How to celebrate birthday

High you shall live! Today is your big day, your birthday, and you would certainly like to celebrate it with family and friends. Nice, so if it just falls on the weekend or on vacation. But what if not? How do you handle your birthday at work? Should you celebrate your birthday at the office and if so, how??

Celebrating birthdays with colleagues in the office

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

Hiding birthday from colleagues?

Many people prefer to hide their birthdays. This may be due to the fact that they simply do not like to turn a year older, or they simply do not like to be the center of interest. To hide the birthday from the colleagues, however, is usually not possible in the long run. At the latest, after you’ve been employed for at least a year, male and female colleagues will start asking the question: Hey, when was your birthday anyway? And at least one person always knows the right answer to this question. Either because you are friends or because, for example, the secretary has access to your personnel data. Sometimes the intern has to apply for your passport for your business trip, or your Facebook account intentionally or unintentionally tells the online world when you’ve turned a year older. You see: Keeping your birthday a permanent secret in the office is almost impossible. So forget about playing hide and seek and enjoy your celebration.

Taking time off on your birthday – yes or no?

Sure, the best way to celebrate a birthday is to sleep in in the morning, have a big brunch and then celebrate with family and friends. Fill your belly, go on an excursion or have a good time in the club in the evening: That’s how you imagine a successful birthday. But if you have to work on your birthday – as well as the following day – you have only two options: Either you skip the party altogether or you celebrate on the weekend after. In fact, many Germans go to work as normal on their birthday. However, it’s perfectly understandable if you have a desire to take a day or two off over your birthday. But is it common and possible at all?

Peeking at colleagues is allowed

This question cannot be answered in such a general way. How employees’ birthdays are handled usually depends on the corporate culture. So if you are new, just observe how your colleagues handle their birthdays. Take the day off or come to work? And when they come to work, they celebrate in the office as well? In some companies it is quite tolerated that employees want to take time off on their birthday. However, in another company, this wish may be misunderstood. You express that you prefer to spend this special day with other people and activities, so you don’t feel comfortable in the office. You do not have a legal claim to vacation on your birthday anyway. To be on the safe side, you should

  1. either come to work on your birthday as usual
  2. or schedule your regular vacation so that your birthday "coincidentally" falls during that time period.

What about my children’s birthdays?

Many parents attach more importance to their children’s birthdays than to their own. You therefore ask yourself whether you should take time off for your child’s birthday? Here, too, the following applies: follow the custom in force in the company. If it is quite common for parents to take a day off for their children’s birthdays every now and then, you can ask your supervisor as well. It costs nothing to ask. Still, of course, you have no legal right to special leave here either. If you are unable to take time off – because your request was rejected or because it is not customary in the company and you therefore did not ask in the first place – don’t get your hopes up right away. Instead, try to finish work on time or leave one or two hours earlier thanks to flexitime and you can still celebrate with your child and unwrap presents. The big children’s birthday can also take place at the weekend and it is certainly a great experience for your child to be able to celebrate in kindergarten or at school and to be the center of attention for a whole day.

The birthday party at the office: Dos and Don’ts

If you’re going to work on your birthday, it’s customary in most companies to have a small celebration. Here, too, you can benefit from experience and simply look to your colleagues to see how they handle their birthdays. Depending on the company, birthday etiquette depends on the prevailing culture and the way it is perceived. Habit off. But what if you have just been hired and then already have a birthday?? You can, of course, take the advice of a nice colleague or a friend. Ask for the help of an obliging colleague. In principle, however, you can at least not make a faux pas with the following dos:

