when attempts to recognize employees go horribly wrong: stuffed bears, birthday snubs, and more

On last week’s post about the person who received a stuffed bear for her 10-year work anniversary while other people received spa days and overnight trips, commenters suggested we talk more about “recognition fails.”

Here are a few of the stories shared in that thread:

“I once received a coffee cup from an employer as a thank-you for dropping everything and working on a time sensitive project that didn’t even fall in my departments scope of work. The project, if uncompleted, meant the company wasn’t in compliance and that the government could levy a six-figure fine against the company. The thank-you we received was a company-branded coffee cup. It was one of those chalkboard cups that could be written on with regular chalk and then rinsed and re-written. For months I would write a different phrase or word on the cup that meant ‘cheap gift’ in a foreign language. And then I prominently displayed it so that anyone walking by would be able to see it. I know several people used to use google translate to find out what I’d written every day. My boss (whose idea it was to give these cups to the team who worked on the project) was one of those people. The next gift was better – lunch on the company dime and a $25 Visa gift card for every person on the team.”

“When my former ‘big boss’ retired a few years ago, our direct group of nine was at the event. During his speech, big boss personally thanked and mentioned seven folks, by name, and left me and one other employee out. He was going off a written speech. And you know, the other seven had all been there longer than the two of us, I’ll admit. I’d only been with the group for seven years at that point, and my coworker for four. So, newbies, right? Easy enough to forget.”

“For my five-year gift at a huge, well-respected company, I got … a booklet saying congratulations that had several pages inside telling me why said company is so great. It was so insulting that I would much rather have gotten nothing.”

“Department head decided to hold an office birthday party for his favorite employee. Cake, a few gifts, and champagne! We were standing around enjoying the cake and booze when the conversation got around to who favorite employee shared a birthday with … you know, famous people. He mentioned a couple of people and then I realized – we shared the same birthday. I brazenly said, ‘Oh, you share your birthday with [other famous person] because so do I.’ Everyone turned to look at me and a few gasped. I put down the cake and walked out of the office.

Really if you’re going to hold an office birthday party for your favorite, and require others celebrate your favorite’s birthday too, make the effort to ensure your other staff aren’t so deliberately and obviously snubbed.”

So … what recognition fails have you experienced/witnessed/committed? Share in the comments.

{ 1,204 comments… read them below }

  1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

    OldJob liked giving company-branded totchkes every now and then, mostly at random. I still use the mug they gave every new hire, because it’s got a broad base and it’s hard to knock over at my desk. That one’s great.

    Less great was the combo pen/stylus. It said “thumbs up for your great work!” and the stylus end was supposed to be a hand giving the thumbs-up gesture.

    Only someone failed QA, and badly, because with the way the lettering was printed on the pen, it was a thumbs-down.

      1. General Ginger

        Countess, maybe the stylus direction wasn’t intentional, and they really meant to say “thumbs up” for your “great” work! :)

    1. Amadeo

      At the newspaper I started at almost 10 years ago (cripes!) all employees got similar plastic mugs with the wide base and lids. I was handed one my first day there. We called them our ‘sippy cups’ because they were intended to be the only drinks vessel we were allowed at our desks because we couldn’t spill them. It wasn’t enforced, but it was a bit condescending with its intention.

      1. Raider

        I don’t know. I shared an office with a coworker who knocked over her can of Coke on a near-daily basis. (After 50 times in a row you’d think she wouldn’t still gasp and have that same expression of shock, but yes, yes she did.) Newsrooms seems especially susceptible to eating/drinking/crumbs/spills at the desk, just because of how news needs to be reported as it happens.

        1. fieldpoppy

          I have ruined 3 laptops, 2 phones and about 4 keyboards over my computing and liquid lifetime. I need a sippy cup.

          1. Salty

            Best thing I ever bought for work was a big glass beer mug from the dollar store. It held an entire can of soda plus ice and was so sturdy and bottom heavy it was almost impossible to knock over. I did not use it for coffee but it was probably good for that as well.

          2. Elizabeth the Ginger

            My sister bought some spillproof cups for my toddler for Christmas and thought they were so cool she got herself some, too – the toddler’s are smaller and have two big handles and my sister’s are bigger and handle-less, but they’re otherwise the same! She likes them for taking with her when she walks her dog. Usually with iced coffee, but sometimes with wine…

            https://www.munchkin.com/miracle-360-deg-10oz-cup-white.html

            1. Artemesia

              The Lyric Opera provides sippy cups for wine and cocktails so you can take them into the theater. They add several dollars to the cost of the drink, so I just saved mine and take them along each time.

          3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            I have to admit, I found a sippy cup very useful in the past! My childhood cat was convinced that humans were keeping all the good water for themselves, and would knock over anything he suspected might contain a potable liquid. If I wanted to have a drink by my bed at night (which I did a lot of the time) it had better resist the cat tipping it onto the floor!

            1. Been There, Done That

              Sounds like a great idea. Tipping over your bedside water is bad enough, but when the nightstand is wicker…the liquid goes down and through…sigh

          4. Anonymous Ann

            I killed a few keyboards myself before I invested in a Contigo autoseal travel mug for my desk – best decision ever! Not only is it essentially impossible to spill from (a drop might sneak out if I do knock it down…which I still do!), but it keeps coffee scalding hot all day long (I think it’s even better at keeping things cold).

        2. Turquoisecow

          When I was looking for a new bottle to bring to work either for water or other liquids, I specifically looked for something that was darn near spill proof. For Christmas, my husband got me a bottle with cats on it (because we both like cats) and it is basically a toddler’s cup. The part you drink out of will not release liquid unless you squeeze it lightly (ideally with your teeth), and I have thankfully not spilled any liquids.

      2. Lance

        Out of curiosity, how’s it condescending? Is it the style of the lid, or merely the ‘here’s something you’re not likely to spill’ notion? Because, to be perfectly honest, I’d be more than fine with having drink containers that are hard to spill around the office.

        1. ExcelJedi

          I think it’s condescending when you add that it’s the only thing you’re supposed to have at your desk. It’s nice to have until it’s mandated.

          (Also, what about people like me, who always have a water bottle AND cup of coffee or tea at my desk at any given time?)

          1. Totally Minnie

            But it’s better than having a workplace where employees are only allowed a spill proof drink container and the company doesn’t provide one. At least this way the staff don’t have to spend their own money to fulfill a work requirement.

            1. ExcelJedi

              TBH, I think that’s pretty of condescending and wrong-headed, too. :/ Yes, the place that provides the sippy cups and then requires them is less wrong than the place that just requires them….but neither one are right, IMHO.

              1. Artemesia

                Are you comfortable with employees having to pay to replace the computers they destroy with spilled drinks. I know of so many cases of keyboards and laptops being totaled by spilled cokes and coffees. Some places don’t allow drinks at all at desks. Non spill cups seem reasonable and providing them considerate.

                1. Indoor Cat

                  One unexpected perks of getting obsessed with bubble tea when I had to cut fancy starbucks drinks from my budget (and high caffeine drinks from my life): bubble tea is impossible to spill. The cover fits perfectly around the straw and is permanently attached to the cup.

                  Obviously, this is bad for the environment since the cups are single-use, but I have dropped my tea twice today with zero damage to anything.

                2. Ego Chamber

                  “Non spill cups seem reasonable and providing them considerate.”

                  So, funny story along these lines: I worked for a place that had the non-spill-cups-only rule—which was fine. And they provided a branded non-spill cup—which was also fine.

                  But! They cheaped-out when they ordered their branded non-spill cups, so their branded non-spill cups… weren’t. (If you tilted them, they leaked, and if you dropped them, the lid would launch itself off in some random direction. Best practical metaphor I’ve ever encountered irl.)

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        Ours were on a similar design, but it was pitched to us not as “spillproof” but simply as a company green initiative to avoid disposable coffee cups in the breakrooms. You got a free mug, and if you lost it, they’d give you another one with no questions asked. The shape making it hard to spill was simply there.

        OTOH, the company mugs NewJob gave out are much nicer, but the base is itty-bitty and I’m constantly afraid of tipping it over. That’s an at-home mug where it can sit on an end table, NOT the right-by-my-elbow-on-the-desk mug.

    2. Meg Murry

      That reminds me of a company I worked for that had pens printed up that said “Quality First” in large letters on them. Except the pens were complete crap and only about 10% of them actually worked at all. It sent the message “quality is super important, but apparently being cheap is even more important!”

      1. AnotherJill

        I worked for a company that had a big “core values” roll-out. All the employees got a pen with the company “core values” on it in a little window. When you clicked the pen the values would rotate and you would see the next one in the window.

        Most of the pens stopped working in short order. And then that CEO left and the new one had their own new big “core values” roll-out so it didn’t really matter. I think I went through three core values extravaganzas with the company.

        1. Anonicat

          Oh man. I didn’t even need to click on the link to guess how that went wrong. Designed and rubber-stamped by someone who hadn’t used a pencil in 30 years and had forgotten about…sharpeners.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago

          I never heard that story and omg it’s amazing. Thank you for sharing.

    3. Mistressfluffybutt

      Oh man, I had a company that was SUPER into the swag. To the point that every new hire got a branded duffel bag full of swag every time you get hired. Every big event- more swag. We would even get summer swag. I have branded t-shirts, branded mugs, a sweatshirt, my favorite bottle opener, water bottles, I had a pen and a notepad with branding on it. It was crazy; but it was all actually pretty nice stuff and everyone got the same. I still use the sweatshirt, lunch bag, duffel bag and bottle opener all the time.

  2. ZSD

    I’m always grateful to my high school German teacher for teaching us some life lessons as well as how to speak German, and one life lesson I got from her is to value people’s time and pay/thank them appropriately. We lived in a small town, and it seemed that everyone in town assumed that because she was the high school German teacher, she would perform English-German translation for all the businesses in town for free. She’d provided translations for businesspeople traveling internationally and never gotten paid. One time a company did send her a beautiful large poinsettia at Christmas, but, you know, she’d given hours of her time and they didn’t even *ask* her.

    1. Nana

      Speaking of poinsettias…C-suite DH got a big, honking poinsettia at Xmas one year from the company [There were many Jewish execs]. I suggested he re-gift it. The next year, same company gave him an Xmas wreath. His secretary was delighted with both.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Somebody our managers at OldExjob knew sent them a live Christmas wreath a couple of years in a row. It was my job to water it with a spray bottle. I didn’t mind, as it smelled magnificent. I’ve never been able to keep poinsettias alive much past the holiday, though I think they’re very pretty.

        1. Been There, Done That

          If you have a yard, you can set them out and they’ll grow. I once kept a poinsettia on my desk that stayed colorful for a year and a half. It got lots of artificial light and was nowhere near any natural light. I always wondered if that was the reason.

          1. Starwatcher

            Probably! Poinsettias are part of an enormous family of plants called spurges with members that range from low ground covers to large shrubs to things that look like succulents or cacti, and while some woodland spurges love shade and others at least tolerate it, poinsettias are from Mexico so they need a great deal more light and warmth than most houseplants, and probably less water than we tend to give them. In the Southwest, poinsettias can be planted outside and will grow into large bushes if they get enough light.

            1. rdb0924

              I bought a poinsettia plant at Rite-Aid (seriously) that I kept alive for almost a decade. I did so by keeping it in my kitchen and watering it once a week. Nothing else. Never even re-potted it.

        2. Kittyfish 76

          I’m late to the party, but I have a poinsettia in a pot at my desk going on about 4 years old now.

  3. Discordia Angel Jones

    One time I handed in my notice just after a colleague who had actually worked at my place of work (not an office) for less time than I had (about half the time actually). I was there for four years.

    On her last day she got a leaving card, flowers, and a gift and an announcement in the staff briefing.

    On my last day I got nothing.

    The response to my resignation was copied and pasted from the employee handbook about what I should do. No “thanks for your work, it was nice working with you” or anything.

    And it’s not like I wasn’t well liked or that I was a poor performer (I had been promoted in my time there), I just… didn’t suck up to the management.

    One of my colleagues did stand on a chair in the breakroom as I was on my way out the door and say “Oh captain my captain” though, so that was nice.

    1. Discordia Angel Jones

      If you can’t tell, by the way, this was four years ago and I am *still* a bit bitter about it. LOL

      1. Zeph

        I don’t blame you. I had a similar leaving experience where I was moving internationally for my partner’s work and the person that was leaving the same week was basically asked to leave instead of being fired for performance reasons.

      2. Lefty

        I don’t blame you… I’m still hurt after similar in-action by my previous managers when I departed.

        Normal departing actions- a photo mat is circulated for signatures, the managers called everyone together for a send-off, a novelty version of our product was given with customized notes about what the person had worked on over their tenure. It was a little predictable, but usually went well! I had participated in these for departing/promoted members who were there as little as 8 months.

        When I left after 6 years and 2 promotions, I was told that no one had considered doing a send off because I’d always been one of the people who “reminded the managers” to do them. I was staying in the same program, just transitioning to managing a filed office. I asked afterward if I could maybe get one of the novelty versions of our product to show my projects and to show off the product when I was in the field. Apparently the managers thought that if it wasn’t publically presented then there was no point in making one… Looking back, I guess I should have asked for a party and a gift? I’ve been asked by the same managers to contribute to these novelty versions for other employees, even after I left- I do so that the others don’t feel like something has been missed, but it still makes me wonder if the managers see how odd this is!

    2. Kate

      A similar thing happened to me when I moved on from a postdoc at a well-known university. My boss had gotten previous postdocs a really nice print of the campus and had everyone in the department sign it with well wishes. She didn’t do that for me. I’m not bitter because I know it was just her being scatterbrained rather than anything intentional, but I was still disappointed not to get one. A+ to your colleague though :)

      1. Discordia Angel Jones

        That’s a shame! :(

        I could have understood if it were scatterbrained-ness or something, but in my case it was either an intentional snub because I wasn’t one of the “cool kids” that sucked up to management, or just a complete lack of caring.

        That colleague and I are still friends though! :D

        1. Marthooh

          ‘One of my colleagues did stand on a chair in the breakroom as I was on my way out the door and say “Oh captain my captain” though, so that was nice.’

          I mean… money is the best compliment, of course, but this is heartfelt. I would treasure this memory. No wonder you’re still friends!

    3. Ingray

      I worked at a restaurant for 4 years before/during grad school. When I graduated and got a new job I gave my 2 weeks notice. The only response I got was “we thought it would take you longer to find a job after you graduated.” The boss didn’t even acknowledge my last shift. I didn’t expect a party but after 4 years I expected at least a “good luck” or something. (Almost 10 years ago and I’m still a little hurt.)

    4. Toxicity Survivor

      My last job was horribly inconsistent about this.

      Fergus leaves after 5 years and they have a big happy hour and give him a dopp kit (which was a last-second afterthought and he complained bitterly about it).

      An abusive and misogynistic employee who once brought an escort to the holiday party was kept on for 3 years despite complaints, and when he was finally fired the owner spoke highly of him and warned all of us not to say anything ‘negative’ about him.

      A flaky but generally harmless receptionist resigned after about a year due to family illness and personal issues, and the very same owner mocked her and made sarcastic comments when he told us she wasn’t working there anymore.

      I left after 5 years and was told not to tell anyone, even though they posted my job on the website an hour after I put in my notice. They didn’t make any attempt to document my duties or ask me for transfer of information until my second-to-last day. During my last week I ended up crying at my desk because they were handling my departure so poorly, and most of my coworkers thought I had done something wrong and maybe didn’t even know I was being ‘replaced’, because of their arbitrary gag order.

      Oh, and I invited a few people I liked from work to a happy hour after my last day, and one of the owners (who I’d had quite a bit of conflict with recently) stalked their calendars and crashed the happy hour. At least he paid, but he had this smug, boy-I-really-got-her smirk on his face the whole time.

      …man, every time I talk about that place I am reminded how awful they were to people. Basically just mean-spirited.

      1. JustaTech

        My work had a few bad periods where a lot of people left (separate from the yearly layoffs). At one point a whole lot of people were leaving for the same new shiny company and we had a lot of “going away” parties.

        Eventually this bothered some of the higher-ups, who said we couldn’t have going away parties “because it sounds like we’re happy they’re leaving”. Uh, no, we’re happy they’re off this sinking ship. (And it’s not like these were “work” parties, we went to a restaurant or bar after work.)

        So we stopped using work email to arrange the parties.

        1. Turquoisecow

          A not very well liked director left my current company recently, and the official word was that they couldn’t have a company going away party for him because he was going to a competitor. He left to work for another company in the same industry…4 states away. Due to that distance, our companies do not actually compete. I think it was more of an excuse than anything.

          The job before that (same industry) would usually just walk people out if they announced they were going to a(n actual) competitor. (Because that stopped them from passing on secrets?) So, a step forward?

      2. Sassmaster

        Your leaving story reminds me of my departure from a medical supply/home health company I worked for. They refused to give me a raise or trim down my job duties (I had gradually been made to take the place of 3 people and was managing not to mess up too badly). I had gone back to grad school and needed flexibility and they initially said OK but one day I was out and no one knew how to do anything so they panicked. I asked to have either a raise or an assistant and they said no. This had been an ongoing things for over a year and I hated this job. And my life. I had had it. I got another job the same day of our last discussion about how the center could no longer hold, somewhere I had worked before. They asked me for a month’s notice. This was not a manager level or anything where any more than two weeks notice would suffice. I caved and gave them 3 weeks. No attempt to get anyone hired or cross trained til I was 2 days from being outta there.

      3. m m

        I was leaving a supervisor job where I stayed for 5 years, on very good terms. I performed well and got promoted twice. Other employees usually got a goodbye lunch and a speech with coffee/cake later in the afternoon of the last day. I ended up organizing my own lunch with my manager and 4-5 close co-workers.
        On my last day I was packing my last belongings, and got called into the boardroom. The director gave a very generic speech, surprisingly so generic that I never forgot it, and I got a company-branded baseball cap and a flimsy sport bag. The director liked managing up and did his all to keep his own bosses happy, and never really paid attention to the people under him, unless they were single females under 35. On the way home, I stopped by a used clothing charity and dropped off the parting gifts. I wouldn’t even call that an attempt to recognise an employee, it was more as an afterthought. It was over 10 years ago and I moved on, but your story reminded me of it. Karma finally caught up to the director a few years ago and he was let go due to financial meddling.

    5. Wendy Darling

      When I resigned from my horrible job my boss told the administrative assistant to set up a meeting with me to get my laptop and stuff, and then never spoke to me again. I don’t think anyone else in the company knew I had resigned until I just stopped showing up one day — the company’s method for dealing with non-executives leaving was to send an email the day after their last day saying “Soandso is no longer an employee of Awfulcorp as of today.”

    6. Yvette

      Evidently they had blown farewell budget. Sorry that stinks. Maybe they were happy to see HER go but not you?

    7. The Photographer's Husband

      When I was in college, I worked at the college’s local chain of coffee/convenience stores. I went from barista to store manager within two semesters due to hard work and common sense (I think they liked that it was clear I actually cared about my work and wasn’t doing it just for beer money).

      I worked as a store manager for about a year, but then it came time to graduate and move on. My last shift, the central office had me scheduled to close the store on my own (usually an hour-long process with two people, but much longer on your own). When I called to see if they could send over someone to help, since there is usually an on-call to send to understaffed stores, they basically ignored my request and said I was on my own. Nice way to end my time there.

    8. Kathenus

      I feel your pain on this. I left a job where I was well-liked, in a role where I worked with staff in every department, in an organization that absolutely did really nice goodbye celebrations. I kept expecting to hear about mine being scheduled, but…crickets. Turns out someone said I had told them I didn’t want anything done (not only not true, but I had never talked to that person about my leaving at all), so they thought they were following my wishes. When the miscommunication was discovered they did some quick, really nice stuff at a staff meeting for me, which was thoughtful. Even so, it still stung, and obviously does a bit to this day.

      But an ‘oh captain, my captain’? How fantastic – congratulations to you on inspiring that person to think that way.

      One person I worked with at the above job wrote me an incredibly thoughtful note about how I had mentored her, and it’s still a prized possession.

    9. bebemochi

      This happened to me, although it was almost worse because the director of the theatre I was working at realized at the last moment that I wasn’t being recognized, and all he could think to say about me was that I was “a beautiful girl.” I think I would have preferred to be ignored.

    10. Mad Baggins

      On my last day at OldJob I got a card with messages (like everyone else) but the weird thing was, among the well-wishes was “I wish I had a chance to talk to you.” …From the person who sat next to me for months.

    11. Jess

      Still a bit bitter – I was about to go off for a year of maternity leave (had worked there for about seven years) and was supposed to have a baby shower send-off on my last day of work. It ended up also being the last day for an accounts contractor who had been there for less than a year. (And who was not, perhaps, the most-liked colleague. Efficient, yes but dear GOD was she abrasive!)

      Anyway, she ended up having a send-off afternoon tea on that day while I quietly finished up, then I had to come back into the office a couple of weeks later for my re-scheduled baby shower.

      I mean, my team did care for me and were very supportive and generous, but why was *I* the one rescheduled?

  4. I think therefore I am Anon

    Somewhat similar to the first one in the post in setup, I worked extra time for 2-3 weeks pulling out something that needed to be done, urgently, for a customer. Otherwise, there were penalty clauses. I was working evenings and weekends, and had very very little time for my family or myself. We got it done and the customer was pleased, and no penalties happened.

    My boss submitted for me to get the top “on the spot” type of reward from the company. It was officially only given when you had been on a long trip out of town and was compensation for, you know, missing out on life with your family and such. There was a gift card to a restaurant involved and I think something else (this was years ago) – it was worth $100 or $200 (I forget which).

    The company refused to do this, because I had not been out of town. Legitimate, if annoying. But they DID give me the reward level they thought appropriate, so I got to pick something from a gift catalog. I did the best I could, but still, a warming-style sauce crockpot (not even a cooker, just to keep sauces warm) is a big come-down from the other.

    I felt really appreciated by my boss. By the company overall, not so much.

    1. LouiseM

      To me this is a story about unfair compensation, not a cheap gift. The amount of late night work you were putting in means you should have been compensated at a high level, whether with a bonus or overtime depending on your situation. Even a much nicer gift would have been an empty gesture if your employer didn’t pay you well.

      1. Lily in NYC

        Must we argue semantics? Alison asked for “recognition fails” and this fits the bill.

        1. Lily in NYC

          Apologies, I misread your comment and thought you were telling OP that her submission doesn’t belong here because it wasn’t about a cheap gift.

      2. I think therefore I am Anon

        I had a good salary at the time, and was exempt. The work in this scenario was a lot more hours than was expected even during normal “crunch time” of exempt employees though. I think a bonus would have been nice too, but I also know those were almost never given out at this company. I just wish the HR initiative about appreciating employees had felt more, well, appreciative. $100-200 isn’t really enough compensation for that either, but it would have felt like a much bigger gesture than picking a gift from among a cheap set of gifts. What my boss wrote about my work made me happy, though, and it was taken into account at my review, as much as it could be.

    2. Collarbone High

      I had a similar situation where my company had a monetary award for “exceptional performance.” My boss nominated me on the basis of exceptional performance every day, and the company said no, this was for one-time performances.

      My boss asked if someone could do mediocre work all year and then get the award for doing one thing well, and the company said yes, that would be fine, but outstanding work every day didn’t qualify.

      1. Toxicity Survivor

        Reminds me of the toxic job I mentioned above. They instituted a ‘kudos’ system that would be relevant to your annual review, but the owner basically killed everyone’s use of it. At several meetings and even some 1:1s, he would complain and harangue people for not doing it right. And this was his attitude: don’t thank people for doing their job and doing it well. Only ever give kudos if it was truly ABOVE AND BEYOND AND AMAZING ONE-OFF STUFF. I thought that was absurd.

        Some people ignored him and kept using the kudos for whatever (including posting kudos as a way of sucking up). I got sick of giving genuine appreciation to people and then getting yelled at by the owner, so I started just sending private emails to people and CCing their manager when I noticed their excellent work.

        Oh, and the kudos never ended up really mattering to anyone’s reviews.

      2. Observer

        Did the person who said that at least pause for a moment after they said that? Does anyone realize just how absurd that is?

    3. Marthooh

      “… a warming-style sauce crockpot (not even a cooker, just to keep sauces warm) is a big come-down…”

      It shows how fondue they are of you!


      … never mind.

      1. I think therefore I am Anon

        !!!

        You are AWESOME.

        Thank you.

        I’ll just be over here giggling, and glad I didn’t have a mouthful of tea when I read this!

  5. CrystalMama

    I mean this with only respect but the way I was raised and the faith I practice tell me a gift is a Gift. Recognition is important but no one is entitled to an object with any kind of value – even if others may receive.

    1. Ah Non

      That doesn’t really work in the business world when to do that shows absolute favoritism of one person over another.

      1. LouiseM

        Agreed. The favoritism is what is problematic. I think it’s better to not give or expect gifts at all.

        1. Lumen

          I think these shouldn’t be considered in the same light as other ‘gifts’, though. This is about recognition at work, which it IS fair to expect, especially if the company sets that expectation.

          Many employers choose to recognize employees with gifts, but it’s not a ‘gift’ in the birthday or holiday sense. It’s meant to be a reward, which is explicitly transactional (regular gifts are not).

          And if the value of the reward does not equal the value of the work being rewarded, or the value of one person’s reward is higher than someone else’s for the same work, it’s pretty insulting.

    2. Minerva McGonagall

      In the personal sphere, this is a beautiful sentiment. In the workplace, however, gifts are compensation by another name.

      1. embertine

        I’d say even in the personal sphere, if, say, parents were extravagantly lavishing praise and presents on one child for minor things and utterly ignoring the other one achieving major life goals, that would be a problem.

        1. MuseumChick

          Agreed. Though I think in general, assuming that everyone involved is reasonable/not a jerk the sentiment is a good one. But what works in your own personal life does not always translate well to the business world. This is one of those cases.

        2. Applesauced

          Ugh…. when my sister graduated from college, our grandparents bought her a car. I got a check for $300. I awkwardly asked my dad if they forgot a zero (or 2) and felt terrible asking, but also…. that’s a BIG difference

          1. all aboard the anon train

            My maternal grandparents used to give out birthday/graduation/holiday checks and gave the most money to me, as the eldest and then the amount was smaller for both of my brothers. So, for example, I’d get $300, brother 1 would get $200, and brother 2 would get $100. The three of us just put all the money together and split it evenly.

            1. E*

              Your grandparents suck at gift-giving, but sounds like you had an awesome relationship with your brothers, so I would call that a win overall.

            2. Purple Megan

              My grandma gives her grandkids the dollar amount of the age they are turning. I think this kind of works because it’s easy to remember and pretty fair.

              1. Annie Moose

                It’s also never going to be an enormous amount of money–I’d be okay if I get $12 and my sister gets $16, but if I got $12 and my sister got $160?? That’s a big disparity!

                (my mom actually did the same thing for my cousins, but eventually had to implement of cap of $5/year. There are A Lot of cousins so this was necessary to avoid spending all my parents’ income on birthday presents!!)

              2. Toads, Beetles, Bats

                My grandmother did something similar, but tied the dollar amount to geographical proximity to her house (note: not frequency of visits, phone calls, in-person meetings, etc.). I have a double-digit number of cousins and we didn’t figure this out till it had been going on for years. She blew her cover when the oldest among us started going to college, which changed the dollar amounts, usually downward. We never said anything to her; she never said anything to us. It is one of my favorite mysteries.

                1. Tara2

                  Man, I would get so upset if my grandfather did this. Mostly because I live so far away but am the only grandchild that calls and visits him semi-regularly(visits once every couple of years, because that’s when I am in the same province as him). I call him many times a year to catch up, or more if there’s actually interesting things going on in my life, or I hear something about him that warrants a separate chat. None of my cousins visit him despite living fairly close (one visits her father who lives down the road from my papa, but doesn’t go to see him when she’s there).

                  I know he gives me more than the rest of my family, because my sister gets less (I haven’t mentioned this to her!). I feel bad for her, if not my cousins, because I think calling never occurred to her (no one in our family uses the phone much) and she doesn’t have a car like I do and she does live 2 hours drive away with no other way to get to where he lives. When he’s mentioned to me that no one else visits, I always try to mention that I bet my sister would if she could (she’s way more family-oriented than I am) but I’m not sure he takes that to heart.

              3. RUKiddingMe

                Also the 12 year old will (presumably) be a 16 year old one day so eventually it should all be even.

            3. Someone else

              I had a similar experience. Elderly Relative would give Male Child Relative 6-8 presents every birthday. I would get 1. And I kept trying to explain that I wasn’t rebuking my 1 or suggesting he should get less; just that the blatant difference and favouritsm was inappropriate. This apparently made me a bitch. At 10 years old.

              1. RUKiddingMe

                Well you should know, and should have known at age 10 apparently, that your lack of penis made you inherently worth less (or worthless ¯\_(ツ)_/¯).

                /s <—sorta

            4. Julia

              My older sister also got a car when I got a pile of books. But we’re 25 years apart in age and I appreciated the books much more (I don’t even drive) :D

              My parents and grandma have this other weird system where they have to be really “fair”, so when I got a gift, my younger brother got one as well, even if I was the one “deserving” the gift (occasion or life event). I guess that’s nice of them, but sometimes, it feels pretty weird. (It’s also extra weird because my parents are super unfair when it comes to distributing emotional “gifts”, as in he would get away with a LOT more than me and I would get punished.)

