Shower Shakedown At Work

by admin on March 8, 2012

A little under two months ago, myself and a few other people were hired for a twelve month traineeship with a large company. This story comes from my friend “C”.

Now on this traineeship we are paid a low amount- enough for one person to live on if they are very careful and share a house with a few other people. Most of the trainees are young and are in the awkward stage of starting to pay for living expenses and learning to take care of themselves financially. This is widely known around the business and the majority of the trainees have some other “weekend” job to bring in that little bit more money.

Now my friend C has only been there a little under two months and is starting to take care of herself financially, like myself.

A lady from her department went up to her and asked for $40 as her share in buying another co-worker a present for her new baby. It was explained to C that they planned to buy the co-worker a big expensive present like a crib or changing table.

C thought being expected to contribute such a large amount of money to buy a present for someone she has only known for a short time was rather ridiculous and politely declined- with the [very true] excuse of that she didn’t have the money to spare.

I don’t know if it was the amount of money, or the fact that C was asked to buy something for someone she has only spoken to a few times- but both C and I were shocked that she was asked. Now I’m sure C wasn’t in the wrong, especially with the polite decline- but surely this was a big etiquette no-no? 0301-12

Contributions for a work related shower should be done anonymously and voluntarily.  We used to pass around a large manilla envelope with string button tie and co-workers could chose to toss in whatever amount of money they desired while signing a group card.  No one knew the amount each person was giving.  The organizers of the shower gift then choose to buy something in budget with what was collected.

It’s always a sad state of affairs when one feels guilty for not playing by someone else’s tacky rules.  Baby and wedding showers given and attended by co-workers can be quite nice but there should freedom to decline to give or to choose the amount one is comfortable giving.  Just because a co-worker plans a shower doesn’t mean the rest of the staff must feel an obligation to cough up a decent chunk of money.

{ 49 comments… read them below or add one }

Edhla March 8, 2012 at 6:21 am

FORTY DOLLARS? Good Lord.

I think admin is right. Where I work, it’s done through the email system. Someone emails around “hey, we’re collecting for x y z, if you want to pitch in, please see Person Responsible.” That way if you can’t or don’t want to contribute, you can safely ignore the email as a “no” and nobody will no that you said no- except, presumably, Person Responsible, and even then you don’t have to go through the awkwardness of saying no to someone’s face or committing it to written word.

Forty dollars. Wow.

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Edhla March 8, 2012 at 6:22 am

Nobody will *know*, not *no.* :)

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Jojo March 8, 2012 at 7:34 am

Completely with Admin on this one. In all the many places I’ve ever worked, a contribution was only ever voluntary and the amount undisclosed.
If that’s what that particular department usually does in this circumstance, fair enough, but it makes for an uncomfortable situation for everyone. If I were C, I’d ask around the office a bit and see what is expected as birthdays and showers come up. If only to be prepared to stump up silly amounts of money as the year progresses!
I’d buy the showeree a lovely card and some booties but why would you do anything more for a complete stranger?

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Lou March 8, 2012 at 8:04 am

This is one of my pet hates – I’m based in the UK and my workplace constantly runs collections for birthdays, engagements, weddings, people leaving to have babies, retirements etc (there was even a collection when someone’s house was burgled a few years back). I have less of a problem when, as Admin says, it’s a passed envelope with the option to give or not and to choose the amount you feel is appropriate and affordable, but I really object to being told to ‘donate’ a fixed amount. As far as I can tell, it generally stems from an intention on the part of the organiser to buy a particular present, who then divides the price by the number of people who will be asked to donate. This technique doesn’t take into account variations in salary and disposable income or differences in ‘closeness’ to the birthday (or whatever) person. I’d really welcome a return to the passed envelope with anonymous donations, and possibly the workplace maintaining a list of the occasions for which a collection is appropriate, rather than everything from third babies to promotions warranting a collection.

