Office Birthdays: A Big Bowl of Awkward Sauce

17 Sep

Office birthdays are so awkward.

I can’t handle them.  Offices are awkward, office people are awkward, and birthdays are awkward.  Together, it’s just way too much awkward sauce for me to bear.

The worst thing about office birthdays is that there’s typically a ‘process’ in place for how a birthday is handled.  It might be noted in an Excel spreadsheet somewhere or someone in the office might be in charge of always coordinating it.   Usually it’s the same exact protocol for everyone so by the time it gets to you, you know exactly what to expect and try to work up some genuine facial expressions.

They have smiles on their faces, but inside they're dying. DYING.

One of my favorites at a place I used to work was that the entire office would just “surprise” someone at their cubicle with a cake, a chorus, and one loan kazoo player. 

I quit before my birthday so that I didn’t have to face it dead on.

I’m usually the person who gets put in charge of coordinating birthday “fun”, so when my birthday rolls around no one does anything.  It doesn’t occur to them that someone has to actually make the birthday happen.  They just all stare at each other like confused baby deer and wonder where the cake and card has come from every other time there’s been a birthday in the company.

And then it occurs to them.  


Then there’s the whole gift-giving thing.  Again – gift-giving is a rough process to bear without the terrible assistance of a cubicle farm and a small sea of overeager smiles for a setting.   It’s so public and there are so many politics. There are so many things to consider when giving gifts in the office:  If I get Kevin a thing for his desk, like a doodad or something is that too typical?  Does it imply his entire life revolves around the office or that I don’t know him well enough? Should I just get food?  Will other people get food?  Can I give a gift card or is that too “hey this is how much you’re worth to me?”  What if he expects me to give him a really high amount because he thinks I make more than him.  I’m almost positive I don’t make more than him.  Should I get a gift that’s more than I can really afford just so that he doesn’t think I’m being cheap because he thinks I make more than him?!

You see?  Insanity.

I can’t navigate all that business every time it’s someone’s anniversary of birth.  I feel pushed into getting someone something who I have made a point to not get to know on too personal of a level.  It’s no offense to them or anything; I just don’t want to complicate my work life by having to wonder whether we’re still friends after I tell them they seriously need to take a computers class because I’m tired of trying to explain to them the entire user guide to the Microsoft Office Suite one day at a time.

For the record, that was a long time ago and I sincerely doubt the person is still alive.  If she is, hello Carrie.  I’m sorry.  But you really need to start rating yourself more honestly in interviews on the Microsoft Suite package. 

Luckily at my current job, I feel like I’ve got a good handle on the people I work with and can make semi-appropriate gift choices when necessary. 

Unfortunately, this coming week we’re celebrating my boss’s birthday and I’m absolutely drowning in awkward sauce.  

Maybe I’ll take a leave of absence.



19 Responses to “Office Birthdays: A Big Bowl of Awkward Sauce”

  1. Maxim September 17, 2011 at 9:02 am #

    You quit your job not to face the awkwardness at your birthday? Yikes! Over reaction!?


    • Jackie September 17, 2011 at 9:43 am #

      I tend to use hyberbole from time to time.

      If you must ruin the magic, I was transferred to another department. I don’t want the rest of the comment thread to be about how I really need to seek help for my overwhelming social anxiety. The last time my readers got the ball rolling on my needing help, I had to dedicate the entire next day’s post to setting the record straight.


  2. Emily May September 17, 2011 at 9:09 am #

    No-one remembered when my birthday was except for one person, and they bought me a giant rubber duck…


    • Jackie September 17, 2011 at 9:36 am #

      A duck? What’s that all about?


  3. misswhiplash September 17, 2011 at 10:10 am #

    Happy Birthday to you
    happy Birthday to you
    happy Birthday to whoever it is
    There’s no present for you1

    Give a small box of chocs that always goes down well, and if they don’t eat chocs everyone else can enjoy them instead


    • Jackie September 17, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

      Ah – a gift for the office and not so much the boss. Brilliant! 😉


  4. whatimeant2say September 17, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Don’t worry. I got the hyperbole! (Use it all the time, myself!) Have fun during your leave of absence 😉


  5. pegoleg September 17, 2011 at 11:22 am #

    Love the picture. The woman getting the hat put on her head is probably the really tough, no-nonsense boss who hates that her employees are trying to humiliate her. And that’s why they’re doing it.


    • Jackie September 17, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

      Yes – I like the back story. I like to think she wants to jump out a window underneath that fake smile.


  6. Jules September 17, 2011 at 11:26 am #

    Give them a t-shirt that says, “it was my birthday and all I got was this lousy shirt”. LOL!


    • Jackie September 17, 2011 at 12:40 pm #

      The look on their face would be unbearable as they struggled to pretend they were grateful. I would die.



  7. lunarmoth September 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm #

    Quitting to avoid your awkward birthday celebration doesn’t sound like hyperbole to me — but I am often accused of overreaction. 😀
    I really enjoy your posts like this one that take a detail of life, look at it from a slightly different perspective, and turn it into something funny and entertaining!


  8. kaliesthoughts September 18, 2011 at 4:21 am #

    i agree


  9. themovieblog8 September 18, 2011 at 11:58 am #

    But The Office makes them look so fun!


  10. egills September 19, 2011 at 4:48 am #

    My office is much easier… I organise a card ( using petty cash ) secretly get people to sign it and then pop down to the shop to get cream cakes ( also out of petty cash ) and when they’re not about I put it on their desk.. simple!
    My birthday is much harder as I rarely get anything because if I don’t do it no-one will 🙂


    • Jackie September 21, 2011 at 11:09 pm #

      See?! If you don’t do it no one will. Your office is easier because you’re okay with being the birthday organizer. I HATE being the birthday organizer and so does everyone else. It’s such a mess. Come work in my office. I’ll plan your birthday if you plan everyone else’s.


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