Celebrate Birthdays at The Office With Spoonful of Comfort
Birthdays are a time of universal celebration. But sometimes it’s difficult to know how to celebrate appropriately in the professional world.
Whether you’re representing the company or yourself, selecting a gift and writing an accompanying message can be daunting. You want to say something personal that reflects well on them (and on your company’s intentions).
In your personal life, sending someone a gift or a card is a chance to show them how much they mean to you. Gifting is one of the five main “love languages” to demonstrate appreciation and strengthen interpersonal connections.
Similar rules follow in the professional world. Celebrating a colleague or employee’s birthday is a chance to show a person how much you value them. A simple card from a co-worker can make people feel more comfortable and satisfied at work. And it can be a simple, kind way to build business relationships outside the office.
So how do you successfully write a card and give a present in the business world? How do you navigate the challenges of corporate gifting policies, but still make sure your card’s message hits home without being overly emotional? Here are some ideas to help.
The Power of Birthday Gifts and Cards
Giving gifts and cards during birthdays is commonplace in most parts of the world. In fact, in many parts of Asia, gift giving is a crucial part of corporate culture. A small present with a well-worded card can strengthen existing relationships, and form the foundation for new ones.
Once you give a colleague a present or card, you have something to build on for future conversations, which could lead to improved relationships at work. Of course, there are certain rules and best practices to follow if you want to cultivate the right results. For instance:
- Choose gifts wisely: Don’t just buy the most expensive thing you can think of to show off. In the workplace, it’s better to focus on thoughtful, practical, or useful gifts. In our other posts, you can find some great ideas for employee gifts and company team gifts. One option could be to give a gift related to the person’s role, like a new calculator for an accountant, or pen set for a writer.
- Know your gifting policies: Different workplaces take unique approaches to gifting etiquette. With this in mind, checking in on your environment's rules is important. For instance, executives might be required to stick to a certain budget when buying presents for an employee. Check with HR if you’re not sure.
- Decide if group or individual gifting is best: Sometimes, the best way to strengthen a relationship is to give another colleague a gift and card as an individual. However, sending an individual gift can also be perceived poorly in some circumstances. For instance, if you’re giving a manager a gift for their birthday, it might be a good idea to contribute to a group present from all employees to avoid looking like you’re “sucking up.”
- Get the timing right: Even if everyone knows it’s a certain person’s birthday within the office, it’s probably not a good idea to make a big deal out of it during work. Gifts and cards should usually be exchanged during the lunch break, or at the end of the day. This helps to reduce distractions in the workplace.
How to Write a Birthday Card
While gifts are an excellent way to make a co-worker feel valued on their birthday, cards can have a significant impact too. What you write in a birthday card can make all the difference to how a gift is perceived. If you just write your name on the card, it looks like you haven’t dedicated much time and effort to the gifting process. However, a personalized message shows genuine compassion and thoughtfulness. So, how do you get started?
Personalize the message:
First, make sure the message is unique to the individual. That means adding a little more than just “happy birthday.” Include a message that’s relevant and personal to them alone!
You could talk about how long the person has been with the business, when you first met them, or what they’ve recently accomplished. For instance: “We hope you have a fantastic 40th birthday. This is your third birthday with us at [company] and we couldn’t be more thrilled to include you as part of the team.”
Try not to go on for too long:
If you have a lot of fond memories with a colleague or co-worker, it might be tempting to include a lot of them in your birthday message. However, a card isn’t a letter, so don’t ramble on. Get straight to the point, with a short and sweet message.
This is especially important with a card from multiple people (you don’t want to run out of room!), but remember, a personalized message will mean the most.
A birthday is a wonderful opportunity to show each employee or colleague how much you value them. Try to keep things on equal footing. For example, if you use a message like: “Your birthday is the perfect time to remind you of how valuable, you are to our company. Best wishes for another year!” your cards to other co-workers should share a similar sentiment. Someone getting a dashed-off “Happy Birthday” on its own might make them wonder what they’ve done wrong, and even feel disconnected from the rest of the team.
Know the audience:
Making sure your birthday card messages don’t sound generic means thinking carefully about the person receiving the card. You could include a simple, light-hearted joke if you know the recipient has a great sense of humor. However, you may want to stick to basic, warm messages for more straightforward people.
If you don’t know the person you’re writing to very well, then you won’t be able to tailor your message by talking about their specific interests and hobbies. However, you can share a positive sentiment such as “I hope we have more opportunities to work together in future.”
Keep it professional and friendly:
Even if you have a relatively strong relationship with someone in the workplace, it’s important not to get too emotional with a message. Remember proper etiquette when celebrating other employees in the workplace, and keep it professional. Focus on warm, genuine messages, rather than anything too personal:
- “Thanks for another year with us!”
- “You’re not just a colleague—you’re a friend.”
- “You make the workplace better with your [example, smile, hard work, etc.]”
- “Here’s to another year of working together.”
- “We appreciate you every day of the year, but today’s a special occasion.”
- “Thanks for your great work—and your even greater spirit.”
- “I can’t imagine a workplace without your creativity.”
- “We couldn’t have [mention specific team achievement] without you!”
- “You’re always giving to everyone else—so here’s a little something for you.”
- “We hope you enjoy your well-earned break” [Great if you included a gift card to a restaurant or similar venue.]
- “We’re not just creating a company together—we’re creating memories.”
What to Avoid When Writing a Birthday Card
When writing a birthday card or choosing a gift for a colleague, make sure you stick to the etiquette rules of your company. Although you might make jokes about someone being “ancient” in your friend group, that might not go down well with the people in your workplace.
If you’re struggling to know what to write, it’s usually a good idea to consider a group gift and card from you and multiple other employees. This way, you can all contribute to sharing the correct sentiment. In general, you should usually avoid:
- Extremely expensive gifts, as this can make some people feel uncomfortable
- Gag gifts such as a blow-up cane or rocking chair
- Novelty cards showing the wrong age, or making inappropriate jokes
- Anything which might be connected to gender, race, or cultural stereotypes
- Signs of favoritism, such as “you’re my favorite colleague”
Celebrate Birthdays in Style
Birthdays offer an incredible opportunity to develop more meaningful relationships with your colleagues, employees, and even customers and vendors in the workplace. It says a lot about positive company culture, and birthday wishes can make employees feel more valued and connected to the rest of the team.
At Spoonful of Comfort, we love birthdays! We’ve got a few gift packages just for that occasion—a celebratory soup package and cookies by the dozen—that come with a card and confetti. Send one to someone’s home or make it an event to share at the office. However you choose to celebrate, make building relationships this next year one to grow on!