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Sarah Jane March 8, 2012 at 8:20 am

This happened all the time when I worked in education. Those of us on the professional staff were always expected to donate a certain amount to purchase Christmas gifts for the support staff. It gave the overall feeling that if we didn’t donate, then we must not really “appreciate” those people. Of course I appreciated them, but we had a very large extended family to buy gifts for, and also my son’s birthday was around Christmas, and our expenses were always exceptionally high as is. This sort of pressure to donate left a very bad taste in my mouth.

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Cherry March 8, 2012 at 8:38 am

I really feel like there should never be a specified amount for this kind of thing. $40 is a lot of money to someone in my financial situation, but if donations were anonymous, I’d be likely to put in maybe $10-$15, because that is sincerely the most I can spare. But if someone walks up to be and asks for $40, they’re not getting anything.

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Gracie C. March 8, 2012 at 9:16 am

100% agreed, Admin. We have the exact same system in my office. No one knows who contributes or how much, and you can always sign the card without contributing.

I’m glad the OP’s friend managed to politely decline (as she should have), so many people would have felt guilted into coughing up the money, and then struggled to make up for the missing income.

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starstruck March 8, 2012 at 9:28 am

i agree!! 40 bucks is an insane amount to me, for a co worker. the most ive ever been asked to pitch in was 5 dollars. but even then it was made clear that what ever we had would really be fine. my close friends dont even expect that i will spend that much on a gift.

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Teapot March 8, 2012 at 10:25 am

Good for C! I wish I’d had her backbone when I was starting out in the working world. I’d only been employed for a few months in my first “grown-up job” when I was hit up for a contribution to an office wedding shower gift. It never occurred to me to say no. I probably turned over my week’s lunch money.

The best part of the story? The shower was held at a restaurant on a Sunday afternoon and I wasn’t invited! The bride-to-be came to me first thing Monday morning apologizing like crazy. When she opened the card and saw my name on it, she didn’t even know who I was.

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Library Diva March 8, 2012 at 10:26 am

I think it was wrong of the lady to ask C to contribute. I’m sure that if she’s been employed there long enough to have slid into the role of social events coordinator, she probably has a good idea how little the trainees are paid. She also knows that they’re trying to make a good impression in every way, and someone with less of a spine could have easily been guilted into this.

My personal opinion is that for work showers, it’s best to ask for a more modest contribution anyway. You don’t know everyone’s personal situation. Even if you all make decent salaries, your co-workers could easily have obligations that eat it all up: maybe they regularly send large amounts to a sibling who’s unable to support themselves, maybe they have a family member in an expensive full-care facility, maybe they’re in a lot of debt, whatever.

At my work, we’ve handled things like this a couple of different ways. For the last work shower, everyone was asked for $5 and a snack, and we got a gift card to Babies R Us. We also decided we wanted to give a decent Christmas to a co-worker who had lost her father and her sister and was going through a divorce from an emotionally abusive guy, all within a few months. We realized she probably wouldn’t be getting any presents, and just suggested that anyone who wanted to get her something, pick up an item and wrap it without putting your name on it, with the idea that everything was from everybody. Some people had enough scratch to get her some new clothes, others just got her lottery tickets and a chocolate bar, the gesture was the primary point.

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wowwow March 8, 2012 at 10:54 am

In high school I worked for a small insurance agency. I only worked a couple of hours a day and made the bare minimum (which I believe was barely $2 an hour back then.) I guess folks might have thought “she has no bills, she’s still in school”, but because of my home situation, I was forking out a lot of my money each week. At Christmas, I was told to contribute $50 towards the boss’ gift–and believe me $50 was a huge amount back then, when I only made $2 an hour! That meant I was contributing nearly 3 weeks pay to this gift! I told the other–much older-gals (who should have known better and probably should have shielded me –a high school girl–from this) I could not do it, and they made it clear it wasn’t an option, that they had already bought it, plus the boss always gave us a bonus that would more than make up for it. In the end, that was probably true for them, but my bonus, which probably fairly reflected a part time high school girl’s contribution to the office–was far from making up for my share of that gift.

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Ashley March 8, 2012 at 11:47 am

It’s times like this I’m glad I work in an office with only 3 employees total.

