The Office Shower As A Business Perk

by admin on March 21, 2013

I work for a relatively mid-sized company of ~100 people, and one of the employees’ wives recently had a baby. Some folks at work decided to throw a baby shower for him and his wife, in the cafe at work over lunch. They sent out the following e-mail (I’ve redacted some information for privacy reasons):

Hi all,

You are cordially invited to a baby shower for:

(Insert co-worker’s name)

Friday @ 11:30 in the cafe

Britney will do the gift shopping. There is an envelope at her desk for money donations (suggestion $5-10).

Since this is a lunch time event, we also request each person bring a food item. Britney has the food list for you to sign up.

Also, please sign the card.

Thank you all. Hope you can join in the celebration.

That e-mail was followed today by two more:

Hi all,

This is a reminder for the (Co-worker’s name) baby shower tomorrow (Friday, 11:30 am).  If you haven’t done so, please go to Britney’s office…Sign the baby card.  Donate gift money.  Sign up for a food item to bring. Let’s wish the to-be-parents well.   Thank you.

And, from another person on the invite list:

Nothing like waiting to last minute….As I myself just donated/signed up.

Over hearing some of the chatter in Britney’s office regarding the ‘lack of involvement’ thus far, I have deemed myself the enforcer of this initiative. Let’s keep this company the family orientated place it once was and support our fellow coworkers. As you can see, not everyone was invited to this. Lets support Coworker and his wife as well as Britney and Regina in taking time out of their busy schedule to coordinate this.

Thanks!

I did not originally notice that not everyone was invited, and after discovering that fact was surprised to see my name on the list at all. I’ve worked here for some time but have really had only passing interactions with Coworker. Am I imagining a little forcefulness here to sign a card/give money? And I’m a little speechless that they’re choosing to hold an exclusive baby shower, in the company cafe, when not everyone was invited to the event.

I’m eager to hear any thoughts you may have. 0314-13

I have been asked this question many times in the past 2 decades and each time I am a little astonished that Human Resources does not seem to have a clear mandate on office parties.

The basic rule is that a company should decide whether celebratory parties such as bridal showers and baby showers are part of the corporate “benefits” for all employees.   In other words, are corporate assets being used to plan and promote a party for an employee?  Assets such as use of the business facility, employee time taken to coordinate the party, use of the email system or inter office mail to invite fellow employees.  If they are, it’s a “perk” that all employees should be given equally.   Limiting the guest list is fine if done logically, like all the employees of a particular department, but randomly inviting most but not all employees is a sure recipe for destruction of morale and resentment when it is realized that some have been excluded from an event that used business resources.   A good manager would have never allowed his staff to deliberately divide his employees into those who rate an invitation and those who do not.    And it should go without saying that if company assets and resources are being used to plan and execute a shower for one employee, the same should be done for ALL employees lest there be a disparity in how employees are treated.

All the above becomes moot however if several employees wish to bless a co-worker with a private party in one of their homes, or at a restaurant and use personal email accounts and personal time to plan, invite and execute the party.    What employees do on their own time is their business and has no bearing on what the corporate policy should be.  But that is not the situation you bring to Ehell’s attention.
I do not believe in coercive invitations which guilt manipulate guests into attending, giving gifts and self catering.   It is no longer an invitation but rather a summons and god forbid if the second email was sent by a supervisor/manager.    One should feel no compunction to accept an invitation to give money to someone they are barely acquainted with.   Particularly if this is a co-worker who you do not socialize with outside of business hours.   If you have never gone to lunch with this co-worker, why would you do so now under the guise of celebrating a profoundly personal life event of a new baby?   All that is required is a hand shake and, “Congratulations on the new baby, Bob!”

This has become more about not offending Britney and Regina, the office coordinators of the baby shower, than it is about blessing the new father.   Both secretaries have bitten off more than they can chew and if this shower is a bust, they look bad and it exposes the perhaps grim reality that maybe the new father isn’t the most beloved employee in the company.  If showers have not been equally distributed to all in employees in the past,  one wonders why two women have taken it upon themselves to plan one.    Office politics being what it is, I would want to be know if there is some ulterior motive.  There is a real danger in not applying the “perk” of celebratory parties to all employees equally.

