Employee Birthdays: Recognition or No?

by Michael Haberman on July 7, 2011 · 7 comments

Today is my birthday! No I am not fishing for birthday wishes.. well maybe a few LOL. But as I got to my birthday it made me think about how companies recognize employee birthdays, if indeed they do. So I did some Internet searching and came across several articles about celebrating birthdays. One such post was How to Celebrate An Employee’s Birthday. The advice from this article included:

  • Keep it simple
  • Be consistent (however you can spoil friends, just do that outside the office)
  • Always have a cake or their favorite goodie
  • Assign this duty to the same person, for sake of consistency I guess. (Pretty sure bet the boss will not be doing this however)
  • Everyone needs to sign the card and they should write something endearing
  • Always try to surprise them. Light the candle, gather the other employees and go to the birthday boy/girl and sing happy birthday
  • Be creative and if you can come up with a good joke to play on the person all the much better.

My first reaction to this was “REALLY?” I have to be honest and say that I was relieved that no one had yet “Liked” this post. So I started fishing around and found an article on the SHRM website that had what I considered to be more reasonable advice for HR in a birthday situation. In Communications: Should employers announce or post employee birthdays? 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 religous discrimination issues.
  • Realize that not all employees are comfortable in making contributions to buy cake or gifts. (My recomendation? If you are going to buy cake bite the bullet and budget some departmental money for it. No birthday cake is going to break the department or company.)
  • Make sure you ONLY USE the date and month NEVER the year. Some people are happy with being 40 or 50 0r 60 but NOT EVERYONE is happy having that milestone revealed. After all 40 is the new 30 so who in the hell wants to be called 40. (Well I would, but that is just because it is in my past.)

Birthday recognition is a good way to build your culture. It even works for remote workers. However, in today’s world you do have to be conscious, at least initially, with the potential problems. Once you have them understood you can proceed.

BTW, my favorite cake is chocolate cake with german chocolate icing… you know the kind with coconut mixed in… along with some vanilla ice cream. I am just saying… And happy birthday to Ringo Starr and Doc Severinsen.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Ian Birney July 7, 2011 at 8:59 am

Happy Birthday Mike!

Mine was on Monday and I got to thinking about this as well. I have heard of different cases where some employees have sued because of announcing their age – it is a confidentiality thing.

Some workplaces simply have a cake day each month recognizing all the birthdays for the past month – a good way around confidentiality, making workers happy, and personally – I’ve been in offices where they seperate the birthdays and it is just too much cake!

Well-rounded article and in lieu of a gift, how about a re-tweet?


Sergey Gorbatov July 7, 2011 at 9:47 am

Happy Birthday to begin with 🙂

In large corporations birthdays tend to become somewhat of a drag. I recall that at Shell we used to have “birthday budget” so someone will always go and by a birthday present on behalf of the company. At first it was fun, but later the presents became more of a duty and hence unimaginative and tokenism began to thrive.

At the same time, ad hoc birthday surprises for selected individuals are also mauvais ton…

Some companies have a Common Birthday Day, celebrating everyone´s birthdays all at once on a set date. Creative, no?


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