              1. RUKiddingMe

                With a 25 year age gap that’s a whole generation and what is/was now (income, jobs, life circumstances) is not likely to be the same a generation later. Cool that you were happy with the books though.

                My mom tried that thing of giving my younger (4 years) sister stuff on my special days. I remember my fifth birthday (sister not quite 1 yet) and she gave a present to ‘the baby’ so she wouldn’t ‘feel left out.’ Are you kidding me? A one year old has no clue what’s happening, doesn’t understand that their older sibling just got something new/extra, and will not feel ‘left out’ no matter how you try to explain it to your five year old Mom!

                Apparently I made a big enough issue about it, at age five, that was one of the few times in our association my mother paid attention to me. That was the last time she ever did that crap. She did however never miss an opportunity to buy us exactly the same thing gifts at Christmas though.

                I would tell her to not do that. I mean ok the Life Savers candy book things that she gives to everyone…that’s a ‘thing’ she does, cool. Sister hated it too and while she normally actually listened to (read: catered to) Sister, this was one thing she could just never seem to —not do.

          2. Margo the Destroyer

            My grandparents would give me, sister and cousins from my uncle the same, but my aunt’s stepchildren always received half as much because they were not my aunt’s children. My grandma still gets mad to this day when my aunt brings her granddaughter anywhere because she isnt really her granddaughter, so she doesn’t understand why my aunt wants to spend time / money on her.

            1. Detective Amy Santiago

              As someone who is part of a blended family and was always treated equally by my step grandma, I am simultaneously grateful for her acceptance of me and horrified for your aunt’s family.

            2. Adlib

              This happened in my family. My grandparents weren’t very nice to one of my cousins, but I had no clue why until I was older. My parents told me it was because she was technically my step-cousin. I remember thinking “So? She’s still my cousin.” I hated that they treated her differently. Now I feel the need to go look her up. I haven’t seen her in at least 20 years.

              1. ZK

                My dad’s family never gave my siblings or me anything near what they gave the other kids in the family. Because we were adopted, so you know, weren’t really family. Despite all being adopted as babies.

                1. Mananana

                  Don’t know if you’ll ever see this, ZK, but I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am that your dad’s family sucked. Because that is abhorrent behavior.

              2. RUKiddingMe

                My mom who was all “faaammmiiilllyyy” and pushed the need to accept the step-relatives (the ones she’d married into, not my dad’s side naturally) pretty much before the ink dried on the marriage license had a dislike for my one nephew’s girlfriend/ex-girlfriend.

                One day the at that point ex-girlfriend was at Mom’s house with ‘the kids’ two of which (of four) belong to Nephew. One of the other two was saying something about my son being his cousin.

                Nephew: Son of daughter *adopted by step-dad (i.e. Step-sister). Girlfriend’s son: Former step-son of Nephew. Nephew and my son first cousins via my mom marrying her dad…no blood ties.

                Girlfriend’s son was like eight at the time. My son was about 20-ish and didn’t have an issue with being called ‘cousin’ by the boy. My mom however felt the need to point out the distance of the relationship. I was just, “you have to be joking. He’s eight, he will figure out who all the players are and how they relate to each other…just like every other now older/grown kid has managed to do…you just don’t like Emily.”**

                *I know an adopted child/parent is still a real parent/child. Not a thing to me. My dad was an adoptee. Trust me he was real as was my Grandma Ethel.** I only mentioned to to point out how there was one whole extra layer of separation that doesn’t exist with other Step-sister who was (she passed recently) my step-dad’s bio daughter.

                **Names changed to protect the guilty…I mean innocent.

            3. Connie-Lynne

              My MIL used to not get my niece Christmas presents “because she’s not a relative.” My BIL had been niece’s mom’s boyfriend for 10 years; he was the only dad she knew.

              She couldn’t see how mean this was; she was super-cheap and criticized me for “the extra expense.”

            4. Elizabeth West

              Damn.
              My parents treated my *step*kid just as well as they did their other grandkids, although they didn’t spend much time with her because we lived further away.

            5. Elim Garak

              Hate this. My dad adopted me and I’m so grateful that his side of the family never treated me any differently than my cousins. We’re thinking of adopting and have already made it clear to family that if they can’t love all of our children they won’t see any of them.

          3. Thatweirdchick

            I feel you. When I graduated from university, my sister got a brand new bed, one with a trundle underneath and two new mattresses. I got the old futon from the basement. Note this was *my* graduation, she didn’t do anything, achieve anything, other than whine.

        3. Indoor Cat

          I am so surprised / sad about all the stories in this thread about grandparents and parents using gifts as a way to say which kid is or isn’t really family. Wth.

          Like I guess I shouldn’t be surprised? Because if there’s a way to be crappy to someone, people will find it. But good grief.

          I’m a middle child and a middle cousin and vied for gifts and attention in a typical sibling / cousin rivalry way, and as an adult looking back on it things were pretty fair. The only times things were “unequal” were when certain cousins had special needs, which is a decent way and age to learn that people who are hurting more need more care to be brought to the same level than someone hurting less, and that fairness is about getting everyone to that safe place, not giving everyone the same things.

          Which is completely, 100% different than “It’s wrong to be upset about blatant favoritism.” They’re not even in the same ballpark. They’re actually opposite things. Favoritism is not trying to get everyone to the same good place, it’s actually about leaving people out. And it’s crap.

          Achhh. /rant.

        4. RUKiddingMe

          Exactly. A gift is not always a gift even in the personal sphere. If something is used as leverage, to manipulate, punish, reward, show a distinction in affection it is in fact not a ‘gift’ and is just as transactional as a work ‘gift.’

          It’s the thought that counts after all right? If the thought in the personal sphere is to do any of the things I listed then the thoughts suck. If people are going above and beyond and don’t get their ‘gift’ simply because they did all the extra, over the top, more than even normal crunch time work from the same city instead of out of town then the company is not really thinking at all.

      2. Hey Karma, Over here.

        This is the distinction. In the work place, one is not given a gift, one is given a reward. That can be verbal recognition, an object or tool, or money.
        It reflects how you and your contributions are judged by the company – what your company thinks of you. In the workplace, it is not the gift that counts and a cheap gift or a negligible gift card indicate illustrates how the company counts you.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom

        Correct. If it’s company policy, paid for by the employer, then it needs to apply equally to everyone. Otherwise what’s next, “yes I know the handbook says three weeks PTO, but we need you to take this one week instead and be thankful that you’re being given anything at all”?

        1. LouiseM

          I don’t understand why people keep saying this is a parody account. What is she parodying? She said it in her typically eccentric style, but her point is similar to the one that I and a few others here are making.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            I’m saying it because (a) it seems clear to me based on the content of the posts and (b) the IP address for the comments is linked to an additional user name.

            1. Alli525

              I don’t think it’s clear to a casual commenter. I’m here in the comments pretty often and have been put off by comments from this account because I thought it was real and found her comments distasteful or wrong-headed. Unless she’s willing to put “(Parody Account)” in her username, I think it’s a bit of a disservice to the loyal commentariat of an advice column to let her keep posting.

              1. Mad Baggins

                +1 If we’re allowed to troll AAM comments then I’m going to start posting as Bowser and start defending horrible bosses everywhere.

                1. Indoor Cat

                  @Mad Baggins I actually giggled out loud at that. Bowser: Boss’ Advocate would actually be funny.

                  This Crystal Mama account, I’m not even sure what the joke is. Poe’s Law I guess?

              2. teclatrans

                I am going to try one more time, in case it’s a glitch and not AAM putting me into moderation:

                I agree,and I find it really upsetting that a troll has been operating with Alison’s blessing. Crystal Mama’s posts have never added to the discussion, they have been derailing and “hey, look at me, I’m dancing!” sorts of posts. And while they may have started out as a parody of MLM, they have primarily become a crude sketch of “hippy granola woo” thinking and, again, without much substance. (Maybe you have to know they are parody to appreciate them? But what about all the people who don’t know?)

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  The word “troll” goes to moderation. But your comments were released and are here on the page if you search for your name (along with my response).

              3. Hey Nonnie

                This, plus if it is a parody account, it’s really distasteful and mean-spirited to mock someone’s religion, whether you agree with it or not.

        2. London_Engineer

          Have you confirmed that this is a troll? I recall a number of recent threads going off topic due to weird comments about healing emerges or that seemed to be pushing MLMs but nothing to say that they aren’t taking it seriously

            1. CMart

              Man, I know people get thrown off by the Hiring Mgr sarcastic poster even though I think their comments are pretty clearly sarcastic most of the time. But I have spent WAY too long squinting at CrystalMama’s posts thinking “seems too absurd to be true… but they seem sincere? Even combative?”

              It’s a relief that you say they’re a joke account, but they really need to be admonished to give a /s or something like the other account because they are way, way better at trolling.

            2. Snark

              Speaking strictly for myself, I feel like the derail factor has rapidly eclipsed whatever humor they bring to the table.

                1. Falling Diphthong

                  Fifteenthing, or whatever. Hadn’t occurred to me that it was supposed to be funny, rather than a “calm breath, not everyone is a science person” example of the breadth of humanity.

              1. Jesmlet

                I think if it were widely known and obvious that it’s a parody, it’d be funny. However since it’s not, it still tends to derail unnecessarily

                1. Hey Nonnie

                  I disagree. It’s not funny, period. Now that I know it’s supposed to be parody, it makes me angry. It is not kind to make fun of someone’s religion, even if you don’t understand it. I’m now wondering if this person is trying to say that pagans as a group are bubble-headed idiots, and that’s pretty insulting.

                2. Hey Nonnie

                  Especially since it is mocking a minority religion. This is the poster child for “comedy” that punches down rather than punching up.

                3. LouiseM

                  Hey Nonnie, what religion do you think CrystalMama is mocking? (For the record, I’m still totally not buying that she’s a parody, but assuming you’re correct). I hardly think “new age hippie” is a minority religion, and as someone who is actually from a highly persecuted minority religion I don’t love the suggestion that making fun of hippies exists even on the same spectrum as the bigotry that led to the genocide of my people.

              2. limenotapple

                Also, it could make fun of someone who really was raised that way (in this case). I know that is probably the minority of people here, but it kind of bugs me to make a joke out of someone’s religious beliefs.

                1. Annie Moose

                  Yeah… the original comment isn’t even worded particularly excessively (as in, “well, in MY religion, receiving any form of a gift is a SIN that will cause you to become INSTANTLY POSSESSED BY DEMONS”); it sounds like something that genuinely could be a sincere religious belief by someone who doesn’t quite understand how gifts in the workplace work.

                2. LouiseM

                  Whoops, nesting fail:
                  Interesting, I’ve never read this as a humor account. I think I said the last time this came up that CM reminds me of some of my older family members and neighbors back home in California. She’s an old hippie who uses weird phrases and sends generic well wishes. Every time I see my grandmother she tells me I look “resilient” and sends me good vibes. The only thing that’s “funny” about CrystalMama is how differently she sounds than everyone else here–but that’s because everyone here talks the same!

              3. Totally Minnie

                To be honest, I’ve never seen the humor in these posts, so they’re just derailing and irritating to me. YMMV, of course.

              4. Elizabeth West

                I’m starting to feel that way a little bit too. They remind me of a commenter in my chat room who is constantly flooding it with weird stuff just to get a reaction (and ended up being really weird outside the chat too). It gets old, fast.

            3. Parenthetically

              Huh, until Snark mentioned in a thread this week that CrystalMama is a parody account, the thought had never occurred to me. Poe’s Law in action, I guess. I don’t find it funny, just annoying and derailing.

            4. teclatrans

              I am really disappointed to hear this. No, I am shaken. It never occurred to me that there would be an ongoing parody account on here, and certainly not one that everybody is taking and responding to seriously, without heavy flagging from you. I know it is always possible to get trolls, but I didn’t imagine you would happily host one on an ongoing basis. These posts are derailing and often very unpleasant, and not self-obviously parody. Maybe you have to know it’s a parody to see the humor? (I am skeptical, because the humor comes from stereotyping and negative characterization.)

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                I’m sorry it felt that way! I try to take a reasonably light touch in moderation here, and as long as someone isn’t being hateful or shilling something, my default is to leave it alone. (Although I have mentioned a bunch of times previously that it’s a parody account — although I realize not everyone will have seen that.) But I’ve read the feedback on this one, and I’ll intervene.

        3. ThatGirl

          You know the Fry-from-Futurama “Not Sure if Serious” meme?

          I’m always making that face when I read her comments.

          1. LouiseM

            So funny how cultural this is. It never occurred to me that she *wasn’t* serious–I just thought, when did my aunt start reading AAM?

    3. Snark

      You’re missing the point by a huge margin. Recognizing people for their effort, and expecting to be meaningfully recognized if recognition is offered, is not entitlement.

    4. Stormfeather

      Others have pointed out that work is different, so I’ll take another angle – it’s not even always about the value so much as it’s about the thoughtfulness and care. And this can cover personal gifts too – I mean, if someone shovels up some dog crap and puts it in a bag and gives it to you, are you supposed to treat it as a thoughtful gift and recognize it as such?

      If a gift makes the person receiving it feel bad and unwanted and unliked, well, intent does factor into it – if it’s something that, say, the giver actually thought the person would like then I wouldn’t come down on them. But if it’s an obviously thoughtless gift that speaks loudly to anyone and everyone that the giver just doesn’t care about the recipient, then yeah, that’s a bad gift and I wouldn’t expect anyone to try to act like it was a good one and they’re thankful for it.

      1. Justme, The OG

        Agree about this. I periodically get cards and notes from my boss thanking me, and the fact that she took the time out to do that means so much.

        1. LouiseM

          Yes, I agree. Even just a text from my boss thanking me for helping out with a stressful project means a lot.

      2. Totally Minnie

        Like the letter from the person who was away from work on medical leave and her coworkers sent her a bag of garbage as a get well gift.

    5. Nobody Here by That Name

      This isn’t about friends or family, it’s about work. Work is a transactional relationship to begin with. I’m not showing up to the office and working until the wee hours of the evening for the fun of it. Yes I have a good work ethic and try to do a good job because that’s the kind of person I am. But in the end this is a business arrangement between me and my employer. I’m contracted to do X in exchange for Y. I get the Don Draper attitude of “That’s what the money’s for!” but if I do X+Z and still only receive Y, I might be less inclined to do Z again in the future, depending on the circumstances.

      Recognition and incentives aren’t a gift anymore than my work is.

    6. Sci Fi IT Girl

      And that is also why often faith / religion may not be as useful in work related decisions (exception being the obvious faith based organizations). This philosophy may work great for you on an individual basis. In a work place though, giving gifts on preference (be it liking, fellows in the religious group) and excluding other employees is a very negative practice. It drives employees away. I agree with what Allison mentioned earlier – it is better to NOT do recognition like individual birthdays if you run the real risk of leaving people out and thus find a way to recognize and reward where that leaving-out risk is minimal.

    7. Anthropologist

      This isn’t really about being “entitled.” In every culture and tradition, the underlying purpose/function of gifts is to build and maintain relationships (not just family/friend ones, but dependent/subordinate or peer ones as well). When an employer chooses to give two similarly situated employees different gifts on purpose, they are choosing to build two different types of relationships. It’s rational for employees to read something into that.

    8. Nacho

      If an employee goes above and beyond in something, working significantly outside their job description, or significantly more than usual, then recognition is more than just important. If you don’t at least recognize people for volunteering for extra work, then why will anybody do anything beyond what’s required? And when giving gifts, how much that gift costs = how much recognition it’s worth. Giving somebody a $20 coffee cup is gift giving for saying “I felt like I had to give you something, but I don’t actually care enough to make it something nice.”

    9. Snowy

      A gift is a gift, but a gift can also be used to send a message. Make sure it’s the right message.

  6. Steve

    Isnt the paycheck recognition for the work? Do people really think they are being put out if they have to work on something they dont want to? They sound spoiled.

    1. Seriously?

      That is the mindset that tends to encourage employees to do the minimum and have no incentive to go above and beyond what they were hired to do. Recognition can go a long way towards incentivizing people to step up. It is especially demoralizing to do a lot of extra work and not only not have it recognized but have everyone else who did so recognized. That is not being spoiled.

      1. Steve

        Employees doing the minimum are crap employees. Everyone wants recognition for being good at their job, but, imo that should come from normal interactions not sporadic ceremonies. You should know if you are valued by normal interactions. A person should do their job because they are paid. Maybe its different for office help, but if i get told, not asked, to do something i dont want to its my job to do it and i get my reward for doing it on payday.

        I am not saying bosses dont need to show appreciation. But they dont need to throw a party either. “Good job, Steve” and a paycheck is enough. Ymmv.

        1. Snark

          There’s a difference between being valued for being good at your job, and being recognized for an extraordinary effort, accomplishment, or milestone.

        2. LouiseM

          Agreed. People should be compensated fairly and at a high level. It’s not OK to give one employee a fancy gift and another nothing, but nobody needs gifts at work.

          1. Steve

            I agree if you give a gift it should be to all. No one wants to be left out and it would upset me to be the one left out. I was mainly responding to the cup example where she wrote cheapskate on it in different languages. That mau be clever, but imo it is also terribly petty. I wonder if she is petty in other ways and would not trust her if she were my employee. She gets paid to do a job. Again maybe its different for office work. I dont get to pick and choose what i want at my job and dont really understand people who think they are put upon if they get something they dont want to do.

            1. Breda

              The thing here is: either you should treat this as an essential part of their job and give them no gift, instead praising them verbally and taking it into consideration for raises and promotions, OR you should give them something that shows they’re valued. Giving them a mug says, “We believe we should recognize you for going above and beyond, but we’re not willing to spend more than $10 on you.”

            2. Iris Eyes

              In that example she wasn’t getting paid to do that job. It was a job that another department, with presumably a different segment of the budget was supposed to do that her and her team did. Think of it this way, would it be right for your work to insist that you come in on the weekend to move the office from one building to another when your day-to-day job is as an accountant? You are doing additional work that isn’t related to your job function, and as a salaried employee you aren’t receiving any compensation in return for the additional work, the bonus for the facilities department for getting the move done under budget and on time isn’t coming your way. Your company saves big bucks by using this free labor, someone else maybe getting the bonus from your work, and they give you a mug.

              Companies who insist that you do anything they want you to do without regard to your job function are just as bad as employees who will only do things that are explicitly spelled out in their job description.

              1. steve

                That makes sense. I still think the “cheapskate” stuff was terrible and showed contempt on her part towards her employers.

              2. CmdrShepard4ever

                I agree in that situation that would be different. I could be wrong but I have a feeling it was more along the lines of Team B perhaps a compliance department needed extra help and they asked Team A the accounting/payroll department to help out, or maybe Team A was a marketing department I think it is still the same. I imagine that one department that normally does office work was asked to help another department that does office work as well, but all the work was completed during normal 9 to 5 working hours. I have worked in many places where you help other teams/departments with work that you do not normally do and they in turn help you when you need it. When a big mailing or copy job is required I have had higher ups that normally don’t deal with that kind of stuff jump in and help out. Again I could be wrong but I don’t think a token gift to show appreciation for the work is a bad thing especially if everyone else that helped received the same thing. If only one person got the mug and everyone else got $25 gift cards for the same work that is a different problem.
                I do think it is different if you are asked to put in “extra hours/overtime” to help the other team complete the work, or if it is something completely different than what your normal job is. The example you gave is a good one where you normally do office work and they ask you to do essentially work as a mover, or if they asked you to do another very physical job. To be clear there is nothing wrong with working as a mover or doing other physical jobs. I have helped colleagues move bookshelves, desks, chairs, file boxes among other things around the office when needed , but I do not posses the skills and knowledge to act as a professional mover to help move an office from one building to another.

            3. Bea

              Yeah especially since “cheap gifts” are less of an accounting and taxation burden, I’m not amused by the coffeecup situation.

              The teddy bear instead of a spa day though, that’s so absurd and uncalled for/unfair.

              1. AMT

                Exactly. There are two issues here: gifts that are insultingly small for the amount of work performed (or have company logos on them, ugh), and gifts that are unevenly distributed. Honestly, in situations like this, *no* gift is preferable to such poor treatment.

            4. Lissa

              Yeah I’m not sure about the coffee cup thing because…ok, it’s funny but it isn’t really an example of unequal gifting, is it? Like, I can see the POV of “no gift is better than a crappy gift” but it wouldn’t occur to me that going above board in that manner would necessarily be recognized with some sort of gift/bonus. It should be factored into reviews and compensation going forward absolutely, but that’s a different issue if that isn’t happening. I don’t really see why the employer deserves contempt based on a cheap gift! I’d be more on board with this response if the rest of the team all got cruises or something.

            5. Yorick

              In general I don’t think I agree with you, but I do about the cup story. I didn’t like it for that reason last week. They gave her a mug to say thank you, which I think is quite nice.

        3. Seriously?

          If someone is putting in a ton of extra hours it makes sense to recognize that, possibly monetarily. It can be a more cost effective way to retain good employees and fairly compensate them for their work if the extra hours is not a constant expectation (in which case a raise would be more appropriate). If someone does extra work, they should get extra compensation.

          1. Falling Diphthong

            One of the former workplace philosophies related here was “No matter what you do, you’re making as much as Joe, who’s supposed to be on the register but is sleeping in the storeroom.” Such employers do not inspire good employees to stick around.

            1. Julia

              This. If you work your butt off but make the same (or less!) as Lazy Luke, will you really keep doing it? Especially if you then get punished by having more work heaped onto you so Luke can sleep more?

        4. McWhadden

          Employees doing the minimum are employees meeting their job requirements. They negotiated doing those job requirements for a paycheck. Employers don’t deserve more than that in exchange for money.

          But almost all of these are examples of employers showing favoritism not complaining about not doing enough.

        5. Turquoisecow

          You’re giving me x dollars to do the bare minimum. Why should I do more if you’re not paying me more? Unless you make minimum wage, I assume you’d like more than the bare minimum of payment.

          I might be inclined to overlook a low salary if certain other aspects of the job are decent. However, I would personally not stay in a job that offered a high salary but treated its employees like crap (ie did not recognize their efforts above the bare minimum). YMMV

    2. EA

      Eh. I think it’s a different people are different thing. I don’t give a shit about recognition and only want more money. But I’ve worked with people who think it’s important. Kind of like love languages for the office.

    3. Snark

      And this is why your employees do the bare minimum for you, if you manage any. It makes a lot of sense to recognize effort above and beyond the norm, if you ever plan to ask for it.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago

      So, are you and CrystalMama married?

      Recognition for doing extra and/or longevity with an employer is not spoiling people. It’s called incentives to retain employees. Perhaps you don’t understand how hiring works, but it’s a pain in the ass and once you have good people in place, it’s far easier and more cost effective to keep them. A $25 gift certificate as an acknowledgment that “hey, you just made us $100,000 thanks” is far less expensive than not acknowledging that and having to pay thousands to train a replacement.

    5. Ruth (UK)

      I do think there are plenty of cases were a reasonable and un-spoiled person could end up feeling hurt or snubbed because of gift giving. It’s not necessarily if a person doesn’t get a gift, or doesn’t get a ‘good enough’ one etc, but rather if they’re being treated notably differently than other people (that they work with). It’s not the gift itself, but the gift can sort of highlight favouritism or cause them to notice if they’re already not feeling appreciated etc at work.

      For example, if a manager had a team of 5 people, and let’s assume they’re about as good as each other (at the job) etc, and they’ve all been about for at least a few years, and are all reasonably pleasant people. If, say, on the birthday of 4 of them, the manager did a huge party with cake etc, but for the 5th one, gave them just a card and did nothing more, I think most people would feel a little bit hurt, or snubbed, or at the very least, curious why they’re being singled out with different (and less good) treatment. (and this is assuming there’s not any known/obvious reason not to celebrate the 5th employees birthday, like if they were known not to celebrate).

      While it might seem petty on the face of it to care “too much” about whether your office throws you a birthday party (incidentally, I’ve never worked anywhere that ever has), I would certainly feel hurt if one was thrown for everyone but me, and I think that’s what a lot of these situations being shared boiled down to. It’s not that a person got no gift or a gift they disliked, but that something about how the situation was handled felt unfair and caused upset, or looked too much like favouritism (and where the person being favoured didn’t even necessarily have any work related reason to justify the preferential treatment).

      1. Ruth (UK)

        Ps. to add to my comment, I also think people feel especially upset in these circumstances as they feel they can’t complain without coming across as petty, as it’s sometimes difficult to express how you feel when it’s not really so much that you didn’t get the gift, but more about how it made you feel.

        In my birthday party example, it’s not that I would care that much about not being able to eat cake on my birthday, but more about how it would make me feel as though I was seen as having less ‘worth’ than the colleagues who were given the parties.

        1. Yvette

          ” …I also think people feel especially upset in these circumstances as they feel they can’t complain without coming across as petty,…”
          I think that this may be the reason why something like that is done, a way of picking on or bullying someone that leaves little or no recourse for the person.

      2. Turquoisecow

        Absolutely. I don’t care about birthday gifts and I’ve never received any from my employer. I don’t want a party or recognition for surviving another year of my life. But if literally everyone else in my company got a gift or a cake or some other form of acknowledgement? I’d be upset.

        And in most of the examples, the OPs are not complaining about birthday parties – they’re complaining that their coworkers received recognition that they did not, or that they went above and beyond and did not get recognition. If everyone gets a 10 year anniversary party and gift except one person, that’s unfair, and that one person has a right to complain and feel slighted. If a person doesn’t get a pat on the back – whether it’s a raise, or a gift, or just public recognition, they might, depending on the employee, decide to go and work somewhere where they do get that recognition. For others, the fact that they get a paycheck is sufficient.

    6. Hey nonny non

      If the paycheck is recognition for the work, then why do so many CEOs and high level execs get bonuses every year, often at the expense of those lower down in the company? If you are C-level, I certainly hope that you only accept your paycheck and turn down any bonuses, as you expect others to do.

      1. LouiseM

        I don’t think that contradicts Steve’s point–to me the bonus is part of compensation.

        1. krysb

          Bonuses are usually compensation based on performance. A lot of companies will push C-suite bonuses even when performance was not good.

    7. MuseumChick

      I think this misses the point. If one employee works on project A and is rewarded extravagantly but another employee works on project B which is similar to or ever more difficult than project A, that is going to breed some serious resentment.

      The idea is to be as fair as possible with everyone. So either everyone who meets certain criteria receive gifts of roughly the same value or no one does.

      1. Steve

        I was mostly commenting on the chespskate cup example. Of course people should be treated similarly and it would hurt to be the only one left out.

    8. Sci Fi IT Girl

      The other thing about the bare minimum – if you do the minimum for everyone that is one thing. Many employees may not want to work at a place like than and some folks are more than happy too. However, once one person at work gets more than the minimum (i.e. birthday recognition, retirement gifts, etc.) you now move into (IMO) a sure major negative across the board for pretty much most employees: favoritism territory.

    9. Anion

      That’s an unpleasant way to characterize people who just want recognition for their hard work.

    10. Alton

      The paycheck the monetary value of an employee’s time, work, and skills. At the very least, it’s the minimum a company owes someone for their time, though it can also be a means of recruiting and retaining people. If I didn’t get a paycheck, I wouldn’t be doing my job, period.

      Additional recognition is more about showing appreciation for employees who truly go above and beyond or take on duties that wouldn’t normally be included in their job description, and making people feel like a valued member of a team.

      1. Steve

        How do you want that recognition? By some public ceremony? You can let people know you value them when you assign work, when you review work when their name comes up in conversation. I had a guy, not a boss, give me a patch one time in passing but it meant a lot. So i can see where a cup could have been intended the same. Writing cheapskate on it for months and displaying it is just wrong imo. It is the exact opposite of positive recognition, more akin to contempt. Maybe its clever but the story would have a better ending if she were fired for it. Again my opinion for what its worth.

        1. Alton

          I would have liked the cup, myself. You didn’t mention that in your first comment, so I was speaking generally.

          There are a lot of ways to show recognition, but it’s noticeable when people are left out or when the the rewards feel too minimal for what is being honored (like a $5 “raise”). I hate being the center of attention, so I wouldn’t enjoy things like being honored at a ceremony, but I do notice it when other people are praised heavily for projects that I worked hard on but received less recognition for.

        2. bephakud

          That’s just it, recognition is a very personal thing. I’m extremely fortunate to work at a company that takes the time to find out how each person wants to be recognized when s/he goes above & beyond. Some people do want a form of monetary compensation. Others want public acknowledgement, & still others just want a sincere thank-you e-mail.

          Because I know my efforts are recognized & rewarded, I am happy to go above & beyond. Most of last year I worked on a project that required quite a bit of evening & weekend word. Everyone felt bad about how long the project lasted & how many hours I was putting in, I knew I was appreciated. If at the end of the year I had received a mug, I would have been really put out. Instead, I started this year with a great attitude & ready to tackle this year’s projects.