{ 85 comments… read them below or add one }

David March 21, 2013 at 3:04 am

” As you can see, not everyone was invited to this. ”

I don’t know what to take away from this statement. Are they calling out Britney and Regina for not inviting everyone or pointing out the exclusivity of the guest list? Throwing a company party without inviting everyone is poor form as far as I am concerned.

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Lex March 21, 2013 at 3:50 am

Regardless of the size of the company, business and personal matters should be separated. As the admin points out, it is unlikely that Britney and Regina are arranging Baby showers, Bridal Showers, Bachelor Parties, Wedding Anniversary and Birthday events for each and every employee so this smacks of brown-nosing. ‘Enforcing’ this is only going to lead to bad feeling. If the company wishes to acknowledge events for employees a card and voluntary collection are more than adequate. Where I work we used to sign cards and we have a small ‘gift budget’ per department for significant events thus taking the pressure off employees to donate. Lately, though, we’ve almost trippled in size and the burden of signing and arranging constant birthday cards is under review with the view to either restricting participation to within a persons department or doing away with the tradition entirely and only acknowledging ‘big’ events like Leavers, weddings and new babies (these are significantly less frequent than birthdays).

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Carol March 21, 2013 at 4:58 am

In one company I worked for, when someone had a big life event, they collected money – no limit, it was whatever you felt like giving, and no one was obligated – got a card and a gift, and had cake, if appropriate. At some point in the day the boss would come out, everyone who could wandered to the ‘guest of honour’ and gave the card and gift. Then we had cake.

That’s how it should be done. Low-key, no pressure, and cake. Excluding people is just totally not on. And kind of ridiculous. And I get the impression some people don’t want to take away from their own personal lunch hour to celebrate this guy’s baby, which I think if fair. If you’re doing a company thing, do it on company time.

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Bint March 21, 2013 at 5:43 am

There is so much wrong about this. Only some people have been ‘invited’ (aka pressganged) into throwing a shower for a woman they don’t know because she doesn’t even work there. They have to cater the event, cough up money and give up their lunch hour. If they don’t, Britney and Regina (aka Dick Turpin x2) have them guilt-tripped with claims they aren’t supportive, or are not ‘family-orientated’ – which they may not be, as is their right.

This kind of thing breeds so much resentment in the workplace. Maybe those people just don’t want to give money, food and time to the new parents. Maybe they can’t afford it. Maybe the new parents are total strangers to them. It doesn’t really matter because they have the right not to participate without being harassed or emotionally blackmailed.

I was forced into attending a work baby shower once. Didn’t know her, never spoke to her, she didn’t know my name. Stuck in the office on a beautiful sunny day as she opened a present she didn’t want, bored out of my mind, wishing I hadn’t given up my money or time for someone who couldn’t care less whether I was there or not. I haven’t been to one since. They’re for people who care about the parents, not people who just happen to share a workplace with them.

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Lauren March 21, 2013 at 5:46 am

I love a lot of my coworkers, but I feel very uncomfortable when someone is singled out for a party or shower. Even in my office, which is incredibly egalitarian about these things, we sometimes get a few people who’s feelings get hurt because their event was ignored, but a huge party was thrown for someone else who was celebrating a similar milestone. I just wish these well-meaning people would put their energies into something more appropriate – how about parties only for holidays or company celebrations?

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Spuck March 21, 2013 at 6:18 am

I wouldn’t say that people not coming to the office party have any bearings on the person it is being held for in the first case. Brittany and Regina are being crass from the get go in this person’s name. They are requesting money as well as insisting people bring their own food. It isn’t the guests of honors fault they are doing this, but it is probably very off putting.

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Joni March 21, 2013 at 6:31 am

Is ‘orientated’ actually a word? I keep seeing it pop up in places where I think people mean ‘oriented’ (“let’s keep this a family orientated company”)?

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Nicolek March 21, 2013 at 6:31 am

A school i worked at had a great policy. If you opted in you paid fifty bucks or so towards a pool of money. This would fund gifts and parties for people with life milestones. If you didnt opt in thrn when you gad a major event you dudnt get a gift. This avoided pressure andpopularity contests

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M March 21, 2013 at 6:36 am

I am strongly opposed to office showers. If coworkers are friendly enough to exchange gifts and participate in these kinds of personal events (wedding/new baby), then they should be invited to the events hosted outside the office. If they aren’t close enough to be invited to those events, why the hell should they be coerced into buying a gift?

