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?

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

Mary October 22, 2013 at 3:19 am

RULES – 1) Passive invitation to shower only (i.e., notice on bulliten board with particulars and who to respond to.)
2) Employees are never solicited for funds, much less in a way that would presume the employer expects contributions.
3) Department funds not allocated for showers (I’m not having a baby – should funds be allocated throw me a comparable party, I deserve one just as much!)
FYI – Usually there is a shower for the first child when the couple has little or no children’s clothes


Rebecca October 22, 2013 at 3:28 am

“2) A cap on the amount of money employees can be solicited to contribute for a gift.”

How about zero? It’s very uncomfortable to be asked for money at work, when some of us are working to make ends meet, or may not even be able to afford gifts for our own families. You’re put on the spot when you’re asked for money at work for someone who really isn’t a priority in your life (ie lower priority than your own family and friends). Oh and if it were official company policy to host one work-sponsored shower per employee, what perks might there be for those who for whatever reason (voluntarily or not) never do get married and/or have children? I think showers are best kept out of workplaces altogether.

It does sound as though the people at THIS workplace are happy to do it, but it’s being abused. Second baby, second shower, a bit much. Can’t they just reuse items they got at the first shower?

I do think that Nancy should have been upfront about having had the baby, but if there was a shower planned anyway, I don’t think it should have been cancelled just because she had the baby early. The lack of thank you cards is a major faux pas, although I don’t think being the recipient of a work shower obligates the bride to invite everyone at work to her wedding, if it wasn’t her decision to be given a work shower.


Marie October 22, 2013 at 4:42 am

As a European, I keep on thinking “what the hell, America?” every time I hear something about baby showers or wedding showers. On the other hand, Americans will think “what the hell, Europe?” every time they hear about our weddings with two guest lists. I guess we all have our quirks.


Hannah October 22, 2013 at 5:06 am

If it were up to me, I’d never participate in a ‘work shower’ again. I love to celebrate the good things happening in the lives of those around me, but every shower I ave contributed/gone to or had thrown for me in a work setting has had some negative element.

One of my very close friends (at the time) threw me a shower at work, right before my first wedding. there was about 40 women invited, and one man (my boss) – it was lovely, at lunch time, people dropped in for cake and a glass of champagne, gave me a little gift (some individuals, some department wide gifts). I was SO touched, and really pleased. Until I walked out of the boardroom – and there was a girl crying at her desk!! She had not been invited!!! Every other woman in the company had, but my friend had taken a dislike to this girl so…

I was so angry, even if it seems ungrateful. Really disappointed to see how someone could take an act of kindness and celebration, and turn it into an unconscious shunning of one woman.


Yasuragi October 22, 2013 at 5:40 am

No doubt she kept the birth a secret to ensure the shower went as planned and she wouldn’t risk losing out on all her loot.

I don’t think baby showers belong in the work place at all. It’s such a personal thing. If you’re good friends with your coworkers you can invite them to the friends and family baby shower.

As others said, being asked for money in the work place really puts you on the spot. The social pressure makes it nearly impossible to refuse and if you do you’re seen as the bad guy.

And unless there are STRICT rules on how a shower will be held during work (and even with strict rules) you’re going to end up with hurt feelings and awkwardness. If twenty-five people come to Jane’s baby shower with gifts, home made cake, balloons and spend an hour chit chatting on a quiet afternoon how is Amanda going to feel when barely a handful show up to hers with a $5 Wal-mart sheet cake and an unsigned card during the last ten minutes of lunch hour?

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?


Lo October 22, 2013 at 5:46 am

Well first off I think you can write the wedding shower off as awkwardness that isn’t necessarily her fault. If she was not aware it was going to happen she can’t be responsible for the fact that coworkers threw it for her and were subsequently not invited. I had to be upfront with my boss when I got engaged that we would not be able to invite anyone from the office because it would be such a small wedding. And I had to do it right away because it came up. I do not think I would have been thrown a shower but its good to head these things off at the pass.

The baby shower thing is ridiculous. First of all I thought it was standard procedure to notify the company once the baby was born– this is what all the mothers I’ve ever worked with have done, usually there is an email that goes out. Second of all, it makes it look like she was afraid she wouldn’t get gifts if the baby was already here which is really pathetic. I hope it was just extreme silliness on her part and not intentionally this way.