    11. LKW

      We’re talking about “above and beyond”. Why wouldn’t you want to show appreciation for someone who went beyond their responsibilities?

    12. Petty Editor

      Did you know that billions are stolen in America every year from employees via wage theft? Think about that in the context of gifts as compensation and what employers should be doing for their employees.

    13. Clarice Fitzpatrick

      This isn’t about being recognized for simply being at your job but for doing something especially notable such as a big project or staying for a long time. Sure, the paycheck is the compensation, but workplaces and professional fields tend to recognize special work and efforts all the time with awards. It’s a part of saying, “You already do decent work but your work is particularly exceptional for this reason.”

      Additionally, good paychecks and raises do maintain work relationships, but they tend to be somewhat impersonal because it’s the basic fact of compensation. It’s just pleasant to be recognized in other ways with thought and care. It’s similar as to why many people like a workplace where people have some light personal socialization and rapport. Coworkers could interact with everyone only on work-related issue but that can feel cold and isolating for many (though I recognize not everyone).

      Thus, the amount of money and time into a gift generally is paid back and over in retained loyalty and high quality work. When it’s done thoughtlessly, and especially when you have a stark comparison with other coworkers, it can make people feel unappreciated or cogs in a machine. Fact of the matter is, work is where people spend A LOT of their day, and so a workplace being creative and generous in recognizing special efforts can make a workplace feel special and the worker valued.

    14. JB (not in Houston)

      Everyone likes to be recognized, though (though some people don’t want a big public display of recognition). It’s good for company morale to reward people who go above and beyond. Beyond that, though, there are two things that people are mostly complaining about, both of which can be read to have a metamessage that the employee is unappreciated:

      1) disparity. When some people get spa days and gift cards and you just get a teddy bear, it can make you feel unappreciated
      2) gifts so bad that they are worse than no gift at all. Like giving someone a used gift; something cheap like a tube of chapstick; regifting something the giver clearly got for free; something that looks like the giver just quickly bought the first and cheapest thing they could find in a store; something that anyone who has spent time with the recipient would know wasn’t appropriate; that kind of thing. In that case, it feels like the giver is going out of their way to tell recipient, “this is how little I think of you.”

      In both those kinds of situations, the gift may not be a personal slap in the face, but it’s perfectly natural for the recipient to feel that way.

      1. No

        I know someone who received a crystal tchotchke engraved with the company logo and ‘ten years’ as an acknowledgement of their tenure. They had worked there twelve years.

        1. not really a lurker anymore

          Yep, mine was over a year late. It was hand delivered to me by the assistant CEO but he was clearly just dropping it off on his way to a meeting with my manager. So it kinda felt like an afterthought. But I work for local gov’t and didn’t expect anything.

    15. rldk

      In the cheapskate cup example that you seem to object to the most, it’s largely a mismatch of effort that makes it unpleasant.
      The special project took a huge amount of work above the norm, and the recognition took what appears to be little to no effort and no money. When it’s a gift that is not personalized, cheap/free to the giver, and such a disproportionate response to the amount of work it’s recognizing, I entirely understand why the OP would rather have had no gift than one with so little thought behind it.
      Once an employer has decided to give a gift, as the OP’s boss had, then the gift needs to actually convey the intended meaning. So if the intent is “Thanks for your above-and-beyond work,” a gift that conveys “these mugs are free to the company so here you go” doesn’t quite match up.

      1. Lora

        Yes to the mismatch of effort.

        There are many projects in my field which can be done by consultants brought in for just the project, if the in-house staff is over capacity. Evaluating a new technology, making recommendation for acquisition, designing a process, writing regulatory applications, etc. Most companies have people both in house and on contract who can do this work. As a result, the in house people often have a very good idea of what it costs to pay someone else to do it. The problem is sometimes companies need things done quickly and don’t have time to evaluate contractor bids, so they beg/plead for an in house person to squeeze it in on top of your regular work.

        If you know for a fact that a project you’ve been assigned to work on in the spare time you don’t actually have would cost $50,000 to bid out to a consultant, and you’re being given a certificate of appreciation in a dollar-store frame for the same effort, it’s…not good.

        If the last time a similar project was assigned in your department, Fergus did $25,000 worth of the $50,000 work and got a promotion and a 10% raise, it’s also not good.

      2. steve

        That makes sense. Would you agree that once the cheap gift was given there would have been a better way to respond then writing “cheapskate” on it and displaying it for months? The initial gift shows a lack of aprreciation. The “cheapskate” comment shows contempt. Do you agree with that?

        I think a lot of advice comment forums favor clever answers over wise answers. “Cheapskate” was kind of clever.

        1. rldk

          I don’t know that it shows contempt, but definitely was not the most professional way to handle it. But in her case, it achieved the desired result – the boss was aware that the gift did not convey the intended meaning, and put more effort into future gifts.

    16. StillWork

      Behavioral studies have shown that people feel more rewarded and motivated when given reinforcement on a random schedule of differing amounts, which is why gambling, for instance, becomes an addiction. Getting the same reward without change (like a paycheck) doesn’t cause the same responses in the brain or body. Extra incentives that go above and beyond are more motivating in the long-term, because that’s how brains are wired. It’s called “intermittent reinforcement” and it’s more motivating long-term than consistent reinforcement. Regardless of how you think people should work or who’s spoiled, consistent reinforcement just doesn’t have the same motivational effect.

      1. Gorgo

        I think the difference between workplace rewards and gambling is that pulling the lever is the same effort every time. I don’t think slot machines and lab rats are a good predictor of what does and doesn’t serve as encouraging in the workplace.

        1. Indoor Cat

          Harvard Business School has tested the hypothesis in the workplace and it’s proven to be true: random large rewards, and randomly spaced rewards, work better to motivate than routine praise and recognition. Here’s the study: https://hbswk.hbs.edu/item/how-to-demotivate-your-best-employees

          Basically, if an employee knows, “If I do X, I’ll get Y every time,” they’ll do X as many times as they want to get Y, and no more than that, because X takes effort. Whereas if an employee realizes, “If I do X, I get Y every time, but every once in a while I get Z, and Z is amazing!” then they’ll do X as many times as possible in the hope of getting Z.

          It’s, as StillWork says, like slot machines versus vending machines. The minute you don’t get a snack in exchange for your dollar, you stop using the vending machine or assume it’s broken, even if you’ve gotten snacks every other time you paid a dollar. But if a slot machine gives you nothing, nothing, nothing, and and then a HUGE thing, you’re going to keep putting dollars in.

          The catch is, the reward really has to be big and valuable in proportion to the work. You still need the paycheck, but this is something beyond that. Especially motivating are things like fame and recognition, power (generally the power to create a new project or the power to manage other people), a reduction or elimination of tasks a person dislikes, or expensive / cool prizes.

          In many workplaces, this looks like a promotions system. If you do really well, you get promoted into a role where you have fewer tasks you dislike, more power, and more recognition. Promotions aren’t guaranteed and they’re often randomly spaced, but if it’s widely know they are available, employees all work harder to get them, even though not everyone can get promoted.

          In some workplaces, promotions aren’t really an option. In those cases, though, there is value in figuring out a way to reward stellar employees with fame, power, task reduction, or prizes. Otherwise you’re just going to get a workplace where everyone does the minimum required to get a paycheck.

    17. Nesprin

      My father received a patent for something that would save his company a ton of money and permit them to do new and exciting work. You’d think there’d be a bonus, or a promotion or some sort of recognition that he’d done something above and beyond- they gave him a coffee mug with the caption IDEAS COUNT!!!

    18. BananaStand

      I’m glad I don’t work for you. If someone goes above and beyond, it’s not spoiled to want to be recognized for your hard work. If you don’t agree with this skip this post and move on.

    19. Harper the Other One

      If everyone gets a paycheque and no other recognition, fine. (Although hopefully raises/advancement are decided based on performance, not just time in grade.) But you definitely shouldn’t throw parties/give gifts to some people but not others, and it’s pretty tone-deaf to look at people who worked really hard for you and give them something token; at that point, probably sincere words of thanks and praises would be more appreciated than the stuff. One of my most treasured moments at work was when a manager told me that he genuinely had no corporate budget for raises, recognition, etc., but that he really appreciated everything I did and that he considered me a model employee.

    20. Moonlight Elantra

      I’m so glad I don’t work for you, Steve. You seem to think all employees should fall down at their boss’s feet thanking them for the opportunity to be employed every day. I know people like this in real life, and they are all petty, spiteful people who expect everyone else to be as miserable as they are in their working lives.

      1. steve

        I dont think that at all. Maybe my work is different from office work, but we dont get cups or awards or anything like that. (I do construction work) The last place I worked gave out plaques for those who had been at the company for over 10 years, but that is the extent of stuff like that. I knew they appreciated my work. They always treated me well. They paid well. I knew who the boss thought did good work and who he thought he could depend on. There is a wide area between falling down at the boss’s feet and thinking that plaques or special prizes or similar are necessary. None of my bossses were petty or spiteful. The people I worked with seemed to enjoy their job. They certainly talked well of the company. Many had been there years.

        If you need a present for doing your job, that is you. I dont agree with that. But there are plenty of jobs out there and you should find the one that fits you.

        1. General Ginger

          But Steve, look at what you’re saying — your bosses appreciated your work, and they made it known to you. Maybe not through specific gifts, but like you say, they treated you well, they paid you well, they made sure you and your coworkers enjoyed your jobs. Recognition comes in many forms, and that is certainly one of them!

          1. Le Sigh

            I feel like steve is getting hung up on the tangible gifts specifically, rather than the big picture. The tangible gifts are just one way companies have (sometimes poorly) recognized employees. Recognition can be gifts, but it can also be public or private praise (and factoring it into performance reviews), it can be bonuses, raises, etc. The examples cited are less about what people specifically and more about what they say about the company’s values and the message they’re sending to employees–and how if you’re not employing a thoughtful system, you risk sending a potentially demoralizing message.

            Most of what steve’s listing in his comment above is a form of that recognition, so it sounds like he knew he was valued and the company was good about that. Verbal praise is usually all I get in my job, but often that is more than enough and it’s done in a way that shows they actually value me.

    21. Not a Morning Person

      A paycheck is not recognition; a paycheck is an exchange and compensation. I exchange my time and energy and productivity for compensation via a paycheck. The recognition is for when I do that job consistently well, or go above and beyond the expectations. I will keep working for a paycheck but I’ll feel better about it and maybe go that extra mile (vs. refusing to go the extra mile since it’s not compensated) again in the future. I’m a sucker for “Thanks! Good job!” but without the compensation I’m not coming to work.

    22. KR

      I’m gonna be straight with you, I’m motivated as hell by my paycheck but I am also motivated as hell by company swag, nicely catered meetings, fun team outings, and delicious food. If there’s one thing our team doesn’t skimp on it’s taking people out to eat and and I love it because I love food. Money is nice but sometimes you want to feel appreciated even more.

    23. Brett

      Realize, though, many workplaces that are poor at recognition are also unlikely to recognize their employee through their paycheck.

    24. Anon attorney

      “What are you guys griping about? Of course I value you, you still work here don’t you?”

      In law firms sometimes the only indication that you’re valued is that they keep giving you work. I don’t think anyone here is talking about being thanked for doing the basic job (although that’s actually courtesy and good management in itself) but about unequal treatment and failure to recognise exceptional work and effort.

      Why be stingy in recognising what people bring to the workplace? Appreciation is free and most tangible rewards are much cheaper than recruitment. I just don’t get the “so you get paid what more do you want?” mindset.

    25. Lady Russell's Turban

      Our hourly, union employees will sometimes have to put in *extra* work and effort to accomplish an additional task or meet a non-routine goal. We know it is stressful. Of course they are paid their hourly or overtime wage for the time they work but we always bring in pizza, salad, cookies, and beverages during and sometimes afterwards and the managers make sure to thank the entire crew for their efforts. Yes, we’ve paid them but we want them to know we APPRECIATE the work they did, their flexibility in a non-standard work situation, and the extra effort they made.

  7. Zeph

    My entire department usually does the cake and card thing for every single person’s birthday. My birthday was in October. The previous day someone who knew it was my birthday asked in our open plan set of desks with everyone in earshot what I was doing for it and I answered. The following day, I wait and wait and wait for the ‘hey randomly come to the conference room’ ruse. Nada. Time comes to leave and I’m trying to be cool while not showing how crestfallen I am. Go on the next day trying to be a damn adult who doesn’t care that her colleagues obviously don’t value me as highly as I do them and I get a lovely flower delivery with this note from my sister: “Happy birthday! Sorry your coworkers suck, you deserved better”.

    And then my clueless and shitty boss comes over and asks why I got flowers. I respond it was my birthday yesterday and my sister was just late (because I didn’t trust myself to get into the confrontation about it). And he says in an odd joking and accusing way: Way to keep it a secret! Then he turned and walked away. Not even a happy birthday or any remorse. And no one else in my 15-person open plan department chimed in either. BTW no one but me saw the card because it was in a sealed envelope, but I severely wished I had taped it to my monitor after the fact.

    1. Millennial Lawyer

      Is it possible the person who actually sets up the birthday parties didn’t know it was your birthday? I feel like if an office chooses to celebrate all staff birthdays, it should be responsible and not you, but your manager’s comment comes off more like “oh I guess you hadn’t wanted any fanfare” not like taunting you for being slighted.

        1. Millennial Lawyer

          I was reading it as “how odd you wouldn’t tell anyone, in contrast to our establish norms, but I’ll respect that I guess!” But you’re right, it also could have been “hm clearly you must have been hiding it, because I would never have made a mistake!”

        2. Decima Dewey

          It’s not that hard to find out when a new staffer’s birthday is. It shows up in paperwork, or, if you work for my library, it’s in the Demographics section of their library card record. The only time I wouldn’t do something for a staffer’s birthday would be if they said they don’t want a fuss made over it, or if I know that they belong to a religious group that doesn’t celebrate birthdays.

      1. Zeph

        Showing up late to reply to this but no, the people who organize these things did know. It just didn’t happen. This was also on my 3rd year of being here with only one birthday recognized in that time.

    2. Beehoppy

      My first year at current job-one of my coworkers started talking very excitedly about my birthday the week before. She was going to bring in cupcakes, we were all going to go out to lunch, yada yada yada. I excitedly looked forward to the big day and . . . nothing. She “ran out of time” to bake. The big lunch outing was her driving me to Chipotle to buy my own burrito and eating it in the office kitchen with one other coworker (my nemesis) and her husband who didn’t even work for the company while they talked about their recent living room remodel. I posted something on FB, and later in the day a friend showed up at the office with gourmet cupcakes she had taken off work to bring me. I hid them in the coat closet so I didn’t have to share.

      And then a month later I instituted a Birthday Prize Wheel that everyone loves.

    3. Amy Farrah Fowler

      Ummm, yeah, I’m the one in charge of recognizing birthdays at my company. I have a calendar with EVERYONE’S birthdays on it and I get email reminders of the calendar, so that I can send out an email telling everyone that it’s Alyssa’s (or whoever’s) birthday and how much we appreciate their work. (We’re mostly all remote, so we can’t do a cake and card type thing, but we find other ways to recognize people).

      I love doing it because I love birthdays, but it is a stressful responsibility because I constantly fear that I will forget or be sick on a day that’s someone’s birthday, or something. I would be absolutely mortified if I left someone out or didn’t get the message out.

      1. Starley

        Someone here does that as well, and at some point I dropped off the list I guess? I thought I was back on it this year when I came in and found a card on my desk that morning, but then I opened it and realized it was for a coworker. They’d just left it for me to sign. Most years I just kind of eye roll and move on but this year, I’ll be honest, it was a little demoralizing to come in to the reminder that it’s just me who gets forgotten.

        1. Luna

          Similar thing happened to me. At CurrentJob everyone always gets at least a card on their birthday, sometimes cake if they are a favorite. On my birthday? Nothing, not even the card- though my boss did stop by to ask me to sign someone else’s card that had a birthday coming up a few days after mine.

          1. Decima Dewey

            At the job that I took to put me through library school, my birthday was the same as the firm’s compliance offer. I’d give him a slice of my cake, he’d give me a slice of his.

          2. Cheesehead

            Old job celebrated birthdays. Eventually, I went part time b/c my kids were little. I had been after them to get a promotion….basically kept asking for clarification as to what I needed to do to get one (the requirements kept changing, which reinforced what I suspected: that I wasn’t one of the favorites so I’d never actually get that promotion.) So birthdays weren’t huge things in our department, but they were acknowledged…..a card was generally circulated and people might decorate your cube or something. Well, I’d taken a vacation day for my birthday, so I thought I’d get the usual card and well wishes the day before. Nope. Then there was a bowling outing that we had every year right afterward, and I thought they’d acknowledge it there. I mean, they ALWAYS acknowledged birthdays. Nope. Nothing. I remember how the sinking feeling just grew and grew as I realized that they just weren’t going to acknowledge my birthday AT ALL. They never said a word about it that year. And let me tell you, when the next birthday card was circulated for everyone to sign, I REALLY did not want to sign it. I mean, seriously, just b/c I took a vacation day and wasn’t there on my actual birthday, you can’t even get me a card and still say Happy Birthday? But you expect me to celebrate everyone else’s?

        2. Teddie Kuma

          Very late in the game here, but ha – happened to me last year.

          Normally, someone from our team will schedule a lunch out at the choice of the b-day celebrant (usually somewhere near the office). There were no invites sent out for mine last year. Sometimes may lunch can be scheduled weeks late (or moved) depending on how busy everyone is at the current time, but there’s always a lunch out for whoever is celebrating.

          I’m usually pretty low-key on my birthdays, but it is a bit disappointing for everyone not to have remembered – especially when they still throw out invites for people who are no longer part of our team (but still in our building). Also – it’s not that they really forgot… everyone’s birthday is noted in our shared calendar, same as the others.

          I decided to take the weekend off and emailed everyone as a heads-up that I’m taking a birthday weekend off – and someone piped up, “oh, why didn’t you tell us it’s your birthday!”

          I replied, “um, it’s in the calendar…” :P Also, I don’t usually go around announcing to everyone it’s my birthday out of nowhere.

          1. Teddie Kuma

            I forgot to mention everyone at the lunch pays for the celebrant’s lunch, so birthday person has a free lunch.

            My birthday is coming up, so let’s see if they will remember.

      2. smoke tree

        I’ll be honest, I hate being the centre of attention and I always hope that something like this will happen and I’ll get forgotten. But if this sort of thing is important to you, I can see how it would hurt to feel excluded!

        1. Reinhardt

          At my office my department does a small potluck for all birthdays that month and sings happy birthday (deliberately badly). The company also does monthly birthday and anniversary gathering with cake or ice cream.

          I’m like you though, and hate being the center of attention for anything not work related so I always skip these events. I even asked the person in my department to take my birthday off their list.

        2. Amy Farrah Fowler

          We’re pretty low-key, since we’re mostly remote, it’s just an email that goes out letting everyone know. But I do understand there are people that prefer not to celebrate birthdays. I did actually reach out to one coworker when I found out she was a Jehovah’s witness to ask how she’d prefer me to handle it. She said that what we normally do is fine.

          If you worked at my company and asked not to be recognized, I’d absolutely honor that request.

          1. smoke tree

            I wish our birthday organizer took your approach! She’s an extremely nice person but it makes her feel so bad to leave anyone out that everyone has to have a celebration, even though I suspect a good proportion of my coworkers would rather not.

      3. yasmara

        My boss gives us the day off for our birthday – or a different day close to your birthday of your choice. Best. Office. Birthday. Gift. Ever.

        Otherwise, the general tradition in previous departments was that you had to bring in something to celebrate your birthday with everyone else in your department (doughnuts, cookies, cake, etc.), which I always thought was lame and weird. A free day off is so much better.

      4. Marian Librarian

        Can you put it on your calendar rather than rely on the list? When I started doing that it was much easier to remember.

    4. Somniloquist

      Oh man, this reminds me of Ex ToxicJob. First team birthday, the admin and boss go all out, conference room, tablecloth and specially ordered gourmet cookie cake because the guy doesn’t like cake or can’t have gluten or something. Second team birthday, the admin was in a crisis, so I literally took a train during work at my boss’ request to get special cupcakes and it was a whole shebang with congratulations and whatever.

      My birthday. Not only did they not mention it, but the evening before my big friends’ dinner, my crappy boss kept me late on a bs assignment, calling me at 4:45pm and asking for a report that would take 2 hours minimum to complete. The next work day, knowing I was pissed, one of my coworkers called my boss/admin out in a nice way. Their response was to call me into my boss’ office that afternoon and present to me stale breakfast danishes left over from a morning meeting that ended. THEN my boss bullied me into eating one in front of everyone while pretending to enjoy it, while no one else ate a single one (because they were gross).

    5. Lizzy

      My first year at current job and nothing happens for my birthday. I felt kind of slighted, but just figured the company didn’t do much for birthdays (I had only been here a couple of months) and/or that it got forgotten in the holidays (my birthday is 12/22).
      Fast-forward to January, and the person in charge of birthdays at the time stuck her head around the corner of my cubie – “Hey, when’s your birthday?” Me: December 22 Her: F%@k!
      I know now it was a total accident, so I don’t feel bad at all, but I do think her reaction was pretty funny…

      In the effort of being fair, my grandparents would always get my sister and I the same birthday present. Made perfect sense and was absolutely ok, except my sister’s birthday is 2 weeks before mine, so I *always* knew what I would be getting… just 2 weeks later lol

      1. This Daydreamer

        Ha! I kind of love the birthday captain’s response. I hope she made it up to you the next year.

      2. Elizabeth West

        Aww. I would have done an unbirthday-birthday the very next day. Like “Hey! We missed Lizzy’s birthday on 12/22! Happy Belated Birthday!” confetti, noisemakers, etc. and everything just like it was for an actual birthday.

        And LOL my mum had to get my sister and I similar things when we were kids or we’d whine and squabble (we’re a year apart). Example: A little plastic brush and mirror set–pink for her, yellow for me. But they were exactly the same.

      3. Detective Amy Santiago

        my gram used to buy all the grandkids the same Christmas presents (though often in different colors) and make us open them at the same time so the big family joke was always “what color did you get?”

        1. nym

          My dad always got me and my brother the same gifts for Xmas, which made shopping easy for him. At the time I was disappointed, but now?

          Those gifts included a drill and bit set, screwdrivers, tape measure, mixing bowls, measuring cups… kitchen and workshop stuff that as an adult, have far more utility than any kid-oriented gift I ever got from any other relatives. I can honestly say they are the only gifts from my childhood that I still have and use thirty years later.

    6. Jayne

      In my department, originally we did birthday cakes for individuals. When that became too much, they did a cake per month for all the birthdays in that month. Again, too much. So, we are down to passing around a birthday card and signing it. However, somehow in the transition, I am on the “sign the birthday cards” list but not on the “get a birthday card” list. So, for the last two years, I have signed birthday card after birthday card, but gotten none.

      It is petty, but I imagine that my boss has no idea of how I feel less a member of the team in the week surrounding my birthday.

      In contrast, when I did a big project for another department so far out of my job description that I had to take leave to do it, they nominated me for both an organizational and state-wide award.

    7. Virtue

      My first full year at current job, it was a big number birthday, and I was asked when it was and what it was and they said they’d do something…

      And zip. But they did it for everyone else, so I expect that most of what happened was they forgot, like, honestly, because my boss did come find me when they realized they had, and apologized in a very sincere way. (My birthday falls on/around Thanksgiving, and that’s one of the days we’re closed and have some weird scheduling the day before it.)

    8. Julia

      Oh, you work for my former boss! I once had like two or three vases of flowers on my desk for my birthday (my department hated me but almost everyone else seemed to love me) and my boss came over, looked, and said “don’t spill any of that water”. Thanks, boss, how sweet!

    9. Clewgarnet

      I’ve never worked anywhere where birthdays are recognised by the company.

      People might bring in cakes/doughnuts/homemade samosas for their own birthday, but there’s never anything done by the company itself.

      I’m much happier with it like that – it’s people’s own choice as to whether to celebrate their birthday, and nobody feels slighted for being left out. (Well, apart from me because I’m invariably working from home when the homemade samosas are brought in, and, damn, those are good.)

    10. Josie

      When I started at my present job, I noticed that everyone had a list of everyone’s birthday at their desk. When new admin staff was hired, the list was promptly updated and sent to everyone but my name and birthday was not on it. I was working 5 months in when it came into my birthday. I mentioned lots of times to various people that I was taking the day off to celebrate my birthday. Although other people often do this, their birthdays are celebrated the day before they take time off then. I got nothing. Next new hire’s birthday was 1 month after her hire date, birthday list was update, and she got the usual birthday she-bang. One year into my job, my birthday is still not on the list. Honestly, I don’t want a birthday party of sorts. I feel guilty if they buy me cake, because I don’t like to eat cake. I also don’t like being the center of attention, so I’m mostly relieved I’m not on the list. It’s still a bittersweet, but I get tons of recognition at work otherwise.

  8. Malibu Stacy

    Not professional recognition, but as a career admin if I had a dime for every wedding shower, baby shower, funeral flower etc party/gift that I shopped for and coordinated over the years at a handful of jobs I’d be rich.

    I have never been married nor had a kid so no chance of any of this being reciprocated – until last year when I donated a kidney to friend. I didn’t get anything from my work; not even a cheap Hallmark Get Well card. All I got was complaints about people having to do my work when I was on medical leave.

    1. CMDRBNA

      This is probably an unpopular opinion, but I would really prefer that workplaces stop doing things like baby showers and start recognizing professional achievements, like finishing a degree program.

      As a fellow not married, no kids-having person, it is kind of annoying being hit up constantly for wedding shower and baby gifts. It’s not that those aren’t joyous occasions, I just think it’s a little odd to celebrate those in the workplace.

      1. ragazza

        It really does leave a lot of people out, and you’re right, professional achievements are much more relevant. I’m graduating from my master’s program in a month, thanks to a scholarship program FROM MY COMPANY, so if I don’t get a party after all the showers I’ve contributed to, I am definitely going to say something.

        1. Magenta Sky

          I feel the same way, but good luck convincing the unwashed masses.

          (I mean, really, procreating is a basic biological function that virtually every living thing can and will accomplish during their lifetimes, so “Congratulations! You’ve done what any amoeba can do! Even though an amoeba could have done it alone and you needed help” seems a little overdone. But I know I’m the weird one on this.)

          1. Environmental Gone Public Health Gone Back Environmental

            I’m stealing your amoeba comment for future use.

            (I also find it a bit much to do legit showers in the workplace. Cake day? Absolutely. I love me some cake. I don’t mind little bitty celebrations like that for most anything. But showers, with gifts off the registry, and expectations to put in a certain amount? No, thanks!)

          2. all aboard the anon train

            Uh. I generally agree that giving birth isn’t anything unusual and don’t really understand why people treat it like it’s some special occurrence that no one else has ever done, but not virtually every living being can and will procreate. I’m infertile. Even if I wanted to have kids, I can’t biologically have them, and comments like this tend to overlook that not every woman has that “basic” function and is a little dismissive.

              1. SarahTheEntwife

                But if you’re talking about humans, it’s not even “virtually all”. A significant number of people either can’t have kids or choose not to. Dismissing us as a statistical nonentity is kind of weird.

              2. Anon Today

                Doubling down on your comment makes it even worse. In my experience, when you’re infertile, it’s always on your mind. Having people callously point out that you’re broken and it’s super easy for “virtually everyone” else in unnecessarily hurtful. And it’s not true. A lot more people deal with this than you probably realize, but its so stigmatized culturally that it’s very hidden.

              3. all aboard the anon train

                That makes it even worse because it’s pointing out that everyone else has this easy, basic function and implies I’m broken and unusual.

            1. New hiring manager

              Yeah, I was going to say this. Thanks for the reminder that my body can’t do what “virtually every living thing” can do. *eye roll*

          3. Oxford Coma

            I’ve always used cockroaches as the example in a similar rant, but referencing asexual reproduction is SO MUCH BETTER. *steals*

          4. Cedrus Libani

            I can see the utility of showers. If someone in your inner circle has an expensive life event, like a new baby or a new household, you pool your resources to help them, knowing you’ll get the same help when you need it. It’s ad hoc insurance.

            It’s just weird at work. Generally, co-workers aren’t part of your risk pool. So you’re not going to get serious money, or truckloads of diapers…you’re going to get cake. At that point, there’s no real reason why babies and birthdays receive cake, while degrees and promotions don’t, except that it’s tradition.

            1. yasmara

              It’s also weird if you’re the one who doesn’t get the office shower when other women do…

          5. Not a Mere Device

            Human women, unlike amoebas, don’t usually die as part of reproduction (it’s not technically “death” in the amoeba, but the original amoeba no longer exists). I have no children, by choice, but it’s pretty obvious that carrying a pregnancy to term is a significant amount of work.

      2. Malibu Stacy

        I have organized parties and happy hours for graduations from college, grad school & professional certification programs, too.

        1. CMart

          My little department took me out for lunch to celebrate my passing my final CPA exam, it was really thoughtful!

          We also throw baby/wedding showers etc… but they’re by and large an excuse to dip into a conference room and eat cake and refresh your coffee for an hour than any sort of “get this person a gift” obligation.