That said, I think that office “celebrations” with clear “no gifts” policies are great. I’ve heard of offices that get cake or brownies for everyone to enjoy in honor of the soon-to-be-parent or bride/groom. I think this is great because everyone can enjoy the perk even without ever being the honored celebrant.

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Green123 March 21, 2013 at 6:59 am

Wow. I’d find myself ‘accidentally’ slipping on the ‘delete’ key on these emails (three? seriously!? enough already!) and I’d also find myself having an urgent alternative out of office appointment at lunchtime that day.

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michelle March 21, 2013 at 7:13 am

I work in an office, and this kind of thing is one of my pet peeves. People are pressured to contribute money and time and baking and cooking for these things, all for someone you never socialize with outside of work and who wouldn’t know you on the street 5 years from now if they left the company today. And if you don’t contribute, you’re made to feel stingy in an environment where really all you want to do is get your work done and be pleasant while doing so.

I say, when the baby comes, give him a hearty congratulations and graciously submit to a little oohing and aahing over the inevitable baby pictures. (And as one of those people who can’t tell one newborn baby from another – that’s effort enough!)

All the rest of that stuff in the workplace is nonsense. And the bigger the company gets, the more neverending the nonsense.

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Justin March 21, 2013 at 7:13 am

Unfortunately for me the ‘office shakedowns’ for donations happened earlier in my career when I was making less than $10/hr at a few different places, the ‘expected’ donations amounted to 1-3 hours of my income. The fact that I was expected to give up about a weeks pay each year and then became fairly unpopular among coworkers when I was unwilling to do so soured me to the whole thing.

Where I work now events such as birthdays and showers are typically done as lunch or drinks after work by the employee’s department and then they invite anyone the celebrant indicates is a friend from another department. Gifts are rare, usually everyone attending just chips in to cover the celebrant’s meal or drinks. Occasionally there will be things like a potluck, if you can’t or don’t bring a dish the organizers ask for a small donation, usually $5 which is given to charity if you wish to eat.

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Huh March 21, 2013 at 7:32 am

The first email seemed fine, that’s what we do at our office, sign the card, contribute some money if you want, and usually someone either volunteers to make a cake or the department head ponies up the cash for one. The lunch thing, eh, we do a similar thing as well, sign up for what dish you are bringing IF YOU WANT TO PARTICIPATE. That’s the key thing there – no one is forced to participate in an event. And the “not everyone was invited to attend” – if its a different department that wasn’t invited, that makes sense. But if it’s just random people in the department weren’t invited, that’s odd.

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Lady March 21, 2013 at 7:37 am

My sister is constantly telling me about recurrances of this in her workplace, and I dread the day one comes across my email because I would feel compelled to send it to HR. Everyone has had instances in their life where they lack the self-awareness to know that they are doing something appalling, but I am truly puzzled as to how anyone could not see the problems with this in the workplace. It reminds me of another story from my sister: She worked for a large company and their department of 100+ did an informal monthly newsletter – the spring version of which featured graphics of a crucifix and was very Easter-oriented. The cherry on top was that the department was organizing an Easter brunch where the main dish was ham. Nothing like excluding several ethnic and religious groups from the department activities!

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Lo March 21, 2013 at 7:52 am

Oh my goodness, this sounds like a nightmare in the making. I’m so passive I’d probably just say I had a doctors appointment and beg off that day just to avoid it.

Can’t people do this kind of thing on their own time?

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Anonymous March 21, 2013 at 7:56 am

1. How is it okay to hold an “exclusive,” invitation-only party in a public part of the office that belongs to everyone? If someone who wasn’t invited to the party went to the cafeteria at lunch time, would the party-goers kick that person out for “intruding,” and possibly label him or her as being “rude?”

2. At any point did the OP ever explain to Britney and Regina that she didn’t know Bob, or money/time was tight for her, or that, for whatever reason, she didn’t want to/couldn’t attend the shower? Did she even RSVP at all? I know that being repeatedly pestered is annoying, but nowhere in that story does the OP say, “I RSVP’ed no,” or, for that matter, “I RSVP’ed yes.” Even though it’s egregiously rude to hold baby showers at work, for some pregnant/pregnant-by-proxy employees but not all, and invite some fellow employees, but not all, and use public spaces for these private events, and make them potlucks, it’s still not a good look not to make your intentions clear. We’ve seen so many stories about people hosting various events, and having to chase people for RSVP’s, that it probably would have been better for the OP to decline the first invitation, and ask to be taken off the e-mail list for this event.

