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.

{ 1,155 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…


            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. General Ginger*

        Wow. And they just… owned that? Without pausing to think how awful 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*

              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”?

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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.

    6. 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.

    7. 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.”

    8. 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.

    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*

          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*


      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?

        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:

      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.


  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.