The Obligatory Work Bridal Shower

by admin on January 13, 2011

Oh, here we go again, a bridal shower at work for yet another wedding that 99% of the staff is not invited to!

This is the 3rd or 4th in a few years and I am wondering when everyone is going to catch on that this is just not right.

I am opting out and taking a day of vacation on the day of the shower for the bride who can barely find two words to utter to me during the work day now I am expected to cough up some hard earned cash to buy her a gift…sorry but
I will not be intimidated into this again.

Sincerely, Your co-workers   0107-11

Some brides need to develop a profound aversion to being feted with showers attended by people they have no interest in socializing with either at work or outside of work or having as guests to their wedding.  The obligatory workplace shower, where everyone feels this compulsion to shower their soon-to-be-wed co-worker with gifts simply because they happen to share a cubicle farm with her, should go the way of the dinosaur and be relegated to private functions outside of work.

Have a need to honor a co-worker’s impending nuptials?  Bring cupcakes or some delectable, shareable treat to work in “honor” of the bride and leave it at that.  Do not become the vehicle of her avarice by driving her down the road to greedy presumptions that her co-workers somehow owe her gifts even though their presence at her wedding is not so dearly coveted.   Bring your own gift and give it privately.

{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

Numa January 13, 2011 at 5:54 am

I was given a wedding shower by my co-workers. They gave me a very generous gift they all had chipped in on. Of course, I had already tacked an invitation to the bulletin board, and explained that all were invited. I also explained that I knew it was tacky to use just one invitation, but I was almost out and my mother kept adding to the list. Ten girls drove four hours round trip to come to the wedding. They all would have come, but someone had to keep the store open.

I think the idea of bringing food is an excellent one. It acknowledges the occasion without creating the wrong impression.

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Giles January 13, 2011 at 7:07 am

I work in the medical profession, so we thankfully don’t have time for antics like this. The most I’ve seen is a small group of friends treating the impending mother/bride/groom to a nice lunch with maybe small gifts.

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Typo Tat January 13, 2011 at 7:18 am

Boy, am I glad there’s no ‘bridal shower’ concept in my culture, so I’m spared this delightful situation.

Apart from that, in every workplace I’ve been in my life, the ‘gifting’ tradition for very special occasions was to collect money and buy one collective gift. Usually the gift is signed simply “from company X”, so there’s no pressure and no embarrassment for those who didn’t contribute.

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Me January 13, 2011 at 8:07 am

There is no way that I would use one of my vacation days just to duck this. I would opt out or buy a card and just leave it at that. I guess that I’m lucky – my co-workers and I are all friends outside of work.

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Elicat January 13, 2011 at 8:39 am

I must work at a nicer place than ya’ll. We have about 50 employees, and work in a female-dominated business, so it’s more like a family. Anytime someone is getting married or having a child, we pass a card around to be signed, with an envelope inserted for donations. However, the employee chooses what to give–usually there is a note attached that says “if you wish to give a donation, please do so in the enclosed envelope.” A donation certainly isn’t required (isn’t a donation a voluntary gift?). And the card/envelope is usually given at a brunch, where employees may bring a baked good, fruit, donuts, etc. Everyone looks forward to that, even the guys!

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Xtina January 13, 2011 at 9:04 am

I agree, I wouldn’t use my hard-earned vacation days just to avoid going to a shower for someone I barely know and hardly talk to. I would do exactly as our E-hell dame has suggested, just bring something to eat, or maybe a card of congratulations.

I was given a baby shower at work (I initially turned it down, but the organizer really wanted to give it, so I aquiesced but kept it small), but it was a private event at a different location to which the shower organizer invited only people I knew well. Those who came seemed to genuinely want to be there, and nobody felt any pressure as the event was away from our office space and those who couldn’t or didn’t want to come were left in peace. Every person received an individual thank-you note, including every person who donated to my “group gift”, whether they were there or not. I thank my organizer for making sure I received the names of every person who contributed.

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Just Laura January 13, 2011 at 9:24 am

A female work acquaintance asked if I wanted her to throw me a bridal shower (I’m getting married in March). I told her that while I was very flattered, I felt that such a thing was far from work-place appropriate.
As for the last 2 baby showers here at work, I have politely declined to attend. There are some things that have no business in a professional setting.

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samihami January 13, 2011 at 9:32 am

When I was married a hundred years ago, my coworkers did give me a shower. I didn’t ask for it and I wasn’t filled with avarice…it was something kind they decided to do for me, even though they knew that my wedding was going to be tiny, with only about a dozen people there. I had also worked there for five years and knew everyone rather well. I really never felt like it was a faux pas and I was very grateful for every gift (for which I dutifully and promptly wrote thank you notes).