Gift giving should always be a choice, people shouldn’t just expect money to be handed to them

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Stacey Frith-Smith March 8, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I like the way Admin describes the option of having anonymous contributions to a shower that allows each employee to participate and shelters their gift from comments by coworkers and supervisors. It’s a very civilized option for how showers can be implemented without undue pressure on co-workers. Even better, in my estimation, is a simple gathering with a cake and good wishes, absent any real gift. A bevy of good wishes is a good experience in and of itself. Best of the options available, to me, is an absence of showers and personal occasions at work. It allows for the company to get on with the business of doing business and allows all employees to maintain a bit of privacy and dignity. Nothing would prevent a close knit group from assembling on a lunch hour or after hours for a little celebration, but by not having such events as an open and acknowledged part of the workday, many little hurdles in professional relationships and differences of perspective can be avoided. I would not want to be the employee who bullied a junior into contributing “her share” for a shower gift, only to have said employee promoted into a supervisory or collaborative role later where the tables were turned. It happens with internships, buyouts, reorganizations and with a move to a new employer. Much better not to saddle professional relationships with the rituals and customs reserved for private life.

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gramma dishes March 8, 2012 at 1:17 pm

Forty dollars?
Good grief!
I would (and have) spent far more than that for my own children’s baby gifts, but I’ve never spent $40 on anyone else’s shower gift in my life! That’s excessive even for those who may be really close friends with the mother-to-be.
That the coworker basically demanded the money from a short time intern is outrageous. I’m glad the intern was able to politely refuse. She should be congratulated on her nicely developing spine and should not feel guilty at all.

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Catrunning March 8, 2012 at 1:18 pm

I love the term “shower shakedowns”! In the 30 years I have been in the workplace, I’ve seen “work showers” morph from a reasonable cake/punch break and $2 contribution for a joint gift to pressure to buy a gift from the regular registry at a minimum cost of $40 or more (or cash equivalents) , plus $15-$20 for lunch expenses. I figure now that if I don’t know the bride or mom-to-be well enough to be invited to her wedding and/or outside baby shower, then I certainly don’t know her well enough to cough up $60 or so for her “work” shower.

That kind of entitlement is amazing. Plus putting that sort of financial pressure on co-workers is ridiculous. Yes, I know you can always decline to attend – and I usually do these days unless I am close to the honoree and would likely give a gift anyway – but back when I was younger, it was difficult not to succumb to the pressure. Especially when it was your supervisor who was either the organizer or the recipient of the shower. It felt a wee bit like extortion.

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Kitty Lizard March 8, 2012 at 1:59 pm

It strikes me as more than a little rude to hit up some who’s making barely enough to get by for $40.00
for a shower gift for someone they barely know. Enough Said.

Kitty

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Enna March 8, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Admin is right on this. That is bad. Mum got cornered once by another mum at school who demarnded she put money in the envelope for a teacher’s present. Mum was fumming but stood her ground and refused – the woman was very rude. Afterward Mum made it quite clear that she would have put money if it had been done politely e.g. “an envelope is going round for voluntariy donations for the teacher’s gift.” OP, C was polite. Demarding X amount is rude.

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Bill March 8, 2012 at 2:29 pm

I wish people would stop using “myself” when they mean “I” or “me” because they think it sounds better.

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Cat March 8, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Unless you are in a training program for the Mafia, trying to take forty dollars from a new employee living on a strict budget comes under the heading of “Shakedown”.

Your friend was well within her rights to politely refuse. People who want to give expensive gifts should not expect other people to help pay for them.

I prefer, even at work, to give an individual gift rather than partake in a group gift. If I like you well enough to buy you a gift, I prefer to choose it. If I don’t like you that well, I just give you a card expressing my good wishes, condolences, whatever the occasion calls for.

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--Lia March 8, 2012 at 3:55 pm

C was asked. C said no. As long as there were no negative consequences to C’s refusal, there was no harm in asking. In another scenario, C might have felt left out or like the co-worker was making assumptions about her finances she had no right to make if she wasn’t asked.