We’ve had a couple of work showers but there are no rules at ours. Generally though it’s the employees who get together to make it happen, it’s not official, though it does use lunch time and company space (lunchroom) but we’re pretty lax about it. I’ve attended and not brought gifts because I wasn’t close to the mom to be, it’s not a big deal.


The Elf October 22, 2013 at 6:45 am

There are a many ways to write a workplace policy regarding showers (and birthdays, and funeral condolences, and hospital flowers, etc). I like admin’s set of rules, but there are other ways to do it too. However it is done, it needs to be consistent and if not actually published then at least informally understood by everyone. Nothing worse than hurt feelings because SOMEONE got a shower and this other person didn’t.

When I was an administrative assistant, one of my jobs was to plan workplace events. I hated that part of my job. There was always someone whose nose was out of joint because they either couldn’t eat the food or was upset that we celebrated this but not that, etc. Eventually (after I was promoted and was no longer doing the job), they established a once-a-month celebration of ALL the birthdays and other happy announcements, and any sort of celebration like a shower or a retirement or leaving for a new job had to be off-site and planned and paid for privately. Condolence type things (food sent to employee’s house if they had a death in the family, flowers for someone in the hospital an extended period, etc) were done as needed but the price was set and came out of a collection fund we set up at the start of the year and replenished with passing the hat as needed.


Michele K. October 22, 2013 at 6:45 am

At-work parties usually have some unspoken rules, at least where I have been employed in the past.

1. It is a personal party being thrown at work. Bosses, team members, etc. may come, but are not obligated. There are no repercussions for non-attendance.
2. Department funds are not available for the party. It is privately funded by whomever is hosting the event.
3. The party is held at a non-work time, usually after most people’s quitting time. Any party held during work hours required special clearance.
4. Any gift fund solicitation is to be done individually. Blasting the entire department/company with a solicitation email was an unspoken no-no.
5. The guest of honor does not pressure others for the party. It is a gift given freely, not an obligation of anyone.


Kirsten October 22, 2013 at 7:19 am

I agree that nobody should be solicited at all. Either the company pays or it doesn’t happen, because solicitations pressure people to give, they often result in embarrassingly different outcomes (eg nobody gives to one but does to another), and ultimately I don’t personally believe employees should be hit up for money to throw a party in the working day. I’m not convinced that showers should take place at work at all.

In this story, the wedding shower gets no gratitude, nor the baby shower…yet someone is planing to throw a third gift-grab? I’d be dismayed to be asked, and to be honest, exasperated with the company for letting this happen and exposing me to this greed when I’m at work. I wouldn’t contribute either, but I would bet that quite a lot of people in this office aren’t happy but still feel they have to give give give to the ungrateful couple here.


Ro October 22, 2013 at 7:21 am

My company limits its contribution to “Let HR know you’ll be using the breakroom so we don’t have multiple parties competing for space”.


Shoegal October 22, 2013 at 7:36 am

No showers at work!!! I married a fellow employee and there wasn’t so much as a glimmer of a party. I was perfectly fine with that. It is uncomfortable and unnecessary. If fellow co workers are good friends they would have been invited to the shower my maid of honor threw so there is no need to the people we work with through it.

I agree with no 2nd baby showers – at that point everyone just feels taken advantage of.


Lyn October 22, 2013 at 8:00 am

I agree whole-heartedly with Mary. NO SOLICITATION of funds at work for gifts, etc. Here we have a “pool” that everyone contributes to for cakes and treats – once a month we have a “birthday” party for everyone who has a birthday that month. There are fifteen of us in this department …and we are a community college so everyone is on their own schedule so if you can’t/don’t attend the “party” – no one is offended. Whoever is here celebrates! That being said, as a department we are all over the age of 40 so not likely to have anyone expecting, so baby showers are not likely. My guess would be that in the future, if someone is hired who is young enough to have a baby, a shower would be held off-site, with “passive” invitations. Or a small get together might be held on site with cake and gifts (more than likely, a group gift).