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Li January 13, 2011 at 9:43 am

Question though…how does a bride deal with this? When I got married I had a surprise work shower thrown for me. I honestly had no idea it was going to happen (I thought I was heading to a meeting about a system upgrade) and I hadn’t invited them because my venue was so small.

I actually felt embarrassed, but I couldn’t very well tell them that their gesture is unappreciated, and it think it’s a little unfair to accuse the *bride* of avarice when sometimes the gesture is neither asked for or expected. If she’s prancing around the office expecting a bridal shower then that’s another story all together.

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Just Laura January 13, 2011 at 10:00 am

I would like to add one more thing: Xtina brought up a good point. If the shower is outside of work, but just happens to involve coworkers with whom one is friendly, I don’t see a problem with that. That way no one is sitting at her desk trying to work, but feeling pressured into giving/doing anything.

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DGS January 13, 2011 at 10:08 am

I certainly wouldn’t have wasted a vacation day on avoiding the blessed event, but I would have either signed a card or simply wished the bride well, but politely excused myself from attending.

My co-workers threw me a surprise bridal shower when I was getting married, but it was a) without my knowledge; b) not at work, during work hours, but after work, at a nearby restaurant that we frequented for occasional office lunches or Friday happy-hours; c) co-hosted by two women from a mixed-gender group of about twenty, all of whom were invited to the wedding, and all of whom socialized in off-work hours. They chipped in for a beautiful gift (a silver-plated 8×10 picture frame for one of our wedding photos and some cupcakes from a local bakery), and we enjoyed appetizers and the cupcakes and a few drinks. I was extremely appreciative, wrote many a thank-you note, and reciprocated by bringing into the office some homemade desserts (I make a mean pumpkin cheesecake and chocolate-pecan pie). I certainly didn’t expect or ask for a shower.

I do think that it’s uncalled for to assume that the bride was prancing around, asking for a shower, unless she actually was, in which case, shame on her for being greedy. However, I do wish that most offices would adopt a culture that would discourage people from engaging in obligatory solicitation of funds and forced cheer of celebrating Nurse Julie’s Wedding, The New Baby for Jim in Accounting, etc.

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Pam January 13, 2011 at 10:09 am

I worked at an office that was about 8 hours from where I got married and only one co-worker actually came to my wedding. A few co-workers who knew mewell threw me a shower and I really cherish the memory of their kindness and genuine happiness for my upcoming marriage. I didn’t expect a shower, I was a little embarrassed by the attention; but it remains a really nice memory! The bottom line is “do not give gifts out of sheer obligation”…..most people are decent enough that they would be horrified that you felt like you “had” to give them something – the ones who think you must give them a gift, don’t merit one.

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aliasJaneCrow January 13, 2011 at 10:38 am

Okay, so I’m going to take an unconventional approach. We have the “send a card and envelope around” tradition here. It’s been that place everywhere I work. If it’s someone I know, even if casually, I’ll chip in a dollar or two, go and wish the person well, have a cookie at the little “shower” then get back to my desk. What’s a dollar or two? However, I really don’t expect a bride then to be obligated to expend how much for a fancy invitation, then how much for dinner at the reception, or crowd what is supposed to be a very personal event so that I can attend “in exchange.” I don’t expect the bride to burden herself personally, socially or economically at her wedding because I put a few dollars toward something. I thought, and please Admin, correct me if I’m wrong, we give because we want to, to celebrate something for the recipient, or to celebrate the recipient him/herself, no strings attached.

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Louise January 13, 2011 at 10:47 am

If it’s a surprise then I would definitely cut the bride slack. If not, I wouldn’t. I think celebrating with baked goods is a better idea; I would rather have a little celebratory moment with cupcakes than a full shower myself.

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Anonymous January 13, 2011 at 10:57 am

I agree that the bride is not always to blame. Looking back, I actually wish I’d allowed the two groups of people who wanted to throw me a bridal shower do so, even though the wedding was immediate-family-only. It would have been a fun bonding experience with the friends, and, as the first one getting married in both groups, they really, really wanted to do the shower thing. But I got too caught up in “no shower unless they’re invited”, and took fun away from everyone involved.

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LBC January 13, 2011 at 11:00 am

I would be mortified if somebody tried to pressure my coworkers into an office shower on my behalf.

We gave a baby shower for a coworker once, but it was quite a different circumstance: It was a small business and we all knew and liked each other, it was genuinely voluntary (our idea, not the boss’/supervisors’, and, for goodness’ sake, not the mother-to-be’s), we announced it to but did not pressure the weekend employees who didn’t know her as well, and it was held outside of work hours at a non-work location.

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Gloria Shiner January 13, 2011 at 11:03 am

I think Li brings up a good question, and I don’t know the answer. At the very least, you are gracious and send a personal thank-you note to each person. Do you also include an apology? An explanation? A disclaimer? If you do any of those are you committing an etiquette faux pas by embarassing the “hostess”?

