'Forgotten' | Worker disgruntled after firm doesn't celebrate her birthday, despite doing so for colleagues

Worker disgruntled after firm doesn't celebrate her birthday, despite doing so for colleagues

An employee was left feeling 'overlooked and sad' after her boss failed to acknowledge her birthday, despite remembering those of her colleagues.

Going by the name Tricky Trixy on Reddit, the 37-year-old worker described feeling 'forgotten' when her birthday wasn't mentioned at work.

As reported by the Daily Mail, Trixy explained how, nine months ago, her employer introduced an employee appreciation which would see staff receive a cake and a card to celebrate their birthday.

“My work gets everyone a birthday cake but me”, Trixy wrote in a sad twist. In fact, she only received one ‘happy birthday’ message from a colleague, who she was related to, according to her post.

Making matters worse, Trixy claimed the lack of recognition couldn’t possibly be a simple oversight, because just a day earlier, her boss had been teasing her about turning 45 (when, in fact, she was approaching 37).

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“Am I wrong to be feeling some type of way about this?” Trixy asked Reddit users.

She expressed that there was “no excuse” for not receiving any sort of birthday acknowledgement.

One user responded: “It's about the cake but not really about the cake. It's about unfair treatment and being disappointed is valid.”

On the other side of the fence, another commenter said they would be happy to keep things low key. “I would prefer not having this [cake and card] maybe I'm just weird” they said.

Paltry employee recognition goes viral

It’s not surprising that an employee might be smarting after seeing their co-workers' birthdays celebrated when their own isn’t acknowledged.

However, Trixy’s situation pales in comparison to the experience of a fast employee whose reward or decades of service went viral.

Kevin Ford, a cook and cashier at a Burger King outlet in Nevada, found himself in the spotlight when the company's lacklustre attempt at recognition went viral.

Last summer, Ford's 27-year tenure at Burger King was supposed to be celebrated with a show of gratitude from the company. However, what he received was a humble goody bag that contained a movie ticket, a Starbucks cup, a bag of Reese's candy, a few pens, and other trinkets.

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Ford's disappointment was evident when he noted in a video published online that the gifts appeared to be items "had lying around." The video caught the attention of the internet, and garnered thousands of views. Responding to her father's viral video and the underwhelming recognition gesture, Ford's daughter created a GoFundMe page.

The page highlighted the sacrifices her father had made for his family and the company, including sticking around for the sake of his retirement benefits. While Ford did not expect any monetary support, the response was overwhelming.

The GoFundMe campaign to show appreciation for Kevin Ford's dedication surpassed all expectations. Garnering over $402,000 in donations from more than 13,500 individuals, the campaign became a testament to the power of recognizing and appreciating employees for their long-term commitment.

Among the donors was actor David Spade, who contributed a generous $5,000 to the cause.

Ford's story resonates beyond a simple crowdfunding success. It raises pertinent questions about the value of employee recognition in today's workforce landscape.

The incident underscores the importance of acknowledging the efforts of long-serving employees, highlighting the potential consequences when companies fail to do so.

While Burger King did not immediately comment on the windfall or Ford's subsequent recognition, Burger King shared its perspective with People magazine.

The fast-food giant stated that the initial goody bag was a "peer-to-peer reward in recognition of a short-term positive performance/experience." Additionally, the company stressed its "robust employee recognition program," which includes monetary awards.

Employee recognition takes centre stage

Not all workplace recognition giving is done well according to research by O.C. Tanner, with almost a third of UK employees admitting to feeling uncomfortable with how they are recognised at work.

These insights are from O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report which collected and analysed the perspectives of over 36,000 employees, leaders, HR practitioners, and business executives from 20 countries around the world, including 4,653 from the UK.

The good news is that 66% of UK employees feel appreciated at work with the same number believing that recognition is a crucial part of the workplace community. Unfortunately, not all organisations give recognition well – in a timely and personalised manner and with authenticity.

35% of employees’ state that the recognition they receive is inauthentic and a similar number – 36% – believe it’s meaningless.

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“Regularly showing appreciation is proven to elevate the employee experience” says David Danzig, European Director from O.C. Tanner.

“It increases engagement, loyalty, workplace connections and a sense of belonging so that a thriving culture is more likely. But recognition giving must be done well or it can have the opposite effect – making employees feel unseen, uncomfortable and thoroughly unappreciated.”

Examples of giving recognition poorly can include a general “thanks” to a team rather than calling-out individuals’ particular achievements; only recognising top performers’ results rather than all employees’ efforts and achievements; and waiting until year-end to give recognition rather than giving it regularly and in a timely fashion. Understanding each individual’s specific needs and preferences when it comes to how they receive recognition also helps to avoid potentially awkward and embarrassing situations.

With O.C. Tanner’s report finding that 60% of UK employees believe that more recognition for their work would improve their workplace experience, it’s clear that organisations must get recognition giving right if they’re to enjoy the full benefits.

Danzig says: “When giving employee recognition, a blanket approach can’t be taken. It must be individualised, with the recipient’s particular contributions called-out and praised. And where possible, it should be done publicly in front of managers and peers to elevate the moment and make it memorable. If recognition giving becomes like a conveyor-belt system, with little thought or personalisation, then it will do more harm than good!”

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