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Lizza March 8, 2012 at 4:16 pm

I will almost always pitch in for a coworker’s gift if I am asked, not told. For example, being asked to contribute for a regional supervisor’s wedding gift and when everything was collected, the collector would buy something in that price range off the registry versus, “Hey, BossLady is pregnant, and H and I decided we should all chip in and get her *big expensive gift* so your share will be $X.” People need to understand that not everyone has a large amount of money to spare on little to no notice, and even if they do, they may not want to spend it on that specific coworker/supervisor.

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sugaryfun March 8, 2012 at 5:42 pm

I agree with the admin that donations for a coworker’s present should be voluntary and anonymous. $40 is a lot to someone on a small income, and an awful lot to spend on someone you barely know! It was a bit rude of them to put C on the spot like that.

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Another Alice March 8, 2012 at 6:12 pm

I really like the idea of anonymous cash donations, and then the organizer deciding a gift fitting with the created budget. Dare I say it – I almost think anything beyond a small, lunchtime celebration sans gifts is inappropriate. It’s work, after all. These people aren’t your friends, or family – and if they are, they would be invited to any baby shower, birthday, or wedding shower anyway.

My first thought reading this was, “What the heck are they getting at $40 a person?!” That amount is absolutely insane to me. You figure, most offices have at least 10 people working in them. Only $10 each affords $100 gift, which would be lovely. I actually would feel extremely uncomfortable if my office got together and gave me an elaborate gift. Something like a changing table or crib is rather personal for coworkers. Also, how can you know what to get ahead of time? Perhaps the person of honor has a relative or friend already giving her what you wish to give. Admin’s suggestion is the best in this sort of situation, I think.

I’ve said before how I got so tired of every wedding/birthday/baby celebration at work (my job consists of all women, so naturally it occurred a LOT), I just completely quit giving anything to anyone, and I’ve noticed how over the last couple of years this practice has REALLY died down. We used to have a once-a-month party for any birthdays that month – AFTER work, on a weekday. Now, who wants to stay around for that? After the first couple of times, it gets rather tedious, and then you start to feel rude for not going. Anyway, perhaps they noticed the dwindling responses for the infinite celebrations and toned it down. If a coworker I’m particularly friendly with has some sort of celebration, whether it’s organized by the office or not, I’ll get them a card.

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Cat Whisperer March 8, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Arghhhh! Another example of someone using the reluctance of people to appear stingy or crass or selfish to shake them down for money.

The woman who approached “C” with the request for $40 as a contribution for a shower gift was an etiquette felon on several levels:

1. The decision to give a gift, and what gift to give, is ALWAYS voluntary. Attempting to “invoice” people for a specific sum for a specific gift is just plain wrong, wrong, wrong.

2. In the context of a work environment, pressing a new employee to give money for any non-work-related “cause” is oppressive. It’s very hard for someone who is new and trying to make a good impression to say “no” to such a request, especially if the request is coming from someone who is very senior to them or above them on the organization chart.

3. Social occasions are social occasions, work is work. I know that this a rule more honored in the breach than in the observance, but you aren’t supposed to spend your employer’s time on non-work-related things. OP didn’t say if “C” was hit up for the contribution before or after work, or during the lunch hour, but if the worker who hit “C” up for the contribution to the shower was on her employer’s time, it was a breach of both social etiquette and work etiquette.

I think “C’s” response to the woman who requested the contribution to the gift was correct: a polite refusal. And for the sake of good manners, we’ll assume that the woman asking for the contribution was trying to make “C” feel like she was a “member of the family” at work, trying to be inclusive and welcoming, rather than cold-bloodedly figuring “C” was an easy mark for a contribution because she might feel uncomfortable refusing, since “C” is new and trying to fit in.

I don’t know about other people, but I find that it’s kind of abhorrent when the place where you work is also the place where you get hit up for contributions for things that aren’t work-related. It’s not that I minded contributing to parties and occasions for people I knew, but at what point do you draw the line? If you’re “expected” to contribute to the baby shower for Mary who works in purchasing, who you’ve known for years, what about the housewarming for Bill in drafting, who you see in the hallways and know only slightly? And what about Janet who’s the executive secretary upstairs, who you’ve never actually met but who you know does a lot for the organization? Do you pitch in for her birthday bash even if you’re not invited?

