Should I Tell My Boss It’s My Birthday?
Today is my birthday, and a wonderful opportunity to do what I love most: manage up. I typically start to worry about whether I should tell my boss about my birthday two to three months before it happens. “My birthday’s coming up,” I will think to myself manically as my boss talks through the calendar with me, or schedules a task for a day in December.
Let me be clear: I’m not one of those people who wakes up and casually remembers it’s their birthday. I’m an only child. I ran into my parents’ room at dawn and screamed “It’s my birthday!” on my birthday. My 18th. When my birthday falls on a weekday, I come to work shaking from the stress of holding back the news, ready to explode and then instantly unravel. Once, on the day itself, a co-worker brought me a cupcake. My boss noticed and asked, “What’s that for?”
“It’s just my birthday,” I said, forcing my shoulders into a shrug as if to say, “Does anyone really care about these things?” (I do.) It shouldn’t be that hard to tell this one thing to your boss and to the humans you see for more than half the time you’re awake.
Here’s the dilemma: Mention it, and you risk giving the impression you expect some sort of gathering involving mini-cupcakes or soda or even hats. Public birthday bashes in common areas or boardroom types of spaces are reserved for important people, not people who work in cubes. Keep quiet, though, and you might regress to your toddler self when your boss asks how you’re doing today.
I’ve heard of offices where everyone gets a day off on their birthday, which seems right, and startups that once sent every employee a happy birthday e-mail but grew so quickly that “reply all” turned people’s in-boxes into hellholes, which seems wrong.
The companies I’ve worked for are serious places, where people get drug-tested before they start and refer to their girlfriends as their “partners.” When you’re not yet 40, working anywhere can already feel like a hilarious trick you pulled on human resources by wearing heels one time. Rolling up to the office and announcing your birth to the people kind enough to play along seems reckless and childish.
What makes the most sense is to mention it in a low-key way, so it doesn’t seem like you’re breaking pretty crucial news that someone might need to act on. For instance, by writing a blog post about it.
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