Make-shift Receptionist: What should we do if one co-worker can’t participate in birthday celebrations at the office?

Q: I work in an office with five support staffers including me, and four managers.  We have a long-held tradition of acknowledging birthdays with a small celebration in the office including cake and a gift.  One of the support staff joined us only recently and we learned that her religion prevents her from celebrating birthdays.  She asked us to not acknowledge her birthday nor invite her to our birthday celebrations; she said she would not be offended. I feel it will be awkward with her right in the office while we are making merry celebrating in the conference room.  In addition, she does not know when the birthdays fall and consequently it is always a surprise to her.  In the past we all joined in on the celebrations and collaborated if the phone rang or a visitor came during the short celebration.  How do we best handle this situation?



A: Your plan to share covering the office sounds like an excellent idea.  There would be no reason for you to discontinue answering phones and visitors the way you have always done just because this co-worker could be considered available.  You can tell her that you respect her wishes and that you will let her know when parties will be taking place, but that she will not be expected to take on reception or telephone duties because you have always simply taken turns in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

Picking up the Tab: Who pays the bill at a business lunch?

Q: When going to a business lunch, who should pay?  I requested a meeting with our law firm to discuss issues and they suggested we meet over lunch.



A: Unfortunately, there is no “correct” answer.  It could be argued that since you requested the meeting, you should pay.  On the other hand, since they suggested a luncheon meeting, they could be expected to pay.   The diplomatic thing to do may be, when the check arrives, to offer to pay for lunch.  In all likelihood, members of the law firm will offer to pay or split the bill.

Badge Placement: Which side of the shirt does a name tag belong?

Q: On which side of the chest should you display your name tag?



A: Although it is easier for right-handed people to put a name badge on the left side, they correctly are worn on the right side.  This is so the person shaking hands or greeting has easy eye contact with both the person and the badge as a way to help remember the name or to see where he or she is from — which is the whole purpose of wearing a badge in the first place.

Meeting Offense: How do I deal with distracting side conversations at work?

Q: How can I handle disruptive behavior in a business meeting?  In addition, how do I handle theses same behaviors, such as side conversations, in a work setting?



A: In general, the person running the meeting would politely ask that person to stop.  For example, “John, I would appreciate your attention.”  If someone next to you is being disruptive, it would be appropriate for you to say something like, “John, excuse me but I’m trying to listen.”  In the workplace, if co-workers’ conversations are disruptive to your work, you may politely explain that their conversation is making it difficult for you to work.  The same holds true for other distractions such as noise.  If this doesn’t work, you may bring the matter to the attention of your supervisor.

Farewell Faux Pas: Is attending your own party really necessary?

Q: A co-worker is leaving after 8 years of employment. She has requested that a farewell party not be held in her honor. Instead, co-workers have decided to take her out to dinner. Her boss has decided that a farewell party will be held during office hours. Can she refuse to attend?

A: There is no correct answer. It might be awkward for her not to attend a party in her honor that is held during office hours. However, it’s her choice. Nonetheless, it would be more diplomatic for her to attend and graciously accept the good wishes of those present.