Earlier in the month, I turned 50. Now I really don’t care about birthdays, I haven’t for a very long time, it’s just another day and I treat it that way. I guess when you’ve had 50 of these things, they just aren’t special anymore. People who have known me for a long time at work know this and don’t pay it any attention. I didn’t bring it up all day, but it was a bad day and I think I said something at the end like “what a way to spend your birthday”. That was a mistake.
It was a mistake because the next day, my employees showed up with a cake and ordered lunch for me. Now it isn’t that I’m not appreciative, I’ve got a great group of people working for me, but I just don’t see the point. I survived another year hurtling around the sun. Yay. So we all ate cake and it was a nice break from the work day and for that I’m happy, I just don’t see the sense of the gesture. These people are not my friends, they are my employees. I have a great deal of respect for them, I like them all as individuals, but we just don’t have, and can’t have, that kind of relationship. I have never gone out with any of them outside of work hours. In fact, fraternization is a direct violation of the work ethic and company rules. I can’t treat them as anything but what they are: employees. I cannot show any form of favoritism. I cannot present even the slightest appearance of impropriety. If something bad happens, I can’t risk terminating someone and having them come back with “you didn’t fire this other person because you’re friends”. So I’m not friends with any of them. I have to maintain that professional distance, just like any manager does.
But that said, I know this is something they do for everyone and I can’t say that I don’t take part. Earlier in the year, I had two employees with birthdays on the same day and I took the whole office out to lunch to celebrate. It helps with morale and makes them feel like the company cares about them, which certainly they, and I, do. I bend over backwards to make sure they are all well taken care of because they deserve it. So from that perspective, I respect what they’re doing because I do the same thing. But for me personally, and I’m sure for a lot of older people, they find the whole thing a little silly, having been on this rock for a long, long time and celebrating the day you popped out of the womb seems a bit meaningless. I appreciate what they did, but if it was all the same, I’d prefer they didn’t bother. I won’t feel bad about it and they can just keep working. It isn’t heartless to express a preference, is it?