  • Announce the small celebration in the office one or two days before your birthday. For example, you can send an appointment to your colleagues via Outlook.
  • Be sure to invite the entire team – including supervisors – the entire department or even all employees of the company, depending on the size of the company of course.
  • Organize a joint breakfast, go to a restaurant together during the lunch break or after work, or simply bring cake and place it in the kitchen so that everyone can help themselves freely.
  • Keep in mind that a party during working hours should not last more than 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Bring a variety of snacks so that vegetarians or colleagues with allergies can also find a treat for themselves. This also shows that you are interested in and considerate of your colleagues.
  • Never serve alcohol in the office or during working hours. You are welcome to bring non-alcoholic champagne for the toast. Otherwise, you like to postpone your celebration until the end of the day or the weekend. But here, too, the following applies: Only consume and serve alcohol in the working environment, i.e. among colleagues or superiors, in moderation.
  • Go for classics rather than daring experiments. When in doubt, buttered pretzels and chocolate cake will certainly go down better than sushi or vegan muffins. Therefore, when selecting your food, make sure that there is something for every taste.
  • It is particularly practical to serve food that guests can put together themselves, such as wraps or burgers.
  • The food may be simple, but should not seem stingy.

But it’s not just excessive stinginess or arrogant showing off that can ruin your birthday party; you should also avoid the following don’ts at all costs:

  • Invite only those colleagues with whom you get along well.
  • Serving alcohol during working hours.
  • Collect money for the catering from the participants of your party.
  • Prepare a star menu or hold a one- to two-hour brunch.
  • One-sided snacks, for example only with sausage and meat, so that not all colleagues can eat with you.
  • Show up to work with a party hat and a hangover.
  • Go overboard at the birthday party after work or on the weekend, drink too much alcohol or make out with your colleague, thus ensuring the latest gossip.

The exception: The round birthday

Round birthdays are also often celebrated bigger at work than a 27., 33. or 46. Birthday. It is best to discuss in advance with your supervisor whether and in what form you can celebrate your birthday in the office. Sometimes there is even an exception and you can toast with a glass of champagne. In this case, bring enough non-alcoholic drinks for those colleagues who do not want to drink alcohol in general or at the moment. A round birthday usually takes a bit more time than the piece of cake you usually eat with the team in fifteen minutes. You should therefore never celebrate a birthday in the office without prior permission. You have three different options for the occasion:

  1. Celebrate your birthday in a small but nice way in the office – just like any other birthday.
  2. Have a slightly larger party at the office, but get permission in advance and reserve an appropriate room early if needed.
  3. They postpone the celebration until after work or the weekend, and on said day merely toast briefly with colleagues or buy a round of cakes.

The (private) birthday party at the end of work or weekend

If you want to celebrate your birthday instead of or in addition to the small round in the office still at the end of the working day or on the weekend, you must ask yourself the question whether it should be a purely private, a purely professional or a mixed party. Of course, over time, some of your colleagues have grown into real friends. Therefore, you would certainly like to have them with you at a private party. But as soon as you invite only some of your work colleagues to your celebration, it can come to unpleasant misunderstandings. You should therefore proceed as follows:

  • Distribute the invitations in the office only if you want to invite all colleagues.
  • Mention the celebration at all only at work, if this is (also) professional.
  • If you would like to invite only your friendly colleagues to the otherwise private party, distribute the invitations discreetly after hours.
  • Make sure the invitation is distributed fairly. This means that if you realize that you would ultimately only fail to invite one or two teammates, you either sort out more invitations or invite everyone from the office. Otherwise it quickly looks like exclusion or even bullying.
  • Don’t keep talking about it the day after your birthday party unless all your colleagues were there too. After all, you don’t want to rub the noses of those who have not been invited in what they have missed.
  • So you are always on the safe side if you invite either all or none of your colleagues to your (private) birthday party at the end of work or on the weekend.
  • Also keep in mind that you may be mixing work and private life at this point. So as soon as colleagues or even superiors are present at your private birthday party, it is imperative that you avoid putting your foot in your mouth, such as excessive alcohol consumption.

Therefore, you should carefully consider whether you would like to celebrate your birthday only in the office or whether it should be a somewhat larger celebration. You also need to think carefully about how you want to mix your professional and private life.

Which experiences and Tipps have you to the topic birthday in the office as well as at the end of work or weekend? What are your personal dos and don’ts?

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