Phoebe161 October 22, 2013 at 8:14 am

Length of event eg 4 pm-5 pm, over lunch, etc
Attendance/contribution is voluntary
Method for maintaining necessary work during the shower. (For instance, our dept attended a funeral; someone who did not know the deceased volunteered to stay behind in the office.)


L.J. October 22, 2013 at 8:23 am

One shower per mother. If it’s a same-sex couple, one shower that counts for each of them. The shower is to welcome the new mother/parent into parenthood. No excuses (e.g. several years between babies, first was a girl second is a boy or vice versa, etc.). No, everyone does NOT “really really” want to give a shower for you/your bff’s second child. They’ll go along and whisper to each other, but they don’t want to spend their hard-earned money on another shower. No, don’t use that line, “doesn’t every baby deserve to be celebrated?” The presents are for the parent, not for the baby. Unless you want me to do what I’ve seen suggested in some forums and buy a savings bond for the baby that doesn’t mature until he’s twenty-five.


L.J. October 22, 2013 at 8:27 am

I like what The Elf’s company does, with one celebration a month for everything.


The Elf October 22, 2013 at 8:52 am

All other points aside, why keep the birth secret? Babies are born early all the time; they’re sort of on their own schedule and don’t keep a calendar. If you’re planning a shower and the baby’s already born, just go ahead and still have the shower. Maybe even postpone it until the Mom has recovered well enough to attend. Yes, some “baby gear” is going to end up double purchased as the parents run out for some emergency item, but what can you do? It’s just not that big of a deal.


Mae October 22, 2013 at 8:58 am

I’m in the “no showers at work” camp! No company funding at all, no solicitation for work gifts. You can mail or hand out invites to those you have chosen to invite. In medium to large size companies, some coworkers do not even know each other, except to nod in passing.

I agree with @Mary (comment #1)”Department funds not allocated for showers . I’m not having a baby – should funds be allocated throw me a comparable party, I deserve one just as much!”

Another issue I had is that because I was the admin assistant, I was always “volunteered/nominated” to keep track of RSVP’s, if a pot-luck, who is bringing what and if a group gift, collecting the money. I told my boss that I did not think I should be “in charge” of this events because it’s not actual work that I am being compensated for and if I am not the host/party planner, it’s not my responsibility. Her response? “These are life events that we celebrate to foster good will amongst coworkers. Your organizational skills are invaluable to make sure everything is pulled of without a hitch”.

I bided my time, made myself scarce when wedding/baby mania hit and as soon as position in another location of the company became available, transferred out. I do not have to keep track of these things anymore, but they still happen.

Just to be clear- I am not against celebrating weddings and showers for coworkers- I just do not think the showers should be planned and take place on company time and no one should be solicited for funds for a gift or food or decorations. Away from work, during non-work hours and I might show up with gift in hand, smiling, ready to celebrate the guest of honor!


DGS October 22, 2013 at 9:09 am

Personally, I abhor work-based showers because there are always problems. The celebrant may be greedy/grubby/rude/uncouth (as evidenced in the story above), or someone is left-out, or it takes up a huge chunk of the workday, or there is a commotion about food choices…I am a big fan of work being for work, and while I get along wonderfully with my co-workers and have even socialized with a few outside of work, I prefer to keep my private life separate from my professional life. I think it’s lovely to have the co-workers send a newly married couple or new parents or a convalescing co-worker a card signed by everyone in the department, or a small giftcard (any contributions should be voluntarily, and they should not function as “the price of admission” for having one’s name on the card) or a bouquet of flowers. Beyond that, I don’t think a shower of any sort is necessary.


lakey October 22, 2013 at 9:19 am

Wow, 5 children between them and they don’t have most baby stuff? And the administrator is right, a workplace needs to have a set policy. I would consider not attending a baby shower for a second baby. If that is too difficult because of offending people you have to work with, give something inexpensive,such as a package of t shirts or a sleeper.

As far as not telling about the previous child’s premature birth, given that it was premature, I would probably let it slide. There might have been medical issues. There is no excuse for not sending out thank yous.


lakey October 22, 2013 at 9:23 am

I think that it is considered okay to have a workplace wedding shower without inviting all of the employees to the wedding. Many times these are just done automatically as part of the “social committee’s” duties. At least they were where I worked. As was mentioned there needs to be a policy, and there needs to be consistency so that you don’t have some getting showers and some not.


