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There are plenty of ways to celebrate an employee's professional achievements, but only a birthday yields an opportunity to recognize an employee for who she is. Celebrating a coworker's birthday not only shows that you appreciate him, it also helps build camaraderie between team members. Plan your celebration with the primary aim of employee recognition and increased morale.
A simple birthday acknowledgement effectively shows an employee his colleagues care. To ensure no birthdays are missed, keep a birthday binder with a card for each employee placed in a designated monthly folder. Alternatively, turn a manila file folder into a card. Decorate it and pass it around for your team to sign, doodle on and express well wishes. The result is both functional and a lasting reminder of the special day. Company newsletter announcements, signs or banners in the honoree's workspace and birthday e-cards also serve as hassle-free ways to acknowledge office birthdays.
Birthday food works well as long as you take coworkers' allergies and diet goals into consideration. One sure-fire way to offer food without offense is to place it in your break room, send out a group email letting everyone know it's there, and let employees come on their own time to enjoy it. If deadlines are tight, consider offering muffins, donuts and coffee during your morning meeting and you'll waste no time. If you want your team members to bring in homemade treats for the celebration, make sure they know it is a volunteer-only occasion. Not everyone wants to feel obligated for something work-related outside work -- even if brownies are involved. For smaller teams, a birthday lunch or after-work treat may suffice.
Acknowledgement and food are enough to make an employee feel valued on her special day, but if gifts are on your agenda, make sure you do them right. As a general rule, you can't go wrong with a gift card, restaurant gift certificate or anything else that fits into the birthday card. This shows you care and also lets the employee buy what she wants, when she wants. If you choose to collect gift funds from your team members, beware. Some employees might be struggling financially or simply not value the cause as much as you. To keep pressure low, write the names of team members on an envelope and pass it around the office with the birthday card. Request each employee to check her name off whether she contributed or not.
If your company has a large number of workers, you might find that you spend way too much time organizing birthday celebrations. If so, consider hosting a monthly birthday celebration to honor all workers born in that particular month. Not only will your team have something to look forward to every month, you'll also save time and money. Just keep in mind that some employees might not want their birthdays acknowledged at all. Respect their wishes and include an opt-out form in their employee welcome packets or initiation materials. Birthday celebrations are only fun when the guest of honor is happy.