4. I think it’d be better for workplaces to go with “no celebratory events for anyone” than “celebratory events for all.” Some people really hate that kind of thing, and wouldn’t want to be made the “centre of attention” at work, but they’d have to put on a gracious face and pretend to like it. That’s not really fair to them, so it’d probably make more sense for those employees who want to celebrate, and know that the prospective honouree would enjoy it, to take that person out for dinner/drinks/whatever after work, or arrange to get together another time close to the day of. Also, there’s still potential for disparity with office parties for specific people–if Bob gets generic white sheet cake and a generic card, but then Martha gets a Death by Chocolate cake and a glittery, poster-sized card, then that might hurt Bob’s feelings. That could have been avoided by not doing anything for anyone at work.

5. “Orientated” is not a word. Regina wants the company to be “family-oriented.”

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Anonymous March 21, 2013 at 7:59 am

Jeanne–I meant to number my list 1, 2, 3, 4. Sorry I’m a little distracted; it’s first thing in the morning, and I’ve only had one cup of coffee.

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ferretrick March 21, 2013 at 8:00 am

“Let’s keep this company the family orientated place it once was and support our fellow coworkers. As you can see, not everyone was invited to this.”

The cognitive dissonance, it BURNS!!!!!

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admin March 21, 2013 at 10:09 am

HAHAHAHA!

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Wendy B. March 21, 2013 at 8:20 am

My office often does special things for various life events. Birthdays, retirements and occasionally weddings are celebrated in office with food, etc., but it isn’t obligatory. (I say occasionally weddings because a few times we’ve been surprised.) Usually showers are held by the families/friends and we may or may not be invited. Only once that I know of did the office specifically organize a baby shower…and it was still held at a separate location after hours.

I think if I were presented with this I wouldn’t participate. I might send a card with or without a gift separately, at a different time, but the pressure displayed here implies that, in order to work here, you have to participate in this event, which is exclusive. And since it is exclusive, is it really promoting the family atmosphere the one writer talks about?

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Shoegal March 21, 2013 at 8:35 am

I agree with Bint – there are too many things wrong with this. The entire thing just reaks.

Seriously, are Brittany and Regina planning parties for everyone else at the company for their life events? Who is this woman demanding that everyone attend? Unless I really knew the new mother – or was friends with her husband, I would be absolutely livid about being forced to go.

The entire thing is just so planned out. Please report to the desk and do A, B and C – it really means so very little when you put $5 in an envelope so somebody else can purchase a gift for you – and then sign a group card because you were asked to. Then you, as the guest – should provide the food to this exclusive event you were invited to.

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Mae March 21, 2013 at 8:36 am

If I received email 2 and 3, it would definitely put me off the event.

I am an admin assitant where I work. People are always emailing me and asking to me coordinate some kind of celebratory event. I always decline. We used to do this but we have grown so much that it is impractical. Almost 100 employees, many in the wedding/baby stage of life would mean something every week. My standard response is sorry, I don’t have time. I am much too busy working on and cannot give it the time it needs. People are starting to get the message.

I am not against celebrating, but like many, I don’t enjoy going to something where I don’t know the guest of honor and I definitely would not like to be bilked for gift money and food donations. If I want to celebrate something, I like after work or weekends. During work just feels…forced.

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Hannah2 March 21, 2013 at 8:39 am

OP can choose whether to participate or not, especially since he/she doesn’t really know said couple. I think it’s sad this party came down to this…sounds like someone was genuinely trying to do something nice for someone (probably a friend, or very liked co-worker) and it turned a little against them, and so now to save face, they are trying to make people join in in an effort to not make said co-worker and his wife feel badly that not many were participating.

When I see these sorts of parties dwindle down into a “gangpressing” I jump in to help out because I think it’s more important to make people feel loved.

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essie March 21, 2013 at 8:44 am

“…one wonders why two women have taken it upon themselves to plan [a baby shower].”