      3. She's One Crazy Diamond

        I am in a serious relationship that I hope becomes a marriage and I want kids and I agree with you! Let me celebrate my personal life on my own time, I don’t want to do it with coworkers while I’m on the clock because it takes me away from the work I actually need to get done.

        1. EddieSherbert

          +1 I’m in the middle of planning of a wedding and have firmly said no bridal shower (in personal or professional life) and SO MANY PEOPLE HAVE BEEN UPSET WITH ME ABOUT IT. It’s bizarre-o!

      4. plot device

        I am a married, kid-having person, and I *still* would like to not participate in wedding showers and baby gifts at work.

        I’m not a total Scrooge. By all means, if you are close enough with your co-worker, please celebrate with him/her individually! Give them that handmade baby blanket (made of acrylic yarn so it’s washable, and also remember that babies shouldn’t sleep with blankets for the first year) privately.

        But the office gift? Please let’s not.

        1. Positive Reframer

          Cotton is generally considered better for baby blankets and is washable (that’s what handmade washcloths are made of generally). The concern with acrylic is that in case of a fire it melts and can cause far more damage than a natural fiber like cotton which just burns. TBH I don’t really pay a ton of attention to it either way but thought I would offer the dissenting option.

      5. stitchinthyme

        I would add that even if every single person in the office was on the receiving end at some point or another, these things just don’t belong in an office environment. My current company gets a cake or cupcakes at the end of every month for everyone who has a birthday in that month (since everyone has a birthday), and that’s it — it’s not even really a party, as people just kind of wander in, get their slice of cake, maybe say “happy birthday” to the appropriate people (their names are typically on a little sign since our admin finally got tired of answering the “Who had birthdays this month?” question), and go back to work; there is no singing or decorations or anything like that. If someone has a baby or gets married, they might send out a congratulatory email, but that’s about all. There’s no need or reason to celebrate everyone’s personal stuff in the office — let the person’s friends and relatives plan those parties outside work hours.

        Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever worked in an office where wedding or baby showers were a thing. Maybe it’s because I work in a male-dominated field.

      6. Alton

        I’m not really opposed to them on principle, but it kind of weirds me out in a personal level because I see stuff like getting married as personal and can’t imagine wanting to make a big deal about it at work. It depends on the office, too. Something like a congratulations card would be appreciated, but if I worked with people who kept asking about my wedding plans or something, then I’d rather avoid the topic. A lot of the traditions around marriage and weddings make me uncomfortable, so I wouldn’t want to feel like I was being pushed to acknowledge it in a way I didn’t want.

        1. Grapey

          +1
          I got a “Have SO much fun tomorrow! And on your honeymoon! And we will see you in two weeks!” and it was all I needed from my peers.

      7. Not a Mere Device

        I tried to dodge the celebration at work by not telling anyone I was getting married until afterwards, and then leaving it as a very low-key non-announcement:

        Boss: How was your day off?
        Me: Good: I got married.

        They had a celebration, I think in part because “everyone likes cake” and in part because otherwise I’d have had to explain that I didn’t want one, and maybe even why. I got to choose a kind of cake flavor, and everyone got a break from work and some good chocolate cake.

        The reason they did it that way was that I didn’t give them the chance to throw a shower. The only coworker who knew I was getting married was a friend I had referred to the job: he had to know, because he was married to my best friend, who was our witness.

        1. Rebecca in Dallas

          Haha, I think I’ve shared the story about one of my coworkers getting married on his lunch break! It was pretty funny, our office really likes to do (fairly low-key) parties for weddings, babies, retirements, etc. And he just casually announced it like you did! Everyone was so flabbergasted. He and his long-time girlfriend had decided to get married pretty quickly and they just went to the courthouse one day and did it. Then he came back to work!

        2. Lizzy

          HAHA!!! My friend did that once, except she didn’t tell them she got married. She just started wearing a ring on that finger and a couple of weeks someone goes “wait… what???”

      8. CMDRBNA

        Also, how about a token of appreciation for everyone who didn’t go on three months of maternity leave?

        I’m glad my company offers maternity leave, I think everyone should have paid maternity/paternity/adoption leave, I 100% support policies that enable people to have a sane work-life balance, but at my last company, six people were on overlapping maternity leave and everyone who didn’t have a kid had to majorly step up and travel an insane amount for nearly a year, and we never even got a thank-you or an acknowledgement that our 30% travel jobs had suddenly turned into 75% travel jobs.

      9. Harper the Other One

        My work gave me a baby shower when I was pregnant, and I was very grateful for their kindness – but it did strike me as a bit awkward. It was retail, so a ton of the employees were teens/young 20s and kids were far in the future for most of them, and they didn’t recognize graduations etc. the same way.

    2. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand

      I can relate! I was actually joking about this with my husband the other day. My husband and I planned our wedding in 2 weeks, so I didn’t have a bridal shower, and we don’t have kids, so I have never had a shower or a major celebration thrown for me. But between work and my personal life, I have thrown, attended, or shopped for so many showers and/or celebrations. I joked with my husband that the next time we adopt a dog (we have a lot of dogs), we should have a dog adoption shower.

      1. WellRed

        We threw a puppy shower one time for a coworker. She’d been having a really difficult year so it was an easy way toahave some fun and express our appreciation in general.

        1. AJK

          We did this for a coworker too! In part because she was never married, and had no kids, but over her many years at our company she had contributed to goodness knows how many baby and wedding showers (including mine) and it was the first puppy she had ever adopted. It was a way to show our appreciation, but she did get lots of useful stuff and advice from our dog loving coworkers!

      2. Former Govt Contractor

        My husband and I are unable to have children, but we have purchased a bazillion baby shower, first communion, confirmation, birthday, graduation, Christmas, etc. gifts for all our MANY nieces and nephews. So I tried an experiment before Christmas one year. After asking for gift ideas for each niece/nephew, I followed up by saying, “Oh and Sally (my pit bull) loves chicken jerky!” Everyone just laughed, and Sally got nothing for Christmas. She was part of the family as far as I’m concerned – she just passed away 3 weeks ago at age 16. My nieces and nephews grew up with her. : (

        1. There's Always Money in the Banana Stand

          Oh, I am so sorry for your loss! I am sending hugs your way.

        2. Harper the Other One

          Sally sounds like she was a sweetheart; I’m sorry for your loss. I wish I could go back in time and give her all the chicken jerky.

        3. Rebecca in Dallas

          I’m so sorry about Sally!

          All of the dogs (and cats!) in our family get gifts, I make sure to shop specifically for a toy for them. We sign it like it came from our pets. Most of our family took their cue from us and give our pets gifts as well! Plus it’s an easy way to keep the dogs entertained while everyone is opening gifts.

        4. Cornflower Blue

          I’m sorry about your Sally. 16 years is a good long age though so I’m sure she knew that you loved her and looked after her the best she could.

          Also, I totally give gifts to people’s pets and gifts to my parents FROM my dog because I’ve told them he’s the only grandchild they’re getting from me. And he gets gifts for Christmas as well, and his birthday.

    3. Work Wardrobe

      Represent!

      Don’t invite me to a baby shower lunch (on my dime) for a coworker making 40% more than me AND tell me to pitch in for a $400 stroller. I don’t even like her and I have no children.

      Why would I spend $40 on a co-worker’s baby?

    4. Jen in Oregon

      Malibu Stacy, I am so sorry that your coworkers suck. I know it’s not the same, but I think that you are awesome for doing that and I hope you are able to surround yourself with people who can see that and that can appreciate you the way you deserve, at least when you aren’t at work.

  9. Enough

    CrystalMama and Steve – you are missing the point. If there is going to be a recognition of work above and beyond or of personal milestones you don’t go cheap or show favoritism. Do it right or don’t do it at all.

    1. Kyrielle

      THIS. My current job does bonus plans across the board, for groups, but not so much special recognition for individuals. And we don’t celebrate birthdays, and the company does nothing special when someone is leaving. All of which is fine by me and didn’t even occur to me until this post and the comments!

      But when, at a previous job, some things were handled unequally (and occasionally some very weak “rewards” were given out – I mean, I’d rather have had just a thank-you note), that was annoying. (Not a huge deal. Just annoying. I mean, it’s not the end of the world or anything. But it’s not great or even helpful.)

    2. LouiseM

      I agree–and personally, I would go for “don’t do it at all.” At ToxicOldJob we were compensated very poorly and the gifts we sometimes got for birthdays, etc. felt like a slap in the face. I love cupcakes, but I’d REALLY love a living wage.

    3. Who the eff is Hank?

      This x 1000. At a previous job, I got engaged during the same week as my coworker (same level in the company). He got a bottle of champagne from the CEO and cupcakes delivered to the office (which he shared with everyone). I didn’t get anything except for “Congrats!” from a few people. It’s not that I expected cupcakes and champagne from my work for getting engaged. I expected equal treatment, and it was glaringly obvious I wasn’t getting it. Not surprisingly, that inequality also showed up in our paychecks.

    4. BananaStand

      Thank you! Can we just have nice things for once? I just wanted to read funny stories without any sanctimonious comments

      1. crookedfinger

        Right?? If you don’t care for gifts or think they’re necessary, you could just…not comment on this post. lol

    5. Grumpy

      It’s sort of like leaving a terrible tip and expecting the server to be grateful because tipping is always optional.
      Technically true, but it actually implies something very different.

  10. GigglyPuff

    My recognition expectations are so low and not even those are met. All I’ve ever wanted is a “nice job”. Or couple years ago, after a few years of work I got a certificate for specialized work, that actually relates to what I do, and is really gaining as a standard, you see it on an increasing amount of job postings for my work. When I passed the examination, and told my manager, not even a “congrats”. I was really proud of myself, especially since professional development is not something that is even encouraged since there’s no money for it, it completely demoralized me.

    1. Rikki Tikki Tarantula

      My expectations for recognition got so low at ToxicJob that when I started freelancing and clients said things like “Great work! Thank you!” I was suspicious of their motives, thinking: What are they really trying to say? Is this some kind of subterfuge?

      1. You're welcome

        Meanwhile I once worked in a retail establishment where the manager’s last words to each person as either he or they were leaving were always “Thank you!” Every day.

        1. Strawmeatloaf

          Ha, I now have it ingrained in me to say “Thank you” for pretty much every interaction with a stranger instead of “you’re welcome” because of years being a cashier at a grocery store where we had to say Thank You to every customer who came in.

          I’m not sure how to re-wire my brain to stop doing that.

    2. LKW

      I had to tell a boss once that I like hearing “Thank you” and that I would like it if she said it every so often. She was a terrible manager. I was not said to see her fired.

    3. PW

      Sounds like my workplace. I would be fine with a “thanks” or “nice job” as well. I don’t even need gifts.

      I work for a government agency and our dumpster fire of a boss has barely been in the office the past several months. He claims he works from home and then when he does come in he often leaves after a few hours because he says he has comp time coming from working at home too much. When he is here he often hangs out in the back office talking about everything other than work-related issues. He also has a cruel and vicious streak a mile long. If he doesn’t like you he will try and make your life miserable. At least once a week someone goes home in tears.

      To make a long story short – we have been doing most of his work for him. He signs us up for charity events and other events then neglects to tell us until right before the date leaving people scrambling to get coverage (he never goes to these things himself). We have received next to no thanks or recognition for this extra work (often working overtime and neglecting vacations and sick time to cover his work). Not a verbal thanks or even an e-mail of thanks. Zero. Zip. Nada.

      Last Christmas one of our clerks asked him if he wanted to send any appreciation to the staff or give us small gifts since our morale was so bad. He said no. Then he had the audacity to send a list of what he wanted us to buy him for Christmas (we usually contribute money towards his Christmas gifts), including expensive lights for his office and a tall plant for his office (he said that tall plants “calm him”). I was so appalled that I contributed nothing to his gift. We only raised about $70 and used Sunshine Fund money (money we use for parties, etc.) to cover the rest of his gifts.

      1. Anjay

        Wow. I don’t know what level of government you work for or what country, but if you’re talking in the U.S.? It’s standard in lots of jurisdictions to ban gifting upwards except under certain circumscribed circumstances, and “my boss wants expensive stuff for Christmas” isn’t one of those reasons. Maybe this practice could be curtailed?

  11. Bend & Snap

    I once had a referral bonus revoked when the person quit after the 90-day employment requirement for me to get the bonus. Never went out of my way to refer anyone again.

    My current company has a formal program in place for milestone work anniversaries. There’s a pin and a catalogue of gifts to choose from. I got a Vera Wang crystal vase for my 5-year anniversary. It’s a nice way to commemorate the anniversary.

    1. CMDRBNA

      I feel you – my terrible previous employer had an employee referral bonus program that was pretty explicitly laid out in their handbook. I had a great temp who had temped for me a few times that I was trying to get them to hire, in any department (just one of those people who is a delight to work with) and it took almost two years of her intermittently temping before I got her an interview and an offer from another department.

      Our Clueless HR Lady then gave the referral bonus (which was pretty substantial) to someone else who had referred her to me for the first short-term temp position two years ago. (She also violated the policy which required something like them being full time for six months or whatever).

      I ended up getting a small amount because I had a year-long email trail of me trying to get this person hired.

      If you’re going to have policies like employee referral bonuses, then follow your own damn policy! It just created a lot of bad blood.

    2. BurnOutCandidate

      I moved about the time of my fifth anniversary, so when the catalog of gifts arrived I threw it in a box and forgot about it, until about sixth months before my tenth anniversary. None of the gifts in the catalog were worth more than about twenty-five dollars, as I priced some of them online after I found the catalog again. I wasn’t sure if the code would still work, so I went ahead and tried it. It did, and I got a Hamilton Beach blender, since I didn’t have a blender and it seemed like a practical gift. It’s not a very good blender.

      When the tenth anniversary catalog arrived for me about six months later, it had basically the same gifts. Again, nothing more than about forty dollars. I got a pots and pans set; again, a practical gift as there were a couple of pot sizes I didn’t have. Honestly, after using some of these pots a few times, I’m thinking that was another waste of an anniversary gift.

      1. Her Blondeness

        I think we work for the same company. Cheap stuff in a catalog that I really don’t need as an appreciation. How about a floating holiday for each five year segment? That would be worthwhile.

        Bonus points: One’s direct boss is supposed to present your milestone plaque (5, 10, 15 years, etc.) at a staff meeting or other group event. I’m going on 15 years and this has.never.happened to me. Those plaques? Thrown in a closet somewhere collecting dust.

        Bonus, bonus points: Current department has a monthly newsletter. They call out work anniversaries and birthdays for each month. Neither of mine have been correct for the past three years since joining the team, and I’ve emailed the correction to the newsletter editor, at her request, all three times.

        Yep, I feel soooooooo appreciated .

      2. Arjay

        I got earrings from the catalog for my tenth anniversary at old job. New job, you get a pen at one year, a mug at fice years, and a polo shirt at 10. Fancy!

      3. Jayne

        We had established levels of anniversary gifts:
        5 years-nada
        10 years-lunch
        15 years-lunch
        20 years-lunch
        25 and on up-dinner, with the higher milestones getting a watch (3o years) and eventually a lamp (35 years).

        With a new administration, they have condensed the 10-20 years to a reception, no lunch. Some of us 20 yearers were joking today about how they were going to keep on moving the goalposts, so lunch or dinner was never going to happen. Comments were made about how we were worth more at our 15 year milestones than at our 20 year.

      4. Code Monkey, the SQL

        That sounds like the recognition catalog from when I worked retail. If the store met X + 15% quota for a month, you got a scratch-off. The scratch-off had a random category, and you could pick from any of three or four items in that category. Of course, the top-shelf categories were very glitzy: Vera Wang wristlet! Calaphon cookware! 250$ at Tiffany’s!

        I worked there three years, and won: a set of mixing bowls, a store gift card (10 bucks), and once, a Macy’s card for 50$. Our store usually cleared quota, but the benchmark was always “whatever the store did last year, +10%). So the target was always getting harder and harder to hit.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago

      My old job did a $25 gift card of your choice after 3 years and a $50 gift card of your choice after 5 years. You got an email with a link to a website and you could pick from there and it was sent directly to you.

    4. My AAM is True

      I think I received a tie tack at the five-year mark, or maybe at ten. At twenty years, I earned a good parking space. At twenty-five, I could select from a catalog of roughly $500 items. At thirty, I received a paper notebook, plus a renovation of the whole facility that changed some rules and demoted me from office to cubicle. They’re fair but a little tone-deaf.

  12. voyager1

    Okay the coffee cup isn’t that bad.

    It isn’t like your company gave you one of those “big” $1,000 bonuses that POTUS and his tax cut plan brought forth… only to be taxed at 23% (law is 22%) and then your paycheck gets taxed at same rate too because the company is too lazy to separate them, so you end up giving the government a nice extra $354.29 out of your pocket interest free. Oh I know I will get it back in my return in 2019….

    I am just slightly bitter…..

    So can I have one of those coffee cups? :)

    1. fposte

      That’s the withholding rate, though, not the actual tax rate. You won’t pay more tax on your paycheck as a result (and you can always change the withholding if you want to pay less).

      1. voyager1

        You are right withholding rate is the proper term. But still every other large bank and credit union I have worked has never done this for bonuses. It was just laziness on their part not to set this up like it should have been… two separate direct deposits.

        1. fposte

          Yeah, it sounds like they’ve gotten confused about the difference between a flat rate and a percentage approach to the bonus, and the 23% thing is weird. But it least it doesn’t mean you get less money out of it in the long run.

          1. Positive Reframer

            Not true, because of inflation that $350 is worth less a year from now than it is today. Granted only like 1% less but still when you let someone have your money interest free you are loosing money when they pay you back the original amount in almost all cases.

            Another way to look at it is, what if someone decided to live on the amount they were supposed to have and took out a loan as they went along, they would come out way behind because they would have to pay interest on the money that they were borrowing that should have been in their pocket all along.

            1. fposte

              Fair enough, but that’s true of any over-withholding, and you can change your withholding to get it back earlier if you want.

    2. Temping all the way

      Oh, this reminds me. I worked in a factory as an agency temp ~20 years ago. They had a target for the quarter, and said if we all worked hard and hit it, we’d get a $300 bonus. (For context, at the time I was paying $400 / month for a 1 bedroom apartment. This was a lot of money in this place and time.) We hit the target, and new GM had a celebratory picnic (on a Thursday) and personally passed out envelopes.

      Regular employees opened the envelope to find $300 cash. Woohoo! Temps like me opened the envelope to find a note saying we’d the $300 with our regular check on Friday (payday). We were a bit disappointed, but hey, temps are always second class citizens, whatever.

      On Friday, we temps received two checks, our regular one and the bonus one, with the higher withholding rate only on the bonus. Hey, withholding sucks, but it’s still extra money. The regular employees received a single check, with withholding for the $300 cash deducted from their regular pay.

      And it turns out, many of the guys had not told their wives about the $300 cash and had spent much of it at a local bar Thursday night. Sure, that’s the way it works, but when someone hands you cash, are you thinking about taxes? So many unhappy employees.

    3. oviraptor

      I so understand the tax withholding pain. Previous job on the check that included my hire/anniversary date I had my regular pay, the anniversary bonus of approximately one week of pay AND the quarterly bonus if we qualified, which we usually did. So much money was taken out for taxes and other regular things like 401k and insurance. I had to keep telling myself the taxes I would get back the following year and putting more in my 401k is a good thing. Which it truly is. I was just bummed that with my pay + 2 bonuses, it was like receiving my regular check and part of 1 bonus. So frustrating.

    4. WellRed

      Hey, managers! If you are going to give me a $500 bonus, adjust it upward on your end so it comes out to about $500 after taxes, not $300 (or whatever).

      1. fposte

        That’s not going to happen, realistically; the adjustments would be different for each employee, and that would mean a different custom for bonuses than for salary (which are also stated pre-tax).

        1. Not a Mere Device

          My first serious job gave out checks for ten-year anniversaries. That was long enough ago that I don’t remember how they handled the taxes. What I remember is that it said “Pay to the order of Not A Mere Device: one thousand dollars.” Not the significantly smaller amount that it would have been with federal, state, and city taxes taken out.

          That said, they didn’t do bonuses other than that, and I don’t know of anywhere that doesn’t take taxes out of things like annual bonuses or profit-sharing.

        2. QualitativeOverQuantitative

          My company has various levels of rewards and they always make it so you actually net the award amount. Last week I received an award at the $500 level, and I will actually receive $500.

      2. BlueWolf

        My company does this. They adjust the amount up on our paystub so that it comes out the actual gift amount after taxes.

        1. M

          Ours too. We get $5000 at the anniversary of every 5 years and it’s adjusted so the after-tax take home is the full 5000.

    5. SJPufendork

      Oh, you reminded me of a good withholding appreciation thing that happened to me 5 years ago.

      My team and I completed a rush project on a tight timelines. The PTB decided to give us each a $1000 spot bonus, and wanted to gross it up so that’d we end up with the actual $1000 in our take home.

      The payroll people managed to hose the withholding/gross up so badly that my take home “spot bonus” was… $171.63. (The other people also received similar take home amounts). I laughed so hard at that one.

  13. ragazza

    In my department, a guy who had been there for about a dozen years left with almost zero public recognition or thanks, while a contractor who was there literally all of eight months got a big party. That kind of disrespect is exactly why the longtime employee decided to get another job.

    1. Bad Candidate

      Same thing happened to me. Contractor from overseas comes for six weeks and when he leaves there’s a big to-do about it and a cake (which I had to go pick up). My last day, after 10 years, was a couple of weeks later and I didn’t get so much as a card or a thanks for your service or anything.

      1. ragazza

        Ugh, I’m sorry. If it makes you feel better, at our company people definitely noticed the discrepancy and were appalled.

  14. Corky's wife Bonnie

    I worked briefly at the company where my dad also worked and he was there over 25 years. During the year and a half of being there the marketing gal, who always liked to loudly complain how busy she was, how stressed she was, etc. decided to move on. Her boss (also my dad’s boss but he hadn’t been his boss for most of the 25 years) made a huge production of her leaving, I think she had been there 6 or 7 years. There was a huge lunch, a cake, the entire office was invited, the boss gave a going away speech and cried, and there was also a happy hour. When my dad retired, he didn’t even get a cake (and he was a well liked and valued employee) and the department took him out to lunch. That’s it, almost like a “don’t let the door hit you in the a$$ on the way out. I was already gone by then but I was so furious at the lack of recognition that I really wanted to tell those people exactly what I thought. He’s not the type to care about gifts, but after the huge display for the marketing gal, it was like a punch in the face.

    1. Millennial Lawyer

      I hate to be insensitive since that sounds really unfair, but I chuckled slightly imagining this like how Hope Hicks had a huge ceremony in the rose garden for her when she left and everyone else is fired by tweet.

        1. Millennial Lawyer

          I almost wanted to comment as a disgruntled Rex Tillerson describing Hope Hicks’s send off. “I was on the can, she was honored in the Rose Garden…”

  15. Higher Ed Database Dork

    One year for Christmas, the private university I worked at gave everyone branded mugs…with a brochure about donating back to the school inside.

    I don’t mind a once-a-year, easily ignored email or flyer or something, but this school was rather demanding when it came to “asking” employees to donate back to the school so putting a request inside a Christmas gift was a real classy touch.

    1. earl grey aficionado

      Higher ed is THE WORST about this. I like the small liberal arts university I just graduated from (met great people, got a great education) but the donation thing is…bad. They’re a social justice-focused school with a small endowment, meaning staff and faculty were okay with low pay because they felt they were helping students and the community. Unfortunately, the school decided to build a shiny new student center (read: vanity project for a universally-despised outgoing president) instead of raising pay and keeping tuition affordable, they predictably overextended the budget, and now they can’t stop hitting people up for money (including freshmen students and criminally underpaid adjuncts!) at the worst of times. The mug thing sounds like something they’d do.

      It’s awful because this kind of mismanagement/snub ultimately hurts endowments due to bitterness and costs so much money in staff turnover. I was a student worker for three years and by my last semester the salaried staff had turned over so thoroughly that I had more institutional knowledge than my boss in some areas (and he had one foot out the door, too). I spent my last month on the job frantically documenting everything so that the office wouldn’t implode the following year.

      1. Higher Ed Database Dork

        Oh the adjuncts….my mom is an adjunct professor at the same private school, and they are SO CHEAP when it comes to providing anything for the adjuncts. Pay is predictably low, they get no perks whatsoever, barely any professional support – but the administration always makes sure to include them on the emails and the glossies when it’s donation time! Also they did not receive the mugs at Christmastime but they did get the brochure, she let me know.

        1. Elizabeth West

          I had to call the alumni association of my alma mater and tell them to stop sending me donation requests. “I’m $000,000 in debt. What makes you think I have any more money for you?”

          1. Faintlymacabre

            I worked in the alumni relations filing room at my college. Seeing how the sausage is made really turned me off of ever donating to the place. The targeting of how they ask for money from the wealthy people almost makes me glad that I’ll never have that problem!

      2. zora

        Hi there, I think you went to my alma mater! [[[WAVES]]]] I graduated a very long time ago, but we had many of the same problems way back when, solidarity!!! ;)

    2. Garland not Andrews

      So did you donate the mug and brochure back to them?
      Wouldn’t it be funny for the college president or provost to come in the next day and have her office door blocked by a giant stack of “Donated” mugs? :-)

      1. Higher Ed Database Dork

        That is a beautiful image, and I wish I could have gotten people together to do it!

      1. Higher Ed Database Dork

        Oh I wish! That probably would have gotten me fired, it was a super dysfunctional environment. I left pretty shortly afterwards for a state school, where I’ve had great career growth and make about 100% more than the private school would ever have paid me. Getting revenge by living well! (And the only money grabs my state school does are once-a-year brochures that I can toss in the recycle bin.)

    3. Positive Reframer

      I was annoyed with this when as a student they were campaigning to get them to pay. I’m sorry but your $10 donation request is equivalent to a week of food so I’m gunna have to opt out I don’t care about a new couch in the dorm lobby.
      I can only imagine how much more irritating it is when you are getting pressure from your boss.

    4. Emilie

      I assume this is du to me being European, but… Asking people to donate to their place of employment just seems incredibly inappropriate. The thought of it makes me so uncomfortable!

    5. KA

      This reminds me of when my old principal allowed a well-known charity to commandeer a staff meeting and demand that we sign up for monthly donations from our paychecks. Some of us pointed out that we spend a lot of our own money to do our jobs and that our budgets are tight. The charity rep’s response was that we could designate the money to go to our school, so we could then buy things from our classroom and ask admin to reimburse us from the charity earnings. That we donated. So much wtf that morning.

  16. CMDRBNA

    I worked at a retail store where the manager (the son of the owners, who made an exorbitant amount of money to never be at the store while he pursued a real estate career, as the stores slowly went broke) would give us holiday gifts of stuff from the store’s inventory. I got a scented candle made with a scent that I’m allergic to.

    I don’t know why he didn’t just do $10 or $20 Starbucks cards or something, those would have been way more appreciated.

    1. Magenta Sky

      Our Christmas gift a couple of years ago, of something we sell, was a travel mug. Of course, it’s a Yeti mug (so not at all cheap), with our names silk screened on the side, and I use it ever day.

      1. CMDRBNA

        We had other items in the store that would have been great to get as gifts – just not a giant scented candle that uses a particular oil that gives me hives.

        1. Magenta Sky

          Yeah, I get that. The Fitbit I got is still in the box on my desk, and can remain so until the heat death of the universe so far as I’m concerned. (Those people have privacy issues that make Facebook look like the NSA.)

    2. Bostonian

      People at my last job complained about Starbucks gift cards because not everyone drinks Starbucks. To each his own, I guess!

      1. kc89

        You are correct that with “to each his own” but I’ve always thought starbucks giftcards are the best generic gift because even if someone doesn’t like starbucks there’s a very good chance they know someone that does and can re-gift it

    3. Anonicat

      I’ve lost count of the number of scented candles I’ve regifted. People mean so well, and I appreciate the thought, but they still make me want to take my eyeballs out and itch them on the carpet.

    4. Forget T-Bone Steak, Let’s Eat T-Rex Steak

      I used to work for a church and around the holidays, they would take up a special collection for holiday bonuses for the staff. We’d put an announcement in the bulletin that said you can contribute for a holiday gift for Jane, T-Rex, Michael and Allan, either individually or as a group. It would run through payroll so all appropriate taxes were taken out. The first year, I was really new and my portion was maybe $200. The next year my portion was much bigger, like close to $500. The third year, they ran the same ad (for Jane, T-Rex, Michael and Allan) but my part was $100 exactly. Allan took home $1,000 and Michael $800 (and I don’t know what Jane got ever). Turns out, after they got the pot of money, TPTB decided to give “bonuses” to their favorite volunteers as well. I can’t say for certain that it all came out of my part of the pot, but I definitely took the biggest cut from previous years. I kept reminding myself it’s just a bonus and to be grateful, but it really seemed shady because the congregation thought the collection was going to Jane, T-Rex, Michael and Allan, but that’s not where it went.

  17. Q

    For my ten year anniversary I received an automated email from corporate with a certificate I could print out, so I did and hung it up on my cube wall. Several months later my manager noticed it when she was talking to me about something else. She said “oh, you’ve been here ten years?” I replied the affirmative and her response was “well good for you.”

