The Shower As A Perk of Being Employed

by admin on October 22, 2013

This story is about a couple of co-workers both in different departments at the same office. Bob and Nancy met at work and were married a year or so later. They are both fairly young and get along with everyone, so we were all happy for them. The office threw them a wedding shower at work and it was very nice. No thank you cards and no invitations to the wedding, but nobody said much.

A year passes and Nancy becomes pregnant with their first child together (fourth total between them) and a baby shower is planned. The office is very generous and there are lots of gifts, food, decorations etc. At this point Nancy has decided to take the month off prior to her due date, but plans to come in for the shower. Forward to day of the shower and she no shows. Bob is at work and takes her place opening gifts, etc. He explains she doesn’t feel well enough to come. Okay, she’s close to her due date (couple of weeks) and maybe doesn’t feel up to it.

A couple of weeks later the manager for Nancy’s department confesses to me that she just found out Nancy had the baby a week before the shower and kept it a secret from work. She, the manager, is upset and had asked Nancy why they didn’t just say something. Nancy tells her they didn’t want to ‘ruin’ the baby shower? Manager is hurt and says she won’t be hosting anything for Nancy and Bob again. Still no thank you notes for anyone on this shower.

Now it’s a year and some months later. Nancy and Bob announce they are expecting again. Fifth child total, second together. Nobody says too much. Now Nancy is six months and word is going around that she has convinced another co-worker to host another shower at work! I think I’m going to be too busy for this one.   1019-13

Work showers are a perk of being employed and as such should have written policies regarding the distribution of this “perk” on company time and on the business premises.   What happens off site during non-working hours is altogether different and employees can choose to attend or not.

Work sponsored baby and wedding showers should be clearly defined by company policy to include the following rules:

1) One shower per employee (or in this case, per working couple)
2)  A cap on the amount of money employees can be solicited to contribute for a gift
3) A budget for how much of a department’s funds can be allocated to hosting a shower

Any other rules I am missing, readers?

{ 76 comments… read them below or add one }

ladycrim October 22, 2013 at 5:38 pm

“How about men? Is a husband granted a baby shower if his wife does not work for the company? What if she used to work for the company?”

Of all the baby showers my office has thrown, four have been for men whose wives had never worked for the company. (All first children.) Thankfully, nobody is pressured to contribute or attend.

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Jenn50 October 22, 2013 at 5:54 pm

While I understand the mass negativity towards work showers, (unequal celebrations, financial solicitations, people who hate showers or their coworkers in general,) this all makes me really sad. I was thrown a surprise wedding shower by my coworkers at a restaurant I worked at. It was sweet and low key, and I felt really cared for. But in that case, it was a small organization, and we tended to socialize outside work as well. It was like a family; you might not LIKE everybody, but you cared about each other. Others had wedding/baby/retirement showers that were similar. My husband’s coworkers at a large city department threw us a shower when we had our second son, (6 years after our first, and the first since he started working there) and they had sort of an open house where people could come to the conference room for cake or the veggie platter, give a gift if they liked, or not. Also really touching. I honestly get how there are lots of pitfalls to workplace celebrations, but it makes me sad that we seem to think the solution is to ban celebrating important milestones with people we spend about half of our waking hours with. If you’ll pardon the pun, it feel like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. I do like the idea of monthly celebrations to cover all events, with optional attendance.

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mark October 22, 2013 at 6:31 pm

I like the idea that if you want to celebrate a birthday etc, then bring in your own cake, I’ve done this before. If I want a party then I should throw it. Anyways to make this a little more funny here is a link about Dilbert comics that are about showers..

http://search.dilbert.com/comic/Baby%20Shower

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Kimberly October 22, 2013 at 7:58 pm

Here are the rules for my work

1. Wedding Shower – For 1st wedding at (School)
2. Baby Shower – For 1st child at (school)

Grade Level teams are in charge of both showers. Social committee funds purchase the cake and basic paper plates and plasticware.

Teams tend to go in together for gifts, and group thank you notes are usually given to team leader and passed around.

Male employees get showers also. Some decline. Usually we take up a collection for a gift card if they decline.

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internetmama October 22, 2013 at 8:44 pm

In the early ’90’s, I had a job at a social service agency making very little money. One day a coworker asked for $10 for a baby shower gift for another coworker. I had to say no and explained that I only had $20 for groceries that week. Later I saw the card being circulated and, not really thinking, asked if I could sign it. I was very coldly told “no,” I wasn’t allowed to sign because I hadn’t given any money. Afterwards I realized the card went with the present but at the time I was hurt and humiliated. I’ve always encouraged the anonymous envelope approach at any of my work places since then and everyone gets to sign the card and participate in the party.