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karma January 13, 2011 at 11:15 am

I have seen so many issues with showers over the years. Most were baby showers, to be fair. The worst offenders in my book:

*A large manila envelope passed around for “donations”. Great except, make sure to cross your pre-written NAME off the LIST on the front when you put in your $$.
*A double-shower for two employees for convenience of scheduling. One honoree however told the organizer that she didn’t want them to do her shower yet. She wanted to wait until she knew the gender of the baby. Therefore, two separate showers had to be carried out, with double the expense and another date on the calendar.
*A second shower for the same woman within a year. It was for her third kid born while she worked there (All within a four year time frame). Yes, that made her third shower at that job. Other than the organizer, most employees rolled their eyes.
*A shower standoff. An employee decided to head up a shower event for another employee, as the two were quite good friends, but worked in different areas of the school. The 12 women on the pregnant woman’s grade level team got so angry that they boycotted the party in order to have their own separate event. The result was that about 8 people attended the party. (Including a couple of male coaches who were begged into coming by the friend organizer so someone would be there. )
*A “voluntary” shower that occurred on a teacher workday when no students were there, but employees were. At approximately 2pm, the loudspeaker announced that ALL employees should report to the library for so-and-so’s shower. The boss walked down the hall calling into rooms where people were discreetly trying to avoid the event to tell them to “come on down”.

I do think that one thing that is missing that brides and pregnant moms forget is this: you *can* decline a shower when it is presented to you. Now don’t get me wrong, I realize that some are indeed surprise showers, and the honoree might not even know it’s coming. However, with people being so busy and scheduling so tight, I have not myself heard of a* surprise* work shower in….well…a decade.

I do agree though that lunch/dinner/drinks away from the workplace is best! You can send out an email telling everyone that “In honor of Jane’s impending wedding, lunch is on at ______. Email if you want to come so that we can let the restaurant know how many to seat.” The reason I like taking it off-site is that it allows those who don’t know or don’t like the person to easily decline without it being an issue. You either go or don’t go on your own time. If you want to give a gift, you can either chip in with others, bring your own, or don’t give.

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Kate January 13, 2011 at 11:32 am

I’m thinking that if it’s a true surprise shower, the bride doesn’t have a choice but gracefully accept the presents and honors and go along with it. If my workplace started planning a shower for someone, I’d probably try to find out if it’s supposed to be a surprise or not and then act accordingly.

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Bint January 13, 2011 at 11:40 am

Yeah, everywhere I’ve worked would buy a present if people wanted to contribute, or at my office here the bosses would buy one from corporate funds.

Having an actual shower is a bit much!

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AS January 13, 2011 at 11:49 am

As Li said, it is unfair to accuse the bride of being greedy just because her co-workers are throwing her showers. Sometimes they might actually be greedy. But often, the showers are either a surprise or they don’t know how to say a “no” (ok, she should grow a spine and all, but they are probably quite young).

Also, the concept of bridal shower associated with gifts in the USA bothers me. Where I come from, weddings, the birth of a baby, etc. are considered to be social events, and all family and friends come together to enjoy. After all, you are adding to the society by marrying someone or producing a progeny; and everyone wants to be with you to share the happiness. In fact, it is considered bad etiquette to purchase anything for an unborn baby because in the earlier days, fetus mortality was pretty high. Everyone in the community you know would be invited to a wedding, and it is considered bad (something like you are snubbing them) if you don’t invite them. Gifts are appreciated, but not expected. There are no registrations (maybe it is catching up now, but none of my friends had registered and I am not ancient by any means). After I moved to USA, one of my friends here, who was also from my home-country, got married. She threw a bridal shower because lot of us wouldn’t be able to attend her wedding, and she wanted to celebrate her happiness with us. It was a co-ed party, and a lot of her guests were Americans, and from other countries as well (about 8 people). Only very few of us bought her some gift, but we were planning to give her one anyways. And she appreciated the gifts, but the lack of it did not bother her any bit. I wasn’t reading this site till then, and hence nothing struck me to be wrong. We often do this in our home-country. After reading this site for several years now, I wonder if I’d ever be able to pull off such a party even if the motives are absolutely innocent and just to have fun. I often feel odd when my friends here see pictures of weddings back in my home country and are shocked! I am lucky though that my American boyfriend and his immediate family just consider it to be a different tradition, and appreciate it. I am also lucky that I dreaded big, long, weddings for myself; but that is beyond the point here.

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RP January 13, 2011 at 11:59 am

This might be something to bring up with Human Resources. You shouldn’t have to use a PTO day to avoid causing workplace drama just because you don’t want to buy a gift for someone who’s practically a stranger.