    I wasn’t expecting a monetary gift or a party but I did expect at least a congratulations or thanks considering most people left the department after a year or two.

    1. Q

      And I know this is anywhere near as awful as most people’s experiences will be, but I did end up leaving that job 6 months later.

      1. RabbitRabbit

        No, that’s understandable. I posted 3 anecdotes in this thread about a previous job where the turnover rate was high but the amount of respect you got for actually sticking around tended to be low.

        1. Red Dork

          I’m sure it was great, but since it contained ingredients I’m very allergic to, I couldn’t tell you.

    2. Indie

      An automated ten year congratulation? With certificate??!!

      I have so many questions for the person who set that up

  18. Snubble

    The department head’s experimental baking seems to be the major form of recognition here. Not that anybody except the department head gets much joy out of undercooked courgette cake , but I suppose she’s having fun? I just would personally prefer it if she tested her recipes, and if babies and birthdays and leavers did not have to play second fiddle to the baking.

    1. Nanani

      “Experimental baking” has piqued my curiosity. I’m picturing a mad scientist cliche but with kitchen implements.

      1. Snubble

        More like “I have a book with a recipe for toffee cake I’ve never tried, but I wanted it to be gluten-free so I swapped out the flour, and of course it had to be vegan so I left out the eggs, because you don’t really need them, do you, and I used almond milk and cooked it a little bit cooler so the banana pieces wouldn’t be singed, because I had leftover bananas and I just thought, toffee and banana, you know, they go so well. Anyway it fell a little bit in the oven but I haven’t tried it yet so pass it around, everyone take a piece and tell me what you think!”
        She has real enthusiasm, but she doesn’t plan and she doesn’t test her recipes, and they mostly do not turn out well.

    2. CanadianDot

      Where I work, the head of our organization loves baking – at Christmas, she bakes cookies for the whole organization (about 600 people, in multiple locations across the province), and they’re always highly anticipated. She recently used them as an incentive for employee participation in something, and we had the highest participation we’d ever had!

    3. Alienor

      I used to work with a sweet older lady who was notorious for pressing her terrible baking on everyone. At holidays you’d get a clingfilm-covered paper plate that held six or seven different types of baked goods, each one worse than the last. I’d just thank her and then throw the whole thing away as soon as I was at a safe distance from the building, which I’m pretty sure is what all my colleagues did as well.

  19. Keep Your Eyes On The Prize

    Posted this on the wrong letter site.
    The birthday one reminded me of a long suppressed work memory. The office favourite was being given a big fancy birthday cake. People started talking about Zodiac signs and what they meant. Someone asked me when my birthday was. I said today, the same day as the birthday person. I kept eating my cake and a few people did look embarrassed but not the birthday girl. It didn’t register with her at all. The odds are more than one person in an office will share a birthday if not a birthday month. It’s not hard to check the dates.

    1. anon24

      My last company only had 9 people working at my location. Of course out of 9 people, the office manager shared a birthday with one of the employees, another co-worker and I shared a birthday, and the general manager’s birthday was a few days before mine. So we were adults about it and would pick something we could all enjoy and they would say hey this is for Jane and Wakeen and Fergus’ birthdays.

      My company now has the greatest birthday cake perk ever. Instead of having to awkwardly have an office celebration, I get a coupon for a free cake at a local grocery store and it’s *mine* to share with my family, not something to bring into work.

      1. RJGM

        That is an awesome perk!

        Funny how it works out at small companies — my mom has her own business with two employees. She and one of her employees share a birthday… and the third doesn’t celebrate birthdays at all (I think for religious reasons). She said the birthday-sharers usually just kind of awkwardly high-five, and my mom buys lunch for everybody.

    2. Murphy

      Yeah, when I started at my job I was on a team that did cards for birthdays. I signed a card for my grandboss who it turned out had the same birthday as I did. He had a big “Happy Birthday” banner outside his office for his birthday. I got nothing.

    3. This Daydreamer

      One day at my old workplace, which didn’t bother with birthday celebrations, one of my coworkers and I had the same meal break. It was retail, so we had to stagger breaks. Anyway, she commented on her meal that “pizza is the best birthday dinner”. I was startled because it was my birthday, too.

      Long story short, not only did we share the same birthday, we were born two hours apart in the same hospital. It was a good thing that there was a third coworker there because no one would have believed that conversation really happened otherwise.

    4. Elizabeth West

      At Exjob, coworker liked to make cakes for people’s birthdays. Which was fine–but she found out an upcoming birthday of mine was the big 5-0. I came in to a huge Grim Reaper door wrap on the panels of my cube and all kinds of decorations in it, loudly broadcasting to everyone just exactly how old I was. >_<

      I was okay with it after a couple of days and just sort of leaned into it but I felt like it was a big overstep. Birthday, yes. Telling my exact age, not so much. But she made me an iced angel-food cake, which is my favorite, so I forgave her.

  20. morgan

    At my last job, part of my responsibilities included decorating people’s offices for their birthday. This meant staying late the night before and taping up ridiculous amounts of streamers, spreading confetti, etc. They all hated it, but the owner loved it, so I went along. I was usually reminded a few times in the week leading up to the birthday by the birthday calendar I shared with our HR admin, which included my birthday. But when my birthday came…nothing. Even though I know a couple other admins (who ranked above me – I was the bottom of the totem pole) got the same reminders I did, I did not even get a “happy birthday.” I’m not a big birthday person, and don’t like drawing attention to myself, but it did sting a little knowing how much of a Big Deal birthdays were in office culture but mine went intentionally unrecognized. The company I work for now does a monthly celebration for all birthdays and anniversaries – donuts and a happy birthday email are all I could ever ask for :)

    1. Nana

      I was once the Birthday Person (a job I hated), staying late to decorate). The nievening before MY birthday, I was reminded to decorate my own cubicle!

      1. Elizabeth West

        Haha, I had to pick my own card and send out the email for my birthday at OldExjob. But I always made it fun and would scream, “HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MEEEEEEE!!!!!”

  21. .

    My college suggested a process improvement in passing, I expanded the idea did all the work involved in getting it working.

    His reward £1,000 + Invite to a swanky evening reception
    Mine £20 itunes card

    1. This Daydreamer

      Wow. I think I would’ve used part of the card to download “Take This Job and Shove It”. And maybe play it on repeat on my computer every time I walked away from it. Yeah, I would have just day dreamed that last part. Probably.

  22. Hidden Trout

    I used to teach at a private school that was experiencing some growing pains. For “Teacher Appreciation Day” one year the Parents’ Association sent us cards that said “You’re Worth Your Weight in Gold!” attached to a sandwich baggie with 25 Sacajawea coins. I don’t want to knock their generosity or thoughtfulness, but at some point, they ran out of golden Sacajaweas, and I was one of the teachers who was given mostly Susan B. Anthony coins and quarters instead.

    The delight I get out of re-telling the story that I was called “worth my weight in gold” and then given almost no gold was the real gift, and I have cherished it for many years.

    1. Curious Cat

      I’m laughing at the thought of someone then taking their Sacajawea’s to a store and paying in coins.

      1. Hidden Trout

        That was the bonus! In addition to all the grumbling about the difficulty of unloading the Sacajaweas, there was a brisk market in gold-coin related pranks for several months afterward.

      2. Willow

        I got a piggy bank full of these as a birthday gift once! Mostly used them in vending machines.

      3. Red Reader

        I knew a guy once. Oh, this guy.

        He decided, because he couldn’t balance his checkbook and kept over drafting his account, that his bank was out to screw him over. So he was only going to use cash. One day he got a Sacajawea in his change from the grocery store and fell in love. He was only going to use these gold coins. Because it made him feel like a pirate, you see, to carry around a crown royal bag full of gold coins.

        He was one of my roommates. Our third roommate, who was the one to collect the household rent-and-bills money, told him multiple times that no, he was not going to pay her his $500 share of the rent and bills with a sack of gold dollar coins that she would have to take to the bank on the public bus, he could take her deposit slip to the bank and deposit it himself and bring her the receipt if he wasn’t going to use cash or write her a check. (He kept forgetting, you see.) He once threw a righteous temper tantrum because the auto shop made him go to the bank next door and trade his $400 in gold coins for cash because they didn’t have anyplace to put it in their cash register.

        1. Hidden Trout

          Thank you for this. The detail of the Crown Royal bag truly cements your roommate’s piratical bonafides.

          1. Red Reader

            He also once ate three-month-expired bacon. The actual conversation, punctuated with him barfing from food poisoning, went like this:

            Me: “on top of everything else, like dates and funky smells, the rest of this bacon (which he had put BACK IN THE FRIDGE) is f’ing GREEN.”
            Him: “I’m colorblind.”

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

          Man, that sounds like me in high school. I kept my lunch money in a leather drawstring bag because it made me feel like a pirate to count out my $2 for pizza and milk from it, rather than a wallet.

          (I recently found the bag again, with about $15 in cash in it, while packing to move. Gave me a laugh!)

        3. smoke tree

          This reminds me of my campaign to rename Canadian two-dollar coins from “toonies” to “doubloons” (because the one-dollar coin is called a loonie, you see).

        4. Totally Minnie

          $500 in dollar coins? That certainly makes middle-school-me feel better about the time I bought a CD entirely with coins. In my defense, I was 12 and had no job, so coins were basically the only money I had.

    2. Tea, please

      At a school where friends teach, the parent association gave all the general education teachers $150 gift cards. Nothing for the special education teachers (and most of the special education teachers pushed in to the class so they were serving all the kids).

      They eventually gave the special ed teachers $75 gift cards once it was clear how horrible a distinction this was.

      1. Hidden Trout

        That’s an astonishing misunderstanding of the work that special education teachers do, and hideous that the parents tried to “undo” the damage by still not matching what they did for the rest of the faculty.

      2. Observer

        Well, special ed teachers get paid TONS and they don’t really work as hard as regular teachers, dontcha know?
        /S

        What are you willing to bet that the leaders of the PA would rather die than admit that THEIR kid might ever need something like special ed?

    3. Alton

      They really didn’t think through the implications of that, did they? It’s kind of a weird message in general, since I can’t imagine that 25 Sacajawea coins weigh *that* much. If someone is worth their weight in gold, most people are going to need at least 100 pounds of gold.

    4. Work Wardrobe

      There’s one listed on Etsy right now for $239.

      Doesn’t Sacajawea also refer to a bag a weed?

    5. Beancounter in Texas

      In Dallas, NorthPark Center (a super fancy mall with high end designer stores) has NorthPark Gold. In essence, the Gold is a mall-wide gift certificate, accepted by all stores, restaurants, spas & theaters. The best part is that the gold is gold colored coins (with some weight) in $5, $10, $20, $50 & $100 denominations.

      1. Rebecca in Dallas

        Haha, my dad gives me NorthPark Gold every year for Christmas, I always feel so fancy with my gold coin which comes in a fancy red bag!

        Fun fact: whatever store you spend it in, they will give you change back in cash. One year I was a little strapped for funds, so I bought a pair of ~$5 earrings at H&M.

      1. chi type

        They’re both coins of $1 face value but the former is gold (in color, not actual gold) and the latter is silver. Quarters are also silver and (pretty obviously) only worth a quarter what Sacageweas are.

  23. Rae

    The birthday thing happened to me. Except it was a surprise. For a second I thought it was for me and smiled, and then it was announced and we were all lead in a round of “Happy Birthday” for the other person. I was shocked and someone noticed and asked. I said it was my birthday as well, and everyone shrugged and called me childish and selfish for bringing it up and taking the attention from the “birthday girl”. I was then chastised for not smiling and hanging out. That day sucked.

    1. Ruth (UK)

      I’m sorry that one happened to you :( I actually just commented above how often when people have been left out in a gift or gift-like situation, they feel they can’t say anything as they’re worried they’ll look petty, even when they have legitimate reason to feel hurt. It was reasonable for you to feel and act how you did.

    2. Just Tired

      For some reason your story really punched me in the gut. It’s one thing for everyone to sort of go, “Eh,” but to accuse you of being childish and selfish for bringing it up? That’s putting effort into being jerks. If I was in a crowd where that happened, I would immediately feel awful, lead another round of “Happy Birthday” and hand you a piece of cake while apologizing profusely. And if my co-workers wanted to pooh-pooh me too, that’s fine. There is a way to rectify these kind of situations without being a horrible human being. Ugh. I’m sorry that happened to you, and I hope you’re someplace with better people now.

      1. Rae

        I was young, in college, and didn’t really know that standing up for myself wasn’t a bad thing. I left that place far behind a long time ago.

      2. Ruth (UK)

        On a positive note, your comment has just reminded me that I’ve actually seen this happen… It was a social gathering of people who shared a hobby (but from several different groups/clubs so not everyone knew everyone else extremely well), and we were celebrating the birthday of someone. It was beer and cake, and a few cards but nothing huge. After we sang ‘happy birthday’ someone pointed another guy out and mentioned it had actually been their birthday yesterday. Everyone launched into another round of ‘happy birthday’ for them. We we-lit the candles so they could be blown out a second time.

        1. Gelliebean

          We used to do a birthday thing once a month for everyone whose b-day was in that month, which included a sing-along. It would go fine up until you reached “Happy birthday, dear Mary-Jane-Chuck-Dave-Bobbi” at which point no one knew what order to put the names, and you just got a big Wall of Sound until general consensus decided to move on to “Happy birthday to yoooooou!” :-p

      3. Luna

        And he didn’t even bring it up! They asked why he looked surprised! Wow people are terrible.

    3. Marthooh

      “How dare you allow yourself to be put into a position such that you might reasonably think the rest of us are jerks?”

  24. Curious Cat

    Not work, but at my college graduation the rolled up paper we received walking across the stage asked us to make a donation to the university now that we were alumni.

    1. CatCat

      Hahaha, omg, that’s bad. It reminds me of when I was in law school and, toward the end of my final year, the school was hitting up graduating students for money for a class gift. They had a sort of fundraising party in the central quad. Congrats for getting to the end and give some money!

      This was the same week as student loan exit counseling during the height of the Great Recession when there had been two (!!) employers at on campus interviews that year, and most students were looking at graduating unemployed because they hadn’t been able to find a job or their job offers had been revoked because of the recession.

    2. all aboard the anon train

      Whenever my undergrad alma mater calls for donations, I always tell them that I’ve already made a substantial donation in the form of four years of tuition payments.

      1. grace

        Lol. I do the same thing :-) They don’t appreciate it, but I don’t appreciate being asked for donations less than a year after graduating, so I consider it even.

      2. Cedrus Libani

        Hear. I made a six-figure “donation” to my alma mater, and while I don’t regret doing so…I kind of think that should be enough.

    3. Environmental Gone Public Health Gone Back Environmental

      For mine, we all got the same phone call about a month after graduation asking us to donate as a congratulations present to…..ourselves? The college? They couldn’t explain it when I asked.

      I told them that when they finally figured out how to spell my damn name and sent me the right diploma, and *then* finally paid off my student loans from them, and *then* graduated with my MS, and *then* paid off those loans…. I’d think real hard about donating. Maybe.

    4. Harper the Other One

      I have a friend whose “diploma” received when he walked was a notice that he owed $147-something for a miscalculated residence fee in first year (which they had never notified him about) and that he wouldn’t receive his diploma until he paid up. So he framed the notice. To my knowledge, he’s never paid the fee.

    5. Triplestep

      Same here – And I still remember this from 30 years ago! (We could not get our real diplomas until they’d time to ensure our last bursar bill was paid.)

    6. Kag

      Got that one too, only for a master’s program. Of course, the only reason I suffered through the ceremony in the first place was so I could get my diploma before they had time to change their minds.

    7. Kirsten

      My grad school did that too! We all got back to our seats and opened the crappy little fake folders they gave us and found donation letters. When the diplomas were eventually mailed, they came in a plastic sleeve (nothing that you could even pretend to display them in), which is where mine still is. The school was pretty crappy in a lot of ways already, but that stunt was the last straw and I’ll never donate to them, even though I’ve donated to my undergrad every year.

    8. Anjay

      Your school waited until graduation? Classy! My grad program (which believe me, was NOT short on funds) started hitting me up when I was still enrolled.

  25. RabbitRabbit

    My old department had a lavish, never-before-done Employee Appreciation Day with a continental breakfast, personalized T-shirts, little thank-you signs and flowers left at everyone’s desk, and closing up the office early so everyone could be taken to lunch.

    Well, everyone except the 4 people (including me) who worked in a separate office down the hall. Because someone had to “mind the office” while they were all gone. But we weren’t even told anything was happening, we weren’t given T-shirts or flowers or signs or even told about the breakfast.

    My coworker and I just up and left at noon.

    A few weeks later, we were taken out for a separate acknowledgement lunch, but the place we went to didn’t have their special entrees that day, just a small hot and cold buffet. I’m a vegetarian, I had a salad that I put together.

    Yeah. Our administrator sucked.

    1. RabbitRabbit

      Oh, and when I left after over a decade of service, the same administrator was pissed. We had a high turnover rate in the department, and she forbid my colleagues from hosting a going-away party, even on their own dime. A related department, outside of her oversight, that I worked with hosted it in their own space. She relented at the end and claimed that the cake in the breakroom (no writing on it, but it was actually ordered for another employee’s birthday) was a combined celebration cake.

    2. morgan

      Oh man this reminds me of when I was waiting tables. We had two holiday dinners – one for front of house, one for back. I wasn’t even made aware of the FOH party until I realized I was the only FOH employee on the schedule for one night. The GM said he’d get me a giftcard to make up for it, which was fine in theory. They all had hibachi at a really nice place down the street, and I got a $10 gift card to THE RESTAURANT WHERE I WORKED.

      It was one of those places where a customer could scream at a server for forgetting a side of ranch and would walk out with two sides of ranch, a gift card, and an apology, so I really wasn’t surprised.

    3. gingerbird

      Oh this reminds me of the holiday party where the CS employees had to go down in shifts so someone would be on the phone. Turns out all off the games, raffles, and food occurred during the first shift. The second (my) shifty got to pick through the leftovers in an empty room.

      At least I got a cupcake.

  26. Recently Diagnosed

    To whomever wrote the first comment, I’m gonna need you to tell me, because I think we may work at the same company, lol.

  27. NoChampagneForYou

    This is happening in my office as we speak.
    Almost everyone on the admin staff at my non-profit (and everyone who has left voluntarily from my department) gets an organization wide champagne toast. Everyone except for my coworker who’s last day is today who has worked here for several years. It’s a pretty deliberate snub because they’re mad she’s leaving.

    1. NoChampagneForYou

      Oh! And instead of getting a company-wide email announcing her departure and thanking her for her years of service, the announcement was buried in a somewhat related email.

      1. Nobody Here by That Name

        We get that at my company. If you find out someone doesn’t work here anymore it’s usually because the person themselves told you. Somebody recently left with over 10+ years at the company. Any recognition of their history or service or official mention they were leaving? Nooooooooope.

        1. Luna

          Yeah at my last job there were several long-time staff who just disappeared- I found one day that Sansa had gotten a new job and her last day was a few weeks ago. No one said or did anything.

        2. RJGM

          My company is like that too. I’ve been here just over two years and I’ve gotten a grand total of two “Bye, everyone, here’s my LinkedIn info!” emails — otherwise, you go looking for someone to help you with a project, only to hear that they left the company two weeks ago. This happens whether people leave voluntarily or not.

    2. Jayne

      This just happened to a friend of mine that worked at a law enforcement department. He had the second longest service of all of the officers, but there was no acknowledgement when he left. At the same time, they were warping the job descriptions of four people in order to keep one of the chief’s favorites. He is not sorry that he left.

  28. all aboard the anon train

    A previous company threw huge parties and gave large monetary gifts to anyone who had a child, bought a house, or got married. The large monetary gift was a check that amounted to roughly 10% of your salary.

    When I received my master’s degree, they said it wasn’t a significant life event. They also said getting accepted into a PhD program wasn’t worthy either. I didn’t even get a card. I just got asked why I chose to pursue a degree (while working full-time!) instead of getting married, having kids, or saving to buy a house. A coworker actually lectured me on how my money would have been of better use going towards a house.

    1. all aboard the anon train

      Forgot to add that the company who thought my academic achievements weren’t as noteworthy was an academic publishing company. Oh, the irony.

      1. all aboard the anon train

        Worse, one of them told me that I was too pretty to be wasting myself on graduate school instead of getting married/having kids. Which is a whole other level of inappropriate.

            1. zora

              Wait, what century was this??!! Too pretty to waste yourself on a grad degree?!??!?! Where is your time machine and when can I borrow it?

        1. Emilie

          Everyone knows that you can be pretty or smart, not both! Or neither! And have you considered that your womb might start wandering, due to the stress of academia and lack of producing babies? Are you sure you’re okay to make decisions like that for yourself, being a woman and all?

    2. Nanani

      This is making explicit why workplaces should NOT be celebrating kids, houses, and weddings. It’s bad enough that society at large, from our families to the government policies, push the endless refrain of FOLLOW THE SCRIPT. CONSUME. MAKE MORE CONSUMERS.

      We do not need this at work.

      1. all aboard the anon train

        Yeah. It was also especially awkward because we had a remote coworker who lived in a state that didn’t have same-sex marriage at the time and made it almost impossible for queer individuals to adopt, so it also barred her from being recognized because she didn’t fit into the heteronormative life plan.

      2. pleaset

        I completely agree. And if a company is going to reward things outside of work, they should be rank academic achievement way way way over having a child.

        That said, in life (everything, not just work), I don’t think getting a masters degree is anywhere close to having a child, or getting married, in overall importance. Even less important than buying a house. And I’ve done all those – twice in the case of the degree.

        1. Birch

          I think this is why personal live events need to stay out of work. For some people, getting a master’s or a PhD is WAY more important than having children–it’s not up to your employer to decide how you rank your own live events by importance. Employers should stick to rewarding things that have to do with work only.

          1. zora

            I don’t know if it needs to be that hard and fast. Our company has managed to figure out how to do all of the above and celebrate whatever employees feel is celebration worthy.

            We are in a niche field where most of our staff have a specific high certification, and if anyone passes their exam while they are with us, we have a celebration for them. We also have a dedicated budget for gifts/celebrations for babies, birthdays, weddings, new homes, etc. And we also have budget to just have social time every month whether there is a specific reason or not. It hasn’t come up, but if anyone here finished a degree, or adopted a child, or had any other significant life event they were really excited about, we would definitely have a celebration for them on the company dime. I don’t see why this seems so complicated to some companies!

        2. Julia

          Er, writing my M.A. thesis is a lot more work than getting together the paperwork for even an international marriage involving two of the most bureaucratic countries in the world, so I disagree. Plus, once I have the degree, I have it, whereas my marriage could always fall apart.
          A graduate degree doesn’t take as long as raising a child, I’ll give you that, but saying it’s not close is pretty mean to any person who doesn’t have children, but worked really hard on something else.

    3. Cornflower Blue

      That is legit the point at which I’d ask a platonic friend to marry me so I can get the damn gift because JEEZ.

  29. voyager1

    I thought the comments on the cup were pretty passive aggressive/jerkish too frankly. If I had been the manager I wouldn’t have found it funny at all.

    1. SoCalHR

      I agree (when I read it in the original comments and still now) – if everyone else got a gift card or something and that person was the only one to get a chalk mug, then I’d understand it a bit more. But, sorry you don’t like the recognition gift #itsthethoughtthatcounts (some companies don’t even give mugs!). It really is disrespectful to the boss since they knew the boss picked the gift.

      1. WellRed

        It’s not a gift, it’s more like a promotional item he probably picked out of the supply closet.

        1. Kelly L.

          Yep. We have one of those closets at my work too. We all know it’s there, and everybody even raids it sometimes for coffee mugs if they forgot to bring theirs, so we all have like five work coffee mugs in our cabinets now. It would be a tacky-ass gift, since we all know they’re cheap and plentiful and that no one even cares if you just yoink one.

  30. Fish Sticks

    At my old company, we used to get $100 in an envelope at Christmas. The year they stopped that, they gave us a deck of playing cards instead. Not just any playing cards: “Company Name Values” (or something like that) card. It was some kind of card game to teach you about the company. UGH.

    Another time, a coworker and I (who already had the highest and most challenging workloads in the entire department; it was measured) did twice our normal work in a month with no overtime pay. Our regular workload already took more than 40 hours per week and we were not exempt. (This company was the kind that would just tell you to find a way to do it and if you didn’t work free over time, they would make your life a living hell.) As a thank you, we each got a $25 gift card.

    1. Sternen

      Many years ago I worked as an assistant manager for a video store rental chain. (You remember those, right?!) Up to that point I had worked for the company for 2 years. A manager at another store moved cities due to his wife’s residency as a dr. and I was promoted to manager and took over this store. 2 weeks after taking over the store I led a team that rolled out a total store re-merchandizing to focus on DVD over VHS, the first in our region to do so. The company allocated 5 days and X number of labor hours to complete the project. We completed the project in 2 days using substantially fewer man hours then they expected.

      A few months later we received a nice letter from the corporate office congratulating us on a smooth transition and how, since we completed the project in less than half the time and budget, they were using our store as a model for how to transition other stores going forward. Included with the letter was a bonus check for myself and my assistant manager.

      Here is the catch…. they calculated the bonuses based on length of service AT THE CURRENT LOCATION. My bonus was a whopping $8.61. My assistant manager’s bonus was over $500.

      A week later our regional manager came to town. I handed him the check back with a firm “thanks, but no thanks”.

      I transitioned out of retail a few years later and have since enjoyed a wonderfully fulfilling career in educational technology support.

      1. Sternen

        Sorry, I didn’t mean to piggyback on your thread, Fish Sticks. Was supposed to be its own comment. You would think a tech guy could figure such things out. ;-)

      2. WellRed

        You rock! I always think people should hand that crap back with a “thanks, but no thanks.”

    2. LKW

      I have always hated company themed products and knick knacks. I especially hate them now because part of our whole security approach is to NOT advertise who we work for (reduce theft of laptops etc). So no I don’t want a company logo back pack.

      One year we were holding an account meeting for about 100 -150 people and I convinced the planners that instead of buying some lucite paperweight (who uses paper anymore?) or mug that we should have chocolate. I managed to convince them to let me buy each person two very expensive bars of chocolate of various flavors so they could mix and match and I made up another 15 bags of non-chocolate items for those allergic or who didn’t like chocolate. To say they were a hit is an understatement.

      1. JustaTech

        Re: company logo backpack
        When I needed to borrow a laptop bag from my SO who works at BigTech I blacked out the logo (with permission) so my ancient hunk-of-junk laptop wouldn’t get stolen.
        Now BigTech doesn’t even put their logo on the laptop bags for employees.

      2. Elizabeth West

        I don’t mind a mug–Exjob gave us a welcome pack when we started that had a branded tote with our basic desk supplies (a tape dispenser and stapler), a notepad, a branded mug, and a squeezy ball. I used the mug for a pen holder — I rarely used pens, and we were mostly paperless, used the tote to store period supplies in my bottom drawer, and left all the branded shit behind when I got fired.

        We had a company store where you could buy company merch. I got six t-shirts but I hate branded t-shirts; when you leave the job, they’re useless. I mostly use them for working out because I don’t care if they get sweaty. And I did buy a very nice leather padfolio with the company name discreetly stamped on it. I kept that because it’s actually useful and I like it.

    3. MustNotBeNamed

      I worked at a company for three years. The first two years, we got $125 AmEx giftcards, which was lovely.

      The third year, it was well known that we were having some financial difficulties, so I wasn’t expecting anything. We had a company lunch and the grand-boss gave us all cards. But then the second-in-command, who was new that year, gave each of us tiny little rocks that were supposed to “bring prosperity.” I honestly wished she had given us nothing.

      But, on the other hand, a few months later I got a job I liked better and was accepted into my top-choice grad program, so maybe it brought me prosperity after all?

  31. LawBee

    New Year’s Eve, 1999. The biggest NYE in any of our lives, right? So of COURSE the financial company I worked for decided that everyone had to come in at 8am Jan 1, in an office that was 90 minutes away, to handle phone calls from all the clients that they knew would be frantically calling in to check their balances – because of Y2K, don’t you know. This was not optional. I was 26, in Boston, PRIME NYE party age and location – and couldn’t really do anything because of this work requirement.

    We got ONE phone call all day, and it was a wrong number.

    Our recognition for giving up a day off, missing out on prime NYE party time, and driving three hours? An ugly t-shirt.

        1. Luna

          Sorry but I can’t stop laughing about this tshirt- talk about a lack of self-awareness by your company!

    1. Ms Mad Scientist

      Aww man, my dad did Y2K conversions in the months leading up to 2000, and he at least got a box of Toblerones.

    2. JokersandRogues

      Marketing company: IT: everyone had to be available to come in after midnight at any time within 30 minutes of being called. (I produced weekly reports basically.)
      I checked the policy very carefully and nowhere did it say I had to be sober. (I wouldn’t have driven myself of course).

      Absolutely nothing happened. Nothing. At. All.

    3. Bad Candidate

      That’s hilarious. I was a couple of years younger at the time and my company wanted to know where we were going to be and contact numbers of how to reach us in case it all hit the fan. I was thinking, um, if it hits the fan I am not coming to work, I’ll be trying to fend off looters at home.

