What About Celebrating Birthdays and Anniversaries?

Do you celebrate birthdays and work anniversaries at your organization?

It is an interesting question.  

Some organizations are for it while others are not. 

Organizations using online recognition programs usually have options in their programs for employees to turn on or off the ability for people to know when their birthday or work anniversary occurs. Or, if they allow visibility, when someone sends them a congratulatory eCard greeting, employees can still keep it private between the recipient and giver or make it public to everyone. 

And then there are managers who think celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries is like something done only back in high school. At least, that’s the line they are saying to excuse themselves from celebrating their staff. 

How do you handle these situations around personal and work celebrations? 

To Celebrate or Not To Celebrate, That Is The Question

We spend approximately 28 percent of our time, or more, in any week at work. That’s almost as much as we spend asleep (33 percent). We probably spend more time in the presence of our peers at work that we do with our family members and friends at home or in the community. 

The Gallup organization in their Q12 Engagement Survey ask whether respondents have a best friend at work. They have found a concrete link between having a best friend at work and the amount of effort employees spend in their job. 

For example, Gallup’s employee engagement database shows a mere two out of 10 U.S. employees strongly agree they have a best friend at work. Yet, by moving that ratio to six in 10, organizations could realize:

  • 36% fewer safety incidents
  • 7% more engaged customers
  • 12% higher profit

It appears having friends at work calls for a celebration all by itself. 

Birthdays and work anniversaries are excellent ways to celebrate the friendships and relationships we have with our work colleagues. 

Principles to Guide Celebrating Personal Events 

There are two principles that I think should guide you with your decision on celebrating birthdays, work anniversaries, and other personal events or not.

Principle #1: Caring and Celebrating Attitude  

I have seen lots of wonderful organizations that have a practice of celebrating the small and big things in people’s lives. Their culture and values almost dictate that this is the way they do things and expect everyone to take part in.

They typically not only celebrate birthdays, but they acknowledge every work or career milestone anniversary, whether or not it is a milestone one. You’ll also find that their care and concern for employees reaches out to acknowledge personal life events such as births and weddings. And they are also mindful to communicate sympathy and empathy in times of loss of a loved one, human or pet-kind, or when sickness and health issues arise. 

These actions stem from a belief and culture of their leaders and the organization that cares about people and celebrate everyone’s successes. 

Principle #2: Respecting the Individual Choice of Employees

As I stated earlier, you respect employees and always give them the choice to show their preference for private, public, or refusal to receive tokens of celebration for personal events.

Some may have religious reasons why they do not observe birthdays or other celebrations. Others are private people who don’t like the attention and public fanfare.

Make sure you find out in your one-on-one meetings with staff to identify personal preferences for celebrating birthdays and work anniversaries. On average, 25 percent of employees do not want public attention or public recognition, preferring in most cases to have private one-on-one recognition moments.

Have staff turn on or off the public display or notifications for such events when orienting staff to the organization’s online recognition programs. 

Bosses Who Don’t Care

This post arose from a question on a recent webinar about a boss who thinks celebrating birthdays and anniversaries are so “high school.” What should they do, they asked?

If more people than you feel the same way, and if you can rouse up your colleagues to have the courage and agree to speak up, collectively share your feelings and point of view with your manager. Remember, there are reasons this manager thinks this way. Be bold and ask them why they don’t celebrate employee birthdays and anniversaries. Dialogue so both you, your colleagues, and the manager understand one another. This should influence a manager. Remember to commend them for any progress they make. And, if they don’t change, you must tolerate this flaw in your manager. 

As for the more formal work anniversaries, milestone and non-milestone, your organization should make managers accountable for honoring and celebrating every employee on their anniversary or as close to it as possible. Managers need to know they represent the organization and senior leaders in thanking anniversary recipients for their loyalty and contributions.

I hope people can celebrate everyone on their special days wherever they work. 

Recognition Reflection: Does your organization celebrate birthdays and anniversaries in a special way?

Roy is no longer writing new content for this site (he has retired!), but you can subscribe to Engage2Excel’s blog as Engage2Excel will be taking Roy’s place writing about similar topics on employee recognition and retention, leadership and strategy.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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