Most Employees Asked By Coworkers to Chip In for Office Festivities, Survey Shows

MENLO PARK, CA -- There’s no such thing as a free lunch … and birthday cake may have a price, too, for many office workers. In a recent survey, three-quarters (75 percent) of executives polled said employees are asked by peers to contribute money to pay for celebrations -- such as birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers and retirements -- at least once a year; 15 percent of employees receive donation requests monthly.

The survey was developed by OfficeTeam, a leading staffing service specializing in highly skilled administrative professionals. It was conducted by an independent research firm and includes responses from 150 senior executives at the nation’s 1,000 largest companies.

Executives were asked, “On average, how often are employees at your firm asked to contribute money to pay for staff celebrations or events?” Their responses: 

Once a week   1%
Once a month   15%
Once a quarter   20%
Once or twice a year   39%
Never   21%
Don't know   4%

Those polled also were asked, “How are employee birthdays celebrated at your company?” Their responses*: 

Cake/treats   50%
Department lunches/meals   24%
Gift Cards   15%
Other   15%
No recognition   23%
Don't know   3%

“Employees often pool resources to plan informal events to acknowledge personal milestones like staff birthdays or weddings,” said Diane Domeyer, executive director of OfficeTeam. “No one wants to appear a poor sport for not contributing, but when requests are made too frequently, employees may feel tapped out.”

Domeyer added, “Companies can do their part by leaving room in their budget for recognition events, but it won’t prevent coworkers from wanting to chip in to buy a gift or other token of support for a colleague. Employees should avoid asking colleagues too often or for too much.”

OfficeTeam offers the following etiquette guidelines for celebration organizers:

  • Be selective. Asking a new hire who has never met the mom-to-be to contribute to a baby shower is unfair. Instead, extend the invite to those who are most familiar with the person receiving special attention.
  • Keep it reasonable. Rather than requesting a specific dollar amount, ask employees to make a voluntary contribution of any size toward the purchase of a cake, gift or other item.
  • Take a low-key approach. Sending a general e-mail announcement or circulating a donation envelope for anonymous contributions is preferable to a personal plea, which can make people feel uncomfortable.
  • Consider group celebrations. Bundle together recognition activities into quarterly events and see if the company will provide budget dollars to support the functions as a way to encourage team building.

OfficeTeam has more than 300 locations worldwide and offers online job search services at

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