CaffeineKatie October 22, 2013 at 9:30 am

How about one rule–You are here to WORK for your pay. I’m sick of all this; if you are such good friends with someone, spend your free time with them celebrating birthdays, babies, weddings, etc.


acr October 22, 2013 at 9:38 am

I think work showers/parties – wedding, baby, retirement, bday, etc, should all be no gift. The company should purchase refreshments, a card for all employees to sign and the gift. Employees should be IN NO WAY solicited to provide a gift or money for a gift.


silentclaw October 22, 2013 at 10:25 am

I’ve been fairly comfortable with the way my employer handled these things; for weddings / babies / other major events, the admins would purchase a card, and create a separate envelope listing all the employees names. They’d hand it off to one of the employees, who would sign the card, put money in the envelope if they wanted to, and then cross their name off the list and pass it to another employee. The card and money would be given to the employee. Nobody was forced to contribute, and there was never any public announcement of how much so-and-so had received, or any way of tracking who had or hadn’t donated.


Redblues October 22, 2013 at 10:37 am

Rule # 1
‘Workplace showers should be held on company time (not lunch or during mandatory after work meetings) and should be company funded and optional. Otherwise they are personal, still optional events and must take place on personal time and expense, without any use of company resources, including address lists or work mailboxes.


Abby October 22, 2013 at 10:46 am

I had a quasi wedding shower and baby shower at work. In both cases, an envelope was passed around and people could stick money in if they wanted. If you did not want to contribute, wait until the person who dropped the envelope off walked away, then simply stick it on the next person’s desk. The only department/work funds that were used was the purchase of the cake, and generally my manager bought cake for birthdays, retirements, weddings, births, etc. It was held during work hours, usually for an afternoon. No one was required to go, but I think most people enjoyed getting a 20-30 paid break to sit and eat cake.

I didn’t think it was offensive to anyone. But I would never *ask* for any shower, much less a work one! My wedding shower was actually a surprise and I wasn’t really too happy about it- I absolutely hate being the center of attention. I did get a heads up that a baby shower was being planned for me, but my coworker promised to bring in her little granddaughter for the party to open up the presents for me and generally take the heat off me.


Kimstu October 22, 2013 at 11:07 am

@lakey: “I think that it is considered okay to have a workplace wedding shower without inviting all of the employees to the wedding. Many times these are just done automatically as part of the “social committee’s” duties.”

“Okay” in the sense that it’s become customary in many workplaces, maybe. “Okay” in the sense of proper and considerate etiquette, no, I don’t think so. Showers are supposed to be for the bride’s intimate circle, who “shower” her with SMALL charming personal gifts for the start of her married life. Anybody who’s being invited to give such a gift to a bride should also be invited to her wedding. (Same goes for the groom in the case of couple showers.)

If a group of workplace friends are close enough that they are genuinely eager to give a shower for one of the group who’s getting married, they are welcome to do that: on their OWN time and with their OWN budget, and no hitting up other co-workers for their participation. There are a lot of office-bossypants types who enjoy organizing a big party for one of their favored friends and getting all the thanks and credit for it, but when they try to drag in colleagues who are not particularly interested in the event or the honoree, they are being rude.

(And “not particularly interested” covers EVERYONE who doesn’t spontaneously exclaim, “Isn’t it wonderful about BrideName getting married?! Do you think some of us should get together and give a shower for her?”)


Catrunning October 22, 2013 at 11:08 am

No “work showers”….period. They cause nothing but headaches. If I am close enough to a co-worker to attend a wedding shower for her, then I am close enought to be invited to the wedding and any outside shower/gift-giving activities that accompany it. Otherwise, I am being extorted for shower gifts under the misplaced assumption that I just want to leap at any chance to share in their “joy”. Likewise, baby showers – why should co-workers be expected to contribute to the costs of someone’s childbearing when that child will also remain a virtual stranger?

Not to mention that not everybody gets married or has kids – those are personal lifestyle choices that I do not think should be financed through the workplace.


Amara October 22, 2013 at 11:09 am

How about Rule #1: Keep It Out Of The Workplace

Any and all showers are private, personal events. If you are close enough to a co-worker to want to throw or participate in one, then please use your own home. No office space, work time, internal solicitations, or any other activities connected to the workplace are allowed.

