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Celebrating Employee Birthdays Can Build or Bust Morale

Posted by Insightlink on 02/20/15

Should We Celebrate or Not?

Would you sue your workplace for saying you were ‘over the hill’ on your birthday? Some people have sued, so while celebrating employee birthdays is one way to show your staff they are appreciated and valued, you have to do it with care. In a recent SHRM article, titled ‘To Celebrate Birthdays at Work or Not?’ all the little do’s and don’ts to planning office birthday parties are provided to help us make sure we are recognizing our employees without risk of offending or discriminating against anyone. There were also some great ideas and ways to celebrate employees who are open to some recognition on their special day.

Let’s start with the Don’ts
1. Don’t be inconsistent. Celebrating some birthdays while forgetting others hurts morale.

2. Don’t use social media without asking first if the person is comfortable with it and definitely don’t publicize the year of their birth or how old they are on social media. In a worst case scenario, this could end up being an age discrimination lawsuit!

3. Don’t arrange for a cake and birthday sing-song without asking if the person is comfortable with it. Not everyone wants their birthdays celebrated, so it’s important to know that before the party starts. One HR professional commented that ‘During onboarding they have a section in their survey that asks….if they can recognize their birthday.’

4. Don’t put pressure on employees to contribute money to a gift or attend a lunch. Not everyone can afford to participate and it becomes awkward for those that feel if they don’t attend, they will be considered negatively by managers and co-workers.

5. Urging employees to leave work for a birthday lunch can raise issues under the Fair Labor Standards Act.

6. Birthday lunches can be two hour events so for some employees they need to know how to record it. Is it an official work function, are they expected to put in overtime to make up for the long absence?

break time

The Do’s are much more fun

1. Electronic birthday cards, especially at large organizations.

2. Surprise decorations at the employee’s desk.

3. Lunch with a manager.

4. Gift cards to popular stores or restaurants.

5. Cash gifts based on years of service.

6. Allowing the celebrant to take a “personal holiday” on their birthday.

7. A company contribution to a charity of the celebrant’s choice.

8. Monthly celebrations, perhaps with a cake, that acknowledge all workers born in that month.

From an employee engagement perspective, celebrating birthdays are a natural and positive way to boost morale and recognize employees…we just have a responsibility to acknowledge that not everyone shares that same spirit.

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