Tips For Celebrating Birthdays If You Don’t Work In The Oval Office

Today is President Obama’s 50th birthday, and he’s celebrating with two private birthday parties at the White House. A party this afternoon will be hosted by his staff, and then tonight he’ll celebrate with close friends and family. Cheers!

That’s all well and good for the Oval Office. But what about the rest of us squares? What’s the etiquette for celebrating your own birthday in the office? (If you’re in politics, all the rules go out the window because you’ll manage to celebrate incorrectly no matter what you do.)

The best advice is probably to go along with the prevailing system in your office culture: If your coworkers want to eat cake in your honor, dig in and be a good sport, even if you normally shun extra attention (and/or calories). Birthday celebrations can be a nice reprieve from the humdrum inanities of cubicle life. Remember the episode of  The Office where Jim thinks he’s doing everyone a favor by combining several birthday parties into one – and then it turns out everyone hates him for it?

Then again, if the day passes without mention, move on. It’s an obvious no-no to throw the shindig yourself, or make it appear that you’re fishing for a bigger to-do than the usual. I’m reminded of a friend from high school who would carry around an enormous cluster of helium balloons all day, and then insist she was “so embarrassed” by the ensuing fuss. Save the desperate cries for attention for the weekend.

Photo: Brand X Pictures

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    • Rachel

      Of course you should celebrate yourself! I’m not talking making everyone spend the afternoon wearing cardboard cone hats and giving speeches, but at every office I have ever worked at, on your birthday, you bring cake. It’s a requirement.

      People love cake, and more than cake, they love FREE cake. So in every office where I have worked, the rule that on your own birthday you bring cake/cookies/a fruit tray (if you are a healthy type) and send an email inviting people to stop by your desk for a free treat.

      I think that it is un-intrusive, a great way to hear lots of “Happy Birthday”s and of course, great bonding for all the office-mates. At my current job there is a birthday sheet that gets circulated so everyone knows all of the “cake days”, if someone ever skips this tradition, people notice!