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Margaret January 13, 2011 at 12:31 pm

I also worked at a place where they gave me a shower — I didn’t ask, I was informed. I told the organizer that she didn’t have to do that, but she said she did. It was lovely, and if I recall correctly, the gift was a group gift that was paid for by a card/envelope collection, which was done for everything in that office — birthday, person leaving etc (I was also leaving the office after my wedding because I was going back to university full time). I didn’t have the social grace to know how to stop the shower or get it changed to a lunch out instead. Actually, I might not have been able to, because I noticed later that when the head of the department was replaced, most of these events stopped, so I think the head of the department might have been making sure they happened. He was the kind of guy who took his daughter around to all the offices sellling girl scout cookies.

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Ashley January 13, 2011 at 12:41 pm

I am laughing SOOO hard at the term “cubicle farm”!

That said though, I am slightly curious, what if it is some sort of surprise shower and the bride has no idea it is going to happen? I have enough of a spine that if I was expected to pony up cash for a gift I could say no, but with my own wedding happening soon enough, I am terrified that my coworkers will spring something on me, especially since one of the women is quite fond of finding any excuse to bring in cupcakes, or send flowers, etc. I have already sort of fended it off by saying that I hate being the center of attention (which is very true). But I don’t know if that will do the trick or not.

I agree though, these work showers need to go away. Someone always ends up feeling backed into a corner about having to give a gift or something, and no one should ever feel that way.

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Wink-n-Smile January 13, 2011 at 1:16 pm

What about when it’s actually company policy? You can’t blame the bride for that.

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Pam January 13, 2011 at 1:17 pm

I feel it is perfectly fine to have workplace shower both either the bride, groom mother or father to be. I’ve been working for 25 years and have never worked anywhere when it wasn’t done, nor am I aware of anyone being forced to participate. A card is sent around to be signed, money collected and gifts bought. Some times people can’t attend because they have meetings or other committments, it’s no big deal. I know there have been showers I didn’t participate in because I just didn’t know that co-worker well. What’s so hard about saying “I’ll have to pass?” or “I have another committement”.

I do not normally socialize with co-workers other than occasional lunches. I like to keep my private and social life separate. But I do want the opportunity to acknowledge a happy event in someone’s life that I spend a good deal of the day with.

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Kat January 13, 2011 at 1:28 pm

Elicat – this happens at my office, too. A male coworker and I were recently given a co-celebration party in honor of our marriages (not to each other :-p) The donations collected were used to buy us tickets to a show, and everyone signed a card. I thought this was incredibly sweet, and I really don’t see the problem with it

Li – Yeah, I’ve wondered about that too. This site comes down pretty hard on brides or moms-to-be who “have showers.” People do realize that, in most cases, the showers are thrown by someone else, right? I agree that people who demand showers, or organize their own, are ridiculous and greedy, but what are you supposed to do when your future mother in law approaches you, all lit up with hope and good intentions, and asks to throw you a shower? Call her out on bad etiquette? That seems self-righteous and rude.

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Jayne January 13, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Oh, I second this! Please stop them! I am so, so weary of all the work showers being given these days. Unless I have a close friendship or a very close working relationship with the bride/mom-to-be, I will not attend – I now refuse to be bullied into spending money on someone who otherwise never gives me the time of day.

When I first started in the workplace several decades ago, work showers were much more informal (and affordable). Everyone just gathered at break or lunch time to share in some cake & punch and wish the bride well. The only monetary contribution requested of us was the dollar or so that went to cover the cost of the refreshments and a card. Then, somehow or another, over time they morphed into just another gimme event. Even the joint gift from everybody has gone away – the “hosts” now e-mail entire registries to everybody in the office.

I think it is time to either go back to the original concept, which was simply a group well-wishing to the bride/mom-to-be, or do away with these things entirely. I also know it is very easy to tell people that they should just not attend if they don’t feel like spending the money. But in reality, in every place that I’ve worked, there is a whole lot of subtle pressure put on people to attend. I’m now in a position now where that doesn’t bother or affect me, but when I was younger, it sure did and I had to grudgingly spend money I didn’t have on people I really didn’t know at all.

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Angie January 13, 2011 at 1:35 pm

Where I work, we have a “social fund”. It’s only a two dollar deduction per pay period, and we can opt out if we wish. Then the fund buys a gift for anyone who gets married, has a baby, retires, etc. and also pays for our Christmas party. A card usually goes around too, but nobody is expected to give an additional gift unless they wish to.

