrations are not inexpensive. Sometimes the planner absorbs the cost, but other times coworkers are expected to chip in for food or a gift. Many people may not be able to afford the personal expense or resent feeling required to contribute.
How to Remedy
• Organizations should establish guidelines for celebrations. There could be a quarterly staff breakfast to celebrate recent birthdays, marriages, and births that includes any staff who choose to attend. The schedule and time constraints would be set in advance with management footing the bill, and employees given the option of being celebrated or not.
• Perhaps a bouquet of flowers from management and a well-circulated card signed by staff could suffice.
•Better yet, staff should be encouraged to do personal acknowledgments in place of public ones. If you know and like a coworker, suggest you have lunch together for their special day, or buy a personal card and leave it on their desk.
We may need or desire more celebrations in our lives, but they are best when they are natural and not forced. If your workplace seems to overdo these things, it might be time to start the discussion for change. You might be surprised by the number of people who agree with you.