      1. Elizabeth West

        I was a little worried that someone might do something silly and knock out the power so my ex and I saved some milk jugs and filled them with water, just in case–our well pump wouldn’t have worked if the power went out. But nothing happened. Oh well, we just used the water for the animals (we lived on a farm). My work and his work were also fine.

  32. ExcelJedi

    Related to the birthday party: about 10 years ago, I was a manager in a customer service division of ~30 people. One of the managers, let’s call him Nick, was a pretty big tool: had obvious favorites, abused our generous vacation policy but would question if others should be allowed to take days off if they weren’t on his list, etc. Nick and I DID NOT get along.

    One of Nick’s favorites had a birthday and he brought in a smallish cake for it – big enough for maybe 20 people to have small slices. At around 1pm, he emailed half of our staff and managers inviting them to have cake. The others were excluded. His plan was to have everyone invited go into a conference room at a specific time, and have the rest of the staff do double-time manning the phones/chat while they had cake.

    I was not on the invite list. I found out because one of the managers invited asked me how we were going to handle staffing while everyone was singing in the conference room, and when the two of us realized what was happening, we created a thread in our “managers” group basically pretending that we thought everyone was of course invited because Nick would never leave anyone out, and could we have cake in shifts to manage it?

    Nick saw right through us and came up to my desk to call me out. His argument was that as adults, people should understand that they weren’t going to be invited to everything – and also, there wasn’t enough to go around, so we shouldn’t try to force it. I don’t remember exactly how I reacted because I was so taken aback by him, but for the sake of story, I hope I laughed in his face.

    1. Just Tired

      After seeing “Office Space” I take cake very seriously. Make sure there’s enough to go around because someone might burn the office building to the ground, and that someone might be me.

  33. Fake old Converse shoes (not in the US)

    Back in my first job it was the custom to get a Starbucks gift card for your birthday and a catered group breakfast for your company anniversary. Since my boss had already told HR to lay me off well before my birthday, I got nothing. Not even a pen.

  34. MuseumChick

    I worked for a company once that was run by a jerk but I will give him this, he know how to reward the team. Our location made record breaking sales one month. We mostly worked remotely so he called everyone into the office one day. We walked in and he had “We are the Champions” playing and had hired a company to cook a made-to-order breakfast for us.

    1. CatCat

      I worked at a place that was pretty toxic, but that managed to totally nail it with celebrating employees at the end of the year. They would bring in chairs and tables and have them set up with nice table cloths. They would have a huge catered lunch for the entire office (120-ish people). Then they would give us all a few paid days off and close up the office. It was definitely a slow time of year anyway (around Christmas) and the lunch and the paid days off were were great to have. Unfortunately, throughout the rest of the year, they would crush morale with their otherwise toxic management.

    2. SoCalHR

      I think sometimes the jerk bosses like to distract you with stuff like this. My last company was really big on the perks and the tech-scene office, but management was totally toxic. Its like a bad husband who, every time you get mad, buys you something sparkly.

      1. MuseumChick

        Yup. I’ll never forget the following conversation I had with this boss. For context, this was at a time when the powerball was at an absurdly high amount. I was in the office working on a special project.

        Boss: “So what would you do if you won the powerball?”
        Me: “I would travel! I would do a tour of all the major civil war battle fields.”
        Boss: “So you’re boyfriend is into history?”

        I had no boyfriend at the time and and recently applied to graduate school for Museum Studies.

        1. SpinningYarns

          Speaking as a Civil War historian and woman (what, all at once??) that is just incredibly infuriating.
          Thank god for my fellow woman-ACW nerds.
          (Did you ever get to take such a tour?)

    3. Bea

      This reminds me of how crippling dicklike my previous boss was but always splurged on a holiday party. I left before it and they were already talking about how awesome it was going to be. My response internally was “well you pay poorly and turnover is BS so enjoy your Christmas extravaganza!” ick.

  35. JanetM

    When I was approaching my five-year anniversary at the university, it was the thing that the chancellor, relevant vice-chancellor, and director presented service awards to the individual with all their colleagues present. I am an introvert and generally do not like being the center of attention, so I went to my director and asked that she please, *please* arrange to have my award just sent to me in campus mail, or sent to her so she could present it privately, or something.

    She said she would take care of it.

    She didn’t.

    And then she wasn’t even in the office when the chancellor and vice chancellor showed up.

    I held it together while they were there, then went to the restroom and cried.

    Don’t get me wrong; in general she was a great boss and I respected her a lot, but that time was a major fail.

    1. Hotstreak

      That is the worst. We have employee nominated awards at my workplace that have actual, substantial cash value, and management always insists on presenting them in front of the entire team. I get that they want to showcase a job well done, but when they do that to a quiet person, it’s demotivating for the individual.

    2. Snubble

      I haven’t put it in as a snub, because it was the opposite, but instead of all my colleagues trying hard to be sneaky and coming in to sing happy brithday and demand details of my celebration plans this year, I got my nearest neighbour quietly handing me the customary card full of well-wishes. I have never felt so known and tolerated. Apparently years of grumbling and refusing to smile when ambushed have paid off!

  36. Spritely

    I worked at a Barnes and Noble for one month shy of five years when I left because my husband had gotten a job out of state. No one really got anything from the company for anniversaries or leaving, but the other employees would take you out to a nearby Irish pub and buy you drinks.

    A district manager was in the store on my last day, so the store manager and several of the shift managers were also there. One of them shook my hand and thanked me for all my hard work. No one else said anything. I clocked out for the last time and passed my store manager and said, “Well, I guess that’s it.” And she looked at me blankly and said, “See you tomorrow.”

    I did get the drinks at the Irish pub and proceeded to get drunk for the first time in my life at age 27. I was so angry at management that continuing to drink vodka cranberries sounded like a great idea.

    1. Membercard

      Fellow former B&N person! At our store there was nothing management specifically did on your last day, but there was often a celebratory hang out at the end of your tenure; you just had to announce where and when.

      Mine was a dinner to which exactly one person showed up. I was friends with a lot of folks at the store, and a lot of people had said they would be there, though in truth all my closest friends in the store were gone by that time. It was a pretty devastating experience. I ended up paying for dinner for the girl who came because I was so grateful to her; she was very quiet, but nice and though it was so awkward realizing no one else was coming, having to keep on a brave face for her probably saved me.

  37. Hotstreak

    I’m getting a kick out of the 5-year anniversary story!

    I just found my own 5-year “gift”, which is a fancy box with a new, work branded lapel pin, that says “5 years” on it. Ummm, thanks for distributing my new uniform, I guess! Too bad nobody wears those pins unless the big/big/big boss is in town.

      1. Hotstreak

        That’s great! We phased out actual pins right after I started at the company, and they’re all magnetic now. I wish I had a use for them like you’ve found!

    1. Oxford Coma

      My company does tie tacks for lower anniversaries, and cuff links for higher anniversaries. Way to pretend to be gender neutral.

  38. Wannabe Disney Princess

    How many examples do you want?

    I think the one that stung the most, was at Christmas when my boss made a special show of thanking all the support staff (of which I am one) by name…except me. At the time, there was only four of us. It had been the busiest year by far, and I had been killing myself to get all the teapots painted. I was always the last one to leave and often took the work home. I either ate at my desk or just didn’t eat because there literally wasn’t time to heat up food. That afternoon, he handed out the Christmas cards. There’s usually a gift card in there. Everybody else got $50. I got $25.

    It was all I could do to not to tear up at my desk.

    1. Curious Cat

      I’ve seen a couple posts similar to yours where bosses are thanking everyone but 1 or 2 people. How do they not feel uncomfortable and weird naming everyone but one person?? Clearly they’re purposely leaving someone out, how do they not feel guilty and understand how rude that is? Boggles my mind. I’m sorry that happened to you!

      1. Membercard

        They understand, and they want to hurt people. I know that can seem like an intense thing to say, but for every nice person like you who wouldn’t dream of doing that even to someone you don’t like, there are people who relish the thought that they are going to get to publicly hurt someone.

        Wannabedisneyprincess…. this boss sounds like a real life Disney villain!

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess

        I was REALLY trying to be grateful for the gift card in general. (Even though it was to a restaurant I can’t stand.)

        I ended up listing it on one of those gift card resell sites and using that money on a small gift for myself.

    2. RabbitRabbit

      I listed in my post some of the crap my old administrator pulled on us, and she did similar as this but worse to a coworker of mine. We got bonus checks around Christmas time, and mine was several hundred dollars. My coworker doing the same job got $50; bonuses were secret but she told me because she was furious.

      It was pure favoritism; she had been there a few years and I had been there a lot longer, but she got more the previous year and the admin was trying to claim financial downturn, blah blah. No, the admin had a personality grudge against my coworker and was petty and vindictive. She was the type who would classify everyone who left (we had high turnover) as “ineligible for rehire.”

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess

        Not yet. There was some life stuff that happened in the interim that made it too difficult, personally.

        Now? Working on it, HARD. Have had a few bites (a few phone interviews, one in person interview next week).

    3. Beancounter in Texas

      I would have totally teared up and gone home. See my story below. Same song, second verse (although I believe mine was a mistake).

  39. Anon for this

    They threw me a little party for my birthday, with cake, which was awesome! And then trashed the conference room and left me to clean it up, which was less awesome.

    1. Theotherallison

      This happened to my on my birthday in November! I usually make a really nice cake from scratch for each of my coworkers’ birthdays and decorate it really cute. I got a store-bought cake and set up and clean up duty. Oh well.

  40. Former Usher

    Following an internship in graduate school, my employer sent a package via UPS to my apartment. I missed the first two delivery attempts, so I sat at home waiting for the third and final attempt. I watched the UPS truck make a delivery across the street and then leave without even attempting to deliver my package!

    I drove through rush hour traffic to get to the USP distribution center to pick up the package. It was a mug. Hours waiting at home and over an hour of driving for a mug.

    Here’s the happy ending: 14 years after that internship I joined the company full time as a regular employee. Different division, but I’m in the same building I started in and even have the same employee number. I still have the mug!

    1. Former Usher

      At a different employer, senior management of our department pushed an ice cream cart up and down each aisle, personally delivering ice cream treats. Somehow they managed to entirely skip the two rows for my functional area. When we later walked up to get the treats ourselves, we were accused of trying to get a second treat.

      1. Former Usher

        The same department had a tradition where they would recognize employees who were having service anniversaries (5, 10, 15, etc. years) at department meetings. Their manager would stand up and say a few nice things about them and something about the project they worked on. I suppose it could be painful for some, but I was looking forward to it. They discontinued this practice just before I reached 5 years,

  41. Master Bean Counter

    On my 29th birthday I was working in a place where I was the payroll person. And that year my birthday fell on the day that I had to process payroll. My boss wouldn’t let me have the day off because she would have to fill in for me.
    I show up to work, one very nice coworker brought in kahlua pie for me. She knew I hated cake. She was an angel.
    My other coworker and my boss sat there eating my pie and talking about the fabulous things they did on their 29th birthdays. While I was processing their payroll. Never in my life have I ever wanted to make a “mistake” more. Instead I got a job that paid twice as much as I was making there two months later.

    1. Just Tired

      I am imagining the two of them sitting in your office with the entire pie in front of them eating out of the tin. I hope that’s not what happened.

    2. Master Bean Counter

      I have to give props to my current boss and his wife. His wife felt sorry that my office had no window. I was just happy to have an office, I wasn’t complaining. She asked about what kind of view I would like if I could have any view. I answered, “A beach.”
      I didn’t think much about it. And I had honestly forgotten about it. Until today when I walked into my office and this was on the wall:
      https://www.amazon.com/Uniquebella-Sticker-Window-Tropical-Creative/dp/B01MAXL5NR

      1. Lily in NYC

        Aw that was nice! We have that same exact decal in the conference room that we use to interview job candidates. It is so entertaining to watch people’s confused expressions when they see it in our otherwise very government-looking office. I just don’t understand why or how it ended up in there.

      2. Bryce

        My mom did something similar for me about ten years ago. Took a photo of the overlook right by where I grew up and had it printed as a high-quality picture. It’s now an extra window in my apartment for when I’m need the desert on gray days.

        https://i.imgur.com/9eHSySR.jpg

  42. CdnAcct

    Our overall department has a quarterly afternoon event with a badly executed recognition piece. I believe each director nominates people from their team, but the top executive has final say and is only really familiar with a couple teams/a handful of people, so the same people get the awards every quarter with a couple extra added in for variety, leaving 80% of the people in the department feeling overlooked. Often the awards are for things that are not new or improved though the executive says they are, or the wrong person gets the credit.

    The award has no value, but the ill will generated by these things is astounding – I won’t go the events anymore (though we’re strongly urged to) because it affects my mood even though I know it’s a load of crap. I haven’t spoken to anyone who actually feels these awards are a good idea or actually wants one.

  43. JerseyGirl

    For my 4-year anniversary at my company last summer I received a card from my boss with a kind note and recognition in front of our entire team (of about 10 people) during a surprise meeting that I thought was our weekly brainstorm session.

    But the kicker is that at the time, (even though I am a Director…but we’re a small company and were short-staffed) I was responsible for planning all meetings (booking the meeting room, ordering catering, confirming all attendees, etc.) and so I had planned this whole meeting and arranged everything myself, not knowing it was a meeting that would be in ‘celebration’ of me.

    I would have appreciated the gesture a lot more if somebody else in the company (ahem, my boss) could have arranged all the meeting details for this one time. I was more shocked, and upon reflection, pretty annoyed (to put it lightly) that my boss was so clueless about how this would come across to me. Quite frankly it was embarassing too. It totally demeaned the intent of the gesture. Here’s hoping my 5-year anniversary goes better.

    1. Wren

      But if you were all invited to a meeting that you DIDN’T plan, wouldn’t you have been suspicious?

      1. JerseyGirl

        maybe… but a break in planning would have been a better gesture than a card and a meeting that i had to plan! so who cares about suspicion!

  44. partingxshot

    For awhile I was the de facto goodbye gift person. It is extremely awkward to be the one collecting the money and knowing that the favored employee is ranking in hundreds of dollars for gifts (a new Fenty makeup palette and one of those marbled iPhone covers that light up for selfies), while others end up with a more…standard amount for our field. I felt like I had to put in more money than I would have otherwise to make the difference less obvious.

  45. CatCat

    OldJob would make employee appreciation events mandatory. Don’t want to go to the ice cream event because you don’t eat ice cream? Tough.

    1. Q

      My oldjob used to do an employee appreciation lunch every year. The food consisted of a hot dog or hamburger, a bag of chips, a prepackaged cookie, a can of soda pop. Many of our employees were of a culture where vegetarianism is common (or at least not eating beef is). We requested many times over the years for a veggie burger or salad option but they just kept coming with the burgers and dogs.

      1. Yams

        Oh goodness, this reminds me of the celebratory picnic HR throws every year. Last year they gave us stale sandwiches with off-brand cola and a bag of chips. It was hilariously sad.

    2. ArtK

      One of my personal adages: There is no thing so great that it can’t be ruined by making it mandatory.

    3. StillWork

      I don’t know, that seems fair. Otherwise, favorite coworkers would get more people at their appreciation events, and hardworking introverts would feel snubbed if no one showed up to theirs.

      1. CatCat

        These weren’t events to recognize individual employee accomplishments. Just general office-wide events to supposedly appreciate all employees, even those who did not want to be there.

  46. user7212

    December. Performance review time at a huge international corporation, where I was horribly underpaid and overqualified. The year after I saved a huge project, during which I needed to take over the tasks of my boss’s boss and I received excellent reviews both from my project manager and the client, who contacted my bosses directly to tell them how he loved working with me.

    I receive an email from HR that I got a pay raise. I should come and pick up the notification about it. Not very elegant – my boss didn’t tell me anything, but still… Especially given that my bosses behaved horribly with me and I was so frustrated I was planning to leave the company anyway, just couldn’t find an alternative position. I didn’t expect I don’t know why but I thought, maybe at least they recognize me a bit.

    HR congratulated me and gave me the letter.

    It was 4 EUR a month (about 6 dollar). I kid you not. I had tears in my eyes and could hardly resist sobbing when I opened the letter.

    1. Q

      I once had a newer boss give me a $75 bonus and expect me to fall to the ground and kiss his feet over it. A different boss the previous year had given me a $750 bonus. While I know I should be grateful for even the $75, I really wanted to ask if he forgot a zero.

    2. user7212

      I remember another one (the same company).

      We were told we would get something very special, very elegant as a Christmas gift.

      It was a Moleskine notebook.

      A Moleskine notebook with a big logo of my company on its cover.

      Basically they gave us a notebook to use for work, e.g. during client meetings.

      We were expected to be totally enthusiastic about it – people used to say things like: “Oh wow, a Moleskine notebook! Wow!” UNIRONICALLY.

  47. lyonite

    I worked for a large company that split itself into two smaller companies, for the sound business reason of giving big bonuses to the execs. Not long after the split was finalized there were some layoffs on my site and a bunch of us were let go. Not long after that, we all received a very heavy package in the mail, containing a very heavy crystal plaque congratulating us on being “Day 1” employees of the new spinoff company.

  48. Patsy Stone

    I once worked for a major luxury hotel company (think hundreds of dollars a night for even the most basic of rooms) that had spent quite a few years working on a major new upgrade project. Everyone had worked long hours to get this thing up and running, and as a token of appreciation, we all received… plastic pen holders. Matching plastic pen holders. In the form of a small green garbage bin and a small blue recycling bin. Like the kind you can get at a dollar store.

    I recycled mine.

  49. BRR

    My spouse worked for a clothing store that would reward people with gift certificates to that store. Employees were not able to use those gift certificates for more than 50% of a purchase.

    1. Curious Cat

      I may be misreading, but this actually seems somewhat normal to me for retail. I’ve worked my fair share of retail jobs and they usually offer an employee discount. One place I worked for offered 30% off, another offered 70% of select items. Unless you mean this reward was on top of an already normal employee discount, in which case that is just an odd reward.

      1. Lynca

        A gift certificate is typically redeemed for the full face value of the certificate. Not the same as a discount.

      2. Anon for this

        It sounds like this was separate from the normal employee discount–that as a special award for something or other, the employee “got” a gift that could only be redeemed by spending money at the store where they worked.

      3. Hotstreak

        I think what BRR is saying is that if they wanted to purchase a $50 item, they would only be allowed to pay $25 with gift card, and would be required to pay the other $25 with cash.

          1. Curious Cat

            My fault! I mixed up the idea of a discount & separate gift certificate in my head. That really is a terrible gift!

      4. NoCleverUsername

        It’s a gift certificate, not a discount – so if you had a $25 gift certificate you wouldn’t be able to spend it on anything unless you kicked in $25 of your own money on top.

        1. Kelly L.

          Yup. And even if it was a $50 gift card, you couldn’t just spend it on a $50 item–you’d have to buy $100 worth of merchandise to use it.

      5. Anonygoose

        I think it means that if they got a $20 gift card, they HAD to purchase something that was worth $40 or more – forcing them to spend their own money at the store they worked at in order to use the ‘gift’.

      6. AnotherJill

        I interpret this as meaning that they had to spend at least twice as much as the gift certificate to use it. So a reward that is better for the store than the employee.

    2. Rusty Shackelford

      So, a gift that forces you to give some of your own money back to your employer. Classy.

  50. Nobody Here by That Name

    Not sure if this counts but my company changed how employees were paid last year, which meant that for all intents and purposes everyone got one week less of pay right during the end of year holiday season. As a way of saying thanks for being understanding during the changeover, they gave everyone the “gift” of an extra day off, to be taken on one of two select days. (How a day off was going to help people pay their bills is a question best left to the philosophers.)

    What made this especially thoughtful was that normally during the holidays we get a half day before the last week of the year. Except not last year, because we had the option of the day off, you see. So the Tuesday of the week where Friday should’ve been a half day, the head of HR sent out a “friendly reminder” (even though this was the first anyone was hearing of it) that Friday was actually a full day, because they’d been nice enough to give us a day off. A day off we only got because we weren’t getting a week of pay.

    So basically our holiday gift was a lost week of pay plus the loss of a small benefit under the guise of giving a day off as though it was out of the goodness of their hearts.

    1. Q

      A friend of mine had the same payroll issue at her work but they handled it much better. They arranged to cover short term loans to the employees if needed to bridge the gap until they could get the new pay cycle sorted.

      1. Nobody Here by That Name

        Yeah there were so many things they handled badly with this. For starters they knew it was happening much earlier in the year but didn’t tell anyone until about a month in advance, so nobody could adjust their budgets accordingly. Also their messaging about it was confusing, because it stressed that nobody’s pay was changing, everybody would be getting the same pay they always would, etc. and nothing about how there’d be one week less in our checks. It took one of the accounting people calling BS and spreading the word to let everyone know.

      2. Temping all the way

        My previous employer did even better – they let folks cash out a week of PTO. And as a public university, the PTO package was good enough most folks had plenty of time banked so could take advantage of the offer.

    2. Slow Gin Lizz

      I don’t even get this. If you are changing how you pay employees, shouldn’t they still be getting the same net amount??? How is what they did legal?

      1. Nobody Here by That Name

        It was switching from a payment in advance to payment in arrears system, so you will still get the same net amount… at the time that you leave the company. In the meanwhile it’s a week of money that you thought you were going to have in your back account that now floats in the ether until your last day.

        To be fair I do get it, and think the arrears method is the better way to do it from a business perspective. It was just a horrible way for them to handle rolling this out, particularly given how many associates are paycheck to paycheck people.

      2. Detective Amy Santiago

        They eventually got the same amount, but because of the change of the pay cycle, they got it later than they would have if they didn’t change it.

  51. KJDubreuil

    Dear Employees,

    A gift should not be an expectation. A bonus reflects the value added to the business only when the business has funds to give. My business checking account this Monday (payroll day) ended up at $546 after payroll. That’s $546 not $5.460 or $54,600. I didn’t get paid either. I used some of my emergency savings to pay my personal bills and make payroll for my 20 employees.

    Employees that don’t act as if they want or appreciate the idea of birthday parties when others have them should not be surprised when they don’t get a birthday party. Well loved and appreciated employees will have different going away parties than irritating but admittedly efficient employees.

    Been there for 7 years and on the brink of a PIP for 6 of them because of how awful you are (even though you think you are great) don’t expect the same recognition when you resign as the summer intern that brought sunshine and light into the work life of the poor long suffering boss who is juggling HR, payroll, insurance, entitlement behavior, gossip, disgruntled employees, poorly performing employees, people who ask for time off during a blocked out holiday weekend ‘because I was gifted tickets . . . imagine the whine . . . ‘ people who just made a mistake that cost the business $40 (a tiny amount, multiplied by 10 people and 6 days a week suddenly becomes the bosses’ (grammar help?) paycheck that is not there this week.

    There are two (or more sides) to every story. The above is my side. Have sympathy please.
    Dr. BossreallydoingthebestIcan

    1. E

      Well I think the people commenting here obviously have reason to believe they deserve some kind of recognition, so they probably don’t fall into those categories?

    2. fposte

      I get it; I don’t own my own business, but I’m the head of my unit and budget with nobody near over me, so all the stuff that you mention is my problem too. But if your employee is awful, why not hire somebody else rather than seething at this one?

      1. Hotstreak

        Agreed. And if your employees are making to many costly mistakes, it’s your responsibility to establish processes, training and development which will reduce those mistakes, or to charge a high enough price to cover your cost of business. It sounds like KJDubreuil’s business may be collapsing, which is unfortunate, but I hope everyone can still recognize that a famine mentality shouldn’t be the norm with regards to how you treat your employees. Not if you want to keep them around for long.

        1. fposte

          And in general, one of the harder things about advancing, whether you become a business owner or just higher in management, is that you really do have to do more tending to than being tended. It’s not my staff’s obligation to grasp my overall obstacles.

    3. Just Tired

      It sounds like you don’t like any of the people who work for you. That must be very depressing. There might be two sides to every story, true. And I’m not going to pass judgment in your case. But also, sometimes the other side of the story is that the boss or office mates really are just nasty and/or unempathetic people. Doesn’t mean *you* are nasty and/or unempathetic. If you are particularly proud of something you have done to recognize an outstanding employee, why don’t you put that here?

    4. peachie

      KJ, I see where you’re coming from, and I have not been in a position to administer payroll, bonuses, or other “extras,” so I know you’re speaking from experience that I don’t have. But I disagree that employees should have no expectations of equal treatment for this kind of thing. The best-functioning workplaces I’ve been in have a super standardized approach to this–everyone gets the same parting gift/small party, birthdays are never “officially” celebrated (i.e., paid for by the company), everyone gets the same year-end gift, etc.

      I do think there’s a place for individualized/different treatment for things that are not company-wide (like bonuses, yearly department lunches, etc.), but in general, I think standardization is easier to plan for makes for much less drama. It reminds me of the “invite ALL the kids in your class” rule.

      It also sounds like you’ve had a lot of money stress at your job (are you the business owner? It seems like you’re taking on a LOT of personal expenses), and I get that. I don’t mean to say “Buy each of your employees a car!”–I’m sure there are some years where the best fiscal decision is to not provide any of these “extras” as a rule. But I think keeping decisions like this as impersonal as possible is for the best.

      1. Snark

        I agree. Whether you, boss, especially like someone or not, the manner in which an employee should be sent should be determined by whether they were an asset to your company, not on the basis of your personal affection and affinity for them. There’s really nothing wrong with everyone getting basically the same parting gift and party.

    5. Snark

      “Well loved and appreciated employees will have different going away parties than irritating but admittedly efficient employees.”

      This is understandable on a personal, human level – we like who we like, and some people are irritating – but this is not “really doing the best you can.” Or maybe it is, but I would not encourage you to give yourself much credit for it, because the line between “well loved and appreciated employees get different parties” and “the boss’ pets get special treatment and the rest get an awkward pro-forma sendoff” is pretty fuzzy.

      1. lisalee

        Also, even if one 7-year employee sucks, other employees will see unequal treatment of them and wonder if that will happen to them. Best to just treat everyone fairly.

        1. Snark

          And frankly, if someone’s been on the verge of a PIP for SIX YEARS, why not just fire them? Or put them on that PIP, then fire them? If an employee sucks, end the employment relationship – don’t treat them badly.

          1. Notyourwhippinggirl

            My thought exactly. I think one of my old bosses sent posted this. Just because you have the money to own a business does not mean you know how to manage people. If you treated your employees well, you wouldnt be stuck with a 7 year employee who was on a PIP for 6.

            Sign me,
            Forgot my birthday even though its on a big calender and gave me a chocolate cake on my last day even though you knew i was on WW.

          2. SystemsLady

            Yup. I had a terrible boss for two years who spent most of his time seething at (and sometimes outright yelling at) two employees the rest of us generally agreed were not very good at their jobs.

            But we put up with them because they were nice people and were being treated in a way that almost disincentified trying to improved. No PIP or nothing.

            Those two employees were fired within a year and a half of my current boss starting. The difference is my current boss actually put them on PIPs, didn’t complain to other employees (though he did commiserate if we expressed frustrations with them), and fired them respectfully (without gossiping to the rest of us when, how, or why).

    6. ExcelJedi

      This may seem like the best way to manage your best and worst employees when you’re stressed and not getting paid yourself, but you’re just shooting yourself in the foot in the long run.

      Nurture an environment where it’s clear that the boss has favorites, and some people are not on that list? Those people are going to give you exactly what they think their paycheck is worth in terms of labor, and not a penny more. They will not be forgiving of your mistakes, they will expect you to be looking to get one over on them, and they will probably leave when their skills are most in demand and you need them the most.

      Nurture an environment where everyone feels like they’re valued? Most will be more enthusiastic, less burdened by drama, and more likely to give you good work. And those who are’t should be better managed or managed out.

      1. Archie Goodwin

        Also, if you make sure everyone feels valued, people are likely to stick around longer. I know that as long as I feel I’m bringing something worthwhile to the team I’m not going to be looking for the exit door.

    7. Q

      I once made a mistake that cost my company $73,000. I completely understood when I was not granted a raise that year. I was just happy to still have my job.

    8. Seriously?

      The main thing seems to be consistency though. Resentment builds when someone does something that brings in extra money for the company or helps save costs and doesn’t get anything while someone else does something similar and gets praise, a gift, a bonus, something that makes them feel valued. If the checking account tends to get low, maybe don’t give bonuses at all or have a high bar for what it takes to earn one. instead give verbal recognition or an extra day off or something else that you would be able to do consistently. This is even more true if the recognition is for making it to the five or ten year mark. Not every company does something for that, but it stings if one person gets a party for being there for five years and one person gets resounding silence.

      1. Snark

        And that resentment can build even among the favored employees – it undermines you as a boss and makes the entire workplace feel uncomfortably relationship-based and cliquey, which naturally leads most to wonder when they’re going to be voted off the island.

    9. Detective Amy Santiago

      Employees that don’t act as if they want or appreciate the idea of birthday parties when others have them should not be surprised when they don’t get a birthday party.

      Or, you could TALK to your employees and ask them if they want one. Let them opt OUT if they choose.