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Allie January 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm

At my office, we always circulate cards and an optional donation envelope for those who wish to contribute to a group gift. No one ever knows who contributed or how much was collected, and the firm says they will subsidize the purchase of an appropriate gift regardless of the amount. I always contribute based on my level of interaction with the individual. Occasions such as retirements, babies or weddings are usually celebrated by a luncheon that the firm pays for, so that’s a bonus. As for weddings, I’d rather not be invited to people’s weddings, thanks. I find them to be extremely tedious affairs, and am always delighted to be excluded from the guest list. But I don’t need an invite to the delivery room to give a baby shower gift, so why should I need an invite to the wedding to give a wedding gift? If I choose to do so, it is simply because I have some regard for the person as a co-worker and have decided to express that by marking a significant event in their life. That said, I am hoping (fingers and toes crossed, knock on wood) to become pregnant this year, and am praying that no one throws me a shower. My husband and I will make it clear to our family that under NO circumstances do I want a shower, but I don’t know what to do about work. I suspect they will do so, and I will simply have to endure the humiliation.

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Brenda January 13, 2011 at 3:02 pm

I’m a legal secretary at one office of a huge, international firm. The attorneys, even the first years, make a lot of money; they certainly don’t need help financially preparing for a baby or wedding, which I thought was the reason for a shower originally. Yet, a few of the secretaries will set up showers for attorneys, unasked, and usually unwanted, and expect the rest of us to contribute food and a gift or money. Sometimes, they pass around a card and an envelope for donations.

I consider this completely ridiculous. If I know the attorney well enough, I’ll sign the card, but I don’t donate and I don’t attend. We are busy enough that I can always claim work demands.

If it’s a member of the staff, I will usually donate a few dollars, the amount depending, again, on my personal relationship with the honoree, which means it could be $5, or it could be $20.

OP, if your office is large enough, and the HR or supervisor isn’t personally involved in these showers, I would suggest to go to them and state your discomfort with the situation. Emphasize that you feel unnecessarily pressured to participate, especially since you have no personal relationship with the honoree. You could also tell them that financially you are not in a position to keep donating to these showers, if this is true, and that you feel that your refusal to participate in these activities is causing a schism with your coworkers, which has nothing to do with your work.

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Ruth January 13, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Fortunately, we have no such traditions at my current workplace, nothing at all. I think having a little snack social (or possibly something after?) might be appropriate.

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Chelsey January 13, 2011 at 3:39 pm

@Numa: I had a similar thing happen. I was in college and paying for the wedding invitations myself (nope, no job, just college). So I ordered X number of invitations because I had my list all made up. And then my mother just kept adding and adding. Fortunately, I had JUST enough. But I didn’t get to keep one, as I had hoped, so my aunt made me a little box with the invitation I had given her embedded in it. It was beautiful! But I was so angry at the time. I didn’t even know most of the people she was adding and just got tired of fighting with her. I just wanted to be left alone so I could write my damn term papers and finally graduate (not that anyone understood that…apparently my priorities were all wrong).

@Li: If it’s a surprise bridal shower, then all of the co-workers know it’s a surprise. Otherwise, they might accidentally ruin it.

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beckstar January 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm

There are so many females at my place of work that it’s a fairly common occurrence for someone to be getting married or going off to have a baby. We send round a card, and we have cakes or biscuits to share. Nothing more is offered, or expected.

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Hillary January 13, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Our office threw a “surprise” wedding shower for my (then) fiance and me. Fiance has worked for the company for 15 years. I have been a contractor there for 2 years. (We did not meet there.) The shower was a luncheon held at the office. (In a very nice touch, it was kosher. [Fiance has always kept kosher.]) We were given a gift from the office. The graphic artists designed our invitation. I would have liked to have been able to invite EVERYONE from the office to the wedding, but that wasn’t possible. But we did invite a number of people, management and those we worked with most directly. Half of the people from the office invited attended. Not bad, considering the wedding was held on a Tuesday night, out of state (a 3-4 hour drive).

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Geekgirl January 13, 2011 at 4:29 pm

I also work in a mainly female environment, around 60 people, in a place that has a high turnover. This means that it is almost always someones wedding/pregnancy/birth/leaving party/birthday, and our office has a culture of giving quite a lot of money, which I can’t really afford. I would love to be able to opt out of the whole thing like this person! But there’s a lot of pressure to be ‘part of the team’ and donate.

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TheOtherAmber January 13, 2011 at 4:32 pm

I have to agree with Li – what if the bride isn’t “in on” the shower? I had a bridal shower thrown for me – not a work one, just a friends and family one. I did NOT want a bridal shower. No one asked me about one, they just planned it. They didn’t even tell me about it until I got there, I thought I was just going to quickly visit a relative and had planned on cleaning the rest of the day so I was dressed in my shabby cleaning clothes. Most of the people that were there were ones I wasn’t inviting to the wedding, because my wedding was going to be a very small affair in another country. I felt deeply embarassed at having a bridal shower thrown for me. I can’t imagine what it would be like to have to go through this at work.