Office Grump


PJ October 22, 2013 at 11:09 am

My 3 most recent employers all had a similar approach, which I liked: a card and an envelope are sent through the department. You can sign it and you can add a thoughtful message. You can add a few dollars for a group gift, but that is completely anonymous, and seems to be around $5 per person on average. A first marriage and/or a first baby for that person (male or female) gets a card with a group (typically a gift a store gift certificate). A first baby “for the couple” but not a first baby for the individual warrants no further gifting.
The gift is presented during a 15-minute stand-up break in a gathering area. The company *may* have provided coffee and cake, or friends may have provided it instead. Everyone chats and offers congrats, then goes back to work with a piece of cake.
I do like this arrangement because it tends to limit the idea that a proper shower should be thrown which can get out of hand with time and gifts for people who don’t consider each other ‘close’; it allows us to make a small donation commensurate with the level of relationship that many coworkers have with each other.


Kimberly October 22, 2013 at 11:15 am

Honestly, I would not attend or contribute to said shower in any way.

Number one, because Nancy was not gracious enough to even attend her first shower, (ok, I will give her some slack since she had baby and might have been tired, difficult birth, etc.), but did not thank anyone for gifts received?

And number two, it is not co-worker’s choice to host said shower, it is Nancy’s push of co-worker to host shower. Won’t Nancy be surprised when they are the only two attending said shower?


Ergala October 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

I don’t think showers should be a work place event period. When I was pregnant with our oldest my coworker was due 2 weeks before me. We both had showers with friends and family that obviously was not work related. Then the managers at our work threw her a shower at the office….I didn’t get one. I honestly didn’t care about the gifts, we were very well taken care of in that department because of how excited our families were about us having a baby after suffering a loss. I think what hurt the most was that our managers took the time to throw together a shower during work hours for one person to celebrate this huge life event and then pretty much blew off the other person who is experiencing the same exact event.

Another issue is information regarding stuff like this. One of my coworkers was expecting a baby with his girlfriend at the same time as me. He sent out an email announcing they were having a boy and attached a copy of the ultrasound. I was genuinely happy for them! We were finding out the sex the next day so I was pretty excited to see what to look for with ours to see if I could spot it first. We found out we too were having a boy. Well apparently I was “copying” him according to another coworker because I too was having a boy. Her exact words when someone asked me what I was having was “Oh ignore her…she’s just copying Matt because he’s having a boy as well!”….now I didn’t send out an email announcing it and sure the hell didn’t attach a copy of the ultrasound. I did have a copy in my purse because it made me smile to see him and a few people did ask if they could see a copy some time. I was relieved I left there before I delivered, I could only imagine what it would have been like as we entered our later trimesters. I went to my husband’s company after I left that office. This is a huge reason why I don’t think showers belong in a work environment period. SOMEONE is going to be ignored, either on purpose or on accident.


The Elf October 22, 2013 at 11:30 am

CaffeineKatie, being somewhat introverted and, well, anti-social, I’m not crazy about workplace parties in general. However, they do have a notable impact on employee morale. A happy employee works harder and stays with the business longer than an unhappy one. No cake is going to entirely turn a frown upside down or make someone put up with terrible pay or a difficult boss, but it does raise overall morale a bit.


jd October 22, 2013 at 11:46 am

As a person who was formerly “volunteered” to be in charge of the once a month celebration, I can tell you I don’t like that option either. I had to collect money every month, which was like pulling teeth with some people, keep track of who paid and who didn’t, plan the refreshments, set the time, go buy a card and pass it for signatures, pick up a cake and drinks; and oh yes, plan and organize the yearly holiday potluck, plus do the set up and clean up. I resigned my “position” as party lady, partly because I had full-time work to do already– you know, my actual job — and partly because I had to do the shopping on my own time and with my own gas money. Not one person volunteered to pick up the party-person job, surprise, so that practice ended, thank heavens.
As mentioned, another problem is inequality. My sister was hurt to be personally asked to give money for flowers, sign a card, AND cook and deliver a meal for one night (everyone was asked to rotate nights for two weeks) for the family of a co-worker who had lost a parent, when 6 months before, my sister had received only a card at work after we lost both of our parents in a tragic event. No one was being intentionally hurtful, but it was unkind, all the same.
And last, I hate being pressured to give at work! My husband is unemployed — I’ll give for my family and close friends, but please, don’t ask me to give for every person at work who has a happy event! I have a tight budget and I must stick to it.
My vote is no work showers, period, and a clear standard for bereavements.


