Should Office Birthdays Even Be a Thing? (Oh -- and Happy 29th Birthday, Gala!)

Today was Gala's 29th birthday, and we all sang and loved on her in Jane's office -- but it also raised a totally awkward question. Should office birthdays even be a thing?
Publish date:
September 13, 2012
birthdays, office politics, gala darling

I finally met sexy stylish powerhouse New Zealand native Gala Darling! She is very pretty and wears perfect makeup and her lips are super pink and her tattoos are really neat and she is like a walking living color palette. And check this shit out. It was her birthday, dude.


She came into xoJane offices to work on her birthday. LIKE A BOSS.

And how did we treat her? Oh, we just totally didn't get her a present is all. NBD. But then there was the realization by Jane that Corynne didn't do her job (Corynne's words) and didn't plan anything for Gala and that we needed to check ourselves stat because if we didn't get her a birthday gift, what kind of a grand welcome to the last year of your twenties would that be? RIGHT?

ALSO SHE GOT TO MEET ME TODAY. I think that might have been more exciting than her birthday. But I don't know if she'd ever have the courage to admit that. Aloud anyway.

When the birthday-gifting-item-weirdness scramble happened, Gala was nearly out the door and Olivia side-mouthed, "GET HER TO STAY. DO SOMETHING. CORYNNE IS GETTING HER A GIFT." And so I told her that I wanted to interview her. About what, Gala asked. Oh, about, anything? Her wisdom? She looked at me strangely and indulgently and said, "Um, sure, Mandy. Sure."

Then we gathered in Jane's office, and then we freaked about what they do in New Zealand (Gala's home country) for birthdays, and Jane quickly Googled it, and we found some rando tradition about clapping really loud and slowly for every year someone was born so when Gala came in, we all started clapping creepy and slo-mo, and Gala looked at us crazy as we did this weird super exaggerated ritualistic-style clap. "Um, what are you doing?" Gala asked. "Oh, this is what you do in New Zealand for birthdays!" we informed her. "The Internet told us."

Then we took a very cute picture with the sign that Madeline made for her, and back in the office that Corynne and Emily and I all share, there was much discussion about the weirdness of the "office birthday."

Should it even be a thing? Like, at all?

I said that I had a boss once who ended the office birthday. NO MORE. It was not allowed because it was just all too much. Sometimes cakes were gotten. Sometimes cakes weren't gotten. Then there are the special needs and the food issues and the weirdness when someone wouldn't eat a slice of cake if their life depended on it and is the only one not eating when a giant cake is gotten. Or when someone else's cake is better. Or when many people don't drink or if the birthday girl is sober and cocktails are brought. Or when the card isn't signed. Or the gift sucks.

"I kind of understand why my old boss banned office birthdays," I said nostalgically to Corynne as a montage of my life passed by.

"I know," she said. "It's so awkward. I kind of feel like we should just have, like, crayons and juice. That should be the new office birthday standard."

"I love that," I said. "Crayons and juice. That's what I want for my birthday." (WHICH IS OCTOBER 24 EVERYONE. PENCIL IT IN.)

Corynne ended up getting her sparkly rings. Pink and silver.

But Gala's celebration was totally fun. I think we're all glad we did it. Even though it was kind of stressy and weird and photo-oppy and strange and Jane had a conference call happening soon and we only had so much time and yeah we totally tried to recreate some New Zealand birthday tradition that probably doesn't exist in the first place.

So I'm wondering: Is the office birthday always just inherently awkward and kind of forced and strange? Does your office allow it or prohibit it? Do you always make sure not to go into the office on your birthday? Is there a way to do an office birthday without the food and the alcohol and the pressure for a good present? What are you getting me this year? (Start saving money now!)


Find Mandy long-form at