And don’t even get me started on all the people who are selling things to support their kids’ schools, sports teams, clubs, and other causes. Where do you draw the line on that stuff and how much of it can go on?

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gramma dishes March 8, 2012 at 9:47 pm

wowwow ~~ That’s such a sad story! I think when I saw that my “bonus” still left me far short of being able to even buy gifts for my family I’d have burst into tears. Shame on the other women in the office who did that to you! That’s unforgivable.

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Melissa March 8, 2012 at 9:49 pm

This reminds me of one of my first jobs… many moons ago. I was actually still in college. I worked full time during the day and went to school at night. There was always a collection for something, and it usually revolved around an event for one of the four business partners (i.e., owners), be it a birthday, anniversary, engagement, whatever. At first, I always contributed, feeling pressured to fit in. It was usually around $20 (but that was a lot 15+ years ago). Finally, I politely declined. To my astonishment, the response was an offer to “lend” me the money. Actually, it wasn’t really an offer but more of an annoyed statement of what was going to occur. Unfortunately for the lender of said funds, I was let go a week or so later and never had the opportunity to repay my “debt”.

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ellesee March 9, 2012 at 1:29 am

I don’t see what the big deal is here? When I started fresh at a company, not everybody recognized me fast enough as the “new girl” nor did they know that I was in the beginning stages of supporting myself. Not everybody who starts new is always tight on cash. I knew some new employees who were financially stable before getting the job (which was low pay).
I think the woman who asked for monetary donations was in the wrong for asking a specific amount, but it’s a minor faux pas, nothing shocking. From the post, it didn’t sound like she guilt trip “C”or anything of that manner. And of course, “C” (and anybody) has the right to decline contributing.

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Jai March 9, 2012 at 6:19 am

I agree 100% with Admin, however just playing devil’s advocate:
The office I worked in previously did the thing where you passed around an envelope and put in as much / as little as you wanted. I left the same week as another woman. She was given a tiny, obviously very cheap present at the same leaving do that I was presented about £300 worth of stuff. She wasn’t very popular but she’d been there longer than me and I felt so bad for her. I suppose having a ‘set’ amount does stop disparity like that.

However, I would hate being put on the spot to give x amount, I’m always hard-up and there’s no way I could find that much money for a gift even if I wanted to.

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admin March 9, 2012 at 8:01 am

Jai, Someone goofed in your situation. One envelope should have been passed soliciting funds for both of you and then equally divided.

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lkb March 9, 2012 at 6:36 am

Cat Whisperer’s post reminds me of a similar shakedown. Here in the U.S., there is a charity that is actually a conglomeration of causes (“Give for all the good it can do”). Employers are “strongly encouraged” to have 100 percent participation — they get a plaque and who-knows-what-else. At one employer, I declined to give as my husband also was forced to give to what he calls the “social conscience tax” already. But now, even though I was paid a very low salary, HR came to me and pretty much forced me to pony up.

At subsequent employers I designated my forced contribution to a specific cause on the list. I’m glad I’m now self-employed, I don’t have to listen to such nonsense.

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anonymous March 9, 2012 at 8:40 am

I worked at an office of 90% women and there was always something going on with one of them. Contributions were solicited for showers, babies, potted plants, etc. (but as it was, of course, all little cliques, you didn’t HAVE to cough up for EVERYONE. But I digress.) So we got a new young boss, also new in town, who was a true A-hole. Told the girls to take down their decorations and photos to make the place look more ‘professional’ – to whom, I don’t know. Was there early in the a.m. watching to make sure everyone was at their desk at 8 a.m. exactly and not a minute later. Again, I don’t know why it mattered SO much. Anyway, his wife was pregnant and some of the older office managers decided to throw her a big elaborate shower at a restaurant – since horrible new boss made a jaw-dropping salary that was painful. They went around shaking down secretaries and interns. I dug around in my purse and my contribution was a handful of change. “that’s all I got”. The big elaborate shower was eventually dropped and they took her out to lunch. RESIST! If you must, pitch in $5 and not a dollar more.