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Lo October 22, 2013 at 9:25 pm

@Ergala

That is MENTAL!!

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Rosie October 22, 2013 at 9:32 pm

My previous employer got a card for special events and passed it around for everyone to sign and contribute money as they wished. There was a period when we had a lot of babies, so we started having “ladies’ lunches” with a potluck in the nearby park. Nobody was pressured to contribute, but you could bring food or a gift if you wanted. They were lovely since we were a small company, and I don’t know of any hurt feelings. It was a bit odd to exclude the men, but it was an engineering office and most of them seemed happy not to deal with babies/women’s issues. It probably broke all the “rules” mentioned here, but I think it was successful because it fit our company and our style.

As to feeling excluded, there was one time the office was throwing a “bon voyage” party in the break room (20 minutes away from your work to eat cake, essentially) for someone who was going on a month-long trip to China. I had just graduated from my masters degree program and I thought it was really weird to be celebrating this person’s trip and not my graduation. We didn’t have hard and fast rules about what got celebrated (except we never celebrated birthdays), but we had celebrated someone else’s graduation a while back. I told myself to be gracious since it was a chance to eat cake and because the person traveling was my friend. Turns out the party was really to celebrate my graduation and the whole bon voyage thing was just a story to get me there. I was really touched and glad that I hadn’t spent a lot of time being mad at the perceived unfairness of the party.

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Noodle October 22, 2013 at 10:43 pm

I guess I’m clueless–I don’t understand how announcing the baby’s birth would have ruined the shower. The whole point is to get gifts and well-wishes for the baby, it might have just changed the title from Baby Shower to something like Welcome Baby Party.

Overall, though, I do feel that office showers can be awkward depending on their execution. My company has over 50 employees and all but three are women. We have the option of pooling our money for a “communal” gift and individuals could bring gifts if they want to. We then have a potluck in a large meeting room. It works out well this way, because there is no pressure at all. That also largely depends on the culture of the company, though.

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Dee October 22, 2013 at 11:12 pm

Are a shower and presents the only way to acknowledge a milestone event in a co-worker’s life? Noting a big event with congratulations, a card, an announcement of sorts, isn’t enough? Hugs, maybe a office pool for a baby’s birthdate/weight, etc., these don’t mean anything anymore? Acknowledging others’ big moments is a wonderful thing to do at work but have we become so indoctrinated by the media that we can only do it one way – with lots of money and a big to-do? What’s wrong with gifting people with things that don’t cost money but are from the heart, freely-given?

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Rebecca October 23, 2013 at 1:40 am

One place I worked at, someone would always post a sign, “We are having a shower for X” (or collecting money for a gift for X); everyone is asked to please contribute $5. (This was 15 years ago and $5 was more significant). Then this envelope would go around and you were to cross off your name once you’d put in your $5 (or sometimes more). If you simply passed on the envelope, the keeners in the group would then go around “reminding” everyone: “We are still collecting from everyone for the gift! Do you have $5 for the gift?” Of course, contributions were not required but this kind of thing certainly puts everyone on the spot. If you want to buy someone a gift, buy them a gift. Don’t pressure everyone else just because you want to.

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Lou October 23, 2013 at 4:34 am

@Dee – I love your point! Why do we feel obliged to provide expensive presents as the only way of celebrating life events?

As a UK-er, baby showers aren’t really a ‘thing’ yet (although they are creeping in) but I’ve seen my fair share of workplace collections for babies, weddings, etc. I’ve also seen far too many occasions where, as other posters have described, more popular colleagues are covered with glory, fuss and presents for every single life event whilst others receive a token acknowledgment or are overlooked altogether. It only engenders bad feeling amongst coworkers, which is surely counterproductive in the workplace.

In addition, some of the organisers of these celebrations seem to take an inordinate amount of time faffing around and consequently not doing much work. In the case of an impending baby, for example, you then have a pregnant employee whose coworkers have already been picking up slack whilst she attends various appointments and will continue to do so for up to a year (UK laws entitle mothers to have their jobs held open for this long, and if the firm cannot afford maternity cover her work is spread amongst her colleagues). In addition, one or more coworkers then spend a large amount of their working day striding around with collection envelopes, Googling nappy cakes and personalised balloons and generally doing very little of what they are in fact paid to do whilst they arrange her celebration. It’s no wonder many people can’t bear the whole concept.