At the risk of sounding cynical, maybe they volunteered to collect the signatures and gift donations in order to “skim” the latter. It’s been known to happen.

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Joyinthemorning March 21, 2013 at 8:46 am

Not knowing for sure how many people are in this business (it looks like the OP said ~100, which appears in print to me as “less than a hundred”, even with the word “midsize” in there, because a business of less than a hundred is most definitely a small business. Many small businesses do not have HR rules on parties and showers and these things are left up to the discretion of employees and supervisors, who seem okay with this sort of activity in this case. Join up or not, it’s up to you, but certainly all these emails are extremely tiring.

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gramma dishes March 21, 2013 at 9:08 am

When I first began reading, I thought “Oh, well … it’s kind of nice that the coworkers want to have a baby shower for the father. That’s kind of a sweet gesture.” When my daughter had her first child, her husband’s workplace had a shower for ‘him’ and it was so sweet — and totally appreciated.

Then I got to the “As you can see, not everyone was invited to this” part and my chin hit the keyboard. No. Just no. Not in a workplace. Either everyone or no one (in that department) should be invited to a personal celebratory party on company property.

Even if everyone is invited, not everyone will choose to participate and shouldn’t be pressured to do so if they don’t. This had the potential to be a sweet idea but it has gone terribly amuck.

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Library Diva March 21, 2013 at 9:19 am

As with so many other things, it’s the approach here that’s all wrong. I think that workplace baby/wedding showers are a lovely idea. I don’t mind giving when asked politely. But they should be all-inclusive (or as inclusive as makes sense: don’t invite the people at the branch office across town who you don’t even know, don’t invite other departments if you don’t work closely with them, etc.) and they shouldn’t be mandatory. You don’t know people’s personal situations. They shouldn’t be strong-armed into giving up their grocery money to contribute towards a gift for someone they barely know or even actively dislike.

The person who deemed themselves “the enforcer” sounds like a real peach to work with. I bet they send out weekly all-staff emails about the state of the fridge, as well.

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Magicdomino March 21, 2013 at 9:21 am

I don’t do showers, whether bridal or baby. It’s nothing personal, I just dislike showers, and theoretically if I know the person well enough to be invited to a shower, I’ll be sending a present for the main event anyway. While I have no problem with signing cards, emails like these would make me even more determined to avoid the event.

Every once in a while, my office hosts a shower, but the guest of honor works in our division, everyone in the division is invited, and we don’t get harassed about attending. The worst I’ve received is two or three people popping their heads into my office to ask as they walk by.

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siamesecat 2965 March 21, 2013 at 9:29 am

Hearing storeies like this make me happy about the way my company does things. Whenver there is an event, baby, marriage, etc. someone in that person’s dept. coordinates the event. An invite is e-mailed out to the entire company, letting them know what is happening, when, and, if they’d like to contribute, who to see. But that’s it. No pressure, no haranging to donate. They may send out a reminder a few days prior to the event, but again, its low key.

Doing it this way, if you know the person, and choose to attend, you can, and if not, its fine as well. I’ve worked here for 13+ years, and only attented a handful of showers. What was funny was one year I was trying to coordinate a baby and bridal shower for 2 different co-workers, and each was trying to help me with the others!

It sounds like in the OP, attendance wasn’t quite what they expected, so they were trying to get things going. I also don’t like the fact that not everyone was invited.

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CJCarville March 21, 2013 at 9:34 am

Yet another argument in favor of banning all office parties that celebrate personal milestones. Your coworkers are not your friends and family. If you want that recognition, you should get it from people who aren’t obligated to spend time with you 40 hours a week.

The fact that there wasn’t much of a response to the invitation should be an indication to the HOSTS that there is something wrong with what they’ve done. It shouldn’t serve as a REMINDER to resend the request.

People read it. They just disagree with it. They didn’t “forget” to contribute.

I’d also like to remind people that organize this nonsense that they should consider the paychecks of those who are “encouraged” to shell out money. It’s ridiculous that our front office person ($35K/year which isn’t much on the east coast) has to give money to these joint presents, especially when those presents quite often go to other staff members who make 4 times that.

Since I am a high earner (who was formerly a low earner who had to fork over cash for this stuff), I refuse to be the recipient of any office gift for this reason.