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Wink-n-Smile March 9, 2012 at 9:39 am

wowwow – I hope you told those women just exactly how much bonus you got. I’m picturing this. “Wow, ladies! I put THREE WEEKS pay towards the boss’s gift, which you said was not optional, and look! I got a whopping $20 bonus! Wow! So, I only wound up spending TWO weeks pay, and getting nothing for Christmas, myself, plus of course all my expenses at home, contributing to paying the electric bill and buying groceries for my family. Thanks so much for your kind consideration. And how was YOUR Christmas? Really. I desperately want to know.” And then stare at them until they tell you. every. little. detail.

It would teach them not to treat future employees like that.

I’m with Admin on this one. Collecting for a group gift, for whatever reason, is fine, as long as it is strictly anonymous and voluntary. Then choose the gift based on the amount received.

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Wink-n-Smile March 9, 2012 at 9:55 am

Jai – in such a situation, where two people are being honored at the same time, the proper thing for the organizers to do would be to split the funds equally between the two. And since all donations were voluntary, anonymous, and however much anyone felt like giving, no one except the organizers would know the difference. Unless they all got together to compare notes, no one would know what the individual totals were.

And while it’s true that some people on the low-end of the totem pole may be financially independent and just working to fill their time and feel useful, some people work hard for little money and have lots of responsibilities and dependents that suck that money right up. Therefore, they cannot afford a set amount. Sometimes, they cannot afford anything at all, except perhaps a homemade gift of cookies or the like, which should be accepted graciously, if offered.

Look at wowwow’s story. Those women “included” her, but in the process did her out of 3 week’s pay, at Christmas! Without warning!

No, soliciting a fixed amount is NEVER a good idea at work. Even in your social life, it’s very rarely a good idea.

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Michelle March 9, 2012 at 10:00 am

40 dollars!!! I would have laughed and given her the $40 on the condition that she pays my electric bill!

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Julia March 9, 2012 at 10:01 am

I agree, that each person has a right to play by the rules or reject them. If you don’t have enough money or you don’t want to spend it on buying a gift for your co-worker, you have a right to do so. I think that the idea with the envelope and anonymous and voluntary contributions is the great one!

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Lulu March 9, 2012 at 11:26 am

Ooh! Such a horrible subject! I was recently asked to contribute a fixed amount to a co-worker’s grand-baby’s present (and no– the grandparent in this scenario was NOT going to be the caretaker of the baby; the baby is cared for by his parents who both work professional jobs with decent wages, according to the grandpa himself.) Not only have I not known this man very long, I also don’t know him well, and I don’t know his son or daughter-in-law–the parents of this child– at all. That, and the fact that the grandpa / co-worker makes easily 4x what I make…it was difficult to “pay up” the fixed rate for the luxury stroller and layette that the office manager deemed appropriate without considering the staff’s ability to pay. There are only 9 of us in the office, including the grandpa!

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Jared Bascomb March 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm

At my place of employment, the only time we asked for a specific amount was when we were taking someone out to lunch to celebrate a *very* important milestone that involved leaving our division (retirement or a promotion that included being transferred). The amount included the attendee’s lunch cost, a share in the VIP’s lunch cost, and gift(s). And of course, attendance/payment was voluntary.

The rest of the time, we did the “manila envelope with card” routine for a group gift and a potluck lunch, and those were only for farewells due to a transfer out of the division without a promotion or for leaving employment (not a retirement).

We also took voluntary contributions for bereavements and birthdays, but no showers of any kind.

Charity fundraisers (Girl Scout cookies, AIDS/breast cancer walk sponsorships) were handled by a *single* division- or department-wide e-mail with the solicitor’s contact info.

That was it.

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Angie March 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Where I work, we have a social fund that takes care of occasions like this. It’s only two dollars deducted per pay period, and the participation is voluntary. The fund buys gifts for anyone who gets married, has a baby, or leaves the company under good terms, and there is a set of guidelines in place for how much the gift is valued at, based on how long the person has been employed there. The fund also pays for our Christmas party, and this eliminates the “shaking down” and popularity contests.