Stacey Frith-Smith October 22, 2013 at 12:13 pm

It’s always sad to see the generous intentions of others thwarted by lack of consideration. Showers at work can be a nice break from the normal business of the hour but are so often fraught with disagreements and lack of commonsense modesty (two showers?) that they really are better left to those who are close enough to the couple to want to celebrate them on their own time and expense- (in other words, no showers at work). No drama, no “but they did a party for HER, what about MEEEE?”, no thuggery in soliciting contributions and no arguing over who has to clean up or who has to remain behind to man the phones and what not while the shower is going on. The OP said it herself concerning the wedding- shower given but no wedding invitations were forthcoming (because the ones hosting the shower should be close enough to the honorees to be certain of receiving a wedding invitation and the hostesses should be close enough to the bride and her family to restrict the guest list to those attending the wedding… in the case of baby showers…if you don’t want to limit it to one per customer, at least hosting it on your own time keeps it squarely in the social sphere and out of the office.)


Jewel October 22, 2013 at 12:26 pm

In my opinion, it’s best not to allow any showers on premises and/or sponsored by the company. The potential for hurt feelings between the “have” and the “have nots” is just way too high. Plus, all the planning and implementing takes away from productivity. This thread is not the first time I’ve read about people who shoulder most of the burden of remembering everyone else’s special occasion just to not find out they’re not given the same consideration by others. What a terrible way to damage morale and possibly lose great employees.


Asharah October 22, 2013 at 12:45 pm

@Ergala, does your coworker who accused you of copying another coworker who’s girlfriend was also having a boy have any understanding of how reproductive biology works? The babies gender is determined at conception and cannot be changed on a whim. Not to mention it’s the daddy’s contribution that is solely responsible for the baby’s gender. Maybe coworker needs a refresher course in sex ed to realize what an idiot she sounds like.


June First October 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm

@Hannah–That is TERRIBLE! I’m glad you got angry by that obvious snub.
@PJ–I like the card option.

Some of the places I’ve worked have had this rule: employees are responsible for bringing in treats to celebrate their OWN milestones. I was thinking of bringing in treats when we learned we’re having a boy. The take on this is, “Hey, everyone! Share our good news!”
Of course, before I knew about office politics and the like, I thought it was similar to elementary school, where you (used to) bring in treats for your class on your birthday. I don’t think they allow that in some schools anymore, due to food allergies.


Jamie October 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm

My office is generally pretty cool about parties. They do monthly/quarterly birthday parties paid for by the office and will allow a birthday lunch to be expensed for EAs and Associates. We do baby showers also paid for by the office. I don’t know that they would do multiple for the same person but they have don’t them for people that already have kids. The mother/father to be gets a small present and a rather generous gift card also from the office. We had mine over lunch and I received several gifts from work-friends but not at the party.
The only collection that we ever do at our office is for a Christmas present for the receptionist, which is cool. That way he gets one really nice gift rather than a bunch of little ones.


Lauren October 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm

Over the years, I have come to the conclusion (like several other posters) that office parties should be generic monthly events.

I love cake, and I happily attend most (MOST) office parties….but I’ve worked in some places where it was overly skewed to favor certain employees. Right before I left a job recently, I was forced (Lauren, you have to come!) to attend one lady’s 50th birthday party. Several other people at work reached this milestone and it was not noted, but they had to have a huge bash with speeches for this woman’s party. It was unbelievable. She was a pretty close friend of mine, but the whole thing made me really uncomfortable. It was way, way over the top. How did everyone else feel who had worked there longer who had never had a party thrown for them?

As for showers at work, are you freaking kidding me? Take an anonymous collection, and stop bothering people who have more on their mind than your baby/wedding. I am getting married next year, and if anyone throws me a shower, either at work or privately, I am going to lose it. I’m a working adult who can buy my own things, and I have no desire to have people who barely know me be forced to fork out their hard-earned money get me an unnecessary gift. I love buying people gifts, but the thought that someone would resent having to run out to buy me something because of some twisted societal expectation makes me cringe.