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The Elf March 21, 2013 at 9:40 am

Oh, the office party. What a minefield that can be!

The only way to do it, reasonably, is to either have a central coordinator do all the planning for everyone along with some sort of policy (i.e. monthly celebration cake for everyone’s birthday in that month, all moms & dads to be get a shower, card circulates for funerals, etc) or to do it as an entirely private event where people from work are invited.

In neither case should attendence be mandated and funds extorted.

I completely agree with Admin that these things should be decided within HR for large businesses.

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Yvaine March 21, 2013 at 9:43 am

Totally agree with Bint. I love how anyone who doesn’t participate is tarred with not keeping the place family-oriented.

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Ashley March 21, 2013 at 10:12 am

It’s times like this I’m glad my place of employment has three stores in three different cities with one employee per each. No pressure to do stuff like this baby shower.

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RigaToni March 21, 2013 at 10:15 am

How interesting that this comes a day after I attended an “office shower” done right.

The mother to be is the admin assistant of an organization that has two other employees, a 20ish member volunteer staff, and a board of directors. The employees organized the shower, inviting the volunteers and board members. The board members were offered a chance to get in on a group buy gift if they wanted, by one employee. Only one board member took advantage so the employee just did a quick shop on that board member’s behalf.

The shower was held at a restaurant, cake and mom’s meal were covered by the staff.
We had ten or so in attendance, the mother to be was really surprised, and was truly grateful for the gifts.

I’m reading this and thinking we’re doing so well. Very well. I’m proud of the group!

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Lisa March 21, 2013 at 10:27 am

I have been a participant and the recipient of office parties to celebrate a milestone and think if handled correctly can be fun for everyone.
Yes, at past jobs there have been times where it’s been mandated that a donation be made and I’ve done so grudgingly, however at my current office, an email goes out company wide (approx same size company as OP, but spread out over different offices) and it is always quite clear that participation is OPTIONAL; with no suggested donation amounts. Considering that we spend most of our waking time with these people, it’s a nice gesture to recognize people’s milestones.

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Laura March 21, 2013 at 10:30 am

The only gift we collect for is a Christmas gift for our CEO. I send out an e-mail a few weeks in advance suggesting $10/person, but I don’t chase people down. I then use whatever money I get on a gift. I do send out a reminder for those who may have forgotten, but it’s short and to the point, with no guilt or pressure. For birthdays, everyone gets a cake (we only have 22 employes). If a baby is born, the company buys a gift of about $50, and everyone signs the card. Again, with only 22 employees, this is very doable. Although, we did have 5 babies born in a two year period recently!

I definitely didn’t like the tone of the second two e-mails in this post. And I sure as heck wouldn’t want to be the expectant parent in this situation.

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Shorty March 21, 2013 at 10:38 am

I’ve seen this time and time again….when it comes to office parties, all etiquette flies out the window. Parties are scheduled during work hours, people are pressured to attend with ‘it’s important for the team’ guilt and if you don’t go, you are labelled ‘not a team player’. In my group, we even have ‘team building exercises’ where it was expected you share private information about yourself that ‘no one knows’. I really don’t care to know everyone’s business and I sure as heck don’t want anyone knowing mine. I don’t share anything meaningful during these exercises (ie: I’m going to start a vegetable garden this year) and I get dirty looks for it every time. I really wish we could just keep work and our private lives separate and be free to opt out of social events at work without getting dinged for it!

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Page March 21, 2013 at 10:46 am

I worked at a company where they decided to have one birthday party a month. The last Friday of the month, the company bought a cake to celebrate all the birthdays that had happened that month. Everyone was invited.

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Stacey Frith-Smith March 21, 2013 at 11:08 am

It’s best to be a purist. Office is for work, for business, for profession. Home is for family, for friends, for living. But the reality is that we spend a lot of time in the office, and also work a fair amount at home. Okay, a little cross-pollination is going to happen. It should be the exception, however, and not the rule. It should be low-key, voluntary, and respectful of the sensibilities and preferences of all concerned. Basically everything this event is not. It’s a slippery slope from a little party once in a while to a cadre of gimme pigs trying to strong-arm gifts and favors under the guise of keeping it “family orientated”. Maybe trekking off-site for that lunch, drink or congratulatory shower is best, after all.