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Justin March 9, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Maybe I’ve just been more fortunate than others in where I have worked, but for the most part if we are doing celebration the tradition has been to keep it simple. The person being celebrated is taken out for lunch at a place of their choosing, each person attending pays for themself and a share of the person having the event. While the amount varies based on number of people attending it is usually $2-$5 a person.

I’m a strong beliver that a gift should be given because someone wishes to give a gift, not because it is expected. Mandatory gifts no matter how expensive have no real value. Voluntary gifts no matter what the cost have genuine meaning.

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Nicole March 9, 2012 at 12:42 pm

Jai – I don’t think the seperate envelopes are bad. I worked at an agency were I was part of one unit, and a good friend of mine worked with my unit as well as with another unit. We both applied for and got tranfers to another job in the company and were leaving on the same day. We shared a farewell party and lunch, and since we were friends we loved it! They took up two seperate cards and collections, and she got much more than I simply because she worked with more people. I suppose this qualifies as ‘more popular’ but the result was from our work, not our personality. I did not mind in the least. It did not make me less of a person or insult me in any way if strangers don’t want to give me a present. The treatment was equal by management, but I don’t want to be forced to contribute to a person I have never met or worked with just because a coworker I respect is leaving! I think two envelopes are almost needed so the people that interact with only one of the leaving people can contribute to the group gift of their choice.

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Another Laura March 9, 2012 at 1:52 pm

The OP story reminds me of the episode of “Friends” where Ross is just moving into a building and the handyman is retiring. Someone from the building demands that Ross contribute $100 towards a going away gift for said handyman, even though Ross has never met him or employed his services.

The office I used to work at, had staff birthday parties usually about every other month and the people who had birthdays in the two months “covered” by the party were responsible for the refreshments. That way everyone only had to provide something once a year. There were no presents.

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JamieC0403 March 9, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Thankfully at my office that office provides the “big” gift for baby showers; for me it was a gift
card for $250 and then my direct boss and a close coworker got me smaller presents. For birthdays the office usually pays for a small group to go out to lunch. And at Christmas it varies, but usually the partners buy their team relatively expensive gifts and the team may or may not get the partners smoothing small. The only thing that anyone asks for a contribution for is the Christmas gift for the receptionist. Everyone kicks in whatever that wish and the office manager picks out something.

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Libby March 10, 2012 at 10:29 am

Nothing annoys me more than being asked to contribute money to whatever another employee deems to be important, whether it be a charity or a gift for someone. Their need to spend others’ money on what they feel is important is their problem, not mine and I refuse to buy into their fund-raising. In our office we have several charity fund drives a year. I contribute to the one that collects food for our local food pantry but I do not contribute to the others (national charities) because I believe in supporting local needs. I contribute to flowers for someone who has lost a loved one if I have a relationship with the person through working with them and if someone retires, I give them a gift if they are close friends. Otherwise, I don’t participate because I would be handing over my whole paycheck if I did. Okay, maybe that’s an exaggeration but not by much. For the most part, these are my co-workers, not my friends. I owe them my best efforts at my job and pleasant, professional courtesy. That’s all.

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Enna March 10, 2012 at 1:35 pm

@ Wowowow did you give $50? Wow! If i was in your position I would be inclinded to take it up with them if your bonus didn’t cover it. Or maybe look for a new job.

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whoop March 10, 2012 at 4:21 pm

Amazing! I had something similar happen at my first job out of college. Our company is large, with many regional offices, and I was working at the main office at the time. Our office was comprised of multiple buildings, with at least one hundred people working there at any given time. My department was small and set off from the rest of the offices.

I had only been working there for a couple of months when I received an email inviting me to a shower for someone who worked in a completely different department and building. I had only met the guest-of-honor once and I barely knew the person who invited me or the other people on the email chain. The email included a request for donations toward a group gift.

The real head-scratcher was that this email was not a blanket invitation sent out to everyone at the office. It seemed to have been sent out to all of the women in the company, but to only a handful of men. I should mention here that I am a woman working in a heavily male-dominated field so this was not an accidental oversight. 90% of the company was excluded. The implications of this were blatantly sexist and hurtful (toward both the men who were excluded and the women like me who were unfairly obliged).

