Gift Etiquette for work-friend birthdays
January 9, 2013 7:50 PM   Subscribe

Went to birthday thing at a restaurant/bowling place for a work friend. There were 6 of us here. I consider the people there work-friends, in that I generally don't hang out with them outside of work. I was surprised that 3 of the friends gave gifts to the birthday girl, while the other guy bought her drinks and food. I tried to offer to pay for part of the entertainment cost but was begged off. So I felt like I didn't contribute much to the birthday celebration and possibly commited a faux pas in not getting a gift. I was under the impression that people at work who weren't that close don't give birthday gifts to each other. Did I commit a faux pas? Should I give a belated gift?
posted by Pantalaimon to Human Relations (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I would not have expected there to be gift-giving. I wouldn't worry about it.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:53 PM on January 9, 2013

In my office, this would not be a faux pas.
posted by rtha at 7:53 PM on January 9, 2013

In my workplace this sort of thing might happen but non-gift bringing would be fine. You offered to contribute which was totally fine. Next time a louder "Next round on me!" if you want to chip in is fine, but this sort of thing is pretty ad hoc usually and showing up to wish people well is part of the event being a success and you pitched in to that.
posted by jessamyn at 8:00 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

For most people older than 23 or so, birthday gifts for people you aren't related to, dating or close friends with are optional. Some people will always bring gifts, but no one is required to. And the older I get, the more often I'm explicitly told NOT to bring gifts to an event like the one you describe.

However, covering food and/or drinks for the birthday person is pretty standard. If you feel distractingly guilty about not having contributed, then maybe just offer to get them a coffee or cupcake or whatever next time you go out for one?

But seriously, don't worry about it. In nearly all cases like this, it's only a big deal if you make it a big deal.
posted by Narrative Priorities at 8:04 PM on January 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

They might be better friends to her outside work than you are. Going to the event is probably all anyone expected, but if you feel bad about it, pick up the bar tab next time you go out.
posted by xingcat at 8:23 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I probably would have brought a small gift (like a gift card or something), because this sounds more like a planned social thing than a casual "whoever wants to should just show up after work" thing and while I know gifts aren't supposed to be expected, in my experience they usually are. If I'm incorrectly assuming the context, then disregard. I don't think it's a big deal, though.
posted by sm1tten at 8:49 PM on January 9, 2013

In a work environment/work-friend, I would only give a gift to an immediate subordinate and my direct boss. Otherwise, skip the present, you're an adult - you don't need to bring a gift to a birthday gathering.
posted by banannafish at 9:06 PM on January 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

If I organised a get-together for my birthday with some work friends (something I've done in the past), I wouldn't expect any gifts. It would be enough for me that people showed up.

I'm pretty friendly with most of my colleagues and hang out with a few regularly, but gift-giving is only ever done on an ad-hoc basis. For example, if someone has a particularly good idea for a gift for someone, a few of us might chip in. But it certainly wouldn't be expected for everyone (or anyone) to buy a gift.
posted by RubyScarlet at 9:10 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

The birthday person was likely not expecting gifts at all, and was possibly mildly embarrassed at receiving them. I know I would be.

Don't do anything; you're good.
posted by Salamander at 9:11 PM on January 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Were the three people that brought gifts guys? Is the birthday girl single and attractive?
posted by unexpected at 1:03 AM on January 10, 2013

Yeah, as the birthday person I wouldn't have WANTED gifts. A heartfelt offer to buy drinks / food and a "happy birthday, dear so-and-so!" would have been far better than gifts.
posted by AmandaA at 6:32 AM on January 10, 2013

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