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Helen March 21, 2013 at 11:15 am

Ugh. Years ago, as an admin in a medical practice, celebration duties fell to the admin staff, and quite often the admins bore the cost of these celebrations. I remember having to chip in $20 for a celebration when that was half of what I could afford to spend on groceries. The more senior doctors routinely failed to chip in, but usually suggested the celebrations.

Let’s just say turnover was an issue. I couldn’t wait to leave that job.

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Lisa March 21, 2013 at 11:50 am

One of the frustrations that I have with this site is that there seems to be a standard response to most workplace questions of “Report it to HR,” or “HR should have a policy on this.”

Not every company has an HR department. Many privately held companies have nothing even approaching an HR department. These issues are then left to managers who are doing important work for the business and don’t want to be pulled away from revenue-generating activities to police a baby shower.

Also, I don’t see anywhere in the OP that these are “secretaries.” Interesting assumption.

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June First March 21, 2013 at 11:53 am

Personally, I like our office plan of sporadic treats in the breakroom. Most people can take part, it is a nice way to celebrate, and you don’t have to take any if you’re on a diet.

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sv March 21, 2013 at 11:58 am

If you personally know the father-to-be and are friendly with him, buy a card and include a heartfelt note of congratulations. Otherwise just skip it and if you are questioned, simply say you couldn’t make it . You don’t need to explain your actions to anyone, least of all the two women exerting all the peer pressure.

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hakayama March 21, 2013 at 12:03 pm

I am probably at risk of being reported to the Committee on Un-American Activities for my stance on showers, both bridal and baby.
I just cannot see the need, nor the attraction as a “party”, for them in ANY developed country these days. You fill in your OWN details why…
Since the chance of eradicating them is similar to that of eradicating the kudzu vine, we seem not to have much choice but avoid them in “civilian” life. When they spread to the workplace, however, that is truly cause for alarm. I could probably stretch my good-will to a well-liked coworker, but the WIFE of an “unknown coworker”? Someone that folks probably have never laid eyes on, and likely will not again after the shower?
As I’m “growing up”, learning to stand my ground and speak my mind, a strong-arm invitation would get an equally strong response from me. The mellow version being: “Please let me be, go away”…

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Monkey mommy March 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm

This happened to me twice. The first time was when a colleague (who planned her wedding on the clock) was thrown a bridal shower by the owner’s wife. Colleague had let it be known to all of us we weren’t invited, so I stood firm and refused to financially contribute. I’m not worthy of her invite, then she isn’t worthy of my gift. The 2nd time, both myself and W, a colleague, were pregnant at the same time, with me due two months earlier than W. Our coworkers proceeded to throw W a shower after I had delivered my son. When I asked why they would do that for one of us but not the other, I was told it was because “you are married and have family support. W is a single mom”. Hmmm. Penalizing those of us doing things the traditional way hardly seemed fair. I think it’s a bad idea in general.

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Betty Edit March 21, 2013 at 12:12 pm

I always thought that it was rude to bring your own food to a restaurant. Is this cafe a small place where it would be obvious that the shower participants are only using the cafe for the space? Or is it more of a cafeteria-type setting, where people bring their own lunch? In either case, I’d find the location inappropriate for a shower: in the former case, the participants should be buying food from the cafe; in the latter, it only parades the fact that not everyone was invited.

My office is fairly small (about 22 people) and close-knit, and whenever someone has a life event, one person (usually the front office manager) sends an email saying if anyone wants to contribute to a gift, they have until a certain day to contribute. This works well for us. No one really knows and/or cares who exactly contributes to each gift, and you can contribute if you want to–no strong-arming or guilt if you don’t.

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Skyline March 21, 2013 at 12:49 pm

Regarding ‘orientated’ instead of ‘oriented’–Regina is likely Brit. ‘Orientated’ is preferred to ‘oriented’ in the UK. Both words are correct, although ‘orientated’ is the older word (i.e., it’s been around longer).

As for workplace showers etc. Ugh! My current department is small (<10 people) and we are all very close, so it's not a problem, but in previous larger workplaces it became a nightmare. I like what one of the other (much larger) departments we are affiliated with does–once a month, they buy in a large cake and have a 20-minute celebration in the boardroom acknowledging everyone's milestones that month, from birthdays, to babies, to getting a new degree.