      1. Snark

        I think the thing KJ is missing is that even if you don’t want a birthday party per se, a workplace environment where some get special attention and treatment and recognition and others don’t is inherently uncomfortable for those not so recognized.

    10. Liz

      Dear Harry Potter, a gift should not be an expectation. Orphans that don’t act as if they want or appreciate the idea of birthday parties when others have them should not be surprised when they don’t get a birthday party. Well loved and appreciated children will have different numbers of presents than irritating but admittedly efficient children.

    11. President Porpoise

      I totally get it. But may I recommend that you just cut the birthday appreciation gifts/events (at least) entirely rather than give them non-uniformly? It’s honestly better for morale, and for your own stress/finances.

      Hope next pay period comes out better for you, best of luck.

    12. StillWork

      If your business isn’t making enough money to pay you a paycheck, that is not the fault of your employees. That’s the fault of you as the business owner.

    13. biobottt

      I’m not sure that encouraging and openly displaying favoritism is really doing the best you can.

    14. Joielle

      Also… not to pile on, but “the summer intern that brought sunshine and light into the work life of the poor long suffering boss” is, frankly, creepy. Your employees are there to do a job, not be your personal cheerleaders or eye candy. Bleh.

  52. Rod

    This is kind of an inversion, but in leiu of a Chirstmas bonus my former boss got me an expensive smartwatch (like, think a Rolex style watch with fitness tracking, not a fitbit or apple watch). I don’t wear watches, I don’t wear men’s jewelry of any kind, and I don’t like wearing conspicuously expensive things at all, all of which he knew. I remember him actually asking a few weeks before if I liked watches and I told him I can’t stand wearing them as they hurt my wrist and I have a phone to tell the time. But he got it for me anyway because it was something HE wanted, so he bought the same gift for everyone (his 2 other employees, his family members, and himself). And whatever he wanted was obviously what everyone else wanted!

    I waited a few months and then sold it online for a few hundred bucks. Later I heard him on the phone with the manufacturer trying to get his money back because the fitness tracking/bluetooth functionality was barebones garbage, it turned out. So like everything he did, it was an impulse purchase he regretted soon after.

    1. Luna123

      People who give people the gifts that they actually want for themselves are the worst type of gift givers. If you don’t know what someone else wants/needs, just get a gift card

      1. Rod

        Yeah, basically he’ll see something he wants and assume everyone else will want it too, because he apparently can’t conceive of people having different tastes from him.

        1. Luna123

          Yeah, I have a relative who’s like that. I just house-sat her place for a few days, and when she came back, she gave me . . . a handmade cup type thing that didn’t match any of my dishware (but fit in perfectly with the stuff at her house). TBH, I hope I’m house-sitting for free next time.

    2. Almost Violet Miller

      This is how ex-grandboss at my previous company dealt with Christmas gifts.
      He chose an Android-compatible smartwatch for the entire team when the workphones were Blueberries and most people (except for him) had iOS/Microsoft private phones.
      I sold the watch, bought designer sunglasses and had a good laugh about it but still not very thoughtful.

  53. Jen

    There seem to be a lot of comments about birthday celebrations (or lack thereof), is this a common thing in the US? I’m in the UK and custom is that on your birthday you bring in cake/treats and send around an email along the lines of “it’s my birthday so here are some snacks!” and your co-workers help themselves and say happy birthday. All very low key.

    (Obviously will vary from place to place, but in my workplace and what I hear from friends this seems like the norm.)

    1. Anon for this

      It’s not universal, but fairly common, for the rest of the group to do something small for the birthday person in the US, like bring a cake or some other kind of goodies. Everybody partakes, generally, but it’s at least nominally for the birthday person.

    2. LawBee

      It’s been the norm in every office I’ve worked in. The office treats the birthday-haver. Sometimes that’s covered by the office petty cash, sometimes there’s a “birthday fund” that everyone can contribute to, it varies. Where I work now, our boss takes us all out to lunch on his dime for birthdays – it’s really nice. :)

    3. Elle

      My current employer (I’m also British) does it this way, and I think it’s much better. A previous employer had the office buy lunch, which would have worked fine if they had celebrated everyone’s birthday – I got left out my first year, despite the other new hire being celebrated a fortnight earlier.

    4. CTT

      It’s really dependent on your office, or even the floor you’re on. I’ve worked places that went freakishly all-out, ones that didn’t acknowledge it, and a lot of in-between. The place I worked longest did one birthday cake a month to celebrate everyone’s birthdays that month, and within my little cohort, someone would always bring in bagels or doughnuts for a colleague’s birthday.

    5. BadWolf

      I’m in the US and that’s what we do at my company. You bring in treats on your birthday, if you want to celebrate your birthday.

      Whenever I read about birthday craziness on this blog, I’m thankful for this plan.

      1. SittingDuck

        I really like this – I think it makes so much more sense. That way you:
        A) Get to celebrate only if you want to – no forced celebrations on those who don’t care for it
        B) Get a cake you will enjoy without having to explain to your boss/the coordinator what your favorite cake is
        C) Don’t have to participate in the ridiculous ‘birthday pools’ which end up with everyone passing around X amount to pay for everyone elses stuff
        D) Get to spend as much or as little as you want on your party – and not have to pony up a certain amount for anyone elses

        I wish all companies did it this way !

    6. Manders

      Yep, it’s pretty common in the US. It might have something to do with the fact that there are a lot of holidays we don’t recognize here that Europeans might have a mini party or a day off for, so birthdays are a way to create some extra reasons to celebrate in the office. We pretty much don’t have any holidays that are celebrated in the workplace (besides a handful of federal days off that some places don’t take time off for) from January to July.

    7. Archie Goodwin

      My current office does a monthly birthday recognition, with cake, for everyone whose birthdays fall in that particular month. It’s fun and low-key – I work as a contractor in a satellite office of a federal agency, and there are some geographical quirks to the setup that mean we don’t really interact much with other people in the building, or on the team. So the monthly recognition allows us to get together socially and be pleasant to one another. And it’s not mandatory.

      Otherwise that’s as far as I go. I don’t mind if people know when my birthday IS, but I try not to make a big deal out of it. No snacks or anything…just let me get through the day and I’ll be fine.

    8. McWhadden

      Most of the time, in my experience, birthday stuff is done communally by the other employees not paid for by the boss.

      Usually we’ll all chip in for a cake or someone will bake. And a card.

    9. Millennial Lawyer

      In my old office we had a system similar that was like – bring your own cake in if you want to celebrate your birthday and everyone can gather in the conference room. In my current office, there aren’t birthday celebrations at all. The thing is though these are all government offices where a manager could not buy a cake or special things for people – the expectations are different. I think in private companies it depends on culture.

      (Granted, these things can get petty as well – in one government office I interned in, the culture was that everyone chipped in in advance for money used to buy birthday decorations and cake. Since I was an intern, I was unaware, and the head of the “birthday committee” said I could not join the party unless I chipped in. I was unpaid.)

    10. Catabodua

      It really varies on the place. Some places I’ve worked don’t do any acknowledgement (yeah!) and some have had people who use any damn excuse to celebrate and you are getting a cake because they want one.

      I really like the idea of bringing in something from you to share. So if you want to ignore your birthday it’s easy enough to do.

    11. Tau

      I’ve worked at two places in the UK, one of which did exactly what you mention and one which did a card and (possibly) a quick get-together for the higher-ups. Now in Germany, and we do a card, a small presentation and a gift worth maybe 25 euros or so. So I think it may be more office-dependent than US/European, although I wouldn’t be surprised if there were trends. (Among others, the birthday person was responsible for bringing cake if so desired at all three places.)

    12. Nicki Name

      It may vary by industry or region. I’m in the US, and I’ve worked at one place where the department would get a cake every month, and anyone having a birthday or work anniversary that month would get some say in what kind of cake was gotten. There and everywhere else I’ve worked, if you wanted treats on your birthday you brought your own.

      OTOH, more than half the jobs I’ve had have had at least one floating holiday (actual holiday, not extra PTO) that we were strongly encouraged to use on or near our birthdays.

    13. AliceW

      I’ve worked in many corporations and no place I ever worked celebrated employee birthdays at all. So I find the practice of acknowledging employee birthdays in the office a bit weird.

    14. Turquoisecow

      My last employer, my team had a monthly birthday celebration to cover anyone who had a birthday that month. Three people would be assigned on a rotating basis to bring in food – some people baked, and some people bought a box of cookies, but there were enough people that you didn’t get picked often. We’d have a conference room booked, and the VP would host a trivia game or similar with teams competing (I don’t think there a prize, but if there was, it was minor).

      It was not at all mandatory, and some people rarely attended, or showed up to grab food and then got back to work. The VP would briefly acknowledge the birthday honorees and sometimes give a brief update on work-related news. As a sometimes introvert who also craves recognition, this was the perfect blend of “ignore me!!” and “pay attention to me!” I didn’t feel awkward (although maybe some people did), and I felt “special” but not tooo much so.

    15. Cornflower Blue

      I’m in Asia. Over here, you’re expected to ‘treat’ everyone on your birthday, as soon as you join, your 1 year anniversary and when you leave.

      Basically that means spending about $70 to provide cake for all 80 people on our floor MULTIPLE TIMES at least during the first two years.

    16. Aquae Sulis

      I’m also in the UK, and we bring in the cakes for our own birthday too.

      Also, I’ve been at my company 10+ years, and there’s never been any recognition at hitting 5 years, 10 years, etc. Not even an email!

  54. peachie

    A handwritten, personal thank you note is as cheap as grabbing a mug from the company swag leftover closet and so much more meaningful (and less likely to be taken as a snub). I wish this were more common! I got one note like that from a team outside my department at my previous job, and it made me feel genuinely appreciated.

    1. Oxford Coma

      Agreed. My boss pulled me into a conference room yesterday to tell me how much she appreciated me. It cost her nothing, and I continuously go above and beyond for her specifically due to her good treatment of me.

  55. Not So Super-visor

    I have a funny one. At the company that my husband used to work for, they were celebrating a safety milestone (something like # of days without an accident). They gave all of the employees knives with the company logo on them. These were not small pocket knives or multi-tools with a blade — it is a full-size, hunting style knife… as a Safety Award! It’s currently in his tool box at home, and he frequently jokes about having to use his “Safety Knife” for projects.

    1. Just Tired

      Why do people like to give away knives? I worked for a DV shelter and the Development Manager wanted to order knives with our logo on them for SWAG items.

      1. Hotstreak

        Everyone uses knives, right? A large fixed blade “hunting style” knife doesn’t seem out of place in a more industrial setting (like any place that tracks safety days).

      2. Thursday Next

        Say what now? I find this even more incongruous than giving out knives as safety rewards!

      3. Femme d'Afrique

        I’m sorry, Just Tired, but did you say that someone who worked at a DOMESTIC VIOLENCE shelter wanted to give out knives as “SWAG” items??

      4. MustNotBeNamed

        I’m having so much trouble processing this. “Knife” is so far outside of my idea of what SWAG items would be; if an org gave me a branded knife, I’d be baffled. But if that org was a DV shelter, I would honestly expect a pic of said knife to go viral within the week.

      1. smoke tree

        When I saw the phrase “they were celebrating a safety milestone” I was definitely expecting a different ending to the story.

    2. Anonymous Engineer

      The huge manufacturing company I work for did something similar – gave out pocket knives for a safety milestone.

      And then over the course of the next two weeks they had several hand injuries from the “safety knives” that they had to ban employees from carrying them in the plant.

    3. ScrappyChef

      My husband’s company did something similar.They gave out collapsible snow shovels to put in your trunk. A few days later they sent out an email saying to not use the shovels because the hinge was a pinching hazard.

    4. IForgetWhatNameIUsedBefore

      A friend of mine once worked for a company that thought it would be a good idea to pass out small hatchets printed with some absurd corporate speak cliche (“let’s cut losses in ‘95!” type blather) as tchotchkes during a big company wide convention at a pretty fancy hotel.
      This…did not go well. She said there were groups of blind drunk salesmen & businessmen whooping and chasing each other around the hotel with the hatchets all night long, and someone managed to chop down one of the potted trees in the lobby. I don’t think anyone actually got injured, which was astonishing, but they had to address it as the first order of business the next day- NOBODY was pleased, especially not the hotel!

  56. Sloan Kittering

    Small snub: my office offers gold cufflinks for the men at ten years, but the lady’s gift is not as good. Always bugs me. I’m going to ask for the cufflinks if I’m here that long, I do have a few shirts that have those kind of cuffs.

    1. The Original Flavored K

      Sounds gendered, which would make it not a small snub. What’s the gift for women who’ve put ten years of time in?

        1. Cornflower Blue

          …What the FUCK?

          1) Harassment should not be happening anyway on any day.
          2) A gift with no monetary value definitely does not equal a gift of gold jewelry.

    2. Not Australian

      Aww, that’s like societies that have a tie for men and only a wretched *headscarf* for ladies. No, sirs, the two things are not at all similar; ties are often required wearing for men, whereas only a minority of women wear headscarves. (Hint: try asking a woman what would be appropriate.)

  57. Anon-a-mouse

    Law firm’s managing partner, Don, had been struck down suddenly by a debilitating illness. For six months, another partner, Joan, picked up the slack and performed all of managing partner’s additional duties, as well as handling her own practice group. At the company Christmas party, random partner Bob gets up to make a speech, lets us know that Don has retired due to illness, thanks Joan for all of her hard work during the time that Don had been out, and announces that he, Bob, has been elected as managing partner. Joan gasps, storms out of the room crying. Joan had not been included in the partner meeting held that afternoon.
    Joan left the firm within 2 months.

    1. Anon-a-mouse

      I may have told this story before, as “the grimmest office Christmas party ever.” The remaining partners (8-10 of them, all men) tried to rally everyone to have drinks and celebrate, but the mostly women associates could not shake the sound of Joan’s gasp. Within a year, only one of the four of us remained. That one is the only woman partner at the firm, 12 years later.

      1. CdnAcct

        Wow. I don’t even know what to say to that, but I hope Joan did great after getting out of that boys’ club.

    2. Pamela

      Sounds like the time my grand boss quit and my boss “Jane Doe” took over her responsibilities while still doing her own. A week later, there was a company wide meeting at which the CEO announced, “Susan’s replacement will be Jane–” My boss stood up. “Jones!”

      My boss sat down.

      1. Marshmellin

        Sad. But….usually you know if you’re going to be promoted before it’s announced in a company-wide meeting.

      2. Snazzy Hat

        I had that at a marching band trip! I wasn’t expecting the award, but the way the director was describing the recipient, I thought for sure it was me. Amount of time spent with the band, proficiency in a number of instruments (didn’t specify which ones) but only played one in the band, other artistic talents… I didn’t fully stand up but I quickly looked like I was adjusting my seat.

  58. Elle

    I started my first proper job at the beginning of January (some years ago!), and was followed a week later by another new hire, a man about my own age who I’ll call Brutus (because he later turned out to be a backstabber – but not the point of this story!). In late February our office manager sent out an email saying it was Brutus’ birthday, and so the office was buying us all lunch – come lunchtime we pile down to the board room, and there is pizza, wine, and birthday cake. How nice! I think. Two weeks later my own birthday rolls around, and is completely and utterly ignored by everyone. That was, really, my first hint about how that company valued female employees compared to male ones. I’m not one to expect any sort of fuss at work about my birthday, but I do expect everyone to be treated equally – and if you can’t do that, don’t celebrate at all. It’s not like the office manager didn’t have my date of birth! Received only shortly before Brutus’.

    My current office, you are expected to provide treats for everyone else when it’s your birthday, which I think is much better, and also means that if people don’t want a fuss made of their birthday, they just don’t say anything. The office does collect for leaving gifts and baby gifts, but this is literally a single email telling you what is being collected for, and who has the card and envelope – no one chases you up if you don’t contribute. It means if you want to give you can, but no one feels forced.

    Additionally, my previous employer used to give bonuses, which stopped when the industry was badly hit by a down turn. I could understand the cash stopping, but I never understood why they didn’t carry on with the accompanying note from the company’s managing director telling you why you (personally) were a valuable employee – it meant far more to me than the money ever did!

  59. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!

    I was once given a ice cream coupon for 1 free scoop from 31 flavors, as a thank you for all my hard work.

    1. SystemsLady

      I could see that as a summer thing given to all employees, but as a personal award, wow…

  60. Shona

    At OldJob I was a web developer for a mid sized nonprofit. They put on a conference that was a really big deal to the organization, like the president who retired shortly after called it her “legacy.” My role was tangential, I built the website and helped the person doing social media, who was at the event.

    After the event the president sent an organization-wide email thanking everyone who’d been involved and describing their role. At the very end of the email was my name. Misspelled. I was credited with “helping out with the website” which I had built.

    I would’ve been fine with no recognition. Wouldn’t have thought anything of it. My role was small compared to the others. But it stung to have my work on the project devalued and my name misspelled. It was literally worse than nothing.

    1. Bridget

      Yep. I did a lot of fundraising for a certain organization in college that had a team-based fundraising event. My senior year, my team had raised the most money, beating the next team by about $2,000, and I was the top individual fundraiser, beating second place by about $1,000. The theme of the event that year was movies or the oscars or something and my “prize,” given to me at the end of the event at 5am, was a plastic oscars statue that they didn’t even bother to personalize—it says something dippy like “movie star” on it. Clearly a bulk thing from oriental trading meant for a kids’ birthday party or something.

      I actually ended up working with that org after college and it turns out that my particular event/committee just sucked at awards, but it’s somethint I never forgot. I still have it somewhere. I used to prominently display it on my desk when I worked there.

  61. beachykeen

    My newspaper got gobbled up by a larger new organization and while they didn’t fold us or lay people off, employees still jumped ship with the uncertainty and there was a hiring freeze… so a staff of four reporters ended up covering an entire county (“full staff” was 7-8), working 12-hour days and 6-day weeks sometimes, and never able to take vacation for an entire summer. When the “awards banquet” held by our new corporate overlords came around, none of us were recognized and the publisher afterward had the gall to tell us she hoped the awards ceremony inspired us to work harder.

    I do not work at that newspaper anymore and never got the tee shirt we were also promised by corporate…

  62. paul

    This thread cements my conviction that if I’m ever an employer/manager type, we just ain’t doing any sort of birthday parties/baby showers/etc.

    Too many ways for it to go wrong.

    1. Not a Blossom

      I think that if you are going to do it, the best way is to stick with birthdays and have a list to which anyone who wants to be recognized can add their name and birthday. Then, once per month, do a cake for everyone with a birthday in that month. It doesn’t awkwardly single some people out, it lets people avoid attention if they want to, and it treats everyone the same.

      1. DoctorateStrange

        Yes, my workplace does that. The monthly birthday celebration was also optional so people, including the birthday people, don’t have to attend if they didn’t want to. And the celebrations were combined with employee-of-the-month announcements which were pretty fun as well.

    2. Amphian

      I would far rather work at a company that does not do this kind of stuff, and, being in tech, I have been lucky enough to never really have to deal with it. There are far too many ways for it to go wrong, people who don’t want their event publicized, etc. My coworkers are not by default my friends. I’m an introvert – having to do anything social with people I might not know well or might not like is not a gift, but a punishment. If I wanted to celebrate my birthday, for example, with a coworker – I’d ask them to do something after work.

  63. Grace

    I’m a teacher at a large public school board. Efforts to provide official “thank you for your service” gifts aren’t required. I’d rather not have had the following:
    – as a person who worked quarter-time, I was given a $2.50 Starbucks gift card to commemorate my tenth year of teaching (full-time people were given $10 cards)
    – on my twentieth year, as a full-time employee, I received a blanket that retails for $12.

    1. Q

      I was appalled at the $2.50 gift card until I realized that the $10 was for $10 years. A dollar a year is insulting.

      1. Marian Librarian

        The person selling the gift card probably thought it must be a joke. I’m so sorry that happened!

    2. Amity

      $2.50 is beyond crappy. Most places won’t even let you purchase a card for less than $5 value!

      1. Grace

        Yeah. I’m pretty sure that purchasing a $2.50 gift card took effort. I mean… who does that?

    3. C

      It is a good thing you were not part-time at the blanket gift – they might have given you a doll sized blanket!

  64. CTT

    The firm I was a paralegal at always did a staff recognition luncheon. The lunch itself was fine, but the attorneys would get there 10 minutes early to line up outside the elevator and applaud the staff as they came out of the elevator. It was 1) mildly condescending and 2) REALLY terrifying. It may not sound like it, but walking out of an elevator to 60 people applauding you is startling at best the first time it happens. The inside scoop I got from a few attorneys is that half of them hated it, half of them loved it, and there were a lot of older/influential staff members who REALLY loved it, so I believe it has stuck around to this day. I’m not saying I went to law school just so I could rejoin that firm and tell the attorneys how awful it was from a staff perspective, but I’m also not not-saying that.

    On the plus side, all the staff got to get their food first, which was a legitimately nice benefit.

    1. Q

      LOL! I was thinking you were going to say that the attorneys all got there first and ravaged the buffet. So I suppose it could have been worse. :)

    2. HannahS

      There’s one medical school in Canada (known for being a party school) that has a group of current students lined up by the door on interview day to clap and cheer whenever an interviewee comes in. It’s downright alarming! And certainly not calming when you’re already incredibly nervous.

  65. Kat

    An old workplace rolled out a rewards and recognition program to try to improve morale. It seemed fine on paper. Every other month 2 employees would be recognized at an all-staff meeting for outstanding work. The reward was a special convenient parking spot for their two month reign and a certificate. And every six months a more significant award would be given for which the employee got a plaque and a gift card. I initially appreciated the low-key nature of this program and thought it might actually help improve the very bad morale and general feeling employees had of being unappreciated. But as it went on, the managers who presented the awards at each meeting started doing more and more elaborate presentations. Skits, song and dance, comedy routines, magic tricks, animated videos, etc. Each one competing to outdo the last until these employee recognition presentations became more about the managers than about the employees receiving the awards, which didn’t. The management culture of over-the-top self promotion was a major cause of the the morale issues and the recognition program just led to more of it.

  66. cactus lady

    I think I posted this once before, but at an old job, we had once a month cake day to celebrate all the birthdays in that month. It was great! I highly recommend it. Once a month cake is great for morale!

    1. Kat

      I like that approach too. One of my former employers did this and we also recognized work anniversaries at the same time and made time for anyone else to share milestones or things they wanted to recognize colleagues for. It was usually just the last 20 minutes of our monthly staff meeting which was exactly the right amount of celebrating for most people.

      1. Penny Hartz

        Long-time reader, first time poster delurking to say we did a version of this at OldJob as well. If three people had their birthdays in, say, September, they would decide on which of about six restaurants (all close by and reasonably priced) to go to for their birthday lunch. A date would be picked that worked with the most peoples’ schedules. Everyone paid their own way and threw in a couple bucks to cover the birthday person(s)’ meals. On your actual birthday you got a little “traveling statue” to display at your desk. It was wonderful, equal, and NO ONE (temps, student workers) was left out. I shared an actual birthdate with another employee, so another statue was found and pressed into service.

        Here at NewJob we don’t recognize birthdays at all and that’s fine too. As many have already said in this thread, it’s when recognition is not “even” is when it’s a problem. I could write about a few times that’s happened to me but I honestly would probably make myself cry.

    2. Seriously?

      My previous work place switched to that as well. It was much better because otherwise some people got skipped.

    3. Alton

      I don’t mind that my current workplace doesn’t acknowledge birthdays, but I wouldn’t be at all opposed to getting a piece of cake every month!

      1. cactus lady

        I always hated having my bday recognized at work… But eating cake once a month? And the spotlight isn’t on me? Yes please.

    4. Turquoisecow

      We did the same at my last job, but three people were assigned on a rotating basis to bring snacks. At first people brought in handmade cakes/cupcakes, and then in later months it was more like a box of cookies they picked up, or some munchkins. Also, some people wanted healthy snacks, so we’d try to get at least one person to bring in some fruit.

    5. PepperVL

      Unless you’re asked what kind of cake you want and then they don’t get it. That happened to me during my birthday month.

  67. L.

    This is a silly example not involving gifts, but just basic recognition. My first job, near the end – I was leaving in a month or so for an internship in my dream field (what I do for work now, in fact!) and had been hired as a project associate and general assistant to the CEO straight out of grad school. I made SO many mistakes on that job! So many, which I now recognize. My job was partly administrative (accounts payable, office management… I once put together an electric standing desk… etc) but partly research/analysis and project work, which was the part I loved. The admin part, not so much. I was not an amazing assistant, in almost any way, but I did try (and my boss did NOT give lots of feedback or guidance, so it was mostly up to me to learn from doing).

    Anyway, another senior manager had asked me to help out on a major research project for a HUGE client (think one of the biggest names in whatever industry you’re in). It had a ton of survey analysis and stuff that I’m really good at, and I pitched in a LOT because they were short-handed and needed this work to be high quality. The project got finished on time and it was high quality.

    So my boss, the CEO, sent an all-staff email out, explaining that this major client was thrilled with the project (especially the analysis) and had put us on a shortlist of companies to hire for this kind of consulting work. He congratulated every. single. other. person. on the project and completely left me out of it. I just stared at my computer screen and tried not to cry. (I failed but made it to the bathroom in time to hide it.) The senior manager who’d pulled me in eventually saw the email and came to apologize to me, and my boss sent me an email a few days later to me saying “Oh, so-and-so told me you worked on this, thanks for your help”, but I have NEVER forgotten how awful that felt. It took me years to realize that while I was not great at that job, the CEO was also a bad manager, even if he was a great CEO in other ways.

    1. GRA

      Something very similar happened to me – I called the CEO out on being left off the list of names who had assisted with the project (for which I had compiled ALL the data from the surveys, etc.). Her response was “Since you weren’t on the steering committee for the project, it wasn’t appropriate to include your name”. I left for a better job a couple months after that.

  68. KHB

    My team has had four people doing the work of five for six months and counting, because a team member resigned and our COO won’t give us permission to fill the vacancy. (They cited financial concerns as the reason, but the company is doing fine financially.)

    Right before Christmas, the very same COO came around in a Santa hat handing out $1000 bonus checks to everyone (not just my team), and self-importantly declaring that “We just want to thank you for all the time and effort you’ve put into the organization.”

    I know that compared to a cheap mug or a teddy bear, $1000 is nothing to sneeze at, but as compensation for all the extra “time and effort” we’ve had to put in just to keep things afloat, it doesn’t go terribly far.

    1. awkula

      I haven’t had a raise or bonus in ten years and have never had a bonus over $150 even back when we got them. I would weep from happiness if I had an extra grand right now. We must be in very different industries!

      1. KHB

        I was definitely pleased to receive the bonus – it’s nice that they’re at least distributing the surplus money to the employees rather then spending it all on the C suite or whatever. But it’s very frustrating to see them throwing money around and at the same time telling us we can’t afford to be fully staffed.

        1. mirinotginger

          I understand how you feel. I’m an entry level person in my company and have been doing both my job and the job of my much more senior coworker since July. I am not ‘qualified’ for this other position, so won’t be compensated for it or given a level bump or anything, but did get a $1000 thanks. And like, I appreciate the sentiment, but now that you put a $ amount on it, I’m kind of upset? That person made easily double what I make, but doing their job for 7 months is only worth $1000 and no level bump or raise? Cool. I’ll start job hunting

    2. Emilie

      I understand the sentiment here. It’s a problem in the danish health care system as well, at the moment. A lot of the doctors and nurses say that they don’t care as much about raises, as they do about putting money towards having more people on staff, so they’ll actually have time to eat and go to the bathroom during their 12+ shifts.

  69. Ice Bear

    After reading these stories I’m convinced we’d all be better off if we didn’t celebrate non-work related events at work. There will always be people who are not as popular as others and will feel stiffed in comparison. Do like my husband’s company does and give everyone their birthday off in the form of an extra vacation day. I’d rather have that then some dry cake anyway.

      1. aNon

        I think we all know that means you only have an actual birthday once every four years so you only get the day off once every four years. /s

        1. Gelliebean

          And if you’re accidentally apprenticed to a pirate… well…. You may be there a bit longer than expected.

    1. AMPG

      My company gives people their birthdays off, too – no muss, no fuss, and everyone loves it.

  70. GovtLawyer

    My old job got us all engraved pens. This was thoughtful except two things: they pointed out that they got them engraved by the prisoners at the county jail in the county we worked for, which felt a bit…icky, and the pens were in black in, when the office and jurisdiction I worked in had a strict blue ink only policy.

  71. Stephanie

    Some of these are hilarious. First Job was at a federal agency, where there are pretty explicit rules limiting the value of gifts between employees and supervisors, but I had nothing as bad as these.

  72. Bettywho

    I worked at a large nonprofit healthcare organization where an employee recognition program was initiated where patients, vendors and fellow employees could write a note citing an employee’s great service. When an employee got a certain number, say 10, they were eligible for a recognition celebration which included a gift of a choice of appliance, CD player, etc. The program backfired because some people kept writing each other up just to get gifts and usually for very innocuous reasons, e.g. she held open a door for me. So eventually the gifts dwindled down to nothing but getting a piece of cake and then the program was abandoned altogether. What really galled me was that one the first people to get a great gift and notoriety was a truly awful person that I had never had one nice encounter with the entire time I worked there; I used to dread having to call her number.