I do think that, well-run, these celebrations can be great for staff morale but it needs to refrain from turning into a Mean Girls-fest. I’d suggest that companies, especially large ones (my last workplace had over 2000 employees just at my site) have some kind of official policy about such things – for example, a list of life events for which celebrations are approved (first babies, first weddings, graduations, milestone birthdays, retirements should cover it) and ensure that the company celebration is uniform, doesn’t expect too much of employees or take up too much work time.

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Brian October 23, 2013 at 8:36 am

At my school, we all may donate $20 to the social fund for the year, which covers wedding and baby showers, flowers for the bereaved, etc. You are not required to participate, but those who don’t are not showered. I think it’s a good system.

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LauraM April 2, 2014 at 11:24 pm

I think this is a great system. I does annoy me though because while I like to celebrate important life moments with my coworkers, I don’t see myself getting married or having kids. So does that mean I am just going to spend hundreds of dollars over my career and never get a shower myself?

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livvy17 October 23, 2013 at 10:05 am

Work is work – and should focus on work. Celebrations at work should center around Work – the company’s birthday, or an all-employee picnic, teambuilding, winning important new business, etc. I’m head of HR at my company, and frankly, I’d find it presumptuous to even put out a list of monthly birthday celebrants. Just because I happen to have access to their date of birth, what gives me the right to share it with others? Why is it ok to advertise someone’s reproductive situation, even if it is visually obvious?
As mentioned by others, even IF I could be sure never to miss an event, or to produce an event of consistent happiness, there’s still an inherent unfairness in celebrating one person’s life events, when others don’t have the same luck/situation/biological capability. How do barren women feel at these parties?
I won’t even go into the solicitation factor – that’s also prohibited at my workplace.
Personal stuff is personal stuff. If employees have such a wealth of happy feelings for a co-worker that they want to do something for them, they should do it themselves, outside of the office, with their own hospitality and generosity.

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IMHO October 23, 2013 at 10:12 am

The following 2 scenarios happened at a place that I previously worked and is why I think showers should be kept out of the work place:

#1- Wedding showers- A man and woman who both worked at the company were getting married. The man & his family were friends with the owners of the parent company and the woman’s ex-husband’s godmother, whom she was still close to, was also friends with the owners. They announced their engagement and wedding date. Immediately, and by that I mean by the end of the day of the announcement, a “shower committee” was formed. I am not joking. “Shower committee” meetings weekly for 8 months. Closer to the date of the wedding & shower, committee meetings daily, with daily updates on what had been decided, how much you expected to contribute to cover the costs of the shower, which the committee decided had to be professionally catered & held at work during working hours and where the couple were registered. Everyone from all 6 locations were invited, via mass email. Banquet room was reserved, menu finalized. If you had not yet contributed, you got a individual email reminding you that you had not contributed yet. I got an email every single day. Again, I am not joking. Both of these people were in their mid-30’s, each had owned and maintained a home, the woman had been married and had children. There was no reason to act like this was the only couple to ever get married. I did not contribute or participate. Day of the shower- mob scene. At least 250 people at this shower. Since I had chosed not to participate, I was asked to sit in the Security room to buzz folks in and answer the phone. Another lady, who was new and also had chosen not to participate, manned the front in case we had actual customers come in. Nine (9) tables of gifts. Seriously, this was the most over the top thing I had the displeasure of witnessing. BTW- the owners of the company did not participate or attend this event.

Several weeks later, a young lady from the Cafe was getting married (couple #2). She got nowhere near the same amount of attention. I felt so bad for her- it was *extremely* obvious that she was not considered as important. I actually purchased 2 gifts for her- she had never been married & she was still living at home with her parents- so I figured her & her HTB could use a few home items. The shower- held after work in the lunch room- had maybe 20 people attend. The hostess had invited the same people as had been invited to the other shower, all 6 locations. The replies were downright nasty. Such as “I do not know this person. I am not giving any money or attending a party for someone I don’t know”. That sounds reasonable except for the fact that many of the people who replied this way, did not know couple #1, either, but knew the family had a friendly relationship with the owners, so they had no issues contributing and attending that party. You could tell she was … crestfallen. She looked near tears most of the time. It was suppose to be a two hour event but by the time the first hour came & went, it just kind of deflated. We loaded her presents in her car & she left and I stayed to help the hostess clean & put things away.

#2 Baby showers – When the same two couples had babies a couple of years later, same results. Couple #1 had the extravagant, ridiculous, over the top baby shower. Cafe girl got cake, punch and presents after work in the lunch room. She never returned after maternity leave. She sent in a resignation letter. I saw her several months later shopping with her baby and she confided in me that the shower(s) ordeal was so humilating for her that she could not face coming back. Of course she had no reason to be humiliated, but it still stung to be treated dramatically different.