And I wish people would consider this: I have been in the position in the past that the $5 expected donations for group gifts was actually hard for me, and the thought that some poor kid just out of school and paying back loans is forced to miss lunch so he or she can contribute to the group gift just angers me. I think that if you want to (and easily can) give a gift, give one, and it should be received gratefully. If you don’t want to , or if it causes and hardship, just skip it. I have spent a fortune on gifts for friends and family in my lifetime, but I will never, ever expect repayment in kind.


Tracy October 22, 2013 at 2:06 pm

Am I the only one who finds it strains believability that a man would not tell anyone at his workplace that his child had been born because his wife didn’t want to mess up her shower?


SweetPea October 22, 2013 at 2:44 pm

First, although it does seem like the husband was unwilling to let them know about the baby being born, I would initially grant the mother some leeway. You say yourself, OP, that the baby wasn’t due for a “a couple of weeks” at the time of the shower, which implies that the baby was born early. I’d grant the mother missing the shower, although, yes, it would’ve been nice to know.

As for rules about giving for a baby shower – I’ve never felt pressured or taken advantage of for a work function. You give what you feel is appropriate, if you give at all. I’ve never felt that they shamed anyone. Maybe I’ve been lucky.

I also have never been to a shower for anything other than a 1st baby. 1st baby for a particular couple doesn’t count if there were prior children.


AnnaMontana October 22, 2013 at 2:53 pm

At my workplace we have a couple of different ‘rules’. Ours are as follows:
1. General announcement that employee is having a baby/getting married/adopting a child/whatever, placed prominently on our timetable (I’m a teacher) with room for people to write congratulations messages underneath.
2. The employee’s line manager delivers a card and envelope around the workplace. There’s no obligation to give any cash and it’s usually left on your desk for a couple of days, unless you pass it on. Essentially no one can tell who’s given what. Everyone signs the card and leaves a message.
3. Line Manager buys something appropriate to the occasion with the money that has been collected.
4. Everyone in the building is invited to a Friday ‘luncheon’. If people want to come, they show up, if not then they don’t. This is a routine thing for our workplace (to go out for lunch on a Friday) so most people expect it.
That’s it. Simple. And no one expects anything, no one really makes a fuss, but we all do ensure the birthday girl or whoever, has a great time!


fountainof October 22, 2013 at 3:18 pm

I have often found IRL that the motivation of the person who wants multiple showers is the attention and not the gifts. Often the hurt feelings of others that are left out or don’t get the same shower experience are due to feeling less important. This is why I think this type of thing is an all or nothing thing.

At my current firm we celebrate all birthdays the same, with a cake that the firm pays for. It works out okay.


Library Diva October 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm

I’d say that another rule is that showers should be as inclusive as possible. If you work at a small office, everyone should be invited. If you work at a large company, everyone in the department should be invited. If the honoree has any close friends in other departments, there should be flexibility enough to invite those people too, but it shouldn’t get out of hand. No inviting people who don’t know the honoree from Adam. No sending out an all-company email asking for contributions from all 500 employees across all 10 area sites. But also, no inviting half the department and excluding the other half.

It’s a shame that these are so tricky. At my old workplace, our staff was unusually close, and our department had a simple rule: everyone celebrated everything. For birthdays, one person could either go out and buy treats and a card themselves and circulate it or ask for donations from everyone for it. We celebrated the imminent arrival of only one baby while I was there, but we held a shower that everyone was invited to and chipped in on a large gift card. It more or less worked out, although there was drama a few times.


Marozia October 22, 2013 at 3:41 pm

I agree with Admin’s and @Michele K’s rules.
I’m inclined to step over the etiquette mark here, BUT, why don’t Bob & Nancy have their own ’employer/employee shower’ and invite all their work colleagues over to see the new baby.
The workplace has done their bit for them both and in this way, no one will be left out, and Nancy won’t be seen as vulgar or greedy.