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Lizza January 13, 2011 at 4:49 pm

@Li – I would say it’s different when it’s a surprise. Obviously your coworkers felt close enough to you to do this, and didn’t expect to be invited.

I was at a job once when one of our regional supervisors got married. He was in and out of all our stores all the time, so someone organized a collection: we could give if we wanted to, but didn’t have to, and either way our name would be on the card saying congrats. He thanked us all on a conference call, so I think that worked out well.

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Alice January 13, 2011 at 5:20 pm

Oh my lord. My job is NOTORIOUS for this. There are parties/showers for EVERYTHING. It is mostly women (like 99%) with long-term boyfriends, and there have literally been 5 bridal showers/get-togethers to celebrate in the last year, in addition to a baby shower. Sometimes it’s a legitimate shower with gifts, other times it’s just cake and wine after work (must feel nice to just get the cake when other coworkers get the whole shebang! *eyeroll*) Not only that, but when the bosses have birthdays, the other bosses almost always want to throw a party or have everyone chip in for a gift. It’s incredibly obnoxious, and I’m so sick of it I could scream! I know I have a bad attitude, but I also think it’s especially silly/awkward to ask underlings to donate for an expensive gift for a boss who makes twice as much (or three times, in some cases) money as them. I could deal with flowers or a group-signed card, but come on. It actually makes me uncomfortable.

It’s at the point where I don’t care if a donation is asked for or not; I don’t even want to hang out after work to celebrate another birthday/wedding/baby. I’m not kidding. I have close, wonderful friends that I would do anything for – none of whom I work with. I don’t think I would have such a bad attitude about it if it wasn’t CONSTANTLY. But at least every couple of months there’s something. At the most, I get a card. At the least, I don’t even attend. My bank account doesn’t allow it. I started to skip more of them all together, because then I begin to feel weird that perhaps I gave a card to some and not others. There aren’t a HUGE amount of people at my job, so word would get around. I figure I just need to be fair, but honestly at this point, I’m so exasperated I don’t even know what to do about it.

Lastly, I think in any case (work related or not), it is strange and borderline rude to invite a bunch of people to your good friend’s party that perhaps they don’t know well. That’s usually how work parties go down: Two coworkers are great friends, one of them is pregnant/getting married/has a birthday, and the other decides to throw a party for her at work, as it’s most convenient. As a result, others get coerced into going despite their relationship to said person, or even the one throwing the party. Especially in a work environment, though, it’s inappropriate because you feel much more obligated to attend. Who think it’s a good idea to skip a party your boss is throwing? Anyone would have at least some concern that they would look bad.

Excuse me for the rant, but this has been one of my huge issues at my job, so I have been needing to vent! :-)

Anyway, back to the OP: I agree with those who say not to use a day off of work (unless, of course, you decide to just make a day out of it, you do something fun for yourself or with friends, and it’s a win-win). Not because it isn’t worth it, necessarily, but only because if you don’t put your foot down now, you’ll be stuck taking a day off every time there’s some work event, which of course isn’t possible. Just a smile and polite, “No thank you!” is fine. Or a “Oh, so sad, I have plans!” if it’s after work. I probably could write a book for all of the excuses I’ve made my first couple of years working, but at this point I’ve realized I’m not obligated to give an excuse, just the “Thank you, but I can’t” line. Good luck!

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Jillybean January 13, 2011 at 6:47 pm

This is timely – as I just attended a work baby shower brunch this morning. My work scenario is like Elicat’s – about 50 people, all pretty friendly. Cards and an envelope get passed for events like this. No one knows who contributes what, and you don’t have to contribute at all if you can’t afford it. You don’t even have to sign the card, or go to the party – it’s up to you, there are plenty of people who will sign the cards, not donate or attend, and everyone is ok with that.

We celebrate weddings and baby showers for both brides/grooms and impending moms/dads, as well as retirements and farewells to staff moving on to other jobs. The money is used for one gift (usually a gift card) that’s appropriate to the occasion. Further, the party is pretty low-key and the entire staff enjoys, not just the guest of honor. We’ve had breakfasts, brunches, ice-cream socials, pizza parties, etc. It’s actually very nice to have a break from the job every now and again.

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Rese January 13, 2011 at 9:04 pm

In my workplace, instead of bridal/baby showers, we have a potluck luncheon for the bride, groom or parent-to-be. We pass an envelope to collect cash and give one group gift: An item from the registry for the parent-to-be, and usually cash and a bottle of champagne for the bride and groom. The passed envelope keeps it relatively anonymous so there’s no pressure for the gift. It’s a nice way to celebrate with a coworker without going over the top or getting too personal.

