The birthday taxman cometh

Rage against the tyranny of the group gift

I don’t celebrate my birthday at work.

I have usually liked my co-workers, but I don’t like being the center of attention and I dunno – I just don’t want to have anyone make a big deal or even a little deal about my birthday at work.

I have tried very hard to keep my birthday on the DL. At an old job, I was glad to move to a new group where nobody knew anything about me.

I took the day off on my 40th birthday as I did not want any of the 40th birthday stuff to happen.

I returned to work the next day to find my office decorated with black streamers and headstones and all that stuff.

I was not happy.

And yet, because of peer pressure and “but she went to HR to get your birthday and then worked so hard to do this!” protestations about my group’s admin, I had to grit my teeth and thank her for the thought.

That’s not to say I won’t celebrate other peoples’ birthdays. I am delighted to make brownies to celebrate a co-worker’s birthday. But that’s low key and it involves chocolate. No office decorating involved. Just food. And nobody even needs to know it’s about a birthday. We gather around the chocolate and are happy and that’s that.

So I am not a total Grinch, but – imagine my surprise when I saw a message to my group at work soliciting money for a gift for the boss’ birthday.

  1. You never gift up at work. Never. (See authority Alison Green at Ask A Manager about this issue.)
  2. I don’t even have a 2 because this whole thing is so egregious.

When did it become A Thing to Give Money At Work To Buy A Birthday Present? (FOR THE BOSS?)

(I have a really good boss. I like her.)

But I don’t buy birthday presents for my own family, including Mr T.

Seriously. We all have all the stuff we need. We joked that if we had had a big party when we got married, we would not only have insisted on no presents but we would have required that all guests leave with a set of towels or a lamp.

(We didn’t have any guests other than immediate family because Mr T’s mom and dad were against our marriage but agreed to attend the wedding anyhow. We were worried they would get drunk and make scenes and it would be too mortifying to have our friends see that and GUESS WHAT THEY DID GET DRUNK AND MAKE A SCENE.)

The only reason I work is to increase, not decrease, the amount of money I have.

Why should I 1. give money 2. for a birthday present 3. for my boss when I don’t even spend money on my own family?

Again – I really like my boss. But not as much as I like Mr T or my mother and even they don’t get birthday presents.

So – when I saw the message to the group, I called the organizer, who is also a friend of mine, and said “Nope. I don’t do that.”

This is the beauty of not caring about Having A Career.

I. Don’t. Do. That.

PS My friend who is doing the collecting also hates the whole concept and is trying to kill the practice in our group. She, too, has never seen this sort of thing at work. She’s an ally, but she still has to care about her career.


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