These are absolutely true stories from my former workplace. There were other example, such as huge funeral flower arrangements for some staff and nothing for others.

If everyone cannot be treated the same, keep the showers out of work.

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kingsrings October 23, 2013 at 2:16 pm

I agree with EHell Dame that srict rules and parameters need to be set as a requirement for workplace birthday, shower, etc., celebrations. Everyone must be included – no holding a celebration for one employee not the other, and every employee in said department must be be given the chance to come by being invited – no leaving anybody out. If the group is large, then two people must be in charge of the planning and execution of said celebrations so that no mistakes are made with forgetting someone because the one planner was out on leave or too busy to do the planning. And absolutely no pressure on anybody to give money or attend – it’s their own personal, private choice.

I liked the one-shower-per-employee rule. A few months ago, an employee at my workplace was given her second baby shower in one year! See, she and her husband had a suprise second pregnancy literally right after giving birth to their second child. Employees were gobsmacked that she was getting another when she’d just had one.

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Barbarian October 23, 2013 at 7:33 pm

If you do have to work for a place that has a bad wedding or baby shower policy, here is one survival tip:

Get an inexpensive baby or wedding picture frame at a discount store and wrap it up in some cute paper, etc. If you don’t have to go to the shower, then give the recipient your gift. He or she is after all more interested in your presents than your presence.

I have never spent more than $10 per person this way.

There are some places that will unfairly force you to participate. If this is what it takes to keep your job and your coworkers happy, it’s an inexpensive way to do it.

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Gabriele October 23, 2013 at 7:42 pm

JackieJormpJomp
Thank you for that post, I had wondered if there could have been a problem and the parents wanted to make sure it stayed ‘good news’ before announcing it.
Lack of thank you notes? I think I can count on one hand the number of thank you notes pinned to the bulletin board at one company (50+ employees), 2 parties min. per month). And I did notice that it was not always the well-educated co-workers who left the thank you notes….

I don’t celebrate my birthday (personal, private) and usually a group would go out to a local restaurant for lunch. I’d volunteer to stay and cover the phones–my contribution–if I was friends with the birthday person. People started taking two hour lunches so the company said do it in a hour or hold it here., so they turned into potlucks and people chipping in to buy pizza. Not a bad solution, right?
Well, with two large double door refrigerators they were always packed and never cleaned. Another person and I used to volunteer to clean them before our Halloween Potluck Party (which was fun and no one was pressured to bring anything but there was always plenty). Each year we would have to send out notices to take your food containers home or they would be thrown out, (etc) and each year people would scream that we should have cleaned them and left them in the kitchen cabinet. I think we all know how1 month old food left in the fridge looks and smells and sorry, even the best tupperware isn’t worth my time to clean it.
The company management wouldn’t institute a policy about having the fridges cleaned out every weekend…so it would keep piling up and piling up….So now there are frequent potlucks and the first time it happened those who brought food that needed to be kept cold or frozen were very upset that ‘someone’ hadn’t cleaned the fridges out. I had foreseen the problem and chose to go to lunch that day and when I came back I was not only criticized about no room for the food but was asked when I was going to clean the kitchen up….
and I had my backbone with me so I said: the Friday before the Halloween party or when management agrees to pay me overtime for cleaning up after other people and walked out of the room. Fortunately our department manager (where the birthday person had come from) agreed with me and told the complainers that if they want to plan a party they’ll have to take care of the clean up also.

One other thing that used to irritate me was when the company would have the monthly party (all birthdays were mentioned then as were other events important to employees) and they’d buy a bunch of pizzas. Well, come 5 o’clock, people would go in the break room and take the pizzas home with them (without being told they could do so). Since a quarter of the workforce had jobs which required they be away from the office various hours so most missed parties but would be back in the office to finish off their work (and a very profitable department for the company although no better paying than any other jobs)…and find no pizza saved for them. When the GM found out (this was a regional office) he made certain that what wasn’t eaten at the party was put aside ‘So that ALL the co-workers can share in our monthly pizza party’….the GM would have been happier without any in-office parties but HQ said no, keep the monthly parties since it’s still company business.

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chechina October 23, 2013 at 8:41 pm

I say leave them out of work.

Of course I’m happy when my co-workers are having babies/getting married/celebrating birthdays/getting that thing removed/joining a monastery. But if we’re friends, I’m already going to their real party.

However, my agency has a social fund ($1 out of every paycheck), for cards and cakes and such. That’s put in the break room for all to sign and eat.

