Ask the Past: office birthday party

I have an employee who has been with me for a few years, and her birthday is coming up soon. What kind of celebration and present would be appropriate?

Unfortunately, although that's a nice sentiment, it seems like you have got the wrong end of the stick entirely when it comes to giving birthday presents to your employees. According to Etiquette in Business:

While anniversaries are in the province of the management, it is the employees who are birthday minded. Sometimes they plan to surprise the boss on his seventieth birthday, or they may give a younger man a remembrance when his birthday coincides with some special event in connection with the business that is his pride and joy.

If your birthday happens to be coming up, though, particularly if it coincides with a special event in connection with the business that is your pride and joy, Etiquette in Business does have a list of present suggestions for your employees:

  • Sport equipment
  • A camera or a piece of auxiliary equipment
  • Desk barometer
  • Carafe
  • Clock
  • Luggage
  • Smoking stand
  • Pen set
  • A radio, portable or for the car
  • A painting
  • Set of books

If you want to break with business etiquette altogether, the Harmsworth Household Encyclopedia suggests:

Books are popular presents to all, as are small pieces of jewelry. Clothes, save perhaps gloves, silk stockings, and ties, are only given by intimate friends.

Harmsworth also has some important advice about the date of the celebration that is worth bearing in mind:

Most people think that a person born on the 30th of June, 1900, would come of age on the 30th of June, 1921. This is not so. The person in question comes of age on the 29th of June, 1921, because that is the day on which he actually completes 21 years. And as the law takes no notice, as a rule, of fractions of a day, it does not matter at which hour on the 30th of June, 1900, he was born. He is 21 and of full age at the very first moment of the 29th of June, 1921.

As far as food goes, although a birthday cake is always nice, it can be hard to find one that meets everyone's dietary requirements. Instead, try these banana starfish from the party section of the Hostess Cookery Book - they are low carb and gluten-free, and can easily be made dairy-free if necessary:

Ingredients: jelly; bananas; Bourn-vita, Milo, or Ovaltine

Step 1) Make some jelly with jelly crystals (one or more colours).

2) Cut bananas in halves lengthwise. When the jelly begins to set dip the bananas into it. Dip them then in beverage crystals.

3) When the jelly has completely set chop it up roughly and arrange in a flat serving dish. Place the bananas on the jelly, starfish fashion.

I'm sure that will help.

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