Corporate Birthday Ideas

Corporate birthday ideas hit rock-bottom.

Shocking but TRUE!

Although Raphael was not there on his birthday his co-workers got him a cake, blew out the candles...and ate it too!

And when he returned...they had another cake. Couldn't miss his "birthday" now, could they?!


Better Business Birthdays
7 Habits of Highly Effective Birthday Rebels
Navigating the Birthday at Work minefield.

Yes, Raphael's celebration is like out of the pages of the National Enquirer.

The office cake carousel usually gets a full work out during the year. It seems to be as far as corporate birthday ideas go in some places. Depending on who is in the mix and what initiative they show or are allowed to show, this can either make for an exciting diversion or a valid reason for, as they say in Australia,   to take "a sickie" [NB: sickie = day off work for apparent illness]

The whole birthday thing at work is a very gray area. The clash of expectations and the need to show no favoritism given the diversity of the staff is a real hot zone of emotion and, sadly, stupidity.

Relax though. Here is the an answer to all who have asked:

"IAren't there any decent corporate birthday ideas anymore?"

Yes, there is.

Firstly,  some timely thoughts about...

What we want to AVOID: The Cake Conspiracy

Something is better than nothing. Right?


Nothing -- repeat -- NOTHING! says you have no imagination or you don't really care like a store-bought birthday cake. If the ritual isn't meaningful to the person don't do it! Put some thought into it.

What's worse than a cake...?

There was a time -- I hope I forget it -- when I experienced the lamest of all lame corporate birthday ideas. Four people and one cake! How nice that our fathers shed sperm 'round the same calendar time and our mothers gave agonizing birth in the same week of the year! SO!!?? Ripped-off! I have to share your birthday wishes with these bozos? I am not impressed. I have heard of doing more with less but that is ridiculous. 

Yes, I hear the CEOs and VPs saying: "it's not our responsibility to organize cakes and corporate birthday ideas  etc., this IS a business you know!" No it isn't, in work-speak your core business-KPI-Milestone-Blah-Blah. But think of the return on your small investment in productivity terms.

It's part of the culture, your business folk-lore and the smooth running of a social group called a place of business.

And it takes NO EFFORT.

Replacing the Cake Conspiracy

Be mindful of the landscape. Think of call centers. Hard to sing happy birthday to a person who receiving a complaint call.

Surprises are out too. They will be expecting something. And the grapevine no doubt will add to the spilling of the beans. Have you ever tried to act surprised? Not even Jack Nicholson stubbing his toe can act surprised. It's very hard.

So, roll up you sleeves and become... a Corporate Birthday Ideas Rebel.


The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Birthday Rebels include the following:

You make noise quietly.
They really have their finger on the pulse. A good first action could be to lobby staff to Ban the Cake and then go under cover to work your birthday-ops mayhem.

You put your Hand Up.
Showing initiative comes easy to Rebels. So too does ownership. They like doing things for others.

You Challenge the existing power cartels.
Those who don't like social office change OR who think their way is the way will clash with the rebels. Bring it on!

You Engage others.
These rebels have social influence. All you need is 5%!! Once 5% of the staff love the idea, they will convince 20% and the revolution is here!

You Acknowledge and Validate others.
Understand the importance of this. Most business -- in my business coaching experience -- don't get this. They will acknowledge and validate CONDITIONALLY. And they wonder why "good staff are hard to find". Their conditional approach extends to customers too. They treat them well when they have money in hand. And they wonder why the business never seems to have enough customers...always looking for  new ones is the sign that the existing ones have been forgotten. No wonder they "walk".

You are Persistent.
Don't allow the "don't make a fuss for me" syndrome to take root.

You know your Main Mission
..allow the Birthday Celebrations to enhance the work place and take the time to POINT THIS OUT TO MANAGEMENT.

Other suggestions...

  • Talk to lots of people every day. Communication is the key.
  • Build anticipation rather than the surprise.
  • Public acknowledgement is a good option..20 seconds of standing applause directed at he b-day person is all it takes.
  • Keep it different and special. Look for ideas and ways to do this. Keep a file. label it: Our Corporate Birthday Ideas
  • Everyone plays! Everyone! How do you feel when you get left out or forgotten?
  • Donations to a charity in lieu of a cake. Have a target for the year and celebrate the handing over with the money at a time that is appropriate to the charity. Celebrate that!
  • Fuzzy Boxes - people get to place an anonymous, caring -- underline caring -- warm fuzzy note in the box. Must be genuine and not a place for romance or abuse. This could be left up all year. The concepts of giving and receiving can be seen in this activity. Those with no messages get perfect feedback. 21C twist? - do it with email and a web page.

The birthday culture at work is only a reflection of the other cultures present in the business: Customer Service, Sales and Marketing, Management, Quality Assurance, etc.. With a focus on diversity in world corporations presently, it makes beautiful sense to examine the diversity of how well we manage employees. This is at the heart of the Corporate Birthday Ideas revolution.

If you sign up as a Corporate Birthday Ideas Rebel remember:

...keep your head low, wear a smile and have a few standby candles in the stationery cupboard --  just in case.

Neal Lohse © 2006
Incredible Things! Publishing

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