JackieJormpJomp October 22, 2013 at 4:11 pm

I’m wondering if they didn’t mention the birth because there were complications? After all, there is no way–unless you work at the tackiest place alive–the shower would be cancelled and gifts returned just because the baby had come early, and I doubt they’d have feared that. I suspect they had personal reasons for keeping the birth quiet (maybe the grandparents didn’t know yet, even!). No one is obliged to tell you they gave birth. They are allowed to remain private about this, even if you did get them a set of bibs. Early days after a birth can be very sensitive.


Gracie Lou Freebush October 22, 2013 at 4:27 pm

NO WORK SHOWERS. For 14 years I worked at an office where the employees were mostly young and female and I got invited to a lot of showers. I stopped going to them because I got tired of buying presents for people I didnt know well who I’d never see again after they had their baby. Around age 30 I decided I’d only go to showers for genuine friends so declined a lot of them. If that makes me a raving bitch; then fine. Ill own that. But thats a decision i made for myself. If a shower is held at work it’s hard to politely decline if you don’t want to go. It’s painfully obvious while you sit there at your desk while others get up and go.


Anonymous on this one October 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm

I was recently emailed a surprise invite to a wedding shower on a Friday that was supposed to happen that following Monday. The invite only went out to a small number of employees at the company so I really hope that they somehow knew we were all on the guest list.

I have been spending weeks putting together one of the best, in my opinion, wedding gifts I’ve ever gifted. The thought of rushing out to buy a last minute gift for a party that was basically thrust on me at the last minute was galling. So I chose to decline the invite and still feel like an absolute heel since few people were invited and my absence was noted. It’s amazing how people have the power to make us feel guilty if we let them.

But I must really say that I can’t stand solicitations of any sort on the job. I’m constantly being bombarded–on a daily basis–for requests for donations and contributions to cheap useless fundraisers for the company. I really love how they push it on us through multiple emails, posters, and brochures and tell us how they’ll “conveniently” take it straight from our paychecks. When did this become okay at the workplace?


Barbarian October 22, 2013 at 5:16 pm

Ideally, the employer should underwrite these occasions. The employees should not be asked to contribute because it causes ill feelings and downgrades teamwork if one employee has a nice celebration funded by coworkers and another is passed by or acknowledged in only a paltry way.
One monthly celebration for birthdays, weddings, retirement, babies, etc with a cake, cards to sign.
For babies and weddings, the employer should provide a gift card of a set amount-one baby/one wedding only.

I think that this system is a reasonable plan to invest in peace in the workplace. The cost to the employer is well worth it.

If the employees want to have a shower, let them do it off company property and off company time.

To me, having a baby is a lifestyle choice. It is a big pain to be asked to contribute to a spa trip for a coworker who has had her 3rd child in 3 years. I have rarely seen thank you cards for gifts. Some coworkers get saddled with working overtime due to maternity leaves and pregnancy complications, so they are none too cheerful about going to a shower in their limited spare time or buying a gift.

If some of the recipients were to somehow know of the ill will with which their gifts are given, they might think twice about coworkers giving them showers.


MichelleP October 22, 2013 at 5:23 pm

Not to change the subject, Gracie Lou Freebush, but I love the name even though my IQ just dropped ten points!!

NO Work showers, please!! I worked as a bank teller for years and now that I’m a nurse I’ve dealt with too many of these. Work is work, friends are friends, social life is social. Keep ’em separated. I’ve made friends at work, but we socialized on our own time.

Once as a young bank teller, I worked with a financial rep whom I didn’t care for. She was rude. She came to work mad at her husband for some reason, I think for forgetting her birthday. Her birthday was days before this. They passed around a card for her asking for money to buy her a cake and a gift, right on the teller line. I signed the card and didn’t put any money in, just discreetly passed it along, but it was obvious I didn’t put money in. She made twice as much money as I did and I honestly had no desire to fund her “cheering up” gift. To be fair, she was appreciative, but it was just an awkward situation. I didn’t eat any cake, since I didn’t contribute, but somehow ended up being the one to clean up the break room after it. If we all got cakes and cards every time someone came in mad at their husband, good grief we’d have them every day!

My other pet peeve is contributing to a workplace party and having people who didn’t show up and load plates, often to the point to where people who did contribute didn’t get anything.

Just keep them out of work. It causes nothing but problems.


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