  73. EditorInChief

    At OldJob we used to get generous gift cards from Tiffany’s for our 5- 10- 15- etc. year anniversaries, starting at $500 for 5 years. During the great recession of 2008 OldJob was downsizing and cutting costs. As was lack of communication was common there no one mentioned any change in the anniversary bonuses, so when one of my colleagues reached her 25th anniversary she was expecting quite the bonus. When she didn’t receive it she asked our boss, who asked HR. The HR response verbatim: “Tell her her bonus is that she gets to keep her job.” This to a woman who spent her whole career at this company.

  74. Manders

    My boss made a big deal of my coworker’s upcoming wedding with a party and cake, but completely forgot to celebrate mine (except for allowing my coworkers to razz me for not changing my last name to my husband’s name and for not knowing details like “color scheme”).

    I’m not normally one to fuss about that kind of recognition, and I was getting married right before Christmas so I knew there was already a lot going on, so I tried to take it in stride. The reason I was getting married in such a rush was because my mom had a terminal disease and I wanted to make sure she’d get a chance to see me get married, so it was a little difficult being told and shown I wasn’t getting married the “right” way.

    That was one of several signs I needed to start job hunting. And I found a kickass job that lets me work remotely so I can visit my mom more, so in the end, she did me a favor?

    1. Detective Amy Santiago

      I’m so sorry for what you’re going through, but congrats on the new job!

  75. Debbie

    At my first year anniversary in 1997 at FirstJob , they gave everyone a tie pin. A tie pin is meant to be worn on a TIE. I am a women with no need for a tie pin. I am not sure how they thought that was a good idea.

    1. YouwantmetodoWHAT?!

      I would have gotten a tie and worn it the very next day, with the tie pin prominently displayed.

    2. Naptime Enthusiast

      I read that as “pie tin” and wondered why anyone would have a need for that. I need to slow down.

      1. Positive Reframer

        In completely terrible version, tie pins for men, pie tins for women.

        I guess you can give them credit for equal treatment??? A great example of how equal isn’t always equal.

      2. QuiteContrary

        Tie pins for the men, pie tins for the women. There’s probably nothing wrong with that, right?

    3. No

      When citigroup bought my smallish company way back when they gave a single tie pin with the red umbrella to every employee. Thanks for nothing guys.

  76. PhillyKate

    It isn’t a milestone story but…this past January was my 30th birthday. My boss and his boss brought me donuts and proceeded to sit around my desk and eat quite a few of them and both wished me the “happiest birthday yet.”

    30 mins later they sat me down to tell me my role had been eliminated, but hey! At least I had donuts as consolation.

    In hindsight, they gave me the greatest birthday gift ever.

    1. KylieHR

      OMG I have been there. I got called in during my birthday party and told that I was being laid off. Then they wouldn’t let me go back to my desk to get my stuff. They made me wait and then escorted me downstairs where a police officer had a box full of everything from my desk and then escorted me out. The company got hit hard with the recession and this was a routine layoff. I had not done anything that should require a police(!) escort. To add insult to injury, I never did get to actually eat my cake. I had a whole plate full of snacks that they made me leave on my desk when I was called into the layoff meeting. The whole place went under 9 months later.

      1. PhillyKate

        OMG! At least I was able to get my stuff and got hugs from the bosses before I left. Jesus lord! Sorry you there there as well. As if routine layoffs aren’t hard enough…..on birthdays?! C’mon.

        1. KylieHR

          Yeah, I’m pretty sure it even blindsided my boss. Because she was the one that initiated the party. I think the most humiliating part was the police escort. It was just way over the top. Happy birthday to me!

      2. Q

        There is absolutely no reason why either one of these couldn’t have been done on the day before or the day after. What horrible people they were!

        1. KylieHR

          Yeah, it wasn’t even the end of the week. This was a midweek layoff. Usually they do this kind of crap on a Friday. I really needed the cake after that blow.

    2. only acting normal

      Exactly how awful did they think your other birthdays had been if that was the “happiest yet”?!

    1. Charlie Bradbury's Girlfriend

      One. Sticker. Even me as a first grader would’ve been like, “That’s it? Just the one sticker?”

  77. Naptime Enthusiast

    In college, I was announcing superlatives for our graduating seniors and just as I was finished and walked away, someone yelled “Wait, you forgot Marie!” Marie, my summer roommate and mentor and all-around fabulous person. I ran (very ungracefully) back to the DJ to grab the microphone and apologize profusely while announcing her superlative. It was along the lines of “Mom”, because she was so selfless and always looked after everyone and kept us in great spirits.

    I’m cringing at my desk as I remember this.

    1. Anonymous for this one!

      By my senior year of college, I was in my own quiet way doing pretty well: high GPA, some leadership positions related to my major, etc. I was also dating someone who had a tangential major to mine (think Poli Sci and History) who decided to ask my department about taking my major’s capstone course just because he was interested in it.

      We were at a reception for something or other, and my department chair stopped to talk to us about how the three professors who taught the capstone had been sorting the students for next year. She told my boyfriend which section he’d been sorted into, then looked at me, the actual major, and said “…and we thought we’d just stick you in there too.” (It didn’t help that yes, that was the section I preferred, so there was no logistical reason to kick up a fuss about it.)

      I think about that moment every time the school asks for donations.

    2. ContentWrangler

      I was a creative writing major in college and it was a fairly small major, a lot of workshop classes, so you got to know the other people fairly well. At our thesis presentations (which was a fairly big event, nearby families and 100s of students show up) it’s traditional for each reader to introduce the student reading after them – usually the intros are funny and reference their writing styles and topics. The girl introducing me happened to be someone who, somehow, I hadn’t had any classes with until thesis prep (which was a 2-month long workshop, so we weren’t strangers by thesis presentation). Her intro was basically “ContentWranger’s writing is interesting. It’s really improved a lot.” Bland, vague, and mildly insulting. It was definitely a bummer, considering how spot on all the other intros were.

  78. Stephanie

    At a former job, I was the only administrative employee in a department of salespeople. There were three sales teams with supervisors and one manager (who was my direct supervisor). We regularly called the manager the “ice queen” because she was cold and harsh to everyone. (For example, if you tried to talk to her in the elevator, she would ignore you.) Even though many of the department and team emails sent out did not apply to my job duties, I was still copied on all of them. One email invited everyone to a fun team-building meeting. When I asked if I was supposed to attend, I was told that my attendance was required. When we all showed up to the meeting, they talked about how good our sales numbers were, and that we all deserved a reward. (This was totally unexpected, as employees didn’t regularly receive rewards.) Everyone was then separated into teams. I asked which team I should go with… none of the supervisors knew where I should go. Things got really awkward, so I said, “I guess I need to sit this one out?” I could see the guilt on their faces when they reluctantly agreed. I then stood and watched as they played a game, and were each given prizes and gift cards. I got NOTHING… and had to cheer and pretend to be excited that they were all being rewarded for jobs well done (that they couldn’t have done without my support work). No one ever apologized, gave me any award, or recognition. Being laid off from that job was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

  79. it_guy

    At my current company one of the guys got a pair of socks on his 10th anniversary. I got an old (past sell by date) bag of Russel Stovers chocolates for my 3rd year anniversary.

  80. LSP

    Within the first few months I was working at my current job, my 10 month old nephew died from leukemia. One co-worker gave me a card just from her, and a few people wrote nice emails, but there was no recognition from the company itself. I didn’t really think a thing of it, but since then I have noticed every other time someone in the company has had a family member pass away, the bereaved coworker gets flowers or an edible arrangement or something. I always caulked that up to me only having worked there for 3 months when my nephew died.

    However, when I was here almost 2 years, I was in a bad car accident for which my company did send me a nice edible arrangement. Less than a week later my grandmother died. My company knew, but sent nothing. No one even sent me a card or email for that one.

    I don’t think about it often, and obviously I’m not looking to get something off a loved-one’s death, but it still stings a bit every time I see a card from a coworker thanking the company for their thoughtful gift during their time of grief. I just think if the company is going to do something like that for one person, they should do it for all as a matter of practice, not just if someone happens to think of it.

    1. Manders

      Yes, I think that’s the really tricky thing about this sort of recognition gift–it’s not really about what you’re getting, it’s about whether it’s consistent.

    2. Patty

      This is a toughie and I empathize. When my stepmother died, my sister’s employer, my dad’s employer and her siblings’ employers all sent cards, flowers, etc. My then-employer did nothing and even gave me a hard time about needing some time off to be with family. It still boggles my mind and I don’t think I could have ever really let it go. It’s especially egregious when they’re giving recognition for your coworkers losses. I am so sorry.

    3. KayEss

      I worked at a place where everyone got a daily email with (among other things) recent staff bereavements, complete with where to send flowers and charitable donations. When a young man in my department was seriously injured in an accident and his family was scrambling to fund care for him (so that maybe he’d be able to walk again), his manager made a request for his situation to be mentioned in the email.

      She was told that the messages, as a matter of policy, were only allowed to acknowledge dead people.

    4. ..Kat..

      My coworker was in an accident on her way to work. Her car was totaled, but no one was hurt. I received a lot of pressure from another coworker to donate money for flowers for this coworker. Given that my brother was crushed to death in a car accident just before this (and no one said or did anything), I was not interested.

  81. Leni

    I was working as a foster care case planner. Our boss was terrible – multiple people developed stress related medical issues. The work was hard – we worked with traumatized teenagers in residential care. The agency became concerned about turnover (it sounded like this agency https://www.askamanager.org/2016/11/im-annoyed-that-my-boss-asks-me-to-give-her-reminders-should-we-tell-our-boss-to-shut-our-company-down-and-more.html) and decided to have an event to increase morale. No one was happy because we were all drowning with paperwork and work so having to go to a lame lunch to hear lip service was not a plus, it was a minus.

    Our boss gave a long speech about how important and great our work was to our clients. They called up “dedicated social workers who went above and beyond in finding families for children.” They handed us….FIVE DOLLAR DUNKIN DONUTS GIFT CARDS. It would have been better to just give a certificate because at least we wouldn’t have been insulted at how cheap they were.

    1. Anon And Still Slightly Bitter

      It’s horrible that I am not the only one this happened to. (My similar story is below)
      Seriously, going out and buying a hot coffee and bringing it to the office shows more gratitude.

    2. vociferous_girl

      I am also a social worker and I feel your pain so much.

      I have no idea why we are so undervalued.

  82. Notthemomma

    Two stories, same employer.
    First, everyone was messaging about what to do for ‘A’s’ birthday, cake, flowers, lunch, drinks, card; a big work celebration. We knew it was her birthday because it was on the birthday& anniversary calendar. Right next to mine which was the day of all the planning. The day which was my birthday. At 4:30ish someone must have noticed cuz a group came down with a box of gas station donuts.

    Second, when I was leaving and moving halfway across the country, there was a big team outing and the head of the division, great-grand boss, gave a glowing testimony to all I did for them, how he valued working with me, I would be missed, and consistently called my by the name of someone who had worked in another department, who was of another race, and who had left six months earlier. At least the personalized sweatshirt had my name and not hers.

  83. bookends

    About a year and a half ago the non-profit I work for put on a convention. It wasn’t huge, but it was a lot of work coupled with all the normal work we do – I think I pulled a 70 hour week and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. The attendees got nice hoodies with the organization’s logo on them and there were some left over, so we were hoping that staff would get them as a reward for putting in the extra mile. After the convention, our director immediately snatched up the box of hoodies and locked them in her office. She’s rarely even in her office, so for all we know, they’re still sitting in the box.

  84. Elspeth McGillicuddy

    My work recently bought pizza for my whole crew as recognition that we passed a milestone productivity marker.

    Little Caesar’s pizza.

    There wasn’t enough, even though we were restricted to two pieces. For a hungry, blue collar crowd. And it was enough weeks after we passed the milestone that we were all gossiping about whether we’d actually get our promised pizza.

    I definitely didn’t feel particularly valued.

    1. Seriously?

      Can they not count? I don’t understand how you run out of pizza if people are restricted to two pieces.

    2. Q

      Oldjob offered to buy us pizza for lunch if we worked through to meet a deadline. They ordered 3 large pizzas for 60 people. After the first few people discovered this fact and spread the word, every single person declined the pizza and took their full lunch hour. Deadlines were not meet that day.

    3. anon24

      Oh, you do not restrict blue collar workers on pizza. Noooooo. That is how you start a mutiny.

  85. Okie Dokie

    At a company I worked for on a huge project 3 people were accidentally left off the list for the ship gift. A very nice gift worth around $500 and unique made specifically for this event. All we got was a “sorry” we only made enough for the names on the list.

  86. CMFDF

    Every man who became a father at my previous job would be thrown a party, we were supposed to bring diapers, gifts, celebrate it all. There was always cake, and usually a salad and pizza.

    But none of the women who were pregnant and gave birth during my time there ever got any celebration. I don’t think we *should* have gotten a party, necessarily, it was just weird that we did something for the men.

    When I had a baby, they did email me a “gift card” for $100 to our website. They emailed it to my work email (remember, I’m on FMLA, so NOT WORKING) and it expired 30 days later. I didn’t even see it until about a week before I came back to work – so 11 weeks after they sent it. I guess it’s the thought that counts?

    1. CMDRBNA

      I wonder if they assumed all the women got baby showers from their friends outside of work?? But still, that is ridiculous. Better to do nothing for anyone at all!

  87. Lurker

    I worked at a museum that gave all employees a free one-year membership…to the museum where we worked. Essentially the only thing that changed was that we then got all the mailings sent to our homes (thus costing the museum more money in postage and printing). As employees, we already received free admission, discounts on lectures and in the gift shop, could attend member openings, etc. I would have rather had the $75 (or whatever the cost of a membership was).

    That was a good 15+ years ago and I still remember how lame it seemed. I think TPTB may have realized it (or heard grumblings) because our memberships weren’t “renewed” the following year.

    1. ExcelJedi

      I’ve worked at nonprofits where they automatically enrolled employees in things like this, mostly because of how they did fundraising. They were pretty sloppy and just made sure employees were on the same mailings as their members/donors.

      Not sure if it would extend to museum membership, but I could see some places having that reasoning.

      1. Lurker

        This was definitely not that kind of situation. It was around the holidays and announced as a “holiday gift” type of thing. Prior to that we weren’t on the mailing list(s), and ended the following year. (As an aside, counting employees as members to inflate fundraising/membership numbers seems odd — I’ve worked for several museums and none of them did that.)

      2. kitryan

        I know it’s a bit late to comment but this happened at the theater I worked at. We all got comp tickets to our shows but however you got your ticket, you had to give a contact phone. One of our crew (costume shop) gave the shop’s main number.
        One day I answered the phone and when I asked who was calling, they told me it was [theater name]. I was surprised at that and after a couple questions discovered it was a call trying to sell season tickets. To a current employee. Who received 2 free tickets to every show and saw most of them in dress rehearsal anyway.
        The telemarketing team worked *20 feet* down the hall from us. All our work phones have the same first 3 digits. I ended the call by explaining the utter futility of what they were trying to do.
        I also ended up getting the theater’s brochures in my mail and was on their email blasts. All a waste of resources, I was well aware of our season line up.

        1. kitryan

          Oh, and more directly on topic, I’ve been at my office for 5 years, for 2 of them we’ve celebrated staff birthdays and mine has never been acknowledged. I console myself by deciding it’s just because I usually take a vacation that day.
          Much nicer were two occasions I felt *very *appreciated. One, I was taking a nice vacation after a tough year of work. My boss went to the higher ups and got the company to give me a $100 gift card so I could treat myself to a nice meal or some souvenirs on my trip, in recognition of my hard work.
          Second, I had minor back surgery about 3 months ago. The same supervisor – even though she was no longer my immediate boss, got the company to get me 4 wireless switches that you plug electronics or lights into and the basic Echo. So I could play music and turn the lights on and off without hurting myself after surgery. It’s one of the most thoughtful things anyone’s ever done for me. I also got several emails and a phone call from 4 different members of management checking on my recovery.
          Sometimes my workplace does things right.

  88. Ann O'Nemity

    My company stopped recognizing birthdays all together because there were so many complaints about how unevenly it had been handled previously. Some people would get treated to a free lunch, balloons, flowers, cake, and gift. Others would get nothing. And everything in between. Now, people complain because there’s nothing.

  89. Patty

    Can I share an opposite story- an employer who got it quite right. My husband works for a medium-sized non-profit and he and some co-workers had to pull very very long days (his shifts became 3 am – 5 pm, early in the morning because of the nature of the work) to tackle a problem that sadly had an emotionally tough outcome at the end of it all. They all worked so hard and there was so much heartbreak. Any of the employees who volunteered to for these overtime shifts received a handwritten note from the president expressing his thanks and two tickets to an NHL game in our city. It felt appropriate and like his efforts were seen and appreciated. This can be done right!!

  90. DCGirl

    Two jobs ago, the company contracted with an outside vendor to provide a catalog from which employees celebrating employment anniversaries could select a gift. The catalog came pre-packaged in an envelope with a blank card/envelope which the supervisor was supposed to used to write a personal note to the employee along with a small pamphlet of instructions for the supervisor on how to acknowledge the anniversary during, for example, a regular team meeting.

    So, on my anniversary, I came back to my desk to find the the catalog plopped on my chair by my supervisor, with the Post-it from her to HR still on it on which my name was spelled wrong, and all the instructions and the blank/card envelope still inside. Yeah, I felt extra-super special that day.

    I was able to order myself a nice Brighton necklace and earring combo from the catalog, which I still wear.

  91. Anon And Still Slightly Bitter

    When I worked for international major automobile manufacturer in 2011 I went over and above to help reach a huge and difficult target.
    They made a big deal of presenting me with an envelope as thanks. Inside was a $5 gift card to famous coffee place (the place where almost nothing costs $5).

    (Yeah, I’m still bitter.)

  92. McWhadden

    This was before my time. But a co-worker of mine told me about how he had been in this department for about five years and never once had a meeting. (We still don’t have many meetings.) But right before he was getting married (literally like the Friday before his wedding) there was a department meeting scheduled. So, he assumed it was a surprise thing as a congratulations on the wedding. He got in and it was the first department meeting of his entire career. Not even an acknowledgement.

    He was usually the one to acknowledge people’s birthdays and life events so no one else was there to do it. (Again, it was before my time.) But it doubly sucked because he always did things for other people.

  93. Earthwalker

    I was rather floored to get a commemorative coffee coaster for my hard work on Project X when all I’d done was to say at the project kick-off, “It’s not me you’re looking for. I’m a teapot tester. A person whose name is spelled very similarly is the coffeepot builder I think you want on your team.” And I never heard another word until I got a coaster. But then some years later I became a project manager and led a huge effort with a big reward event after. I failed to invite several key people because I hadn’t realized how much work several team members had quietly farmed out to their coworkers who were not even members of the project team. My direct team members didn’t mention the significant contributions from their coworkers until I’d already accidentally snubbed them. I felt awful. I realize now how easy it is to screw up recognition and be incredibly stupid and thankless.

  94. SpaceNovice

    This one still makes me twitch years later: our company was bought be another. The new company had an All-Hands about this at some point, and happily stated everyone would get a gift at the end. The gift was a plaque stating their values for the year. Guess what’s the one thing that I left on my desk the day before I knew I was going to get laid off?

      1. SpaceNovice

        And it did when combined with how they handled the merger! Key employees were told they would only get their severance if they stayed on to help transition systems. They didn’t, even though the severance pay was probably around $20k on top of a regular paycheck until the transition was complete. Everyone who was laid off immediately got severance pay, though. (Promised by our former CEO ahead of time so they couldn’t just lay us off without anything similarly to their yearly layoffs, I believe.)

  95. Amber Rose

    My last company, the owner took everyone out for lunch to thank them for doing overtime and stuff and getting through a hectic period. Except me, because I had to answer the phones. I got nothing. The owner hated me and the feeling was mutual so I didn’t even care that much, but having to skip my own lunch was a little bitter.

    1. lisalee

      Argh, the phones! This happens at my job all the time–there’ll be fun events like baby showers, goodbye parties, etc, but the same two employees are always stuck covering phones.

  96. Rusty Shackelford

    Even celebrations based on work-related achievements can feel awfully unfair. A coworker at my level was recently recognized at an all-staff meeting for extra work he’d done on a special project. I did something very similar last year, but since my manager didn’t say anything about it, I didn’t get any recognition.

  97. Shellesbelles

    Birthday this year – my boss has a birthday two days before mine. We went out for a fancy lunch, complete with oysters for his day. Mine was completely forgotten – for the second year in a row. When they finally realized that they had forgotten it, during a staff meeting, my other boss gave me a leftover cookie from her lunch as a consolation. They did nothing to make up for it. In fact, I got berated and yelled at for not reminding them sooner. It was in the office calendar that everyone has access to and it was on Facebook. I’m friends with both of them on Facebook.

  98. Apocalypse How

    At my current job at a non-profit organization, the board member in charge of personnel was supposed to write thank-you notes and give $10 Target gift cards to each employee at December Holiday Time. (I assume the board had pooled their money together for the gift cards.) The board member ended up giving the cards to only half the employees. It couldn’t have been her forgetting new employees, because I got one and I had only been working there since Labor Day. And on top of that, the gift cards seemed to be different amounts–mine was $20 instead of $10. She quit the board soon after, so she must have mentally checked out by that point, but that’s no excuse to do a half-assed job.

  99. Leela

    This is definitely a Japanism but when I was working there, it was common for foreign teachers leaving to be taken out for a big, multi-course dinner party. Right before one of the women working with me was going to go back to the US, it came out that a Japanese teacher, like ten years ago, had stolen money out of the school’s store. None of us knew this person, none of us had been there that long, it wasn’t even the same school, but our Board of Education informed us that not only would there be a party for her, but we were forbidden to have our own event for her because it would look like we weren’t taking the stealing seriously. We were even told we couldn’t go out to a bar and drink like any other Friday because it would look like we were partying and not being properly personally ashamed of a Japanese teacher at a different school doing something when none of us were there.

  100. Lynca

    I’ve debated about posting this but guess I will bite the bullet.

    I got my pregnancy outed as part of an employee recognition ceremony. While I love my job… I didn’t love that particular moment.

  101. Katie

    My friend had a job she hated for a lot of reasons- she has since quit. (She had all kinds of stories about that place, but that’s not the point of this post!) The company she worked for was quite old-fashioned. At the holiday party, they were recognizing two employees for 30 years of service. One was a man, one was a woman. The man got a trip for two to Hawaii. The woman got a diamond necklace. I hope she could sell it for the price of a trip for two to Hawaii.

    1. Leela

      That’s really appalling, if they were going to consider two different rewards they really should have let the recipients choose instead of designating who should get what.

  102. Murphy

    I worked really hard to help facilitate a big internal program. Evenings, weekends, etc. There was a big reception to brag about the program and the people who ended up being selected…my boss forgot to put me on the invite list. I found out ahead of time, and I’m sure it was an oversight, but still.

    My boss also won an award for this program from an international professional organization that I’m also a member of and was invited to attend their big conference to receive it. He didn’t even tell me about it. (My contributions were mostly just of large chunks of my time and certainly weren’t significant enough to warrant me getting an award, but it would be nice to know that something I put that much effort into was being recognized in such a way.)

    1. Megan

      I had a similar thing happen. Consultant wrangling on a major deliverable that was part of their contract, wrangled the consultant daily for eight months, got berated by the boss monthly about where the deliverable was, wrote a solid quarter of the publication myself and edited the whole thing. Publication wins a local industry award. Boss and lead consultant go get honored. I don’t even hear about the awards ceremony until the day of, after boss has already left to get there. At least the product is good.

  103. In Todd We Trust

    Many, many moon ago, I was working as a Salaried General Manager for a family who owned several fast-food restaurants. My pay at the time was well under $20K. We opened a new store the same week the owners left for a family vacation. I worked over 180 hours in that 2 week period and expected nothing because that’s what happens when you’re salary. The owner came back from vacation and told me how appreciated I was, important to the company, etc. They included an extra $100 on my paycheck. Wow a whole $1 an hour for all that extra work. I expected nothing, but that check was worse than nothing. I left a few months later.

  104. JustaTech

    A while ago my company was owned by EvilCorp (not from Mr Robot) and EvilCorp decided they needed an employee recognition system. So they set up this thing “Eye on You” where your coworkers could nominate you to get a star. (The star looked exactly like the ones my 2nd grade teacher used to decorate the classroom.)
    Ten stars was worth a EvilCorp branded travel mug, 100 stars was free parking for a month (at headquarters, on the other side of the country) and some crazy number of stars was worth lunch with the CEO.
    The CEO who was currently under indictment.

    We laughed until we cried, because what else could you do?

    1. Grumpy

      Is it wrong that prison lunch with the CEO kind of sounds fun? I would take a selfie.
      (Also, just wow.)

  105. MechanicalPencil

    My department semi-recently rolled out a massive project, for which I did all of the teapot design. Fergus is a teapot manufacturer, who uses all of my designs, but he received all of the credit for my teapot designs and how good they look, etc.

  106. EvilQueenRegina

    At Exjob, my coworker Cruella organised a bouquet of flowers for other coworker Maleficent for arranging these shared lunches for the team. She picked a bunch of Singapore orchids, but when they were delivered our other coworker Tiana noticed she looked unhappy and discreetly asked her why. Maleficent said that in the country she was born, that particular flower was classed as a weed. It was something Cruella had no reason to know,which Tiana tried to explain, but Maleficent couldn’t get past the perceived insult and kept insisting they were vermin. Next day, Maleficent had her husband send a bunch of tulips to the office, which she said to Tiana was “his way of showing them how they should treat his girl”. Since no one had explained to Cruella about the weeds, the dig went over her head.

    1. ContentWrangler

      I just Googled Singapore orchids and those are the prettiest weeds I’ve ever seen.

      1. EvilQueenRegina

        They really didn’t look like weeds at all. And my uncle is married to a woman from the same country where Maleficent was born, and a couple of years later I mentioned this story to her. She didn’t know what Maleficent was talking about and said they weren’t weeds. So I don’t know if it was just a regional thing or her own personal opinion perhaps more than them being commonly regarded as weeds. But whatever it was, it was something Cruella genuinely didn’t know and Maleficent was taking it more as a slight than was intended.

  107. a

    I don’t want my birthday celebrated at work, and I have made that clear from the start. I take the day off, refuse to acknowledge that I have a birthday, etc. So, our (now retired) boss once ordered a coworker to bring in some sort of treat for my birthday (because we were all having interpersonal relations issues in my section and he thought that would make things better). We laugh about it now, but she was apparently quite irritated that she had to bring in treats for someone who didn’t want their birthday acknowledged and wouldn’t be there anyway.

  108. AnaEatsEverything

    This is a little petty but it still really has an impact on me. TL;DR my team threw a baby shower for a coworker’s wife and ignored my pregnancy completely.

    At old job, I went through a pregnancy that was nine months of hell. I had all-day sickness so bad that I was barfing at my desk multiple times a day – there was just no way to make it to the bathroom on time. I felt awful about it but coworkers and boss were very sympathetic. Our engineer’s wife (who did not work for the company) was also pregnant, with a due date within two weeks of mine. A week or so before her due date, our office pooled a large sum of money to buy her a gift off of her baby registry, a really nice one. It was talked up at the office and there was a lot of excitement as we presented the gift to our engineer, who accepted it tearfully on his wife’s behalf. It was a very touching moment. A week or so later, she had a beautiful baby boy, the pictures were passed around the office.

    MY baby shower never came. In fact, I kind of got the impression that my whole office wanted to forget I was pregnant at all. Due date literally within two weeks of our coworker’s wife, and I got nothing – not even an acknowledgement that I was due any day. And when I got back to my office after FMLA, they weren’t interested in baby pictures or anything to do with her. This was my first and only child, I struggled through 9 months of pregnancy hell, and I WAS ON THEIR TEAM! I honestly don’t think HR cared about the exit interview at all, and it felt petty, but I brought it to their attention on my last day, and I legitimately almost cried. It just felt awful, like my whole team wanted to pretend like those nine months never happened. I’ll honestly never get over it, and it ended some outside-of-work friendships I hoped to maintain with my team.

  109. Beancounter in Texas

    In my 20’s, I worked for a large international company in a small group (three people total) dealing with all of the regulatory requirements for merchandise. A state legislation came through for which we all did a huge amount of work on the project to ensure that 3,000+ products complied, particularly during the Christmas production season. We had put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears to complete the project in a timely manner.

    At the November unit meeting, where a few hundred of us gathered in an auditorium to hear what our vice president had to say, he acknowledged how hard my group had worked. He called down my two colleagues and as I anxiously awaited for my name, he continued to praise how hard these two people had worked. I had to choke back tears and after the meeting broke, I considered just heading straight home, I was so demoralized.

    I got back to my desk before anyone else and once my manager arrived, I decided to stay through the last two hours of the day. My manager must have known how it felt to be excluded, because he recognized me then, saying he knows how I hard I worked on the project too and that I should have been called up too. I couldn’t hold back the tears then (I’m getting teary eyed writing this!) and thanked him before running to the bathroom.

  110. fawst