It was probably a faux pas on my end that I did not answer the email, but I was unsure of what to say since I did not know any of the people involved and the whole thing was so shocking. I decided to ignore it.

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Mabel March 11, 2012 at 7:26 pm

I like the manila envelope idea. At my recent exjob, if something noteworthy happened like a death in the family or something, we passed a card around with a round robin sheet so you could mark your name off (and the person whose card it was had their name highlighted so they didn’t accidentally get it). We usually did sympathy cards when someone died because it was such a small company, but it was mostly men and no one did baby shower stuff when my former supervisor was pregnant.

Our former owners, who sold the business and left, sent US a sympathy card when one of the employees died. :( No one could stand them and we were glad they were gone, but it was a nice thing to do.

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Kay L March 13, 2012 at 10:59 pm

A very long time ago when we had just moved to a new state, I joined a small choir at church.

I was told that there was a pot-luck that was for choir people and that there would also be a baby shower for the director of the group. I hardly knew anyone and I had very little money for a gift so I offered to bake a shower cake. I had a few Wilton pans and the frosting dyes so it only cost me the ingredients and my time–several hours.

I made really sweet pastel teddy bear cake.

The pot-luck shower was held at the director’s home. So, at one point, I am called to come into the bathroom where I find 3 of the choir people collecting money and telling me that “my share” of the director’s gift is $15.

They had bought the director a very expensive fancy nightgown.

I felt like a little mouse but I said “I’m sorry but I can’t contribute any money. I really don’t have any to spare and my gift is the cake that I made.”

It did have social repercussions for me in the group. While I can’t point to that one particular instance as a reason for some of them treating me like an outcast at a later point, I would be a fool to discount it.

They were a very sensitive group of people. (One woman complained that I asked a question about the music and used musical terminology–apparently they relished their status as amateurs–it was weird.)

Strangely enough, after about 3 years, I became the director of the group.

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Teddah July 14, 2012 at 1:11 am

Wow these stories are crazy but I believe them.

Where my mom worked they collected 20 dollars every month from everyone and that money was used for birthdays and other occassions. I forgot what they did for birthdays but if someone in the family died flowers were sent, if they or someone in their immediate family was sick/hospitalized flowers were sent. If it was a kid then a toy or something they could use (I got a nightgown :( too old for teddy bears I guess) stuff like that which of course there were usually more birthdays, sick days etc a month so it always came in handy. They never asked for more and things were simple that way.
My sisters work they celebrate the birthday’s once a month. It’s either potluck where everyone who wants to participate (voluntary) brings something or if you make something good you might be asked to bring it in. Or they order out and you contribute to cover your share. My sister makes good potatoe salad and sometimes my brother in law will make something. When she was in another department sometimes I would bake a cake. I forgot how that one started but I was sending cakes nearly every other week lol

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erica September 10, 2012 at 12:42 pm

I am not a fan of anyone trying to strong arm me from my hard earned money.
Every year I get emails from “room parents” to contribute to a group gift at Christmas. I don’t. I always send something small, maybe a small starbucks giftcard, maybe if I know the teacher pretty well a tin of cookies (which as much as people say teachers throw out…I have gotten calls during break from teachers for my recipes!). Just a small token to show my appreciation for what they do.

I have also worked for a place that “strongly encouraged” an automatic deducted weekly donation to a well known charity. It isn’t that I don’t support charity, or this one in particular but I cannot believe how I was treated when I declined. Apparently a goal of 100% of the employee base was expected. After being called in to a meeting with my department head about my “lack of teamwork” which was a thinly veiled response to my decline to donate. I gave notice and after a week of HELL. Being yelled at, treated badly. Given the worst assignments. Being called in early. Forced to stay late. It was clear I was being punnished. I went home on a Friday…and did not return for my Sat Holiday shift (the BIGGEST sale day of the year for my location). Sucks to be them but had they been the least bit professional I would have worked out my 2 weeks. This company to this day has a poor reputation for their treatment of employees and pushing their charity of choice.

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