@Li – I agree with you on holding the bride responsible for the etiquette crimes of the hosts. A friend of mine and I were both the recipients of showers from well-meaning hosts that sprung embarrassing faux pas on us at the events. I was told about the shower, but given NO details. I think that’s often the case with showers, so I try to keep that in mind before condemning guests-of-honor to etiquette hell!

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jenna January 13, 2011 at 10:58 pm

I am so happy that these things aren’t done in the country where I live, and that I work a consulting-type job that keeps me out of the main office (I don’t even have a desk; my work desk is at home)…so there was no question of any “shower”. Which is good; I would have turned it down.

My old office had a collection envelope too, so you didn’t feel obligated to buy separate gifts, and there was usually cake and coffee in a conference room…maybe some balloons and music…that was it. It didn’t bother me as we did the same thing for new babies, long-term employees leaving (but not every employee which seems unfair) and other events.

I rarely contributed to the envelope, or if I did it was just $5. I was underpaid – I know that now – and was struggling to make ends meet. They had a nasty habit of circulating it right **before** payday, and I was underpaid enough to be living paycheck to paycheck. I don’t think they understood that two days before payday, some people in the office earned so little that they didn’t actually have a few extra dollars to spare.

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The Other Me January 14, 2011 at 12:48 am

Am I the only one thinking of Dunder Mifflin right now?

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Adica January 14, 2011 at 1:21 am

@karma – Those antics sound like an episode of The Office, lol. Its funny when it’s on TV, but not really when it’s actually happening.

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RP January 14, 2011 at 1:39 am

For those who don’t see the problem, the key word is in this sentence from the OP, “I will not be intimidated into this again.”

I believe the people who say that their workplace manages to have this without it being a problem but I also believe the people who, like the OP, say that they’re being bullied into giving money and gifts. It’s the intimidation that’s the problem.

This is another one of those things that doesn’t happen where I work. As an office, we’re only told about babies when they’re born. (Sometimes the co-worker will send the office manager a photo of the baby and that gets included in the email we all get.) The parent may talk about it with their workplace friends but there’s no office announcement about it beforehand. No bridal showers either.

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Rebecca January 14, 2011 at 4:51 am

Seems that many of us are sick of being pressured to spend money on these work showers/birthdays/going away parties/etc/etc. And the simple request or statement, “We’re all putting money toward a gift” IS pressure, because nobody likes to be put in the position of saying, “I can’t afford it” or “I don’t want to”especially in a work setting.

I worked in a small office of 8 people, headed by “Mom and Pop.” Very nice people to work with, but the culture of gifts and restaurant expenses for every occasion was too much. They’d announce “We’re all getting together at Expensive Restaurant and also pitching in for a gift for Sue’s birthday.” Everyone was expected to pay for themselves. They saw it as an office bonding experience; I saw it as something I really couldn’t afford, but had to do lest I be seen as the party pooper of the office. Especially since when I joined the office, there was already this long-standing tradition in the office.

You’d think that the people who wrote my paychecks would clue in that these outings were a substantial chunk out of my earnings, but no. OK, so that’s 8 birthdays a year, plus one person leaving per year (usually the receptionists would last about a year), plus Christmas luncheon/Secret Santa, plus the odd baby shower….that works out to be something every month. Maybe I’d like to use that money to eat out with close friends? Or for a nicer birthday gift for a family member?

Someone eventually did join our team, who put her foot down and made it very clear that she wasn’t willing to spend money on these restaurant outings and gifts, and didn’t want to spend any Sunday hanging out at a work picnic either. And yes, she was made out to be the uncooperative trouble-maker who was ruining the bonding experience for everyone. Thing is, at least 4 of the 8 people already felt the same way she did, but nobody else wanted to be the bad guy.

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Lynda January 14, 2011 at 7:12 am

I’ve worked in offices where the ‘party’ culture was pretty active…the funniest was a job where I had given notice, was not given enough time to train my replacement and was working furiously to try to leave a clean desk. I had brought lunch, and then I was informed that I had to go to the accounting office as they had a going away party for me.
The person who didn’t have time to come in early for training had spent time organizing a party…they had sandwiches from a name sandwich place, and she had spent so-o-o much time making her ‘famous’ potato salad AND baked beans….(I had tried them at a Christmas party, no thanks).
I said since no one had bothered to ask me if I wanted a party—and I didn’t—I didn’t feel any need to come to it. Several people came to ask me to please come, just have a sandwich, you have to eat–I said I have my lunch, No thank you. One of the bosses came to ask and I politely told him I was, as I always had, putting the good of the company first and was trying to finish the work that needed to be done. He had nothing to say since he knew it was true.
My previous boss had left, and the new boss was one of the reasons I was leaving so it was also a rather nice ‘s—– you’ as it was the new boss who said I should have a party. Those who knew me well were quite aware I would refuse to show up but decided since it meant they wouldn’t have to get lunch, why not–and they could watch the circus that ensued when I said no.
It made the last day so much easier….
Another company (much larger) had a monthly birthday party for everyone–cake, drinks, etc in the conference room (I opted to tell HR I did not want my birthday included, and since there was a JW who worked in the office and for his religious beliefs his was not celebrated either, so they couldn’t insist that mine be noted). There were no presents, but there were showers….
I got to know one of my managers fairly well later and after someone’s gift giving, she commented on how little people had contributed, which suprised her. I told her what I had given and what I had noticed others in our department had given (you know how everyone pulls their purse out at the same time)…which means all the other departments (3) would have given a dollar or less each person…
Same thing happened again and she had asked me to take particular note of how much was given (no names). Same situation. Seems the cashier took it upon himself to circulate the card and envelope…and the envelope arrived at it destination considerably lighter…
couldn’t prove anything but from then on one of the supervisors ‘supervised’ the card signing.