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Anonymous March 21, 2013 at 12:54 pm

Another thing–I don’t understand bilking employees for money to buy the CEO a Christmas gift. I can understand something like a voluntary Secret Santa, as long as it’s truly voluntary, but seriously? For some people, there are times when they can’t fork over even ten dollars for someone else, because times are tight. Maybe all their bills arrived at the same time. Maybe they’re saving up for a house, or paying off a student loan, or their child needs braces. There are an infinite number of reasons for not being able to just throw money into a pot for a gift for your boss, even if you like him or her, but none of those reasons are anyone else’s business, unless the person in question feels like sharing them. It’s even worse that it’s for the CEO, because that person probably makes a lot more money than the employees donating to the “gift fund,” and it might even make him or her uncomfortable. When I was in university, the head of the residence department was fairly well-known and well-liked around the residence community. On her birthday, her employees (student and otherwise) covered her office door in kraft paper, titled it “Why Rez Goddess Rocks” in magic markers, and they all filled up the paper with the reasons why she rocked. It didn’t cost much, and she must have really loved it, because she kept it up for the entire academic year. Those who didn’t know her well just wrote simple messages like “Happy Birthday,” etc.

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Cat March 21, 2013 at 1:10 pm

I once worked for a company in which the secretaries would come to my office and demand money for someone’s birthday. I contributed, thinking that all birthdays would be celebrated equally.
I found that only some people were given a party and a cake. The rest of us were expected to give money towards the parties of the favored few, but our birthdays were ignored. It had nothing to do with rank-the man in charge of operations was ignored, but a salesman was honored.
The next time one of these women came running after me to demand money for “Mr. Smith’s ” birthday, I told them no. If we don’t celebrate all birthdays I contribute towards none.
Since when does a “family” have 100 people who are expected to contribute towards an event?

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stan March 21, 2013 at 1:12 pm

I used to work at a company that had a “sunshine fund”. At the beginning of the year, the chair would put an envelope in each person’s inbox asking for a donation. It was voluntary and anonymous. The funds would be used throughout the year for monthly birthday treats (all birthdays were celebrated the 1st Friday of the month), baby shower presents (usually a book), retirement gifts, sympathy flowers (or a small donation), etc. Only once in the 15 years was there a mid-year ask. (There had been an unusually high number of babies and retirements that year.) It was done in the same low-key way as the initial yearly ask.

Every couple of years, the chair would ask someone else to step forward to take care of the fund and there never seemed to be any trouble getting a new volunteer. I took a turn for a year and it was easy as pie. Someone along the way had created a great spreadsheet to keep track of everything along with a list of suggestions for each milestone. At the end of my year, I handed it off to someone else without a hitch.

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OP Here March 21, 2013 at 1:24 pm

Hey everyone! OP here. I just wanted to take an opportunity to answer some questions/clarify some points. Whether they’re relevant or not is up to you.

1) Neither Britney nor Regina is a secretary or administrative assistant. As a company we only have one secretary and she works as the company receptionist. They are long-time coworkers and friends of the father whose baby is being celebrated.

2) It is not uncommon for departments at the company to do celebrations for their employees, generally during their weekly meeting, and they reserve a meeting space for this or go out to lunch/dinner. This is the first time in 5+ years I’ve ever seen anything like this, which is probably why it stood out to me.

3) When an employee leaves the company, a company-wide e-mail invites everyone to an off-site happy hour in their honor on their last day. These are the only company-wide invites for events apart from all-company meetings

4) Someone asked if I RSVP’d positively or negatively. Regrettably I did not. I merely skimmed the first e-mail and assumed that it was a casual event and the whole company had been invited. Then when I saw the two other e-mails I was so turned off by the whole thing that I chose to ignore them altogether. Etiquette faux pas on my part sure, and there’s no excuse.

5) We do have an HR department of 1. I do not recall at the moment if she was included on the party invite or not, but it would be VERY rare here for something like this to be forwarded to HR. Maybe it should be, but there’s efforts made here to handle issues without involving them.

6) As a final point, the party has come and gone. I was swamped that day, so I do not know if they even ended up holding it here or if they went out. I’ve not heard of any fallout or hurt feelings.

Any further questions, feel free to let me know! I’ll do my best to answer them if I spot them.

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