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Ergala October 23, 2013 at 8:42 pm

@Asharah and Lo, yeah she was nuts. Absolutely vile as well. I couldn’t stand having a cubicle anywhere near her and sadly that is where I was plunked down. She also implied I copied the coworker when we became pregnant. Now mind you the coworker and his girlfriend had just started dating 6 months earlier and I had been married for over a year….and we were actively trying for that entire year. I just didn’t broadcast it, they didn’t need to know that information. To me it would basically be announcing I’d be having sex and lots of it. *shudder*. I didn’t interact with a lot of them either. I found the majority of my department snotty and people who were nice in an extremely fake way. I can tell when someone is being insincere and they screamed it. I would smile and be courteous but I certainly had no desire to interact with any of them on a personal level. They had BBQ’s and other parties and I was never invited when the majority of the department was. I had zero problem with that. To me work and private life should not mix and if they were tossing in alcohol I can imagine that would cause even MORE issues.

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Kirsten October 24, 2013 at 10:12 am

@livvy17 “How do barren women feel at these parties?”

As someone who was that barren woman for a long, long time = usually fine. Being infertile didn’t make me rage and hate anyone who had children. It just made other people assume that about me, which was far more upsetting. Or sometimes I would go, then go home and have a huge, agonising weeping fit because watching someone celebrate what I was aching to have just got unbearable. But that’s not an argument against showers – because I couldn’t have a baby, we shouldn’t celebrate those luckier? Believe me, I was *grateful* those women were spared the mental and physical torture I had to go through.

Not that I see any good reason to have them in the workplace from any arguments here. I just don’t think they belong. The majority I went to were lunches groups of friends organised as friends in the office. official office parties = shudder!

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livvy17 October 24, 2013 at 1:06 pm

@Kirsten – I’m so sorry for your difficulties. I would never think that a barren woman wouldn’t be able to be happy for the participants, just that for exactly the reasons you describe, it’s sort of a miserable thing to be put through, especially at work, which has no relationship with procreation.
I imagine too that it’s a damned-if-you-do/don’t situation, where there would be assumptions and projections about your feelings even if you didn’t attend. Hopefully you work someplace this isn’t an issue!

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ddwwylm October 24, 2013 at 4:46 pm

My worksite has since banned all parties, and I’m glad for it. They used to not be too bad, basically the team would throw potlucks for their own team members and everyone was invited to attend if they wanted, and there would be a designated present buyer who you could give money to if you wanted but there was no direct solicitation of attendance or funds. Unfortunately though, there seems to always be that petty person who feels the need to try and make others feel small. somepeoples events would get hyped up while others were ignored, and people would use these events to “make a statement” about how they felt about their co-workers. It was only a handful of obnoxious people, but it just go to be too much, so I’m glad they stopped it.
I do have to say though that I don’t quite understand how the husband kept the birth of his child secret. Didn’t he have to take time off work to attend to the birth, and notify them so that the baby could be put on their insurance? I guess I could understand maybe that they were trying to keep quiet if there were complications, but it seems weird that he would go to a shower and actively pretend that the baby had not been born yet, just weird. although, I suppose it does remind me a little about a former teacher whose wife had something like their 7th or 8th child and he just casually mentioned it like a week later, it just wasn’t a big deal to him, no one even knew his wife was pregnant.

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Angel October 26, 2013 at 7:54 am

Showers and other of those types of celebrations do not belong at the workplace. Anyone who has ever watched “The Office” knows how ugly they can get. I know those are extreme exaggerations but, when you put a bunch of people in a building who would probably never socialize outside that building, and compel them to contribute or attend to celebrate a person they may not even know or like, there is bound to be a little resentment after a while.

This being said I see nothing wrong with bagels in the conference room once a month–it’s kind of nice and boosts morale. It should be a set thing and not celebrate anything in particular–other than, woo hoo, it’s Friday!

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Nocturnal Silence October 27, 2013 at 5:46 am

There was two baby showers for the same co-worker a couple of years ago for two different babies, I did not attend either one of them as I didn’t, and still don’t, care for this person. If any company funds had been given to this person through the store manager, there would have been a RIOT! We, as a small store, don’t get to use what little the parent company gives us for personal things like this — at least, that is what we are told. We barely get to use it for certain things, so why should a weeding/baby shower be any different.

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Mary October 29, 2013 at 9:18 pm

In my opinion, baby showers and work should never ever mix. These events are of a personal nature, and become politicized within a work setting, disserving everyone. They are generally manufactured out of a sense of obligation. I do absolutely agree that boundaries should apply to these situations when they present themselves, as the author has suggested.

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