My last job one of the women wanted to celebrate everything and had a particular attachment to the ‘Secret Santa’ gift exchange. One time she even told me it was unfair that I didn’t participate because it meant the numbers were uneven. I had already told my co-workers I celebrated neither birthdays nor Christmas (in a secular way) and would neither give nor accept any gifts–so her wanting me to participate in her Secret Santa event was, to me, a very selfish thing.
Our last Christmas party we were told to show up at X o’clock…turns out that was for the Secret Santa exchange…but I wasn’t told that…I was working late and told my boss I would be late, and it was he who told me I wouldn’t miss the dinner…they say virue is its own reward. In this case, the work ethic payed off in not having to endure the Secret Santa ritual (in the bar, so everyone was drinking….and drinking…
I do believe in giving people things, but usually things they’ve already said they need/want or something I have asked them if they’d like. Unwanted or inappropriate gifts clutter peoples lives—

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Xtina January 14, 2011 at 9:15 am

I agree with aliasjanecrowe’s post—having been on both the receiving and giving ends of workplace parties/showers, I really don’t have a problem with donating towards a gift or participating in a shower as long as it’s voluntary/no-pressure, and I am not singled out if I choose not to give or participate—it certainly sounds as though there are many people here who have been indeed pressured, and that is not the case in my office. If I don’t know a person, I don’t give and I don’t feel bad about it, simple as that—anyone else, I will give or participate as I feel is appropriate per my relationship with that person and my finances at the time.

HOWEVER—I do think that in the case of a wedding shower, one should not be invited unless they are also invited to the wedding. That’s different from “pass around an envelope at work and donate for a group gift if you want to” or “let’s have some cake on our break to celebrate employee A’s upcoming wedding”—I can certainly be happy for a person and kick in a few dollars towards a gift without having to come to their wedding, but I take issue with being invited to a shower and being “expected” to supply a gift, yet I am not invited to the wedding. It may be mere shades of distinction between those scenarios, but I see a big difference in attitude between them. In the case of a wedding shower at work that is a surprise, IMO you just have to roll with the punches and properly thank everyone—it’s ruder to be a bad sport about it and make a scene of protest.

Some have commented (at various times here) on the inappropriateness or not of showers. I really don’t see a problem with them—what’s the issue with giving a person a few gifts and a party to celebrate an important event in their lives? You always have the choice not to participate, and I don’t see it as greedy to allow someone to set up such an event in your honor—again, this is all based on genuine no-pressure, no-stress, let’s-do-something-nice-for-this-person trains of thought (which includes NOT holding an event if the honoree is uncomfortable with the idea). However, a big ‘ol bucket of shame poured down on people who ask for or demand showers be given for them, or plan their own. Same in the workplace or out of it.

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HeatherT January 14, 2011 at 10:33 am

I think people in the office need to realize that some of us are going through financial difficulties and won’t tell you, so if we duck out of these things, it’s not that we are “cheap,” but we do like to do things like eating and having electricity and so forth. Please don’t pressure people to contribute.

Heather

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Jillybean January 14, 2011 at 10:56 am

Wow – Lynda. Sounds like you were rude, and proud of it on top of that. I can’t imagine sitting at my desk defiant and smiling while people who thought they were doing something nice for me begged me to come to a party they had arranged for me. People put time, money and effort into doing something nice for you, but hey, you got to sit on your high horse and let them know how wonderful you were putting the good of the company first, as you always did. Whatever. Sometimes workplace morale is good for the good of the company. Your friends who wanted free lunch sound like winners too, letting other people waste their time when they knew you wouldn’t come.

Meanwhile – sounds like some of you have it rough with the office parties, people here donate a dollar, maybe 2. And like I said, it’s always anonymous so some don’t donate anything, which is fine with everyone. I’d certainly feel different if I were in a place where they were basically extorting large sums of money from people.

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